Flint, MI–Hundreds of cars containing thousands of people lined Carpenter road in preparation for the first Biden/Obama campaign stop of the election cycle. Citizens from as far as Mackinac City honked their horns together as the former president and vice president assailed Donald Trump’s presidency.

The drive-in rally, which filled Northwestern High School’s parking lot, saw a star-studded cast of speakers including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Gary Peters.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley was the first to speak. “I voted for something today,” said Neely. “I voted for Black and Brown people to be acknowledged and respected in this community and in this society. I voted for better access to healthcare … I’m asking for you all to vote for something better. I’m asking you all to vote for Joe Biden. 

Before Neely could finish his sentence, the crowd of cars before him roared out in a cacophony of car horns. 

Crowd members cheer at Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s drive-in rally at Flint’s Northwestern High School. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat)

Neely ended his speech by reminding the crowd that Flint City Hall would be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Monday until election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3 for citizens to go and cast their ballot. 

Following the mayor’s speech was Gov. Whitmer, who was met with even more noise as she walked up to the podium. Whitmer called President Trump’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic callous and incompetent. She went on to say that Trump’s actions had “led us to this moment, where COVID-19 is raging across this nation.”

“229,000 American lives lost,” Whitmer said, referring to the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country. “Tens of millions unemployed over the course of this pandemic … The Trump virus response has been an embarrassment and is downright dangerous.”

Whitmer urged her listeners to vote. For those that already had, she asked them to make sure everyone they knew who could vote, did.

“We have a choice. It is time for us to cast our ballot, for our families to cast their ballots for leaders who are competent, for leaders that have integrity … who see the humanity in their fellow Americans … leaders who know they serve all Americans.”

Her speech, which was met with even more fanfare than Neely’s was followed by the likes of Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Dan Kildee all of whom toed a similar line. 

Kildee, who is running for reelection for Michigan’s 5th district house seat, admonished former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for the role he played in causing and neglecting the Flint Water Crisis. “We know what he did to save a few dollars,” he said.

Following this, Kildee praised actions taken by Obama and Biden to remedy the effects of the crisis. He went on to point out the fact one of the last pieces of legislation signed by Obama during his time in office, was one sending financial aid to the city of Flint for damages caused by the water crisis. 

Former President Barack Obama speaks at Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s drive-in rally at Flint’s Northwestern High School. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat)

Obama himself started his speech off on a comical note, wishing the crowd a happy Halloween and complimenting them on their masks.

 It wasn’t long however before he started leaning heavily into president Trump, commenting on his “obsession” with crowd sizes and his recent comments implying doctors fighting COVID-19 are actively looking to profit off of the pandemic. 

“He (Trump) cannot understand the notion that somebody would risk their lives to save others without trying to make a buck,” said Obama. 

The former president further dug into the Trump administration, paraphrasing a comment made last week by Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who said recently, “We are not going to control the pandemic.”

“We noticed, Mr. chief of staff,” Obama said. “But you know who will? Joe Biden will.”

Obama then commented on Biden’s character, saying “He does not have a mean-spirited bone in his body. I have seen him spend time with strangers. When they’re going through hardships, he talks about what he’s gone through.” 

In his speech, Obama said the former vice president has deeply held beliefs in the importance of honesty, responsibility and humility among others. 

“That used to be the definition of manliness,” Obama said. “Not strutting and showing off, acting important and bullying people. It used to be being a man meant taking care of other people … just doing work, trying to live right, passing on those values to your kids, looking out for your community … when you elect Joe Biden, that’s what you’ll see from the White House.”

“Those shouldn’t be republican or democratic values. They used to be the values we all learned from our parents or our grandparents … they’re not white or Black or Hispanic or Asian or Native American, these are American values,” Obama said.

The event was capped off with a speech by Biden himself, who seemed to draw inspiration from the crowd Obama spent almost a half-hour warming up.

Presidential Nominee Joe Biden waves to the crowd at his drive-in rally at Flint’s Northwestern High School. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat)

“Wall Street didn’t build this country, you did,” Biden told the crowd before him as he spoke about Trump’s close ties to the world of finance. 

Biden touched on Trump’s low tax returns and his until-recently hidden Chinese bank account but focused mostly on the current president’s veiled threats at the possibility of refusing to leave office if he were to lose the elections. 

“I refuse to postpone the incredible opportunity of the American people to vote,” Biden said. “There is nothing beyond our capacity, there’s no limit to America’s future.”

Biden then commented on Trump’s rhetoric regarding Democrats and Republicans. He said Trump has sown divisions between the parties and people, and how that may be one of the most pertinent dangers to the nation.

“The only thing that can tear Americans apart is America itself. That’s exactly what Donald Trump has been doing … dividing America, pitting Americans against each other based on race, gender, different nationalities. It’s wrong, it’s not America. It’s not who we are,” he said.

The drive-in rally ended in an uproarious burst of honks, screams, cheers, and music as Biden, the sound overtaking his words, urged Flintstones to “Stand up for our democracy.” 

“We’re so much better than we’ve been, we can be our best, the best United States of America,” he said. 

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...

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