RFK Jr. stumps for Obama in Aspen | VailDaily.com

RFK Jr. stumps for Obama in Aspen

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen Correspondent
Aspen CO, Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesRobert F. Kennedy Jr., stresses the importance of an energy policy not reliant on crude oil while stumping for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday afternoon at Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen, Colorado.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspen may not appear to be a swing city in the presidential race, but Pitkin County is key to Barack Obama winning Colorado.

“We have to win this state and if we win this state, Barack Obama will be the next president,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of Bobby Kennedy and an environmental attorney who stumped for the Democratic nominee on Saturday in Aspen.

Kennedy said capturing 80 percent of the Democratic vote in Pitkin County is crucial for Obama’s victory, and getting the nation back to its core values and in good standing with the rest of the world.

“The greatest asset we have are the values we nurtured and stewarded over 230 years and how we see ourselves and how the rest of the world sees us, and so much of that has been eroded for the past eight years,” Kennedy said. “I don’t think there is another person in America who can restore that quicker and more effectively than Barack Obama.”

Kennedy stumped around Colorado Saturday, stopping in Pueblo and Durango earlier in the day. He traveled with Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers. Both men promoted the values they share with Obama, from protecting the rights of American workers to securing the country’s energy future.

As Kennedy approached the podium, he received a standing ovation from the packed crowd in Paepcke Auditorium at the Aspen Institute.

He opened with a story he heard on Friday during a town hall meeting in New Mexico from a 75-year-old man who said he canceled his health insurance because it was too costly. A month later he was diagnosed with cancer and is now bankrupt.

“It’s completely unacceptable that that is happening in our country,” Kennedy said. “It’s a moral issue.”

Kennedy, a dominant force in environmental activism around the world, added that America’s approach to energy also is a moral issue and an economic issue. He recognized Aspen and Pitkin County as being a model for the rest of the country for developing new ways of conserving energy and promoting sustainability.

“Barack Obama is offering us a different future,” he said, adding the presidential candidate is bonding people together in an effort to reduce their dependency on foreign oil and develop renewable energy sources.

Kennedy gave several examples of other countries like England, Sweden, Iceland and Israel that have made great strides in creating new forms of energy and living sustainably. And their economies have grown stronger as a result.

“We don’t need to abolish carbon today but understand that it is the single greatest strain on America’s capital and Barack Obama understands that,” Kennedy said. “We are borrowing a billion dollars a day from nations that don’t like us or share our values in order to buy up a billion dollars worth of oil.”

America’s southwest and Midwest regions are ripe for opportunity to harness wind energy, he noted, but the infrastructure and systems aren’t in place to bring renewable energy to the masses. What’s more, Obama has a plan to put renewable energy in the marketplace where it can be bought and sold by American citizens.

“We can do this all over the country if we have a president with the vision to implement changes,” he said. “It’s not going to take 10 years to do it or the 20 or 30 years that John McCain says. We can do this very quickly. We just need a president in the White House who will do what President Kennedy did in 1960, which is to say ‘we are going to put a man on the moon in 10 years’ even though people said it couldn’t be done.”

Obama can inspire the hope in the American people and can mobilize the country’s technological, scientific and entrepreneurial energy, thus restoring the values of the nation, Kennedy noted.

And those values have been eroded under the Bush Administration, Kennedy said, pointing to memories of traveling with his father internationally when he was a young boy. People lined the streets, hoping to get a glimpse of an American politician because the country was so revered.

“There is an extraordinary hunger for American leadership, not bullying, but leadership …,” Kennedy said. “We were the most beloved nation on Earth and in the history of the world and it took 230 years of discipline, visionary, restrained leadership by Republican and Democratic presidents to build up those vast reservoirs. In eight short years, those reservoirs have run dry and that for me, is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Kennedy closed by saying that Colorado is the most important state in the race, and he has never seen such an organized and effective effort than what Campaign For Change Colorado has done in getting new voters registered and to vote Democratic. Obama has 43 offices in Colorado; McCain has 11, Kennedy pointed out.

During his opening remarks, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland congratulated Aspen and Pitkin County residents for setting a new local record of 13,333 registered voters, far surpassing 2004 numbers.

Kennedy pushed for people to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day, especially considering how long Colorado’s ballot is this year.

Blanca O’Leary, co-chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party and local delegate, said if Obama can win Pitkin and Boulder counties, he will win Colorado.

“This is ground zero,” she said. “We need to get the vote out early.”

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