Monday, January 28, 2008

A Huge Rally in More Ways Than One

We stood in the cold for 40 minutes lined up at a machine that took (no joke) 4 minutes per person to pay to for parking. There were at least 20 people in front of us and twice that amount behind. We discovered there was another machine across the parking lot, but that one had twice the line as ours. “OK, no more of that”, I said to Kat, “I don’t wait in any more lines.” She agreed, confiding that she could no longer feel her toes.

Kat attended American University and I was a Professor there a few years ago, so we knew how to navigate the campus, and indeed, found our way through the Mary Gradon Center and in the backdoor of the Bender Arena, where we slid through a large crowd of screaming students and found ourselves in the center of the event. But we were credentialed as press, and preferred to be in that area, so a nice volunteer directed us in through the back of the arena without any hassle. That whole process took six minutes. We did stop by the press credentialing table to say we inadvertently forgot to pick up our credentials, and they gave them to us without any fuss. I love credentials. As I have always said, if you look like you know where you’re going, people will think that’s the case. About five minutes later, we discovered they were closing the working press area with 200 press people waiting in the actual press line. They were not happy press. Unfortunately, those decisions are made by the fire marshals and the public safety people and there were already too many real people inside—it’s just a numbers game with no room for negotiations.

The program opened with an a cappella group singing 60’s songs into a bad mike --which made me a bit nervous about the rest of the event because I did want to hear what the Principals were going to say. The room was set up with the podium in the middle of the arena so that the speeches would be made facing the media and the crowd was placed on the other three sides. The press area was vast. I guess because there were so many people left outside there was an amazing amount of empty space. Even with the 16 tables, and chairs (a nice touch) the press area was not crowded. I thought it was fine because I could stand on a chair and actually see what was going on. (Yes, it is all about me). Space is something that never happens at a crowded political event.

After about an hour of entertainment. a female student made her way up to the suddenly repaired microphone to introduce the talent. “Today’s youth”, she said “ will join together to elect the next President”. Then she introduced Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy and Barack Obama. Patrick spoke first and reminded us that Teddy Kennedy was instrumental in lowering the voting age to 18. He introduced Caroline, who spoke briefly about how her children thought Obama would be able to change the country, and of course, about how she also believed Obama was a candidate like her Dad, who had the ability to inspire young people to make a difference. Then she introduced Teddy, who, when he is good is really good -- and he was.

His rhetoric was brilliant and targeted. He used phrases to describe Obama’s ability like, “not diminishing the hopes of the hopeful” , “lifting our spirits and making us believe again”. He said Obama had the “power to make America good again” . He referred to Martin Luther King’s “fierce urgency of now”, and how Obama would refuse to be trapped in the past. He talked about how impressed he was by Obama’s desire to bring the country together and referred to the the speech when Barack said, “we must no longer be red states and blue states, we must be The United States.” He also took a couple of hits out on Bill Clinton by saying Obama would win without “demonizing those who hold different views”, but he confessed that he would support whomever the public determined should be the Democratic candidate. The words and sentiments were familiar but the magnitude of the event truly left me breathless. I think the fact that it was shaped around a time when there was hope and the determination to look at the future in a positive way, moved this cynic tremendously.

In direct opposition to a positive vision for the future, what was John McCain thinking when he gave that “there will be war, more wars, many wars, wars to end all wars, breakfast lunch and dinner wars,” speech yesterday. Did I miss something? Isn’t this election about finding a leader who will take us out of war. One who will ‘lead’ the nations to a peaceful and diplomatically negotiated future. It’s bad enough that he is cheerleading for the Iraq war. Who wants a guy that says war is inevitable, that we will be in many more wars. Doesn’t he get it? It’s the economy, stupid. We’re just sayin...Iris

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