YPSILANTI — In a last push to register voters before the state’s registration deadline, which passed last night at midnight, celebrities converged on southeast Michigan yesterday to encourage people to sign up to vote.
At Eastern Michigan University’s Oestrike Stadium yesterday, Bruce Springsteen performed to a younger crowd of about 10,000. The concert was in support of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, and was the last of a series of Obama campaign events meant to get register people to vote before the Monday night deadline.
Tickets to the concert were free, available on a first come-first serve basis. Concertgoers were met by volunteers with registration forms as they entered the stadium. Most said they were already registered, but several people stopped to take their last opportunity to add their name to the voter rolls.
Springsteen, who endorsed Obama in April, played an eight-song acoustic set to a crowd that was evenly mixed between college students and middle-aged Springsteen fans. “The Boss,” as his fans know him, implored audience members to register to vote several times during the 45 minutes he spent on stage.
After playing “Devils and Dust,” a song he dedicated to United States troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Springsteen explained his support for the Democratic presidential nominee.
“I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the difference between American promise and American reality,” Springsteen said. “The distance has never been greater or more painful. Obama has taken a measure of that distance and he understands in his heart the cost of that distance. As president, he will work to restore it.”
After a five-minute speech to the crowd, Springsteen launched into an acoustic version of “The Rising,” a song he wrote after the 9-11 attacks and that Obama uses at campaign rallies.
The performance culminated in a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” Springsteen started a chant of Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes We Can,” which failed to catch on with the crowd.
LSA junior Dana Cronyn, a member of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said the event created a feeling of solidarity for Obama supporters.
“We’ve had surrogates come through here before, but he was so eloquent and you could tell that he’s passionate not just about Obama, but about America,” she said.
Back in Ann Arbor, former University football star and NFL player Desmond Howard followed Springsteen’s lead, urging students on the Diag to register to vote on the last day to do so in the state of Michigan.
Howard, who won the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in 1991, also appeared on behalf of the Obama campaign.
Despite taking time to have his picture taken with students after his speech, Howard’s message took a serious tone, as he stressed that the upcoming election is a “critical time in history.”
“This is your chance to make history,” Howard told the roughly 50 people in attendance. “You have a weapon — you have the right to vote.”
In addition to the Obama campaign’s sponsorship, the rally was also organized by the University’s chapter of College Democrats.
The crowd was largely comprised of students strolling through the Diag at the right time, while the remaining people in attendance were members of the College Democrats registering voters.
Throughout the rally, the Diag was filled with voter registration booths and clipboard-brandishing students urging passersby to register.
After speaking individually with several students following the rally, Howard and the College Democrats set up another voter registration site in Regents’ Plaza. next to the Michigan Union.
With Michigan’s voter registration deadline now passed, those registered should check with the Secretary of State to make sure they’re registered.