We found out a few days ago that Barack Obama was making a return trip to Missouri and not just any part of Missouri, but our part of Missouri. In other words, he was coming to Mizzou! I mailed out my absentee ballot (NY resident, still) a few days ago and was pretty psyched at this last minute change to Senator Obama's travel plans. So after I subbed Svitlana's class for her, my friend Liz, Fi and I headed over to volunteer. We received an email saying that if we did volunteer they'd let us in early and we'd be sure to see Barack Obama.
Fi and I
The Crew: Me, Liz, Fi, Scott, Liz
Not our proudest moment: Snacks from McD's (I had a plain grilled chicken sandwich so it wasn't the worst)
Needless to say, we spent hours walking up and down the quickly lengthening line asking people to fill out forms saying that they would, in fact, be voting on November fourth. It was fun, really. Our head of the creative writing program and his daughter were there, too, so the bunch of us formed a group and got tons of signatures and clowned around while the line grew and people patiently waited. I won't go into details about how they tried to screw the volunteers into getting in early or how they were planning to put us in a parking lot with a big screen t.v. half a mile or so away from the actual grandstand, but what I will tell you is that we ended up ten feet away from Barack Obama-all of us! Our entire group. While we weren't allowed to bring anything in with us besides small bags (tiny-as in-camera sized!), they provided us with "Obama/Biden" signs, American stick flags (which they promptly took away shortly after giving them to us deeming them a safety hazard), bottles of water and those tiny sandbags that keep your hands warm (we used to use them during the cold, beginning of softball season in high school when we weren't piled up and sitting all over each other to keep warm). The crowd waited, as patiently as possible, while every democratic candidate in the state of Missouri came to the podium and delivered brief speeches aimed at riling up the crowd (they only semi-worked). Each person finished up their speech by shouting, "M-I-Z..." whereupon the crowd responded with "Z-O-U!" (Mizzou!)
Then Barack Obama took the stage. Never before have I seen or been a part of so much buzzing energy in my life. The entire world came to life as if a zap of electric current suddenly shot through the crowd igniting everyone there. There was absolutely no boundary between us: race, age, gender, ethnicity...all joined together as one complete entity there for one hopeful cause. We cheered and cried together, raised our hands to the air together, celebrated and chanted together. For one of the first experiences of my twenty-eight years of life, we were a people full of peace and hope, love and unity brought together by one person that defined change and possibility for the better...for all of us. As a group, we came together as one communally enchanted, enamored and certain entity. He was not only charismatic and articulate, but empathetic and touching. Whether we were ten feet from him or watching him on a big screen t.v. from the back of the crowd, we were all, every one of us, moved by his presence and speech. (I asked my students this morning how they felt-and all were hugely touched regardless of how far away they were in the crowd.) Each of us felt something-the same thing-together.
When Senator Obama took to the crowd to do a lap around the stage and shake hands following his speech, I was fortunate enough to be in the very front (unfortunate, too, as I thought I was going to be crushed to death for a while there). Dozens of hands reached toward the barrier and those of us up against it moved sideways so more of the crowd could reach in and have the same opportunity to shake our future president's hand. There was no sense of selfishness or greed in that boisterous crowd, but a collective sense of generosity-moving for others to get nearer, making spaces so their hands could reach out. I ordinarily value my personal space and would not have liked being in such close proximity, but even in the midst of that crowd I didn't feel overwhelmed or threatened. I didn't worry about being pick-pocketed or feeling invaded, I just felt a part of something much greater than I had before.
When Senator Obama reached us-he was as gracious as one would imagine-asking those pushing forward to stop pushing, asking me whether I was squashed or ok, politely asking the girl beside me to let go of his hand that she'd been so desperately clinging to even when he was half a foot away from her. Everything about Barack Obama was presidential and stately. It was truly a mesmerizing and awe-inspiring experience. Before he walked off to continue greeting, thanking and shaking hands-as he was asking the girl beside me to let go of his hand, I remembered to snap a picture (yes, it took me that long to recall I had a camera in my hand!).
Close-up on Barack
So last night Fi and I were a part of history. Maybe it wasn't anything over the top huge, but we were in the presence of our next president...as long as we GO OUT AND VOTE! (As he so eloquently reminded us). I'd like to say he said something different than what we are used to hearing, but he said everything we wanted him to say, he said the things he's continuously been saying-the things that made us decide to vote for him in the first place and we felt lucky and inspired to be a part of it. The only thing I wish he'd done, but didn't was yell: M-I-Z...
I was exhausted when I got up late at 7:30 to teach my 8am class this morning, but it was worth every second!
More to come later. Fi and I are going for a picnic.
P.S.-If you live in Missouri-we are a swing state, my friends...go Go GOOOO vote on Tuesday. I can't begin to tell you how important your vote TRULY is.
P.P.S.-We took TONS of pics and if you're interested, head to my facebook site!