Wednesday, September 22, 2010

History in the Making, Part II

I posted Part I of this post, oh, over a year and a half ago. (!) I think it's time for me to finish telling the epic story of the Night We Attended Obama's Victory Rally. That is, if I can remember details of the event that happened almost two years ago (!!!!!!!). Bear with me as I try to remember those details, and forgive me if perhaps I embellish just a little.

I believe I left off with the fact that we were hungry, thirsty, and dying to pee. No, we didn't end up getting anything to eat, or drink. But I did, in fact, make it to the bathroom. At a certain point I decided I just HAD to try or who knows what unfortunate event would befall me and my closest neighbors, not to mention my pants, so I began to move. Slowly. Slowly I pushed, nudged, basically clawed my way out of that crowd towards the portajohns. At times like those it's a blessing to be on the shorter side because you can just slip! between people before they even realize what's happening. After approximately probably seven minutes I finally made it, took care of business....

...and began the process of working my way back. Through hundreds of people. A sea of very excited, very crowded, very anxious bodies. Almost sweaty bodies. [Keep in mind, it's November. In Chicago. That's how many people there were.] Probably fifteen or twenty minutes later I somehow made it back to my small little group of sixteen friends. MUCH happier.

Pretty soon the election results started trickling in, starting with the non-borderline East Coast states, followed by the non-contested Midwest states, and so on. I think early on it was pretty clear that Obama was going to win - well at least to the crowd there, it was a sure thing the entire evening. [It's not like we were all his supporters, or anything...] Every time a state turned blue on the map - WOOOOO!!!! A giant victory party in the middle of Grant Park. Epic.

Virginia has traditionally been a red state, but this year it could have gone either way. Watching that state turn blue on the giant LED billboard-size map was one of the proudest moments of my life. I tried to call my parents to gloat but my call wouldn't go through. Either there were too many people trying to make calls in that concentrated area, or my parents just didn't want to hear it...It really could go either way.

Hours later, we are getting antsy. It's been a long wait. We've waited. And stood. Still waiting. Still standing. I tried sitting on the ground for a few minutes, but we'd gotten so compressed over the hours that we only had room for one or two of us to sit at a time. So we rotated.

The moment arrives. Obama has clearly won. At this point, I can't honestly remember if there was a concession speech before Obama's speech. But that's not important.

He came out on that stage, and the crowd went WILD. WILD. That crowd included Oprah, some other famous people, Oprah, reportedly Brad Pitt, did I say Oprah? and of course the Fall 2008 Wheaton in Chicago cohort.  [People, I was probably 100 yards from Oprah. 100 yards and probably 5,000 people. But still. We were breathing the same very stale, stagnant air. A true sharing moment.] Those of us under 6 feet really couldn't see him, so we proceeded to jump. And jump on the people near us in the process. I mean, if you're going to stand on top of me more or less, that's what you get. One gentleman near Kate wanted to encourage her so much in her ambition to see Mr. Obama that he picked her up. Yes, by the waist. Well, she saw Mr. Obama!

Obama's speech was worth the long hours of waiting and standing. It was incredible. Exhilarating. Hopeful. Thinking about it makes me still hopeful for the next two years of his presidency. His speech made me cry at numerous points. It gave me chill-bumps. He is of course an exceptional orator. But what made my skin tingle was the fact that he was our first African-American president. Hell, our first non-white president. And I was there, listening to him accept that victory. Listening to him give his first speech as president-elect.

I don't care what you think about Obama's ideals and policies, then or now.

I don't care if you think he's been a terrible president so far, or if you always said he would be.

That speech, that whole night, was one of the best nights of my life. It really was a magical moment in history, and all the political pettiness, catfights, immature revenge, whatever you want to call what our politicians are doing in office while they waste our tax money, can't do anything to take that moment from America. America had, and has, clearly made progress. We're not perfect, by any means, but there's still some hope for us.

We still can change; Obama can still salvage that presidency.

Either way, I still love that First Family. I love that they're from Chicago. And I love that I was there. That's why I ordered this button:

Mine glows in the dark. [Bonus!] I hope one day it gets put in a museum, as a memento from this very historically significant event that happened in America's history [that's what I hope will happen with all my stuff, but I figure this one has a slightly bigger chance than say, my diary, or something.]

At the end of the evening, it was INCREDIBLE to walk through the streets of Chicago. Thousands of people, of all different races, of all different socioeconomic classes, milling about together. Celebrating together. Cheering together. Dancing together. Rushing for the train together. There's something about waltzing around in the streets that are usually filled with cars, honking and stuck in traffic. It's just so liberating, and it was even more so that night. We were all so high on idealism, and hope, and change.

We continued our celebration at the Golden Nugget, an all-night diner. I don't think my stomach appreciated whatever I ate that night at, oh, say 1:00 in the morning when all was said and done. But it was totally worth it.

I leave you with some pictures. I know this Part II wasn't as detailed, and I apologize for slacking off for almost 18 months (still. can't. believe. it's been that long). But, the feelings remain true. And he's still our first black president. And I was there.

[These pictures are all courtesy of my dear friend Drew Register. And his Facebook account.]

My ticket.

Waiting. In our beautiful city. :)

The stage! Kind of hard to see. But we weren't TOO far away.

And here we all are. I think it's a great photo. One of my favorites from the whole semester.  *Plus Oprah's out there somewhere!*

There you go, my friends. Maybe you need a little reminder of the hope that we had back then. The hope that I still have for Obama. 

Watch that victory speech here.

1 comment:

Ashley Joy said...

Paul, Lauren, and I went to Taco Bell instaed of GN and STILL whenever I pass that establishment on Clark and Addison, I think (and often say or almost say), "That's where I went after seeing Obama win the election!"

That's also the night that Paul stood and hobbled around for eight hours on his bum, got hit by a car, knee.

That's also the night that Heather thought the guy on the red line was hitting on me but in fact was super creepily hitting on Paul.

The next day was also the day my feet hurt SO BAD from all that standing.

[And those are my reflections on your reflections. Ha.]