Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Was There as Edwards endorsed Obama

Wow! People talk about being "Fired Up and Ready to Go" at Obama rallies, but I must say I never imagined seeing what I just saw in Grand Rapids, in the heart of conservative West Michigan.

An endorsement from John Edwards.

I arrived at Van Andel Arena (named for a conservative cofounder of Amway) around 5:15. The line to get in moved quite rapidly, probably because there were plenty of metal detectors to keep people moving in at an efficient pace. I sat in the upper level of the arena, but I was closer to the stage than many people there. Besides, given who we knew was going to be there, I wasn’t complaining.

A disabled veteran led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. The crowd cheered as they saw the young man in crutches approach the podium. After that, someone from the field office had everyone get out their cell phones and text 'MI' to 62262 to stay involved with the campaign.

A little while later we saw the "Yes We Can" video by will.i.am. A little later, The Wave.

I reflected on the people there. They were diverse in race, age, and surely walk of life. I saw middle-aged white men. I saw black women. I saw kids - plenty of kids! Many of whom won’t be old enough to vote this November. Still, they were witnessing history. Sure, school was out for the day. But these kids were getting a hands-on education, just as I did when I saw Al Gore at Calder Plaza in October 2000.

Around 6:35, a worker at the Lear factory in Walker - which will be closing in a few months - spoke about his struggles to get by as the cost of living increased but his paycheck didn’t.

He had the honor of introducing the man who would be President.

At 6:38 PM, Barack Obama - one of the smartest and most beloved people in modern politics - stepped up to the podium.

He started by telling us he had a treat. And a treat it was as he introduced a young man who has dedicated his life to tackling the many issues ordinary Americans face.

Once Barack uttered the words "John Edwards," the place went nuts. We all knew what Edwards’s presence there meant. I was hopping up and down like I’ve never done at any political function in my 20 ½ years. Hell, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited at a sporting event!

Edwards spoke of the major themes of his campaign: Poverty, social justice, healthcare, and of course making the two Americas one. "The Democratic voters of America have made their decision," he added, "and so have I."

In his remarks, Obama made the solemn promise that Edwards would find in President Obama a fierce comrade in the fight against poverty. He then touched on what he has discussed throughout his campaign, including the many important issues we face in this country and the importance of changing the way Washington operates.

There seems to be general agreement that Senator Obama will be our Democratic nominee. He pointed out that both Edwards and, yes, Hillary all stood for a much-needed change in Washington. On more than one occasion, Obama called out McCain as someone who simply offers more of the same. Obama, speaking in a conservative region of battleground Michigan, was in full general-election mode.

At one point during the speech, we got a glimpse of what kind of human being we'll have as our President if this man is elected.

At one point, Barack saw that someone in the crowd had fainted. He interrupted his spiel for a moment to alert the EMTs that someone had fainted. He then took his bottle of water and asked people to send it back to the person who had fainted.

I'm not sure many politicians would interrupt their own speech to do that - much less give up their bottle of water.

When the speech was done, the crowd dispersed, and I made my way to the car. As I got in the car, I looked in the mirror and asked myself: "Did I really just see Edwards endorse Obama?"

Oh, yes, I did.

And I hope that you too have the privilege of being there to see and hear Barack Obama bring out your emotions and move you to action.

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