It's no secret that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul attracts swarms of young people to his events, and last night's rally at the University of California, San Diego was no different. As part of his California tour targeting college students across the state, Ron Paul was greeted by an estimated 3,500 people, eagerly awaiting his arrival.
Walking around the rally, I overheard an elevated level of political discourse among the students, conversations ranging from foreign policy, social issues, and most commonly, the increasing cost of higher education. When I asked UCSD Sophomore Tyler Wishard why he attended the rally, he responded:
"I love this kind of stuff." He continued, "It's not just about Ron Paul, but the movement behind him."
Orchestrated by the Youth for Ron Paul Chapter at UCSD, the rally opened with a reminder that while the California primary is now open to all voters, the presidential primary is closed, and to vote for Ron Paul in the June 5th primary, students and adults alike will have to register to vote as a Republican. President of the UCSD chapter, Elizabeth Goodrich, introduced Ron Paul, describing his message as the only one that makes sense to her "young and tireless" generation.
In line with his limited-government platform, Paul's speech focused on the need for decreased federal authority, ending our involvement overseas, and of course, abolishing the Federal Reserve.
He made sure to mention the case of Daniel Chong, a UC San Diego student who was left unattended in a holding cell for the 5 days following his arrest.
"We know about the case of Daniel, one of the students here, of being arrested and thrown in a prison and forgotten for five days, ending up in an intensive-care unit." He continued, "What I would like to do is make sure that any agent of government that abuses the rights of an individual, they personally are liable and should be sued."
Paul's speech echoed his anti-war sentiment, as he reiterated that wars should only be fought with a declaration of war and not pre-emptively. Frustrated with the current handling of foreign policy, Paul suggested diplomacy over bombs, advocating we put our 60,000 diplomats to work.
He called out both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for voting along party-lines, stating that what America needs is a "Constitutional president that will yield to those temptations," prompting "President Paul" chants that continued throughout his speech.
While the rally was held at a university campus, it wasn't just students in attendance. There were families, children waving "Ron Paul for President" signs, seniors seated in the grass. Most interesting was the large number of volunteers canvassing the grounds, encouraging students to register to vote. I spoke with one of the volunteers, who said he has been a Ron Paul supporter for over ten years.
"I'm here because I believe in what Dr. Paul stands for. I believe in freedom, and I want to spread that message."
Arguably, this is what gives Dr. Paul an edge over other presidential nominees: the level of engagement from his supporters. This is not Paul's first time running for office, and his supporters are well versed in the complex process of selecting delegates. We've been covering Ron Paul's delegate strategy since the beginning of the Republican Primary, and while Ron Paul may not win the Republican nomination, my colleague Wes Messamore said it best:
"The bigger story here is not Ron Paul’s chances at winning his party’s nomination, but his supporters’ marked success at winning control over the party apparatus itself."
Whether he gets the 1,144 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination or not, insiders speculate that Ron Paul may actually have around 600 delegates, enough to influence the party platform at the Tampa Convention in August. And after witnessing his supporters in action, it seems as though, nomination or not, Dr. Paul has sparked a revolution among Americans that can no longer be silenced.
Some more images from Friday's event: