Monday, November 06, 2006

Quiet strength

I went to the Democratic rally last night on the Ped Mall. I felt like something of an interloper since I don't really consider myself a Democrat and am not really that excited about Chet Culver becoming governor. I went to see Barack Obama in person and I'm fairly certain I wasn't the only person in that crowd of one thousand who was most interested in hearing the Illinois Sentor speak.

It was an education in local politics. Lots of yelling about how the Dems are going to take control of government and woo hoo woo hoo! Clearly a rally is not a place to throw any real ideas out there - everyone spoke in generalities and were greeted with raucous applause.

It was a chance to see two potential Democratic presidential hopefuls - Obama and Tom Vilsack, our current governor. What a study in contrasts. Vilsack was swinging his arm and shouting at the top of his lungs and struck me as trying waaaaay too hard.

And then there was Barack. I was surprised at his appearance when he first walked on stage because he is so thin. Skeletal almost. Of course, as a skinny guy myself, I'm not holding that against him. And it didn't help that he was standing next to Chet Culver who is built like a football player. Otherwise, he's a handsome guy with a huge smile. And he looks very young. He's 45, but he looks only a little older than 35 or so.

There were many times when the crowd called out for Barack even when others were speaking. At one point, Vilsack was introducing Tom Harkin, but the crowd thought he meant Obama, and the cheers were deafening. Harkin made light of it when he came to the microphone, but it was clear the crowd would have annointed Obama President that night if it could have. What I appreciated most was Obama's restraint. He was humble in the face of that adulation and made it clear that the reason he was here was to help the Iowa Dems whose fates would be decided on Tuesday.

When he finally spoke, we weren't greeted with the now stereotypical Martin Luther King-like delivery. He spoke quietly, but with confidence and passion. He didn't need to raise his voice to raise our spirits. He spoke about the "audacity of hope", which is also the title of his book and admitted that he filched that phrase from the pastor at his church on the South Side. He rejected the cynicism of politics and asked us Why not? Why not make things better? Why not do it today? He said it so much better than I can write it. His words were possessed a quiet passion that ignited a fire within us. It wasn't that he was saying anything we hadn't heard before. The difference was when Barack spoke of hope, we believed him.


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Name: Matt
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