Bruce Springsteen made his first appearance of the 2012 presidential campaign at a rally in Parma, Ohio today alongside Bill Clinton. "He's one of the coolest dudes I've ever met," said the former president in his introductory remarks. "A guy who reflects our real American values. The incomparable Bruce Springsteen." The two shared a hug, and then Springsteen stepped up to the microphone to begin a seven-song, 35-minute set.
"I get to speak after President Clinton," Springsteen said. "That's like going on after Elvis. I was frantically calling the E Street Band backstage saying, 'Quick, I need backup. I need backup. Human speech has been monopolized.' If I had brought the saxophone, you would have seen a real jam up here."
Springsteen began his set with 1984's "No Surrender," a song he performed regularly at campaign events for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. He then brought out notes and addressed the crowd, echoing themes he posted on his website earlier in the day. "Voting matters," he said. "Elections matter. Think of the events over the last 12 years and try to convince yourself they don't. We get an individual hand in shaping the kind of America our kids get to grow up in. I have three kids. I'm 63, and I've lived through some galvanizing moments in American history: the civil rights struggle, the peace movement, times when you could feel the world shifting under your feet. I remember President Obama's election night was an evening when you could feel the locked doors of the past finally being opened to new possibilities."
He went on to acknowledge that Obama has faced tremendous difficulties in enacting his agenda. "The world is brutally resistant to change," he said. "The forces of opposition have been tireless. But I came here to say that I'm thankful for universal healthcare, the lack of which was for so long an embarrassment to our country. I'm thankful for a more regulated Wall Street. I'm thankful GM is still making cars. What else would I write about? I'd have no job without that!
"I'm here today because I'm concerned about women's rights. I don't have to tell you the danger to Roe vs. Wade under our opponents' policies. But I'm here today because I'm very concerned about the continuing disparity in wealth between our best-off citizens and our everyday citizens. That's a disparity that I believe our honorable opponents policies will only increase, and that threatens to divide us into two distinct and foreign nations."
After the speech, Springsteen continued his set with "The Promised Land" before played a goofy song he jokingly claimed President Obama asked him to write built around his campaign slogan "Forward." Encouraging the audience to yell out the word "forward" on command, Springsteen sang lines like "Smiling Joe really brought the drama/ Tuesday Romney was schooled by Obama."
The set continued with 1995's "Youngstown" (an Ohio town just 71 miles from Parma), complete with updated lines about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Up next was Springsteen's first solo acoustic performance of "We Take Care of Our Own," which Obama has played at many of his rallies. It wrapped up with Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" (including the often-skipped "private property" verse) and a finale of "Thunder Road." "Thank you, Ohio," he said as he walked offstage. "Let's elect President Obama for four more years!"
Another event is scheduled for later in the day in Ames, Iowa. Springsteen resumes his Wrecking Ball tour tomorrow evening in Ottawa, Ontario. It's unclear whether or not he plans on performing at additional campaign rallies before the November 6th election.