Barack Obama: Part politican, part rock star

Sen. Barack Obama autographs his book at a book-signing event in downtown Minneapolis
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

"Ladies and gentlemen, a man who needs no introduction -- Senator Barack Obama!" was how the Illinois politician was announced at the Borders bookstore in downtown Minneapolis Monday morning.

Obama came to sign copies of his new book, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." He flashed a movie star smile and warmly greeted the crowd, some of whom had showed up early in the morning to get a wristband to allow them into the signing.

Buying books
Adrienne Ratliff, left, and Doris Christopher, right, were among hundreds waiting to meet Barack Obama at a Minneapolis book store.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

"I've got one important matter. Anybody got tickets to the Vikings game tonight?" Obama joked with the crowd. "Listen, I'm not going to make a long speech because I've got a lot of books to sign."

Indeed. The line of people snaked through the rows of CDs, DVDs and books and spilled outside and halfway down the block. A store official estimates 700 people showed up.

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Before he began signing all those books, Obama gave a brief explanation of the book's title, which he says came from a sermon given by his church's pastor many years ago.

"He was noting all the problems in the world, if you just opened up the newspapers -- there was war and famine and poverty and violence and drugs," Obama said. "And he said sometimes it's easier to feel cynical, that the easiest thing to do is take refuge in hopelessness. And he said what requires boldness, what requires a certain audacity, is to believe that you can actually make things better than they are right now."

Obama first burst on the national political scene when he delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. At the time he was a state senator and candidate for a U.S. Senate seat. Later that year he was sent to Washington in a landslide victory.

This is why you see so many people out here. They want to see, like I do, the next president of the United States.

Some who came downtown to meet Obama, including Doris Christopher, said he should focus on a higher office.

Barack in Rochester
Barack Obama speaks before a large crowd at the Rochester Civic Center. The event was held to boost the candidacies of DFLers.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

"I said I wanted to call him Mr. President."

Christopher, 77, stood in line for three hours just to meet Obama. She says it was worth it.

"I'm very delighted to be here, because I know this man is a unifier. And that's what we need in this country," said Christopher.

Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and white mother. He introduced his multiracial and multicultural background in his DNC keynote address, and used it as a rallying point for racial harmony.

During that speech, Obama also made an appeal for Americans to stop defining themselves according to the political labels given to states they live in -- red states for Republican, blue states for Democrats.

Much has been said about Obama's good looks and charm. But some of his supporters, like Adrienne Ratliff, say there's more to him than that.

"I think what he says, the people relate to. And they understand that they're seeing somebody who is definitely going to make a change," said Ratliff. "So I think this is why you see so many people out here. They want to see, like I do, the next president of the United States."

After his book signing, Obama headed for Rochester to appear with DFL U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Walz, the DFL candidate in the 1st Congressional District. Obama will be in Milwaukee Tuesday and in Virginia later this week.