Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obama Rally in Racine

On Monday I got a notice in my inbox that Obama was going to be in Racine on Wednesday night. The subject header said something like, “Join Barack at a rally in Racine.”

I opened the email and read the contents of it over and over to make sure Barack really was going to be at this rally. Once my keen powers of observation confirmed he was in fact going to be the special guest at this rally I signed up.

When I arrived in Racine I was frantically trying to find a parking spot because I had driven past the line a couple of times and it was growing with every second that I was looking for a parking spot. Instead of trying to find a good spot I drove a couple blocks away and found a parking garage with tons of spots. I parked and ran/speed-walked my way to the end of the line.

Everyone had to have these printed tickets that we received in our email inboxes once we signed up for the event. There were tons of Obama volunteers telling us that we were going to get in. One guy said, “If you have a ticket, you’ll get in. I can’t say the same for people arriving fifteen minutes from now.” He was right. Fifteen minutes after that the line had wrapped around the corner and started extending down the third side of the large building the rally was being held in. However, in the end, I think most people got in. 3,500 to be precise.

It was below freezing out there in line. Most people that got actual seats (including me) stood in line for over an hour. My toes were near frozen by the time I got in the building. The guy in front of me was trying to warm his feet by sticking them near the exhaust pipes of all the TV vans we were lined up next to. An elderly couple that had driven up from Illinois left the line after 45 minutes. They couldn’t take the cold. The doors were supposed to open much earlier than they did. Thus, many people were getting very frustrated with the long wait. We were told later on that the delay was caused by metal detector issues.

Security was tight. There were metal detectors at every entrance. I had to relinquish a coveted Swiss Army key chain dilly-bob. Coats had to be opened while in the building. There were cops everywhere. Obama even has some Secret Service agents assigned to him already. I really didn’t mind the security because I think the man should have it. However, I wish I knew what stinking TSA agent now has my Swiss Army key chain dilly-bob. I hope whoever it is that they lose it quickly. Punk.

I got a balcony seat, which wasn’t that bad. I was a little far away, but no more than 50 yards separated me and the podium that Barack would soon be standing at.

From the moment I got in line to the end of the evening people were very friendly. Everyone was so happy. People were smiling, laughing, engaged in thoughtful discussion and debate. I never felt that the excitement was just because Barack was near. Certainly, that played a role, but there was this excitement in the air that was so energetic. Excitement for the end of Bush’s presidency, for America’s future, for what we have a chance to do for this country, for involvement in the political process, and for alleviation and possibly an end to some of the problems that have been plaguing this country for a while. We were there for all those things and, of course, to see Barack, the only candidate out there that has a chance of carrying that kind of hope for such a diverse crowd.

Besides being friendly, the crowd seemed pretty informed about Barack’s policies and why they were voting for him. There were a few exceptions. A gentleman sitting across the aisle from me was having a discussion with a couple of people sitting near him. He was telling them that Hillary recently stated that she would love to be Barack’s running mate if it became clear she wasn’t going to win the nomination. I still haven’t found proof of this anywhere and I was a little skeptical of anything else that came out of this man’s mouth. He was a little too excited, at one point yelling, “We are watching history. They are going to remember our names because we were here today. This is something we are going to tell our kids and grandchildren about.” I know I witnessed something historical, even if Obama doesn’t go on to win the nomination, but I will not be remembered for being there, Obama will be. History remembers the leader. Sometimes the nameless crowd beside that leader is remembered, but often only in number.

People yelled when Obama volunteers started handing out signs. Everyone knew Obama was near. The Secret Service agents that came out to stand by the crowd really got everyone excited. The Governor of Wisconsin introduced Obama and the U2 music was queued for his grand entrance.

Obama shook hands and waved and eventually made it to the podium. He gave his classic stump speech, making several good points, but there wasn’t much there that I hadn’t already heard him say in speeches I’ve watched on his website, YouTube, or other outlets. It is a good speech though, filled with dramatic pauses, humor, and details. Yes, he did include details.

I enjoyed the 25 minutes after the speech, during which Obama took questions from the crowd. Even though there was no teleprompter for Obama’s speech, it was pretty much set in stone what he was going to say. The question and answer session made it less unscripted. I’m not going to elaborate about the questions or his answers, but I will say I was impressed with Obama’s answers because he answered the questions. All too often, politicians will disguise their response as an answer. Obama wasn’t doing this and that was good to see.

After the formalities ended I watched from the balcony as Obama greeted fans pressed up against the safety rope. Standing up there, trying to analyze the whole evening, I decided it felt like going to church in a way. The only other time I have been around that many people excited about something was at church, and even then, this isn’t the case every Sunday. The Obama movement is a religious movement. I had read that numerous times before Wednesday, but that night I believed it, saw it first hand. There is something he stirs up in Americans, something that McCain and Clinton certainly do not. It is more than a popularity contest with Obama. People actually want to change the country with him. Obviously, not every Obama supporter is going to become this vessel of change, hope, and volunteerism, but the desire to be that vessel is being nurtured by this campaign, and as I left that hall on Wednesday I thought of how an Obama presidency could unleash that desire. That made me feel patriotic, a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time.

1 comment:

Erik Haagenson said...

I'm jealous. Don't think Obama or any other cadidate will be rolling through here any time soon.