Imagine standing in line for the better part of an hour to hear a speech. The speech was billed as “non political,” but was delivered by the President of the United States in an election year. Do you think it will be worth the wait to hear what the man has to say? That was the question when I queued up to listen to President Gerald Ford in Bowling Green Ohio, back in 1978. Obviously I must have thought that the chance to hear the President speak live was worth standing in line for, because a couple of days ago, I waited in line again for our current President Barack Obama.
The photograph you see here shows about one-third of the total length of the line that I stood in to enter what was billed as an entirely political rally featuring President Obama. The theme of the rally, which of course attracted mostly true believers in the Democrats’ cause, was get out the vote. Being a gathering of like-minded partisans the occasion was filled with a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. The event was held in Orr Middle School Park on Katie Avenue, as it happens about two blocks from my house. The doors opened at 3:30, but people started parking along my block at about 2:00. I walked over at 3:30, discovering the line pictured here. That line grew by about half a block as I walked to the end of it. Still, how often do you get to hear the President of the United States speak live within an easy walk of your home? I hate standing in line, but for the second time, I decided that the reward was worth the wait.
The enthusiasm was evident when I scanned the crowd. The young gentleman pictured was to my immediate right, but it seemed that everyone was all fired up and eager. There was very little anger evident, which was a relief after watching the political ads on TV this year. There were some boos and hisses when Harry Reid mentioned his opponent, Sharron Angle, but that was about it. The notables who spoke began with Rory Reid, and included Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley plus Harry Reid. Also, several people who became politically active only recently told their stories. The band from Orr Middle School played a few numbers, and there was other live entertainment as well. Many students from the middle school attended, and why not, since they got to sit in the bleachers while the rest of us had to stand for the duration.
The streets adjacent to the park were lined with school buses as a security measure. I knew that the main speaker was arriving, though, when I saw about twelve cars driving between the buses and the park. Not long after those cars arrived, Senator Reid and President Obama appeared. Reid gave a talk first, eliciting, as I said, the only negative comments of the afternoon. Then the President took the podium, and demonstrated that he is quite good at working a crowd of supporters. The things he said were significant to a closely fought political campaign. Some of them were probably significant in a larger sense, even. But the real fun was in watching the party faithful respond to a man who, no matter what your political beliefs, you must admit can be a very glib and persuasive speaker. If sheer enthusiasm can win a race, then the Democrats are shoo-ins this year.
I always cast my vote, and I hope that anyone reading this does as well. I didn’t run over to the Boulevard Mall and vote immediately following the rally (which was strongly suggested by every last speaker) but I will be voting. It was a privilege to wait in line to hear the President present the case for voting. It was voting that created Paradise Township in the first place, and voting that puts every single member of congress in place. Don’t like the incumbents? Go vote them out. Love those guys? Go see that they stay in. And if you ever get the chance to hear the President give a speech live, I can tell you that, one way or another, you’ll be glad you did.