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BYU student does book on Obama

OREM — He's handsome. He's charismatic. He's running for president. And his name is not Mitt.

Brigham Young University graduate student Joseph Vogel's new book, "The Obama Movement: Why Barack Obama Speaks to America's Youth," features essays from 25 mostly young people who sing the praises of the Illinois senator and believe he will win the 2008 election.

Vogel, 26, made history in 2004 when, as a student government leader at Utah Valley State College, he invited Michael Moore to speak on campus. Some in the conservative community protested, and college benefactors pressured the college to uninvite the liberal-leaning "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker.

In his new book, Vogel writes that he was put off by politics after the disintegration of civil discourse that occurred at UVSC. But he read Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" and was energized by his optimism and grass-roots activism.

"He's authentic," Vogel said. "He seems to be listening. He isn't bent on ideology as much as working together."

Kirk Jowers, a political science professor and director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Obama connects to young people better than other presidential candidates.

"With every class, I do a little presidential poll," Jowers said. "It always ends up being Romney vs. Obama."

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and one of the most famous members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has the lead among presidential candidates in Utah, with a recent Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll showing almost two-thirds of Republicans favoring him.

Obama was the favorite among Utah Democrats, the poll found.

"I think people need to get beyond the knee-jerk voting for a Republican or voting for a person who happens to have the same religious affiliation," Vogel said. "Look at issues and (question) who would do the best job leading America.

"There are some good candidates out there and candidates with more experience, but as far as someone who has fundamentally changed the status in politics, I don't think any other candidate offers what Barack Obama does."

Vogel started an online group called Barack the Youth Vote and met hundreds of other young people who supported Barack and invited people to submit essays.

"We haven't seen something like this since Robert F. Kennedy," Vogel said. "His appeal to young people is incredible. Sort of what this book is trying to show is there's this perception among the media that it's a rock-star infatuation. ... I'm trying to show there is substance."

Vogel's new book is printed by iUniverse, a self-publishing company affiliated with Barnes and Noble, and is available online. Utahns may also spot the book at college bookstores and at Obama campaign events.

The essays are written by a range of people — black, white and people of mixed races, a high school student and a nontraditional college student with a 14-year-old daughter, experienced political activists and Sarah Carter, the granddaughter of President Jimmy Carter, who recalled her first political donation — $50 to Obama when he was running for Illinois state Senate.

Many people in their early 20s are apathetic about politics, with memories of President Bill Clinton sex scandals and current divisiveness over the Iraq war, said Duke University graduate student Stephen McIntyre, 24.

"I think a lot of people, a lot of twentysomethings, we grew up in a political era that hasn't been flattering," said McIntyre, a BYU graduate who contributes to the book. "A lot of people are kind of frustrated with politics. People are cynical."

Not surprisingly, book reviews from the Obama campaign are positive.

"Sen. Obama applauds the efforts of Joseph Vogel and the thousands of young people across the country who have joined this campaign to change this country," an Obama spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, wrote in an e-mail. "The issues young people are facing today are serious, and Senator Obama will make sure young people have a voice in the White House."