On Thursday (Oct 4) I went to the Obama rally in Madison @ the Bascom Mall in the University of Wisconsin. Now, I will first tell you that that this is my first time going to one of these events so I had no idea what to expect. I had some ideas in my head, with nothing to base these thoughts on. I was, for some reason, expecting something a little more intimate, maybe a few hundred people in an smaller arena of some sort, but what I experienced is far beyond what I expected….
Where It Started
I received an email from the Obama campaign letting me know about the grassroots rally in Madison on the 4th and gave me the option to RSVP for it, and I did so, thinking “What the hell. Why not?” This is my first time doing so and it will be an experience, especially since I consider this one of the most important elections in contemporary history.
I cleared the time with the wife and arranged for additional babysitting for Uliana in case things went longer than I expected, and I took a vacation day from work. I was kind of excited about the whole thing, especially since this will be my first experience at a political rally. Yes, I am a rally virgin.
The Morning of the Rally
The day of the rally came and I was thinking I would be smart and get there a little early so I can get a good seat, so I looked at getting there about and hour early (~11:00). Boy was I silly!! Driving there was easy enough: Hwy 12 -> Park St -> Charter St -> parking ramp. Prior to leaving I ate light thinking that getting to a bathroom more than once was going to be an issue so I had a 6″ sub from Subway and a protein bar with a moderate amount of water so I did not over do it.
Now once I arrived in the area there were road blocks with traffic diverted around the area as could be expected for security reasons with the president to arrive. I asked someone where Bascom Mall was once I parked my car in one the parking ramps, and the person just knowingly smiled at me and pointed out the direction. It was but a block or two away. As I came closer I saw some officers redirecting traffic amidst a crowd of people and watching over things. Then I saw it… it was huge and really unexpected. A line of people, no… a river of people 6 wide and rolling over the hill and out of sight. I was amazed to see so many people, a veritable river of people, here for the rally and to hear President Obama speak.
I told the officer I thought I was getting here early. He smiled and said that officers were on the scene since 6:00am this morning and the people started arriving at 7:00am. =O I was shocked, amazed, and happy. As I worked my way towards the back of this seeming endless river of people talking and patiently waiting, I walked with my mouth agape, surprised at the massive turn out. I saw many, many college-aged kids there which was quite reassuring to see that the new generation has some sense in their head. I also saw one person with a Jill Stein Sign, which I was also happy to see.
The Line Dance
As stood in line until the bell tolled noon I stood there quietly and listened to the people talking, mostly college age kids (Wow, do I feel old =O ). Shortly after the bell tolled the line slowly moved forward a few feet at a time. Along the way there was plenty of bottled water made available, cases upon cases of bottled water to keep us hydrated and upon our feet. While in line I met this nice older couple and started to talk with them. I initiated the conversation because the husband was reading a Great Courses catalog, and since I love Great Courses, I started a conversation with him and his wife. He was just starting to listen one of their courses, and she had a visionary father who passed away recently. They walk most everywhere and do not use internet or TV, which was interesting to hear of in this day and age. They were a great couple to stand in line with and to get to know. We stood inline together and talked until we finally were able to enter the Bascom Mall area through the metal detectors and police, which was after 1:40pm or so. The first thing we did was to find the porta-potties and get that taken care of.
By the time we were able to get in there was already an ocean of people there. I was so far away from where the president was going to speak that I could barely see it. I had to stand on my tippy-toes to get a glimpse of the speaking area over the sea of anxious and excited people. The speaking stand was down at the bottom of the grassy slope, bleachers were at the top of the hill, and countless people in between. Live music was playing which stopped shortly after I got in. Then a repeating track of 8 or 9 songs was played over loud speakers, which grew old or even annoying as the anticipation grew and our feet grew tired. There were a few large TV’s in a few areas so that people who were in a place where they could not see even if they wanted to so they would have a chance to see the president speak. Bottled water was also offered too. NO food was allowed in nor was food offered in there either.
I stood up and looked around in awe at all of the people. I listed to the people talk politics and of hope. There was a man there standing near me with his two kids who were probably 7 and 5 years old too, fidgety and curious. A wide variety of people of every ethnicity and background. I was amazed at the diversity here. Time wore on slowly, but eventually the time came and the speaking started. It was then that I noticed black suited swat team type people on the roof tops with guns and binoculars surveying the area for threats.
A Time for Talking
Finally the times comes when we are going to hear people speak, which turned out to be around 3:30pm… quite a wait, especially since we are standing the whole time. I did take a few moments to rest my feet by sitting down on the ground amidst the crowd, which was an awkward thing to do, but there were no incidents. I am so thankful by this time, especially since I spend all my days sitting behind a computer desk. My feet were sore from standing and I had no idea when things were going to get started, or, more importantly for my feet, when this was going to end for that matter. Obama’s warm-up speakers were Mayor Paul Soglin, Herb Cole, Tammy Baldwin, the graduating class president (I think). All speakers were great and it was great to see all of these people together speaking out in support of and uniting behind President Obama. I do not remember much of their speeches, to be honest. They were positive, supportive, and full of hope as you would expect at a political rally. After they finished their speeches there was still some time to wait until the President arrived. It was probably another 40 minutes or more after the last speaker before the president arrived and began speaking.
I really enjoyed Obama’s speech. It was smooth, playful and poking, yet poignant
Would I Do It Again?
Ok, so I will admit that I am getting older sigh at almost 39. With that being said I think that would only do it as a group and if we prepared for it as an all day event. I am glad I went and had that experience even though I could barely see him. This is how I could see him from where I was: