Friday, August 29, 2008

POLITICSHYPE: My Obama Experience

I wanted to tell you all about our experience as we became part of history here in Denver on Thursday August 28th 2008. We were lucky enough to be able to attend Barack Obama's acceptance of the democratic presidential nomination at Invesco Field (Mile High Stadium) along with 85,000 of our fellow democrats. It was an amazing, inspiring, joyful....awful, aggravating, exhausting experience.

We started our day at 4:00AM with my daughter crawling into our bed, burning up with fever. We had been looking forward to this day for 2 weeks. I was able to secure these tickets (a.k.a. "community credentials") by submitting my name via email, along with thousands of others. When I received the email confirming that I had "won" I was very, very excited. Needless to say, when my daughter came down with this sudden illness I thought I was going to have to miss it. Luckily, her illness was just a cold with a fever that broke later on that morning. My babysitter's mom offered to fill in for her (so she would not catch the cold) and would not accept monetary payment either. I promised her that if she ever needed to borrow a cup of sugar in the future, I would give her the whole bag.

We had planned to leave at 3:30PM to head down to the stadium but we started hearing rumors about the gates closing early and about street closures so we managed to head out at 3PM. We had planned on meeting a friend at his house and riding our bikes to the stadium. It turned out that the bike ride would be about 10 miles so our friend discovered that the Ramada Hotel across the street from his house would be shuttling people to the event. Much better idea, in my opinion. After a bit of confusion we caught a couple of shuttles and were dropped about a block away from the stadium. Couldn't have been better! As we approached we saw a sea of people. They were in a line that wound back and forth in a huge parking lot, over a bridge and over a hill. And the line was not moving. We stood around for about 10 minutes evaluating the situation and tried to decide if we wanted to take on that challenge. Finally we headed off into the middle of this crowd in search of the end of the line. Thank goodness that the temperature was in the mid-80's compared to the mid-90's we had been experiencing for most of this past summer. We had water and comfortable shoes so we waited. And waited, and waited. There was some good-natured grumbling but most of the people around us were very happy to be there and the mood was relatively light. Eventually a few people (including our friend) decided to explore the line further and try and determine why it seemed to be stalled. Thanks to their efforts and some help from the police the line began to move. Apparently there had been a few "merge" points that were the problem. The police were great and they joked with us and brought us cases of water. As we navigated through the huge lot, over the bridge and over the hill we found....a second parking lot, full of people and another hill which we could not see over. We laughed about the never-ending line and debated about the possibility of a third lot and we trudged on. The line was really moving along now and it made things easier. We could see that most of the musical acts were going to be finished by the time we got through the line. We saw Stevie Wonder on the JumboTron from about a quarter of a mile away. We all agreed that we were not too disappointed because it was Obama that we really came to see. Eventually we reached the security tent, the final stop before we could make our way to our seats. We noticed that the security people were only giving our credentials a cursory glance rather that the barcode scan and confirmation were were told to expect. I believe that this was the real reason the line finally started to move. I was not complaining but I did wonder just how much I could have sold that ticket for after all.

Once inside we climbed the ramps all the way to the top of the stadium (level 5) where we would find festival seating within section 521. After all that water I really need to make a pit stop where I found all the toilet paper gone (the aggravating part) and as I finished up I heard Al Gore conclude his speech. Ah well, I guess I will have to try and catch him the next time he is in town. We found our section and discovered that we had a big climb ahead of us. We ended up finding seats about 10 rows from the top. We had never been to the stadium before, a football game is not in our budget, so we were amazed at how high up we were. My stomach did a little dance as we settled into our seats. I realized these huge stadiums would not be possible without the wonderful invention of the JumboTron. The people at the podium looked like colored ants and without the giant TV we would have no way of knowing who we were actually seeing way down there.

We saw a woman named Eisenhower, a bunch of Generals and Admirals and Joe Biden spoke and then introduced a wonderful group of our fellow Americans that were chosen to tell us their personal stories of struggle in the current administration. They were truly inspirational and I will always remember Barney Smith who told us that "Barack Obama would never put Smith Barney ahead of Barney Smith". The crowd went wild and a star was born. They chanted "Barney, Barney". Awesome. If tears were shed they definitely came during these speeches.

Then we saw a video of Barack's biography and the photos of him as a youngster had the crowd all responding with, "awwwww". That was sweet. It did help us all see Barack as "one of us" and I found a new appreciation for him and his character. That was nicely done.

Then Barack arrived and the small flags left at every seat were flying and the stomps rocked the stadium. I have never witnessed such an enthusiastic and warm welcome for a speaker. There was a lot of love and hope in the air that night.

He spoke to us about unity and brotherhood, about the future and his plans, about our job and his job, about hope and dreams for our country and he convinced us that he would be a fine leader that could bring us to that place we all know as the American Dream. The crowd really appreciated his comments about taking care of our military, the bleak economic situation and the disillusionment with our current leaders. I could see his vision and I was convinced that this was the direction I wanted to move in, it was the message that I needed to hear.
He really is an amazing speaker.

At the end of his speech, as he and his family waved to the crowd, the fireworks exploded just feet above our heads. I have never seen my husband jump like that before. I started thinking about all these people leaving the stadium at once and I turned to my husband and asked, "are you ready?". We started down, as quickly as we could. By the time we reached the lower level we were in a huge mass of people moving very slowly into the dark. We were not familiar with the area and had lost track of our friend so we were on our own to make our way back to the hotel and our truck. We decided to head toward the area where the shuttles were lined up to take the delegates to their hotels downtown. We thought we might get lucky and hitch a ride. As we maneuvered through the people and buses we came to a sign. The sign listed 3 bus routes and one was a shuttle to the Ramada where we started!! I cannot tell you how much of a miracle it was that we found this sign in the dark. There was a bus there but the driver said it was full so we figured that the next one would be along soon. As we waited the bus pulled away and stopped about 20 yards away, it was complete gridlock. No buses were coming or going. After about 45 minutes things started looking bleak. All of a sudden the doors opened on the bus and most of the passengers started to get off. It turns out that they had boarded that bus thinking it was going downtown when it was actually headed to the west side of town. We asked the driver if they were going to the Ramada and she said "yes"!! It really was a miracle. We boarded and within 10 minutes the gridlock cleared and we were off. We were actually on the first city bus shuttle that left the parking lot. We arrived at our truck about 15 minutes later and we made it home by 11:00PM. I cannot express to you how amazing it was to experience all the pieces falling into place like they did that night. It was something special.

What I will remember most about that remarkable evening was when Barack told us, "Change happens -- change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time. America, this is one of those moments." That reminded me that I too have a job to do, I have an obligation to this country and to my fellow Americans. No politician alone is going to accomplish all that we need to do. They can lead us and help us stay focused but, in the end, it is up to us. I am motivated now, motivated to help bring about change and to bring us back, back to being the country that the world looked toward for vision and inspiration. The future is bright, for now.

Read the speech here: LINK