Thousands hear Ron Paul at UI
CHAMPAIGN — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said America needs to shrink the size of government and restore individual liberty.
"The enthusiasm for personal liberty has to be restored and has to be renewed," he said.
Paul spoke for about an hour before an estimated 5,000 people, many of them chanting, "President Paul, President Paul," Wednesday night at Huff Hall on the University of Illinois campus.
The event had to be moved to Huff from Foellinger Auditorium because demand for tickets exceeded the seating capacity at Foellinger.
Paul said his UI appearance may have been the largest turnout for one of his rallies during his campaign.
"It sounds like the revolution has arrived in Illinois, and I'm delighted to be with you," he said. "I see the other candidates as the past, and I see you as the future."
Speaking to The News-Gazette prior to the rally, Paul attributed his support among college students and other young people to their openness to his ideas.
"Young people seem to not have their minds cluttered so much, and they are very principled and open," Paul said. "Young people seem to lead the charge when you make a true effort to change things. We are seeing campuses coming alive because the students don't like the status quo."
Congressman Tim Johnson, who introduced the candidate, called Paul "the great hope to reverse the trend of government intrusion in our lives."
"Ron Paul is the perfect candidate when America is angry at politics as usual," said Johnson, who urged UI students to cast early votes before they leave town to go on spring break.
Paul received his loudest cheers when he said the American economy would turn around if the nation ended its involvement in wars.
"The wars need to end, and we need to bring the troops home," Paul said. "We're wasting money overseas, and it is time to come home."
Paul called for restoring financial and medical privacy for all Americans.
"We have no privacy, and the government becomes more secret every single day," he said.
Paul also called for the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service and granting individual states the power to permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Paul said he believes a Republican can win Illinois this fall, if it is the right candidate.
He said the extended four-way race for the Republican nomination will benefit the GOP in the long run as the party challenges President Obama.
"I think this process has helped the Republicans," Paul said. "It lets people know what the candidates believe in. I think Obama has his own problems."
Paul said he believes his recent victory in the Virgin Islands caucuses has helped to energize his campaign.
"Every time we get a victory, we get a boost, and rallies like this one at the University of Illinois will give us a boost, too," he said.
Tony Pomonis of Champaign, who met Paul at Merry Ann's Diner prior to the rally, said he likes Paul because of his anti-war stance.
"He believes in taking all the dollars spent in the military industrial complex and diverting those dollars back home," he said.
Lisa Grady of Bolingbrook said Paul's speech convinced her to vote for him.
"He cares about getting us out of war and bringing jobs to American families," she said.