Thursday, October 9, 2008

Obama in Indiana

Barack Obama was in Indianapolis yesterday, and I was there. The weather was iffy, the sky heavy and gray, threatening rain. But, so what? My daughter Kate and I joined the stream of people (20,000 plus) entering the State Fairgrounds and ran the gauntlet of security—bags open, electronic devices turned on—then headed for the sea of mud that is usually used for car and motorcycle races.

This was a whole different mix of people than I saw registering voters in the 'hood on Monday. “Mix” being the operative word. There were, of course, thousands of African Americans—from babes-in-arms to toddlers to grade school kids to teenagers, young adults…you name it. There were thousands of white people, too. There were Asians and Mexicans. There were clusters of people wearing union tee-shirts—machinists, steel workers, painters. There were women who looked like suburban hockey moms (take that, Sarah Palin!); professional women, apparently oblivious to the fact that their nice shoes were getting wrecked in the mud; and women whose hairstyles made you think “Redneck.” There were men in suits, men in farm clothes, men in the kind of clothes homeless people wear.

There was a DJ from 96.3 wearing a “SMART IS THE NEXT GANGSTA” tee-shirt, interviewing people on his cell phone. One gawky hip-hop teenager talked about why Barack Obama was his hero. Concluding, he threw out his arms and looked up at the gray sky, grinning. “Man, this is a beautiful day!” he said.”

Obama was scheduled to speak at 12:15, and as the time got close a chant went up in the crowd. “O-bam-A! O-bam-A!” People up in the grandstands pounded their feet on the metal floor, making a wild thunder.

Then there he was!

Well, I couldn’t actually see him. I knew he’d arrived because of the deafening roar that went up all around me.

“I love you back!” were his first words—spoken to someone who’d called out to him.

Obama spoke specifically, intelligently, eloquently—about jobs, taxes, health care, education. About the current state of the economy, he said, “What this crisis has taught us is that at the end of the day, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street. There is only the road we’re traveling on as Americans, and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation, as one people.”

Looking around, I felt good about that. Why couldn’t we make a world where each of us would be valued equally, where each of us could depend having the most basic human needs—and more?

We were standing near Kate’s high school friend, Craig, and his son, Sam, who’d skipped school for the rally. When Obama began to speak, Craig hoisted Sam on his shoulders, where he sat with a clear view of the candidate, his expression rapt. He’ll never forget this day, I thought. And hoped so much that, years and years from now, when he tells his children and grandchildren that he was there on the day Barack Obama, the candidate, came to Indianapolis, they’ll know that it mattered so much to him because, as president, Obama had kept his word and made America the country it was always meant to be.

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