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We will broadcast special coverage of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, starting with the RNC tonight at 8.

Jill Biden warms up the crowd for Saturday's Obama rally

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 17, 2008 - Jill Biden took a day off from teaching English and came to St. Louis to warm up the faithful for Saturday's appearance here by Sen. Barack Obama, her husband Joe Biden's running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Biden was welcomed by a rainbow crowd that packed into the Obama-Biden campaign office in the old Dinks Parrish Laundry building on Olive Street, just east of the St. Louis University campus.

Biden got a warm up herself from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and volunteer Martha Crimmins, who works in the Olive Street office.

Declaring "I believe in Obama and Biden," Crimmins brought Biden to the stage, where, for the amount of cheering that resulted, she might as well have been the candidate herself. "The Show-me State will show the way," she told the crowd, but promptly left the regional cliche behind and set into talking history and issues.

She declared this election to be the most important election of her lifetime, and said her husband's mother, who is 91, believes it is the most important election in her lifetime, too.

Biden teaches English at the Stanton-Wilmington campus of the Delaware Technical and Community College. The country's financial condition is forcing students to quit school; they can't afford books, gas to get to school or tuition, she said. When the money gets tight for the students her college serves, the first cut in the budget is money for school, she said.

"We can't afford four more years" of Republican political control, she said. "In Barack's and Joe's administration, the students will get what they deserve."

Biden stressed that she is a Blue Star mother: The Bidens' son Beau, who is Delaware state attorney general, was deployed to Iraq last week. Jill Biden said in her travels around the country she hears from other parents how dedicated their children in arms are, but also "how our country has failed them." She said her husband says it is a sacred obligation to get the United States out of Iraq.

"Barack and Joe," she said, "will end this war."

The rally for Sen. Obama will begin at noon at the Gateway Arch (the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). Gates will open at 10:15 a.m.

Robert W. Duffy reported on arts and culture for St. Louis Public Radio. He had a 32-year career at the Post-Dispatch, then helped to found the St. Louis Beacon, which merged in January with St. Louis Public Radio. He has written about the visual arts, music, architecture and urban design throughout his career.