A planned political rally at the Ryman Auditorium this afternoon for presidential candidate John Edwards turned into a moment of remembrance for the victims of the massacre at Virginia Tech.
Among the big names in attendance were country stars Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and Chely Wright. The Del McCoury Band and actress Ashley Judd were also among those on stage.
The event ended with Edwards and the musicians, along with several crowd members, singing Amazing Grace.
The Democratic former U.S. senator from North Carolina, who once lived in Nashville, said today was not a day for politics.
“We want the people in Virginia, the people struck by this tragedy, the families, to feel us, feel our love,” Edwards said. In evoking empathy for those who had been slain, he alluded to the loss that he and his wife felt when they lost their own child several years ago.
Phillip Mow of Bellevue was among those in attendance. He and his wife, Sonja Mow, are Democrats but are trying to decide who to support in the presidential race.
While they didn’t hear any specifics about politics or policy at the event, they felt the event was fitting.
“We saw. We felt,” Phillip Mow said. “The nation needs feeling.”
Their feelings were echoed by another attendee, Amelia Nettles, who described herself as a yellow dog Democrat. Politics wasn’t appropriate today, she said, but the Ryman gathering set the right tone.
“If it had been one of my children,” she said, “It would have appreciated this.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with (audio of his speech):
If Democrat Barack Obama is the next president, a 2008 win may depend less on his noted fire 'em up stump speeches than on his ability to quietly connect with people as he did Monday night in Milwaukee.
Citing the massacre at Virginia Tech, Obama traded balloons and blaring music for a hand-held microphone and a talk about the insidious violence he said plagues America.
While here, he picked up the endorsement of Mayor Tom Barrett, among the first big names in the state to commit in the Democratic primary. Barrett praised Obama as "a leader who understands how important it is to bring this country together."
The endorsement could boost Obama a bit in Milwaukee, though plenty of enthusiasm is already there.
Common Council President Willie Hines made that clear, urging those in the crowd: "Let's catch this wave, let's spread the word, let's stay connected and let us begin this race."