obama in philly

Obama at Temple: Education motivation for millennials in the crowd

One of the most thunderous roars of the night came at a time I should have expected from a college campus — when President Obama said the price tag on higher education is too high.

It showed exactly who had turned out to the president’s event in Philadelphia tonight as he stumped for gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf: Young people — college students, a big component of the many millennials moving to Philly.

Yeah, there was a hearty union presence there, and of course many African American voters voiced their desire to get current Gov. Tom Corbett out of office. But it was the young people who made the most noise — but it remains to be seen whether that noise will continue Tuesday.

Let’s be honest: the race between Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf isn’t close. Recent polls show Wolf is leading the unpopular incumbent by double digits just two days before the election.

But as a member of the growing millennial demographic in Philadelphia, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit moved seeing the leader of the free world tell that room of 5,500 people to just vote.

And it made me feel bad, too. I just moved to Philly not too long ago. And between the hectic nature of a move and changing to a new job, I failed to register to vote here before the early-October deadline.

That was a mistake, and I feel that tonight. Not because I’m sure of who I’d have voted for, but because I felt like I was somehow disappointing the president by covering this event… knowing I’ll have no way of participating.

There’s a civic duty factor here — and maybe that’s a bit of an idealistic way of looking at it. Call me naive, but I try to still operate under the assumption that every vote matters. And the young people like me who were there Sunday night, they believe that too.

For me, that was because every political figure that spoke tonight, from Mayor Michael Nutter to Obama, played to Philadelphia’s weaknesses. The most glaring of those? Education. One of Obama’s hallmark arguments for Wolf was that he’s pledged to not do what he says Gov. Corbett did do — cut education funding.

“He won’t be slashing budgets for schools or laying off thousands of teachers,” Obama said. “We should invest in our kids and in early childhood education.”

Every other politico that spoke, including Sen. Bob Casey and former gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty, excited the crowd by hitting on that education sweet spot. It was smart. The pretty-clearly far-left crowd (with a heavy teachers’ union presence) made it blatantly obvious that schools are what it cares about, and schools are what will make or break elections in Pennsylvania as Philadelphia’s system stumbles with insufficient funding and a dysfunctional relationship between teachers and state-appointed administrators.

So maybe they tricked me into feeling bad about not registering to vote by playing to my new city’s weaknesses — weaknesses that millennials feel passionate about.

Or maybe they were right.

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