Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Obama in Michigan; The Morning After

Last night I had the opportunity to see Senator Barack Obama for the first time. Let me just say that it was an absolute treat!

For starters, I admit: it was a little disheartening at first. Though we arrived over two hours before the doors were expected to open, we still found ourselves in a seemingly mile-long line that wrapped all the way around the arena. We later discovered that the pile up was due to a limited number of entrances being used. Though the wait was long -- almost convincing us to turn around and go home -- we were nonetheless content in knowing that we're standing in a line of history. We were in line waiting to see the first black person in our nation's history to be a legitimate nominee for POTUS. That -- and being entertained by the hoards of vendors selling Obama merchandise and petitioners passing out fliers -- made the long wait manageable.

As we finally entered the building, you could feel a strong security presence. At the entrance, we were immediately met by armed U.S. Secret Service agents who thoroughly examined each person entering the premises. Of course this was to be expected, so I traveled as lightly as possible. Other people weren't so lucky. People were forced to discard all sorts of items that -- I'll admit -- seemed pretty inconsequential. But I guess you never can be too safe...

From there, it took us a few minutes to find a seat. The floor seats were reserved for media, public officials, and randomly selected audience members (I suspect this was to represent the diversity of the attendees). Admittedly, it was pretty hard to find a good seat in the jam-packed Joe. But we finally did. By the time we were seated, the rally was just getting started. A couple of local grassroots organizers (one of whom, a solider returning from his third tour in Iraq) kicked things off. But some early audio problems (which prompted the crowd to chant "We can't hear!") made it hard to process everything they were saying. I caught bits and pieces of their shpeel, which focused mainly on the importance of organizing and contributing. But most of their talk was lost in bad audio. Shortly after that, a local Detroit singer did her rendition of the National Anthem. While the woman could definitely blow, I was getting a little restless with her gettin' her Bleeding Gums on.

Immediately after the National Anthem, the official rally began with Detroit Pistons' All-Star Chauncey Billups. The crowd erupted. Honestly, I don't think they were cheering as much for the fact that it was Chauncey Billups. I mean, the dude is crazy famous in Detroit and everything, but I don't think that was necessarily it. I think it was that he's crazy famous and an Obama supporter that got people excited. He's even gone on the record numerous times-- along with several other affluent personalities -- vocalizing his support for Obama. So when he walked through the curtains, the crowd understandably went nuts. Billups went on to talk about the importance of registering to vote and actually getting out to vote. And you know that celebrities are somehow more effective at delivering a message than you or I ever could be...

The cheers that Billups generated quickly turned into boos as the next speaker --Govenor Jennifer Granholm -- took the stage. It's no secret that many Michiganders (including Democrats) have not been particularly pleased with Granholm's performance lately. The lukewarm reception she received was a clear indication of that. It got a little better for her as she began to work the crowd more; mentioning the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings and of course Sen. Obama. She seemed to be doing well until she threw in a plug for Sen. Clinton whom she previously supported. From there, the boos were even stronger than when Granholm first took the stage. I mean, you would've seriously thought that the Colorado Avalance were in the building. Once she finished getting jeered by the audience, she called to stage the main event: Senator Obama and his latest endorser Al Gore.

(As a side note: it was no accident that Kwame wasn't anywhere to be found.)

As Gore stepped to the podium, you would've thought that he was the one running for President. His speech was full of the passion that I maintain was missing-in-action during his run in 2000. Though his endorsement came waaaaay too late in the game (which in itself drew some criticism with folks I spoke to), his speech still generated all sorts of electricity from the crowd. Even when he acknowledged the campaign of Sen. Hill Spawn (albeit, a pretty crappy campaign in my opinion), the crowd wasn't as ready to barrage him with boos as they did with Gov. Granholm. Overall, I'd say he did a pretty good job working the crowd. He was engaging, on point, articulate, and -- yes -- even funny. For a moment there, I almost forgot who I listening to.

From there, Senator Obama took center stage. At that point, the noise was deafening. I recorded the ovation on my PDA. During playback, my phone actually vibrated (if you can believe that).

Obama's message wasn't all that dissimilar to any other speeches he has delivered up to this point. Perhaps the only unique difference this time around was with his inclusion of Michigan-specific references. When citing John Mc(Ins)ane's proposed tax cuts for instance, he jokingly suggested that the only person in the building who would benefit was Chauncey Billups. He mentioned a few colleges and universities in Michigan which could pave the way for education in the state. He referred to Flint as the birthplace of GM (the pop we heard at that point gave us an indication of how many "Flintstones" were in the building). And of course, the Red Wings were given another shout-out.

From there, the remainder of his speech was pretty uniform with others he's made before. Like Gore, he praised Senator Clinton -- which was received by scattered boos. But as he chastised those hecklers, he called for the crowd to join him in acknowledging her for making him a better candidate. The crowd gave in to his request and clapped in reverence (this proves to me that rift may be resolved amongst the candidates, but has a loooong way to go with the supporters). He tossed in a few recycled jokes like how he never expected the the primaries to go as long as they did and how children who were born when the primaries started are now walking and talking. He ended his speech by stating his policies on health care, jobs, the economy, education, and the war in Iraq.

I've been to a few rallies before but this one was the most powerful and impactful. It was a pretty important event to have in a city like Detroit. Given how places like Detroit and Flint have been embattled by questionable political leadership, economic hardship, and identity seeking, people are growing restless with the way things are headed. They have an insatiable thrist for change. Obama's message last night left them (I think) with a sense of hope that such change actually is in the foreseeable future.

Yes we can!


5 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
Damn, I wish I would have been there. I mean it would have been great to see Obama...but seeing Buffy the Job Killer get booed!!! Priceless. I think I can die now, my mission is complete.

Joanne said...

Awww man! I'm soooo jealous of you! I look forward to the opportunity to see Sen. Obama in person. I only hope that I don't have to face the same obstacles as you did. Though I suspect I will seeing as how Obama is the hottest ticket in town. Betcha John McCain had to pay people to come to his rallies. LOL!

Saved sinner said...

Whether Obama takes this election or not, I'm excited that my children are able to take part in history. With every rally, every speech, and every new voter, we're inching our way closer and closer!

Obama '08!

Megan said...

Cooool! Glad you had a chance to go Andre. I'm looking forward to seeing Obama if he comes to my neck of the woods!

Go Obama!

Kenya said...

Hey Andre,

Thanks for the informative piece. The rally sounded pretty excited!

Like you, I'm a little suspicious on why Al Gore pitched this 11th hour endorsement when he could've did this a long time ago and ended all this primary nonsense weeks ago. Still it was good to finally see Gore officially get on the Obama Express. Maybe he'll get the Secretary of Energy gig once Barack is in office. Who knows?

Anyway, good post again.