WASHINGTON – President Obama urged thousands of enthusiastic college students Wednesday to make their voices heard, telling a boisterous crowd in Denver, "Young people, I need you guys involved."
"I need you active, I need you communicating to Congress, I need you to get the word out," Obama said at the University of Colorado, Denver. "Tweet `em. They're all tweeting all over the place, you tweet `em back."
The president took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to address the crowd of about 4,000 at a gymnasium at the university, the last stop in a three-day swing through the West that mixed high-dollar fundraising with new announcements of modest executive actions to circumvent Congress. To the university crowd, Obama rolled out plans to help students with loan debt.
"We can't wait for Congress to do its job, so where they won't act, I will," Obama said.
"I am going to keep doing everything in my power to make a difference for the American people, but Denver I need your help," the president said.
The crowd was friendly and loud, but partway through, protesters started shouting about a planned oil pipeline from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast that's drawn demonstrations around the country and outside the White House. "Say no to the pipeline!" one shouted, and they held aloft a banner reading: "Stop the Keystone Pipeline Project."
Obama paused to respond. "We're looking at it right now. No decision's been made and I know your deep concern about it so we will address it," he said. The protesters were escorted out.
Young people and first-time voters were key to Obama's victory in 2008 but the president has work to do to get them motivated this time around, with the economy sagging and job opportunities scarce.
Obama's Western swing took him through Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Obama held six fundraisers in all, three of them in donor-rich California, which ranks at the top of states contributing to Obama's campaign.
Obama also used the trip to launch a new phase of his campaign to jump-start the economy. Declaring "we can't wait," he announced executive actions to assist struggling homeowners and veterans, as well as graduates weighed down with student loans. He kept up his call for congressional Republicans to support pieces of his $447 billion jobs bill.
The visits to Nevada and Colorado took the president into volatile political battlegrounds where he fine-tuned his re-election message, contrasting himself with Republicans and tying the GOP presidential field to the congressional Republicans blocking the jobs bill.