I saw Barrack Obama speak for the first time sometime in February 07, when he launched his presidential campaign at Springfield. I was captivated by his oratory skills and watched many of his subsequent speeches on TV or YouTube since then. His aura and energy is spell binding even while reading his book. Back in India, I had no realistic chance of ever seeing him live. Now that I am in the US, I thought maybe, just maybe, I might get lucky. Turned out that Minneapolis is one of the smaller cities in the US. And so I gave up hope of seeing him anytime soon. I guess I had forgotten the audacity of hope.
So the other day, a few weeks into my stay here, there was an article in the local newspaper about Obama’s visit to Minneapolis. I couldn’t believe it. Obama was coming to Minneapolis within a month of my arrival. What luck! I browsed the net for more info about the event. He was gonna talk about his planned healthcare reforms. The venue was just 2 miles from my home and entry was free. I wanted to be sure that non US citizens would be allowed. So I shot of a few emails and made a few calls and yippee, everyone was allowed on first come first serve basis.
The day arrived and my friend and I reached the venue just after 8am. We informed that there was line stretching about half a mile. This when the gates were due to open at 9:30am! We walked past groups of people playing cards, chatting and listening to music. Finally we reached the end of the line. My friend Pradeep went to grab a bite. I had no idea what exactly Obama was gonna talk about. So I asked a group near me. They seemed quite pro Obama and vehemently supported his ideas. The line began moving slowly. Despite the crowd, there was no pushing and shoving like in India. But on the down side, there weren’t any hawkers selling food or drink. Once in a while when someone did come, the cost was exorbitant. Luckily I was well prepared. I had had a huge breakfast and had brought a bottle of water with me.
Finally we reached the security check at about 10:00am. After an airport style security check, we were in. We joined a line for seats then. After another nervous wait we were finally seated! Now for the long wait for the arrival of the man himself. There was an energetic buzz in the stadium. Mexican waves and ‘Obama, yes we can’ chants went on from time to time. I got bored after a while. Again, I was prepared. I had carried a book with me. I peacefully read until they showed live footage of Obama arriving at the city airport. A loud cheer went up! It was the sign of things to come.
Finally the event started at 12:30pm. First the stage was graced by some other dignitaries and the anthem sung. Then it was time. ‘Ladies and gentle men, the president of the United States” came the announcement. Obama entered, literally running. A few handshakes and high fives with the people near the stage. He skipped up the stairs and was ready to speak. I liked the energy in his entry. The people cheered wildly. Check the video I uploaded. He first got the crowd going by talking about the football game at the university that evening and by calling the crowd ‘a lot more fun than the congress’. He then spoke about his main agenda, the healthcare reforms. He is an amazing orator. Even though I had little interest in or background knowledge about the issue, I was suddenly concerned about the American healthcare system and willed him on with his ideas. The crowd cheered wildly after almost every point he made.
The best statement was, I will paraphrase it, “I know many presidents in the past tried to reform the healthcare system, but I know I will be the last to try it because I am gonna be successful!” The speech lasted about half an hour and he ended it with a short anecdote of his election campaign. By the end of the speech everyone was ‘fired up’ and ‘ready to go’. The program ended and I headed out with the rest of the crowd, overjoyed to have heard a live speech from one of the greatest orators of our time!
So that’s one of my wishes granted, seeing Obama live! Now I have to see the Niagara, go to Vegas, ‘touch’ the statue of liberty, meet an astronaut, ... , ... , ... and oh yeah get a masters degree!