To be honest, I almost did not attend President Obama’s rally at the UW-Madison Tuesday afternoon. Somewhere over time my patience with standing for hours, and being confined with thousands of people I do not know has lost some of its luster. In addition, I thought that perhaps too many political rallies were under my belt and I could not be moved to the point where I would get goosebumps on my arms like I did twenty years ago. After all I had reasoned, would it not just be easier to watch it on television?
It was not until noon on Tuesday that I made the decision to attend the rally. It had been sixty years since a sitting President visited UW-Madison, and for all the love I have of reading history I should just kick it in gear and get in line with all the others. While I had attended two other presidential rallies many years ago (Reagan and Bush 41) this would be the first one for a Democrat. This was history in the making I told my partner James, and we needed to attend.
It was the best decision we have made in months. Here are three reasons why.
First, the public response to this presidential visit was inspiring.
More often than not when I turn on my television, or open my newspaper, I am confronted with political rhetoric from Republicans and others about President Obama being ‘ a Marxist’, ‘a muslim’, ‘ a socialist’ , or other factually incorrect terms. So it was nice to have positive statements and real enthusiasm from a wide array of people who seemed to have a good grasp of the difficulties for governing a nation. I heard many times today from young and old that President Obama has a very tough set of issues to deal with. There was also a sense of respect and admiration present that is often missing when I read the news.
Afterwards at a packed Fresh Madison Market on University Avenue everyone understood that we all had witnessed something special. It did not matter if people knew each other or not, or were even from the same generation. It was as if we all were connected by some invisible force. We are. We are Americans. And I think many felt the same in the store as I did. That was worth coming to the rally all by itself.
Second, the background to a presidential rally is intense.
It is one thing to have presidential candidates press the flesh in Madison and ask for votes. It is something else entirely to have the leader of the free world, the President Of The United States, land at the local airport and be driven in a battle-ready limousine to a rally site on a massive college campus. There was not an inch over a wide swath of campus that did not have some form of law enforcement making sure that nothing would interrupt the rally, or cause anyone harm. The seriousness of keeping the president safe was as much a part of the ‘show’ as the rally itself. There are many men and women who devote their lives to keeping the president safe. They are never thanked to the degree they should be. Seeing them in operation today only confirms that fact.
Third, I got goosebumps.
Considering we did not get to the event as early as some we still were able to get to see a powerful American moment. (Twenty years ago I would have been even closer!) When Tom Barrett, candidate for Wisconsin Governor, made the energetic introduction of President Obama, and the crowd went wild it happened……my arms tingled with goosebumps. As I write this I wonder how it ever crossed my mind that perhaps this would not have been the result. Though James and I did not get to shake Obama’s hand we were able to feel the enormity of the event, the power of the presidency, and the feeling that in spite of all the national rancor there is plenty of reason to have hope.