Monday, September 8, 2008

I'm on my soap box

To some degree I regret waiting so long to write and post this selection but between the insanity of the last few days of the convention and my attempt to recover back at the office I just couldn’t sit down and write. By now certain details are hazy but I will do my best to describe what was quite an appropriate ending to my marathon week.

Since Thursday was Invesco day we had a shorter programming schedule to allow our participants to make their way to the giant stadium for Obama’s acceptance speech. During the one panel of the day I made final arrangements with the Secretary for two last meetings and got the room set for the Prime Minister of Mauritius and a few key members of the OECD. After all the meetings we had our closing lunch. Mark Warner gave a great key note speech and you could see joy creeping across people’s faces as the lunch ended signaling a close to our most intensive responsibilities….we had finished and it went well! Our President was visibly giddy and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. As the participants loaded on their special escorted buses to gain special entry to Invesco I stuck around to head over later with my boss.

After some hugging and self congratulations we loaded into her car and were driven to the convention hall to park and catch the special shuttle to the stadium. It took us about an hour and a half to do the whole thing, which was nothing compared to most people’s required 11:30-4pm wait. Once in the stadium we were all a little concerned about how many seats remained to be filled. The place was HUGE and with all the trouble the DNC had given us and others about access it would be a big scandal if they failed to fill it. Of course there was no reason to worry. As the likes of Sheryl Crowe, Wiliam, and Stevie Wonder played, tens of thousands of people poured in packing the place. As the sun began to set the energy was palpable. At one point we got the wave going about 8 times around the whole place. 85,000 people packed into a stadium to express their hope for change and desire to be an active member of their country, doing a giant wave with flags in hand was just the tip of exciting for the evening.

I found myself needing to close my awe dropped jaw every few minutes just trying to comprehend how massive this place was. There were just so many people there and it was for a political event. I really could just not get over it. As the momentum built I started to realize just how tired I was. I couldn’t make myself cheer or clap for the first half and actually started dozing off a few times leading up to Obama’s speech! But as he got going no level of exhaustion could win out.

I am still grasping for the words to appropriately describe what being there for the Obama speech was like. You’ve all seen the pictures, so you understand the scale of it all, but having that energy, that cheering, that chanting was mind boggling. I apologize if the following seems slightly soap boxy but this was the most affecting part for me:

For the past 8 years, the majority of my adult life, I have watched with envy as people from various countries wrap themselves in their flags during the world cup and other international competitions to cheer on their teams and express their pride in their countries. I am a deeply patriotic person and it has pained me to feel for so long as if the symbol of my country was stolen from me, hijacked and made to represent something that I did not believe in. I’ll tell you, I waved a flag that whole night and cannot begin to explain how proud and happy those few hours made me. In the course of 2 minutes, Barack reclaimed the patriotism that I believe in. He said everything that I have been waiting for the Democratic party to say. How dare you question my patriotism simply because I disagree with your ideology and policy. How dare you claim that I am un-American for questioning your decisions. I believe what makes this country great is its diversity of thought, opinion, expression, and people. That is what the American flag symbolizes to me. It is so much deeper than a blind support of leadership and it so much bigger than political ideology. I am a democrat and a proud liberal, but I am first an American just like republicans, just like independents, and just like every other citizen of this amazing country. And that night I could say definitively that I, standing next to 85,000 other cheering, flag waving people, was a very proud American.

Obama’s speech was good, not his most profound but it did what it needed to. However, what I think will be remembered from that night is the symbolism of so many Americans celebrating our democracy, standing up and saying, I am a part of this country, I am a part of this movement, and I will be a part of this future. It was beyond inspiring. Those of you who know me well know I am not a very emotional person. But as I stood with fireworks going off above me, music from Remember the Titans playing (some more symbolism for you), the Obama and Biden families waving on stage, and 85,000 people waving their flags and screaming their hearts out, I got a little choked up. It was some powerful stuff. And though the pundits may say it was all just a bunch of stage craft, what was so powerful to me had nothing to do with the fireworks or roman like stage. It was the mass expression of the American people, a gathering of historic proportions. Walking away from that stadium you just felt like the election was about so much more than the typical democrats vs. republicans. What I had just experienced was about our country and our return to that great nation of inspiration and opportunity. I can only hope that in the coming months the campaign is not pulled into such negative and phony minutiae that we forget the spirit of this movement, because if it is successful it has the power to fundamentally change so much for the better.

I am done preaching, I warned you it might happen if you all let me have a blog J Needless to say however, the final night of the convention did not disappoint.

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