Yes, we did!

June 04, 2008 by barbara

barbara writes

UPDATE: A wonderful Doug grow piece at MinnPost

I got in to the Obama event in St. Paul the hard way. Stood outside in intermittent rain for more than four hours before being allowed to enter the building. Close to door-opening time, we saw helicopters circling around the Xcel Center, presumably part of security for Obama. Rumors were flying, too. Jimmy Carter was coming to endorse Obama. Hillary was going to graciously withdraw her candidacy. As is the way with rumors sometimes, these were false.

Once inside Xcel, we went through an airport-type security check, laying our dangerous Obama pins and lipsticks on the conveyer belt and then being motioned through the security scanner, waved forward like an endless string of 757s lumbering toward the gate. Actually, it heartened me to see some security in place.

My friend Louise and I scored fourth row seats—a perfect vantage point for an up-close if not personal viewing of the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Louise and I had hooked up in line with an African American group of youngish folks. They’d all taken time off work to be part of this historic event. A good thing, because only half of the 35,000 or so folks who showed up made it inside.

A 26-year-old woman who was part of that group was lamenting her failure to remember to bring tissues. She suspected she was going to weep profusely when Obama spoke. I gave her some of mine. She said she’d never dreamed she’d really see a black man in the Oval Office. But her comments ran more than skin deep.

She spoke knowledgeably about Obama’s positions on major issues. She didn’t portray him as a saint—simply as an immensely talented and capable leader. And one who has cast off the stale old techniques and blah-blah rhetoric that have resulted in two presidential defeats for Democrats. Read on.

The energy inside Xcel was palpable. What a thrummin’, lively mini-world. People streaming in, clogging the narrow aisles, trying to beat the system in order to stand on the arena floor, close (and then farther and farther away as the crowd grew) to the stage. Turns out we had to wait for three more hours. But by then, we’d had access to bathrooms (whew!), and nutrition. Okay, fine. Diet Cokes and popcorn.

If you think Minnesota is strictly Swede-white-land, think again. Such beautiful diversity! Blacks, browns, goldens in large numbers, and yes, a bunch o’whites. Among us was a simply amazing number of older white women (raises hand) supporting Obama whole-heartedly, running totally counter to what pollsters have been telling us about ourselves. We are the demographic that refuses to be pigeon-holed, dammit!

As with most major sport facilities, Xcel features a four-sided giant screen, suspended over the center of the arena. They were streaming MSNBC, and in spite of the constant roar of the crowd, we could read text to see what Matthews and Russert were pontificating about. That’s how we learned that the Minnesota governor who purportedly will bring our state home for McBush and who does not have name recognition problems nationally was shown on the big screen as Governor Tim Polenti. I’m still laughin’ over that one.

When McBush’s carefully timed speech was streamed, there was a huge surge of boos from the crowd. Frankly didn’t pay much attention to him after that. Probably just as well. And Hillary’s carefully timed speech was not streamed. Also just as well, as it would have reignited the flames Obama followers have been exhorted to extinguish in the effort to be peaceable creatures, the one with the other. But the couple next to us were sharing the headset of one radio, and their facial expressions told the whole story about the content of her speech.

When Barack and Michelle took to the stage, the Standing Ovation was rafter shaking. Such an outpouring of solidarity with that young, vital couple that has been catapulted onto center stage, literally and metaphorically. Barack looks lean and a tad weary. Small wonder. I cannot imagine the rigors of a presidential campaign. Actually, that realization is part of what caused me to take a break from Clinton critiquing. That and the fact that the sins of the handlers are visited upon their candidates. Eventually, though…well, you know.

You can catch Obama’s speech here or read the transcript here.

There is so much more to say about all of this, including Obama’s respectful references to his opponents, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. But I imagine Susan will weigh in, too. So let me just say this. You’ve no doubt heard the empty phrase, “empty suit.” Well, let me tell you something.

At last night’s victory celebration, Barack Obama’s suit walked onto the stage and guess what! It was occupied by a bright, young visionary whose world view is not weighted down by the albatross of old, stale campaign rhetoric and strategies that have lost Democrats the last two presidential elections. The man in Obama’s suit is presidential. He is young, strong, smart, extremely competent. He inspires his listeners. He dares us to hope for change and then to participate with him in making that happen. The tectonic plates are shifting, and the tall black man in the suit is leading us toward reclaiming our country.

And just so you know? Louise and I capped off our wonderful odyssey by grabbing a late meal at Mickey’s Diner. Reminds me of the old Zen saying: “After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

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Peggy (not verified) | June 4, 2008 - 5:24pm

Thank you for sharing your first hand experience. I watched on television and felt a new feeling of hope, that maybe things might really be changing. It was a pleasure to hear and watch someone at ease in his own body, confident, honorable and filled with great expectations. At last , someone to believe in and wholeheartedly support!


barbara | June 5, 2008 - 8:35am

Hey, Peggy! Some folks have been pooh-poohing Obama's references to hope. Well, yeah! Same folks who've worked for eight years to take it away. I love your "great expectations" phrase. Bring 'em on!!


MLS (not verified) | June 4, 2008 - 8:52pm

Thank you for sharing your personal story of last night's historical moment at the Xcel Center.
It is inspiring to watch and listen to Barack Obama on television and I can only imagine what it is like to be there in person feeling his charisma.
I can picture you and Louise sitting at Mickey's Diner
enlightened by the evening events with looks of ecstasy written on your faces.


barbara | June 5, 2008 - 8:37am

Hey, MLS. The Obama man is indeed inspiring. He has a lot to live into, but I think he's attracting the best and brightest to advise him. Chances are Louise and I had mega-fatigue writ large on our faces, but yeah, we were pretty happy campers!! Heading for your town tomorrow for the MN Dem convention. We'll have to do an exorcism, I suppose, since the Bushlicans were there last weekend. Brrrrr.


JMT (not verified) | June 5, 2008 - 12:22am

I am so glad you were there as I was watching on my TV. I will hear all about it from you. I agree - no empty suit on that stage. I found myself excited for the first time in a long while.
And for my own reasons I chuckled and chuckled at your
“After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” Thanks for sharing your hopes and the hopes of others. JMT


barbara | June 5, 2008 - 8:40am

Hey, JMT! Ya know what? I'm still savoring the experience. So many stories about people in the waiting line. Funny how you form a kind of mini-community while you wait with people you'll never see again. And all of that serves to remind me that people are basically good and most of them actually give a rip about each other. Booyah. Keep hoping, girl!!!


susan | June 5, 2008 - 3:59pm

Well, the laggard weighs in here at last. I was determined to write a piece for the Strib on this before posting here, and so I did. Don't know yet if it's going to run or not. And, the thing of it is, I felt I needed to rein in the snark and extend an olive branch, but snark comes to me so much more easily. And in the case of HRC, it's deserved. (Sorry, DKNY, but her exit was one more example of how far she's fallen.) But I'm ready to move past her and on to defeating McCain in the fall.
If the Strib rejects me, I'll post it here. And if they take it, I'll run how I really feel, right here on the CLB.
But it was all Barb says it was, and we even saw each other. Or, Barb saw me and waved for about 20 minutes before my eyes reversed their zoom lens and focused on the foreground. We were right there, up close, but a few sections over. Also, many people have written or called me to say that I had a one second moment on CNN, jumping to my feet and high-fiving the people around me. But on the CNN reruns, there are no pan shots of the crowd. But on the HuffPost they ran two clips, nicely edited down to my appearance, and there I was. Literally about one second. But now it's even vanished from the Huffpost, so it's only a memory now.
HUGE storm about to hammer us, think I'll go take cover.