Ushering in Obama
ATLANTA--In the contest for cool points with young voters, Barack Obama had some big-name help yesterday, appearing on the stage of the Georgia World Congress Center with R&B singer Usher Raymond to launch his "Countdown for Change" tour in the South.
Usher gave a rambling introduction, flipping through index cards, and linking his recent marriage to his pregnant girlfriend, splashed in celebrity mags and web sites, with the need for young people to vote.
"As you can see, I'm maturing," said Usher, who was dressed in a navy sweater and blue jeans, explaining that his casual attire represented "the youth of America."
Obama thanked Usher, recalling a birthday he spent campaigning in this city without his family."Usher came by to wish me a happy birthday," Obama said, "He didn't sing, but he did come by.".
This show of coolness follows Obama gracing the cover of Vibe magazine this month and mentions in songs this summer by rappers Common and Talib Kweli. "My raps ignite the people like Obama," raps Common.
Some African Americans in the crowd wore all black in a show of solidarity with marchers in Jena, La. who protested what they view as the overly harsh prosecution of six black high school students charged with beating a white classmate unconscious. Obama touched on Jena after first mentioning Scooter Libby, the former aide to Vice President Cheney given clemency after his conviction in the Valerie Plame case.
"Even Paris Hilton got some jail time," said Obama, "but not Scooter Libby. In Jena, we are puzzled by how it is that a schoolyard fight gets turned into an attempted murder and Scooter Libby does not get any jail time."
"It is not to excuse the young men who were in a fight" Obama continued. "We understand that violence is not the answer to any problem but what people are asking for is that the system of justice is fair, that it is evenhanded, that it appeals to everyone equally," he said. "That we don't have people getting 100 times bigger penalties for [the sale of] crack cocaine versus powdered cocaine."
The Obama campaign has been working to build a network of student volunteers in and around Atlanta, and many of those in the audience were college students. The city is home to about 45 colleges and universities and a short drive from South Carolina, a key primary state.
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