Thousands of people lined the streets outside the Capitol building on Thursday, waiting for the chance to hear presidential candidate John Kerry speak. Their reasons for coming were as diverse as the parts of Missouri they represented.
“I’m a big supporter of Kerry,” said Lisa Bogdon of Mexico, Mo. “But, I brought my daughter here to hear Teresa because she’s great, and I believe that behind every great man there is a woman.”
Columbians had a strong presence at the rally, and several brought their families and children with them, as well as their hope for an improvement for the American family.
“I brought my son, who’s 7, so that he understands about politics,” said Brandie Coxson, an MU student.
Nancy Newton of Columbia had her own reasons. “I have two kids and I want them to have a future,” she said. “We need someone like Kerry who has the intelligence to think.”
Boasting a “Democratic Women are the Life of the Party” pin, Denise Larkin of Columbia brought the women of her family to support Kerry.
“I came to see John and John,” said Larkin’s mother, Mona Miller, who was visiting her daughter from Nebraska. “I wanted to shake their hands, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible,” she said as she stretched to look above the crowd of thousands in the general admission section of the event.
Larkin’s daughter, Jennifer Derryberry of Columbia, and her sister, Valerie Galvan of Nebraska, were also in the crowd.
“It’s really exciting and fun to be here,” Derryberry said. “But what’s kind of disappointing is we don’t get anything all the way back here,” she said, referring to the signs that were passed out in the Very Important Person and Very Very Important Person seating sections.
The distance from the stage and the hours of standing waiting for Kerry to arrive didn’t stop the family of Democratic women from having a good time, though.
As T-shirts were flung into the crowd, Miller said she should have tried jumping 20 feet higher, and Larkin sang along to the song “Rescue Me” that blared from the speakers about 10 feet away.
When Kerry finally took the stage, the women stood on their tiptoes and Derryberry lifted her digital camera in an attempt to preserve the experience.
All four women cheered loudly in support of the candidate and broke out into smiles and laughter when Kerry mentioned that he knew Central Dairy was the place to get ice cream in Jefferson City after he spoke. They looked at each other in mutual amusement, remembering when they had talked an hour before hand about going there for a banana split after the speech was over.
In the end, the family mirrored the reaction expressed by the general crowd in their satisfaction and enthusiasm about what Kerry had said.
“It was great, and it was all really exciting,” Miller said.
Other Columbians expressed similar feelings about the speech.
“He mentioned some details about his plans for the country that I hadn’t heard before, and he put them into a bigger context,” said Mike DeMaria. “I was inspired by that.”
DeMaria, like many other Columbians who attended the rally, said he chose to attend the event because he was dissatisfied with the way President Bush’s administration was working.
Del Miller and Wayne Brekhus, also of Columbia, have been working with the Democratic campaign for a year and a half with the organization Democracy for America and were excited to finally be able to see Kerry in person.
Both Miller and Brekhus had originally been supporters of Howard Dean, but said they now fully support Kerry’s campaign.
“I think George Bush is destroying our nation,” said Miller. “I’m motivated to do everything possible to get him out of his office.”
Other Missourians also shared a feeling of disapproval for Bush.
“I am anti-Bush because he used God as an excuse for a lot of things,” said Marilyn Davis of Jefferson City. “He uses Bin Laden to jump from one thing to another, and many Americans are suffering from that.”
Though dislike for Bush may have originally brought people to the rally, many left with a revitalized Kerry.
“I like they way he related to the crowd and made statements about Jefferson City,” said DeMaria. “He made you feel like he was intelligent rather than just a practiced politician.”