Daily Banter Special Comment
By Peter Bauer, Contributing Editor
Obama is Electrifying. People go crazy for him. They scream, they
yell, they claw over each other to get a closer glimpse. He posseses rare
a magnetism shared by few human beings on this planet. In my
lifetime, I have not seen such a wide spectrum of people embrace a
In only 15 days in late March, both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton
came to Eugene, Oregon (my hometown). Although Eugene is a
relatively known town throughout the United States, it rarely draws
major political figures.
In recent memory, major political figures come through this part of
the Pacific Northwest roughly every 8 years. John Kerry put on a
private party in 2004, Vice President Al Gore spoke in 1996 on the
University of Oregon campus, and Michael Dukakis made an appearance at
the Springfield Mall in 1988.
When it was announced only days in advance that Obama was coming to
town, there was an instant buzz in the air. Team Obama wasn’t giving
out any tickets to the event. I tried to secure passes for a few
students and teachers at my school, but the point person for the rally
said I should just come down at 2:30 when school gets out. This was
seven hours before the event started, but reserved tickets for the
13,000 seat Portland venue had sold out in a matter of hours.
I decided to get to the rally with my students at 6:30, an hour
before they opened the doors. As we neared the University, all of the
parking spots in the neighborhood were taken. To our dismay, the line
stretched five city blocks!
We stood in line for two and a half hours, only to be turned away a
block away from the entrance. Some people had been in line for nearly
five hours and didn’t even get in. As we were heading back, we noticed
that the line was as full at the end as when we started. Literally
thousands of people were turned away.
As we were leaving, people were saying that Obama would be making an
in a few hours on the auxiliary field next to the arena. We confirmed
this with a stern looking police officer, and headed for some locally
made ice cream at Prince Puckler’s before the speech. (7th graders have short attention spans, and getting them to stand in line for 150 minutes, in the cold, at a political rally, on a
Friday night deserves ice cream!)
After finishing our delicious desserts we headed to back to the
field with what we thought was time to spare. As we approached, we
heard the roar of applause and realized he was already there. We broke
into a jog down the block to find more 2000 people in a massive semi
circle, on top a small hill, and lining the upper walk way of Historic
Hayward Field. If there was a view, people were there.
We quickly worked our way to the front as the crowd cheered and
broke into spontaneous “O-BA-MA” chants as he finished his brief
statement. He only spoke for a minute or two, thanking the crowd for
sticking around and being a part of the evening. I told my students to
be polite and say “excuse me” as we worked our way to the 3rd and 4th
row. As he came to our side of the semi-circle to shake hands, the
crowd surged like a the first chords of the first song of a great
concert. For a moment, all cultural concepts of personal space were
eliminated as bodies young and old pressed upon each other to get as
close as possible to Obama.
As we left, my students had smiles on their faces. Even though we
didn’t get to see the speech, they got a shaky video of Obama on their
camera phone and were excited to show their friends. We were about a
block and a half away from the event when I heard an explosion of sound
that turned me around.
Mac Court, or The Pit as it is known in college basketball circles,
has a reputation for being one of the loudest stadiums in the
country. The sound emanating from the arena that night was
overpowering. I checked the time and realized that Obama must have just
taken the stage to a thunderous ovation generally reserved for 4th quarter upsets.
Fast forward fifteen days.
Hillary Clinton came to speak at the 2,400 seat high school gym four
blocks away from UO. Her event started at 11:30 on a Saturday morning,
with no reserved tickets. People realize that the space was limited,
and that the line would start really early. I elected to forgo this
event, and chose instead to watch it live on the local news.
The Clinton campaign was running behind, and one of the pre-rally
video clips perfectly juxtaposed the two campaigns. The clip showed
people outside the event who didn’t get in but stuck around anyway. The
reporter on the scene described their number as “in the dozens,” but
the camera showed only a handful of people milling around in front of
Contrast this with the hundreds of people who waited for Obama, and
the thousands who actually got see him. The numbers speak for
Don’t get me wrong. I'm not in love with all of Obama’s policies,
and I'm not crazy about the fact that he’s relatively new political
figure. Before his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, I had
never heard of him.
What I do know is that America is at an all time low, and we need a
new direction for this country. A vote for McCain is a vote for four
more years of Bush, for corporate tax reductions, and more war. I'm
not sure that this country can stand that.
Obama embodies the optimism of youth- the idea that things can, and
will, get better. For the last eight years, it’s gotten worse and worse
to the point where you can feel the weight of our deflated national
ego. We’re down in the dumps, and we’re ready to get back up.
If you get a chance to see Obama, take it. It’s a chance to say that
you were there - that you were fed up, and you were tired, and you
finally decided to go out into public and clap and cheer and shout with
everyone else who is fed up with this NeoCon Nightmare.