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Obama inspires Minnesota delegates

ST. PAUL - They watched history and plan to make more of it.

Minnesota Democrats among the estimated 85,000 who filled a Denver stadium Thursday to hear Sen. Barack Obama's presidential nomination acceptance speech said the historic event was inspiring and believed his message would appeal to others.

"It is incredibly emotional," said Valerie Coit of Wrenshall. "You could have heard a pin drop at moments during the speech, then people would just erupt into applause."

Delegates said the four-day Democratic National Convention ended on a mile-high note with Obama becoming the first African-American to accept a major party's presidential nomination.

In a 44-minute speech, Obama told the Invesco Field crowd and a prime-time television audience that America is at a "defining moment" because it is at war and facing a troubled economy. He blamed that on "broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush."

"America, we are better than these last eight years," Obama said. "We are a better country than this."

Delegate Jessica Rohloff of Willmar called it "the speech of my lifetime."

"It just encompasses everything I so deeply believe in, just the promise of America," she said as the convention ended. "I feel like I went to bed in one country and woke up in the place I used to call home. I feel like it's a new day."

Rohloff said Obama's message reminded her of when her grandparents told her that "everybody deserves a chance, we're all equal."

"We finally feel like somebody's expressing our greatest hopes and expressing the things that we're willing to work for," she said

After spending the first three nights in a Denver arena, the convention moved to a nearby football stadium, allowing for more than triple the audience capacity. Obama told supporters the convention moved to a larger venue to fulfill the campaign's commitment to grassroots politics. Some delegates and supporters waited more than six hours for the speech.

"Having it at this big (stadium) allows so many more people to have the experience," said Colleen Nardone of Grand Rapids, who gave up her seat on the stadium floor with the Minnesota delegation to sit with her granddaughter high in the bleachers.

Obama's outdoor speech was designed to rally his supporters and send a message across the country, delegate Andrew Falk of Murdock said.

"It really is showing what our party, the Democratic Party, is putting forward as a new vision for America," Falk said.

Super-delegate and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz said Obama's message of shifting the county's economic policies to favor middle-income Americans will appeal to his southern Minnesota constituents.

"It's an exciting time and feels like being a part of history in terms of government responding to the people," Walz said from Invesco Field.

For many delegates, the Obama speech gave them hope that they would not have to go through another four years of a Republican administration.

"I have been so disappointed in the direction the country has done in the last eight years," Coit said.

From her seat near the stage, Coit said she was near vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden.

"I saw Joe many times with tears in his eyes," she said "It was wonderful to see that I wasn't the only one with tears in my eyes."

Obama is like a rock star to many Democrats.

"It has been a once in a lifetime experience," an excited Coit said as she left the stadium.

Delegate Larry Anderson of Esko said Obama's speech partly was designed to introduce himself and his vision to Americans claiming they still are unfamiliar with the Democratic senator from Illinois.

"There's people that don't know Barack Obama and it's hard for me to imagine that, but people are going to find out who he is," he said.

Anderson wondered how Republicans will compete with Obama's closing-night address when they gather in St. Paul beginning Monday to formally nominate Arizona Sen. John McCain as their presidential candidate.

The significance of Obama's choice speak in the outdoor stadium was not lost on Anderson.

"The last president to do it was John F. Kennedy and I think 48 years later it's a good time for it to happen again," he said. "This is Barack Obama - it's time for a change."


The event left Tanweer Janjua with few words. The first-time national delegate from Cottage Grove said he planned to document his thoughts on the speech by writing in a diary.

"There's nothing greater than this," Janjua said of the outdoor speech. "It was just a very wise idea to open it up to the public."

Delegates said Obama's address - and other convention-week activities - inspired them to get politically involved at a level they previously had not considered.

"I am ready to go home and work," Rohloff said, "and what I think Denver did for me is I am focused."

Rohloff, of Willmar, said she wants to help register new voters in Kandiyohi County. "As a younger person to the DFL Party process, I want to find what my niche is and I think that may be my niche."

Attending the historic convention and Obama speech left Janjua thinking big: "You never know what the future brings. I may run for office in the future."

A connection with Obama's candidacy landed Coit and her boyfriend in seats just three rows from the stage. She said they had met people who were not Democratic activists but still sought tickets to the speech.

"So many people wanted to be a part of this," she said, "and it really says something about Obama's message."

College student Alexandra Jensen of Farmington joined her grandparents in Denver Wednesday evening, arriving in time to hear a speech by vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"It was amazing," she said. "The crowd was so energetic and the speeches were amazing."

Jensen got interested in Obama after hearing his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and has supported his presidency candidacy from the start.

"I think it's because he's knew and he's interesting and you can believe him," she said. "I really like that he's going to change politics and the way things are done."

Being in the crowd on the convention's final night was important.

"I think it's really important because it's history, it's a brand new historical moment," said Jensen, who will vote this fall for the first time. "It's something that I'll want to talk to my grandkids and say, 'I was there.'"

Jensen said Obama and other Democratic leaders have inspired her to return home and become more politically involved. She already volunteered for Democrats at the Dakota County Fair, but wants to do more before the Nov. 4 election.