Politics and music from John and Jon

John Kerry?s visit to Pittsburgh was an uneven event, at times exciting and at times bewildering. Advertised as part of his ?Change Starts with U? campus tour, Kerry spoke to a crowd of over 5000 people on the University of Pittsburgh campus on last Friday.

While tickets were handed out on campus and were available online, there was little need for them, as anybody who wanted to see the event was allowed admission. At times it seemed like a professional sporting event, as large foam #1 fingers with Kerry?s name were handed out, ThunderStix titled ?Bushwhackers? were distributed to make noise, and music blasted from speakers.

The first speakers were from Pitt, one a serviceman recently returned from Afghanistan who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, the other the leader of one of Pitt?s campus action groups.

Following these students came Joe Hoeffel, a congressman from Pennsylvania?s 13th district who is running for the United States Senate, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, and then one of the main reasons that people came to the event ? a performance by Jon Bon Jovi, who was joined by a violinist.

Bon Jovi played a simple acoustic set that lasted about half an hour. Fans who came expecting a rock show were taken by surprise.

Franco Harris, the great Steeler Hall-of-Famer, took the stage for a few minutes, as did Governor Ed Rendell. Afterwards, Bon Jovi introduced Senator Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and her children. The crowd applauded and chanted, and Teresa Heinz Kerry began to speak.

An heiress to the Heinz family, a philanthropist, and a member of CMU?s Board of Trustees, she is one of the most beloved figures in Pittsburgh. Well-respected for her intelligence and outspokenness, her presence during the campaign has been an obvious boost for her husband. However, her speech failed to maintain a consistent focus.

One of her sons impersonated both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton. Then Tom Delonge, the lead singer of Blink-182, rambled incoherently for a moment before introducing John Kerry.

Kerry gave a practiced stump speech that was tailored towards college students, focusing on financial aid and job creation. He spoke of his plan to provide four years of free tuition to any in-state public college to high school graduates who spend a year performing community service. His speech was received with great enthusiasm, especially when he spoke of removing President Bush from office. Kerry referred to Bush as the one person who deserved to have his job taken from him, to much applause.

It was not hard for Kerry to please the crowd, for they had come to support him. Yet for all the event?s successes, at times it tried too hard to be ?cool? and would have benefitted from a little more professionalism. The campaign has not quite found the middle ground. It did not matter much to the crowd, however, who left with smiles on their faces and hope for November.