Scranton, Pennsylvania — My girlfriend recently signed up to volunteer for the Obama campaign, and we were happy to take my 10-year-old son to work at today’s event featuring Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and the main speaker, Senator Barack Obama. Scranton is considered Hillary country, as her father worked and is buried here, and she does have connections to the area. But we are firm Obama supporters, and after today we know we are not alone.
We arrived shortly after 2:30 p.m., and volunteered to hold signs to direct cars to the event. This was an experience in itself! I’ve never been involved in politics, outside of voting, so I was a little taken aback by some of the response to the simple holding of a sign. I would estimate 80 percent of the response was positive with people beeping their horns as they drove by or giving a thumbs-up. Other people chose to give a thumbs down, or show me another finger. Some people took the time to stop and verbally assault us with things I won’t print here. I don’t know what’s wrong with people who would give the finger to a 10-year-old, but I don’t think a new president will help. I was able to tolerate this for two hours, mostly laughing in disbelief or happy for the support Obama received. But enough was enough, and doors were opening at 5 p.m. So inside we went.
As we waited for Obama to arrive, we ran into friends and supporters. They all had the same spirit: They want change, and they believe in this candidate. They were all different ages, colors, sexes. And there were plenty of them, considering this area is full of Hillary Clinton supporters. I had never been to a rally before, and I was truly excited about this. Security was tight, but when is it not these days? But nobody seemed to mind. (Must be frequent fliers, I thought.)
Shortly after 7 p.m., Sen. Robert Mellow opened with a story about being a kid in 1960 and running across town to see Sen. John Kennedy speak at the Watres Armory in Scranton. He remarked about how he had never been that inspired since. Until now. After remarks by a local teacher who is an Obama organizer here, there was another break. 30 minutes later, the Secret Service started to move in, and we knew it was starting. Sen. Robert Casey gave brief remarks before introducing Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the only surviving member of Camelot. She gave a nice talk and introduced Sen. Obama.
He came out and the crowd just lost it. He looked so at ease, waving and smiling. He took the podium and delivered a 30-minute talk on all the themes of his campaign. No written speech, no teleprompter. He just came out and made the other candidates look bad. He’s not trying to, he just is. This is a man who believes in what he’s doing, and it shows. When people tried to yell negative things about the other candidates, he rebuked it, waved it off and stayed on his message. He really is running a new kind of race, and the polls are reflecting it.
After the speech, Caroline shook hands with those of us nearest the stage, and honestly, I fumbled a “thank you for coming” out. But soon enough Barack came down the line. He shook my girl’s hand, she seemed kind of starstruck, but she had a shirt on that said “Got Obama?”, so I’m sure he liked that. He shook my son’s hand and tousled his hair, which I thought was nice. When I stood eye-to-eye with the Senator, he shook my hand and I said, “Mr. President.” I figured, why wait? He better get used to it now.