Al Gore preaches his global-warming message to a full house at UMBC

May 09, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Former Vice President Al Gore appeared to be mostly a silhouette and Tennessee twang against a backdrop of red charts and depictions of melting glaciers and stranded polar bears last night, but that was all his faithful needed to stay glued to their bleacher seats as he laid out the case for global warming at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Wearing a dark suit, dark tie and dark blue shirt, he strode out 45 minutes late to a standing ovation and whistles, greeting the crowd with outstretched arms.

For 10 minutes, he served as his own warm-up guy, offering glimpses of the life of an ex-vice president - a state he likened to "emotional whiplash."

"I am Al Gore," he said. "I used to be the next president of the United States."

It's an old joke, and most in the crowd of all ages surely had heard it before, but the line drew laughs all the same.

For the next 90 minutes, he quoted astronomer-author Carl Sagan and channeled Al Roker, the NBC weatherman, pointing to images of menacing hurricanes bearing down on land, of shrinking glaciers and flooded cities.

"These glaciers don't care about politics; they just freeze or melt," he said as he stalked the stage. "This is not a political issue, this is a moral issue."

And slides whizzed by

Gore, 59, the former Tennessee senator who served eight years as Bill Clinton's vice president, was best known for losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush despite winning the popular vote - but that was until his recent Hollywood fame.

He has found renewed popularity with the release of his documentary film aimed at raising awareness about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. It won an Academy Award this year, and Gore, called "the Goracle" by some, has been treated like a folk hero in environmental circles.

He now draws large crowds and fetches six figures for some speeches, and he drew a full house at UMBC's 3,500-seat gymnasium, where tickets ranged from $5 to $35.

Gore has insisted that he has no plans to toss his hat into the 2008 presidential race, despite polls showing that he would be competitive with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Supporters have launched online efforts to draft Gore, and he has not ruled out the possibility. Meanwhile, he is promoting a book due out this month, The Assault on Reason, and helping organize a global concert called "Live Earth" scheduled for July 7.

"We have a responsibility to open our eyes and see what we are doing," he said last night. "We can become not the self-destructive generation but the next greatest generation."

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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