Students for Peace, a student organization at The University of Texas-Pan American, is sponsoring a visit from U.S. Senator Barack Obama, candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election Friday, Feb. 22 at the UTPA Chapel Lawn.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the presidential hopeful, he could be the next president, and we could be a part of history," Tony Martinez, UTPA senior political science major and co-president of Students for Peace, said. "Mainly our goal is to promote political involvement, political awareness, and getting people registered to vote."
Gates will open at 9:30 a.m. for the free event. Obama is scheduled to take the stage later that morning. The Stand for Change Rally is open to the public and space will be available on a first come, first serve basis. For security reasons, attendees to the event are being asked to refrain from bringing bags and limit their personal items. In addition, no signs and banners will be permitted.
Martinez, an Edinburg native, said the organization, who has been working with other UTPA student organizations to prepare for the rally, invited all the presidential candidates months ago, and was floored when he learned Tuesday, Feb. 19 that Obama had accepted the invitation.
"Initially we sent out invitations to all presidential candidates because we are trying to get everybody down here ... A lot of times we know who the person is but we don't know the agenda behind it, and that is our goal to get the platform out for both sides, and try to get people to go out and vote - that is our main thing," he said.
Martinez said UTPA students may not know it, but they will play an important role in U.S. political history.
"Our main goal is to give back and get people involved so we can make a difference in this election. We will be a part of history somehow, someway. Texas has not been this big of a player in a long time and it is a good feeling to know that we helped and we are a part of it," he said.
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Students for a Democratic Majority, another UTPA student organization, sponsored a visit from Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., at the Student Union Theater. Kennedy, who has announced his support for Obama, reminisced about the warm South Texas welcomes he had received in the past when campaigning for his brother John F. Kennedy, and when he visited with farmworkers 25 years ago. In addition, he addressed a crowd of students and public about the importance of voting during Texas' primary on March 4.
For those planning to attend the outdoor rally, visitor parking is limited on the campus. The University is recommending visitors to the campus park in Lot S-1, northeast of the Edinburg Baseball Stadium. In addition, parking will be available at the former Haggar building, located on 1407 E. Freddy Gonzalez and Hwy. 281 with shuttle buses available to transport the public to campus. For media with satellite trucks, parking will be available, but limited in Lot A of the University. For a University map, log on http://www.utpa.edu/mapmenu.cfm.