Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thousands Attend Obama Rally in Dallas - Thousands Turned Away - Arena Filled To Capacity

My partner and I figured arriving aty Reunion Arena in downtown Dallas around 9:00am would be plenty early for a political rally that was scheduled at noon. For just about any other politician, that might have been true, but this rally was for Barack Obama and as we approached the area from the train station we saw that a few other people had the same idea, about 17000 of them.

We walked for 6 or 7 blocks through the snaking lines before finding the “end” where we took our place among the throng. Spirits were very high and the political chatter was intense. Most impressive was the crowd itself. I stood next to a man from Garland who had been an Obama supporter for a long time, next to him was a young white man still in college. This was his second election and he was stoked. Nearby were a couple of African American women who had ridden on the train with us, and beside them was an older white couple with a homemade sign reading “Ready for Change”.

The crowd was multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, all ages and incomes. It was truly a cross section of America and that is what I found so encouraging. We waited standing for almost 3 hours before the lines even started to move, and yet everyone was cheerful and excited. Few complained, even when the crowd pushed forward toward the narrow entrance of Reunion Arena.

Apparently the Secret Service was overwhelmed by the size of the crowds. They had set up screenings, but by the time our group made it to the door they were already packing their equipment. I suspect the campaign encouraged them to withdraw to allow the huge volume of humanity into the hall before the speeches started. According to news reports several thousand people who arrived late were turned away as the arena was filled to capacity.

We found seats on the upper deck in what would have been the end-zone for a sporting event. The view was good, if a little far from the action. As the speeches began, and former Mayor, Ron Kirk welcomed the crowd, people continued to stream into the arena. Almost every seat was filled by the time Senator Obama appeared. He was preceded by a rousing endorsement by former Cowboy Emmet Smith who got the crowd whipped into a frenzy.

When Obama finally did appear the standing ovation lasted for several minutes. The crowd seemed more like they were at a rock concert than a political rally. Enthusiasm was the mood of the day as Obama spoke about his plans for America. Much of his speech was from his standard stump speech, but several points were in direct response to attacks by Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He specifically addressed the criticism that his campaign is big on talk but not ideas. His proposed programs to improve education, health care and stem the outsourcing of US jobs were met with standing cheers. The biggest ovation came when he outlined a plan to provide an education to all Americans, even through college. The costs would be offset by a specified number of hours in public service from the students in exchange for their education. Cheers rung through the arena on that suggestion, and mostly from young people who would be affected by it. That is encouraging. It means that these young American’s are willing to serve their country in exchange for an education and that means they are motivated.

It has been a tough road for Obama in this primary season and it has affected his health. He was suffering from a cold, and even had to pause to blow his nose. That act even brought a round of applause. When is the last time a politician could say that?

By the end of the speech which lasted almost an hour, the crowd was motivated and ready to win the primary for Senator Obama. In Texas that means not just voting in the primary, but going to the precinct conventions after the polls close to pledge as delegates. It’s a strange system, but hey, this is Texas! This year, since we are a very important state in the run up to the general election, every vote counts. If you are a Texan and you are voting in the primary, ask at the polls where the precinct convention is and attend after the polls close. Without this support it could be possible for the outcome of the election to be “politicked” and that would be a bad thing for Texas and the Obama candidacy.

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