I don’t even know how to begin to explain the experience of being at the Mile High Stadium today. I guess you could say that is exactly how I felt – at least a mile high.
It wasn’t easy to get there – not for the Obama campaign nor for any of the 80,000 or so people who braved the whole of humanity to be there for this once in a lifetime shot at history. But all in all the stadium held up well. There were some moments where the stadium food vendors thought they were going to run out and some touchy times over getting back to your seats if you left at inopportune times, but overall, the joy of the experience was felt by all.
And, while you may think that sitting in a stadium for 8 hours in the hot sun would be a bad experience, it felt like no time had passed at all. Everyone was jockeying for good seats and getting to know their seatmates. Cell phones, cameraphones and blackberries were so heavily used that we all started to notice lags in the network and many of us powered down to save our juice. I won’t be surprised at all if there were record numbers of texts, calls and emails.
Everyone and I mean everyone was sporting some sort of Obama gear. From clever homemade inventions "Obama is my DJ" to a somewhat intriguing series of shirts with slogans like "Chips and Salsa for Obama, Burritos for Obama, and Nachos for Obama" to every sort of political iconography possible, the people were in the spirit. It was like being at a Big 10 or USC football game. If you DIDN’T have a shirt or a pin or a hat you felt out of place.
It was amazing to see the media from all walks – Access Hollywood and CNN to African news outlets to radio to the blogoshpere and everywhere in between – all clamboring for a piece of the story. To find a way to capture a bit of the sparkle and somehow convey the spirit of the day to folks in the rest of the world.
We all sang and danced a little from our seats when Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder performed. During some down time the crowd sang along to Springstein’s "Born in the USA" waving their mini American flags.
In our section the appearance of Oprah in the box immediately behind us caused a level of hysteria I have not previously witnessed. She was gracious and waved to the throngs of camera-toting fans before taking her seat. Other celebs – Angela Basset, Mary J. Blige, Fran Drescher, and politicos like Barbara Boxer were also nearby. It was really amazing to sit as one crowd of believers – rich, poor, black, white, latino, asian, famous, families (so many people brought their kids!), and more – all waiting for one special moment in our collective consciousness.
When the lights dimmed and Obama came out on that beautiful stage, I was almost numb. Like I was watching from above or outside my own body. It took me a few moments to regain my awareness. At first we were all a little nervous. No one admitted it until later but we were all a little scared that something "bad" might happen like some nut getting through security. We also were on the edges of our seats waiting for this long-awaited performance.
He started predictably with thanks to all who had come before him during the week. It seemed like the vegetables you had to eat as a kid before you could have dessert. I just wanted him to get to the good stuff!
He began to hit his stride about a quarter into it. The applause grew louder and the cheers more frequent. Then he got tough on McCain and took on the issues head-on like a freight train. I was nodding my head, clapping and shouting "that’s right!" It was like one of those moments when you’re standing silently in a beautiful forest or on the beach watching a sunset and you think to yourself, "wow, this is a majestic moment" and for one brief period the chaos of the world all suddenly makes sense.
Multiply that by 80,000 people and you can begin to imagine the energy that was flowing all around us.
Obama was eloquent and dynamic. He was presidential yet accessible. He was funny and smart. He was humble and proud. He made us feel proud.
And when I heard Democrats shouting "USA, USA, USA," and waiving American flags, I knew that we had stone cold stolen the mantle of patriotism from the Republicans. We just hit ’em over the head and ripped it out of their hands. Afterward my friends said that it was like the America that our parents and grandparents had told us about. No cynicism, no fear, no playing to the lowest common denominator. Just the pure joy of loving your country, loving your neighbor, and believing in the person standing before us all asking for our faith in a better tomorrow.
When the fireworks went off overhead, I stood there for a moment feeling tears well up in my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed. I was in awe of the speech I had just heard. I was proud and happy and feeling so incredibly privileged to be able to have the experience of watching a true American hero. But not a hero in the untouchable, cold, stoic way but in the guy who, on his way home from work, runs into a burning building to rescue complete strangers "just because he was there" sort of way.
That’s the one theme of the week I will take away from meeting the Obamas. They are real people. You can feel it, even in a room of thousands of people. Almost every person I talked to brought it up. From the heartfelt smiles and waves of two of the most adorable girls to the way Michelle Obama radiates warmth when she speaks to the kiss and "you were great" Michelle gave to Barack after the speech tonight. Maybe I’m too used to plastic politicos and their spouses – pearls, pumps and pantsuits anyone? But the Obamas and the Bidens feel more like real people than I was expecting. And if this race is about people you want to sit down and have a beer with, invite me over to Barack and Michelle’s house anyday. We can play "Uno" with the girls and talk about real life.
So, thanks, Denver for a week of a lifetime. Thanks to my party and my fellow Democrats for helping make history and for believing like I do that change is good and that our time is now. Thanks, Barack, for making me believe again. And thanks to all of you who have shared this journey with me. It has been a great honor to think about how I would share this experience with you.
Post Script – all week every blog post has been written on my blackberry (not a paid endorsement). From parties and restaurants, my hotel room and convention halls to the streets of Denver – if I thought it or saw it, I could write it and tell the world (or at least my small part of it) in an instant. It is fascinating to think how technology changes communication and how it will undoubtedly impact the election.
My thumbs are worn out but I thought it would be so interesting to try this blog business from a two inch keyboard in the middle of all the excitement. Crazy huh?
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