Bruce Springsteen has made no secret of his support for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. And over the weekend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he brought his message to more than 50,000 people who attended a Vote For Change rally.
Dressed in flannel and denim, Springsteen stood atop a 30-foot high stage emblazoned with the word "CHANGE" and played a seven-song, 45-minute acoustic set as a gift for Obama volunteers and a catalyst for unregistered voters to sign up.
"I'm not Barack Obama, but I'll do my best," said Springsteen, before tearing into a tense rendition of his 1978 tale of faith in opporessed times, The Promised Land.
Four songs later - The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Thunder Road, No Surrender and the rarely-heard Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? - Springsteen had the following words to say. Click on this link for a video of the speech and a performance of The Rising.
"I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.
"I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.
"I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.
"I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past eight years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project.
"In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.
"They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me.
"To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.
"So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising."