Michelle Obama at the Abington High School
March 13, 2008
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared at a rally this afternoon at the Abington High School in Abington. Family and work schedule allowed me to take half a day vacation at late notice to try and attend. It was free and open to the public. The doors were scheduled to open at 2:30 p.m. and the event was slated to start at 3:00 p.m.
I got in line at 2:10. There were two lines, one for students of the school who wanted to attend; the other for the general public. The lady in front of me was pleasant and we chatted a bit while we stood. She made a very positive impression and I wish her well. The line continued to grow behind us. We were given a “ticket,” a form that asked for name, address, phone, email, and check boxes to indicate willingness to volunteer for the campaign. A photo of Sen. Obama and his family were printed on the ticket. This was problematic as the ink didn’t always show over the photos and you could not read the information on the form. A number of people came by to offer voter registration forms. One man came by selling (!) campaign buttons.
When we had been standing for quite some time one of the campaign volunteers came by and pulled out the two men behind me. He said he wanted to talk to them and then took them up to the entrance. He did this with two other pairs of people. The woman in front of me speculated that those people were going to be seated on the stage. (There were people on the stage and I thought those pulled out of line could have been among them but am not certain.) Note to campaigns: this really annoys the people left in line.
Among the overheard conversations while waiting: part of the security set up was having dogs sweep the room twice and there was talk of having two overflow rooms. I could see State Rep. Josh Shapiro, an early Obama supporter, near the entrance. The only other person of note I saw was Morning Call reporter and Capitol Ideas / Pennsylvania Avenue blogger John Micek hurrying by heading for the entrance.
The line began to move shortly before 3:00, though it paused a few times as empty seats were counted to see how many more people could be allowed in. I barely made the cutoff. The area I landed in was heavily populated by high school students.
Abington School District Superintendent Amy Sichel spoke for about ten minutes, touting the positive aspects of the school. Shortly afterward an Obama delegate spoke briefly.
At 3:45 Josh Shapiro positively bounded to the podium, wearing an uncharacteristic blue shirt and tie. He introduced State Senator LeAnna Washington and State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland. (I thought I noticed another state representative in the audience but am not certain and, if it was him, he was not formally pointed out.) Among his comments (not exact quotes) were that the country knows it can do better. Our politics can be more civil. We want bottom up, grassroots politics. It’s not enough to have experience. We need experience that leads to good judgment.
At 3:50 Mrs. Obama took the podium to a standing ovation. I am short and could not see what was happening until everyone sat back down. Mrs. Obama thanked Shapiro, Sichel, the president of the school board, and a special thanks to former Senator Harris Wofford who was in the audience. She said he had been a real inspiration to her.
She spoke about the day her husband announced his candidacy. It was an outdoor event, in February, with a temperature of below zero. Sixteen thousand people came out for it. One repeated theme is that Sen. Obama reached out to regular folks. She said initially people claimed he couldn’t raise the money for a campaign but then he did. Then it was said he couldn’t build a good campaign organization, but then he did. Then it was said he would never win Iowa. Then he did. This brought up another theme, that the bar moves. Not only for him, but for the regular folks as well. You do all the things that are necessary and then the goal is shifted out of reach.
Mrs. Obama is her husband’s equal in oratory, if such a thing is possible. I only paused to jot down a few notes, preferring to listen. But here are the things I wrote down:
Folks are hungry for change. They are tired of listening to pundits tell them what they want.
The bar is shifting and moving for regular folks. It is easy to feel isolated and alone with struggling.
The beauty of my childhood is that there is nothing special about it.
When people see me they don’t just see a future first lady, but a product of public education.
My father had MS and went to work every day to a job that gave him no joy but allowed him to support his family and send two children to Princeton.
Most Americans don’t want much. They just want the bar to stay still, to raise a family on their salary, not go bankrupt if they become sick, send their kids to a good public school, and retire with a little dignity.
No Child Left Behind is flawed. Success is measured by so much more than how you do on a test.
When Barack and I should have been saving for our children’s college we were paying off our student loans.
The only reason I can be here today is that my 70 year old mother is home with my kids, and they are probably jumping on the couch right now.
People ask why doesn’t Barack wait? What are we waiting for?
People ask what’s your plan? Everyone has a plan. We know what good schools look like. Everyone knows where the good schools are – they’re the schools people are trying to keep their kids into, shifting their address on school forms, saying the kids live with grandparents or other relatives who are in that district.
Barack says we have a deficit of empathy.
We are at war and the only people making sacrifices are the soldiers and their families. We are not asked to pay a higher tax or pick up a can or anything. The government says just keep shopping.
Character is written in the shadows; it is what you do when no one is looking.
You never cut your opponent into little pieces because some day you have to sit down at that big table with them and work something out.
Barack is brilliant. He was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. That is the best student at the best school in the world. People who are president of the Harvard Law Review graduate and clerk for Supreme Court Justices. Barack came back to Chicago and worked at a small civil rights form. He could have made millions but he believes that to those whom much has been given, much is expected.
When you get into elected office with the help of the regular folks you can try things out, because you are not beholden to special interests. He accomplished a lot in the Illinois state senate.
When power is confronted with real change, they will do anything to stop it.
Lordy but the woman is a wonderful speaker. When she talked about grandparents she talked about the love they provide and then added “and give out extra candy; you do it, you know you do.” The crowd, students and parents and grandparents in the audience, loved it. She had us eating out of her hand. There were many times when she really reached out to the day to day existence of most Americans. While Barack Obama speaks to ideals and hope, Michelle Obama talks about kids jumping on couches and the fact that she would not do well if judged by test scores.
It was well worth the time. Hopefully she will be back in the area before the election; if you get the chance, she is not to be missed.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Michelle Obama at the Abington High School