HARTFORD, CONN. – Brittany Lightbody stood shivering in the New England cold Monday, waiting in line to see Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Lightbody, 17 and a senior at East Hartford High School, said she only put up with the cold because of her support for Obama, who is in a tight race for the Democratic nomination for president.
“Obama is a great needed change for this country,” said Lightbody, who said she came to the Hartford speech to find out more about him.
The Hartford Obama rally was timed on the eve of “Super Tuesday” when more than 20 states cast ballots in the tight primary race.
“It’s pretty intense,” said Kirvanna Jones, 15, a sophomore at Career High School in New Haven, Conn. “Everybody’s excited.”
“It was really hard to get in here,” said Ben Isenberg, a 12-year-old student at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn., who attended the crowded rally with his parents and sister.
Youth who attended the rally said they were interested in Obama’s ideas on education, health care and the war in Iraq. They liked his views about change and hope.
Isenberg said he thinks America can believe in Obama and what he’s doing for the country.
For Lightbody and other older teens, the November election is especially exciting because they’ll be able to vote for the first time.
“I’m so excited to be able to vote. I’ve been waiting for this since I’ve been 12 years old,” said Abigail Oliveras, 17, of Nathan Hale-Ray High School in East Haddam, Conn.
“I believe that if we get up and vote, that we have the power as Americans to make Obama president and make a change in the society and the world,” said Alie Debenedet, a 16-year-old junior at Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, Conn.
Obama is a “moving speaker,” said Gideon Finck, 19, whose “voice has captured many hearts.”
Grant Woollacott, a sophomore at Hall High School in West Hartford, had seen Obama on television and came to see him in person.
“He really moved me and everyone around me, more than any other candidate has ever done,” said Woollacott.
Jones said she thinks Obama will make a difference. She said the government should do more to help students and hopes Obama will bring education reform.
“I think he is a good leader because he is bold,” said Jones. “He can captivate a lot of voters because he is young.”
Obama has charisma, said Liz Melo, a sophomore at the Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy in East Hartford. She said she trusts him, but not New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, his opponent in the Democratic primary race.
Melo said she likes Obama’s views on Iraq and health care, too.
Oliveras said she is “100 percent” behind Obama.
“I am a big fan of universal health care,” said Oliveras, who said it is something the country needs.
“I think he represents something different,” said Amanda Smith, a senior at Nathan Hale-Rye School who attended the rally with a group of friends from school.
“I heard he was a great speaker,” said Smith.
Taylor Samuels, 16, a junior at New Haven Academy in New Haven, said she met Obama last summer in Washington, D.C.
She was in the capital as part of a summer political science program of the John F. Kennedy Institute at Choate Rosemary Hall school in Wallingford, Conn., Samuels said.
“He is younger than the other candidates so he knows what’s happening now,” said Samuels, who said she believes Obama will be a good leader for the country.
Getting American troops home from Iraq as soon as possible is her biggest concern, Amanda Smith said.
Shannon Samuels, 14, a freshman at Career High School in New Haven, said she hears Obama’s commercials every day when she rides the bus.
Samuels said her primary concern with education is for kids to get the help they need so they don’t have to stay back.
Obama is doing a good job handling negative comments about race and the presidency, she said.
Devin Smith, 17, is a senior at Nathan Hale-Ray High School in East Haddam said she thinks it will be cool if Obama becomes the first African-American president.
Asked about whether race is a factor in the campaign, Smith said, “I don’t think that it matters.”
Both Smith and Isenberg said character is more important than skin color.
Will Hammer, 14, a freshman at Torrington High School in Torrington, Conn., said he supports Obama because he can change the country and keep it out of unnecessary conflicts.
“I think he’s the one,” said Hammer, “and I support him 100 percent.”
Debenedet said she hopes Obama can change the economy.
Max Emis, 10, said he likes Obama because he wants to end the war in Iraq.
Emis said the war is a big waste of time and money.
Electing Obama, Emis said, could help the country for the next four to eight years.
Youth Journalism International Reporters Beth Pond, Wesley Saxena, Luke Pearson, Kiernan Majerus-Collins and Mary Majerus-Collins teamed up to write this story.