Last Tuesday, Oregon Democrats gave 31 of their 52 not-so-super delegates to Barack Obama. According to CNN.com, he is now 48 delegates away from securing the Democratic Party’s nomination. Oregon’s primary mattered more this time than it did four years ago, no question. But the really amazing thing happened last Sunday, May 18th.
Alex, Julia, Zach, and I gathered with 75,000 of our closest friends on the Portland waterfront to hear Barack Obama speak. It was the biggest crowd his campaign has seen and the largest rally in U.S. history. From the time I got in line 5 blocks away from the entrance until I got through the metal detectors and found a good spot, 45 minutes passed. Then it was about an hour until the Decemberists played (who I love not just because of their music, but because frontman Colin Meloy is a fellow Oregonian/Montanan who loves Barack). And it was about a half hour after they were done that Senator Obama finally got on stage. It was incredibly hot and we didn’t bring any water. Thankfully, Julia brought sunscreen or the sunburn I got would have been 10 times worse. I was dehydrated, hot, and uncomfortable. And I loved every minute of it.
The cross-section of Portland that attended was incredibly diverse and made for great people-watching. Plus Alex and I wore shirts we made:
And got A LOT of comments. (“Bros before hos? That’s terrible!” – “Hey, where’d you get those shirts? I want one!” – “Nice shirt!” – “Isn’t Bill the ho?”)
I was probably 40 feet away from the man himself, and he was amazing. He spoke for about half an hour on topics ranging from the unification of the Democratic Party in November and the mistreatment of veterans to the difficulty of paying for a college education and the recent news that he and Dick Cheney are cousins. He sounded tired, he tripped over his words a few times, but he captivated the crowd. He spoke as if he was just having a conversation with a buddy about things that were on his mind at the moment. But he was eloquent and interesting. At one point, he told someone in the crowd, “I love you back.” He was, in one word, incredible.
When my friend Brad told me later that night that he heard the crowd totaled 75,000, I didn’t believe him. Had Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park been dropped in the state of Montana with that crowd, it would have been the second-largest city in the state.
There was a period of a few minutes, while I was waiting for him to take the stage, when I worried about Obama’s safety. My mom has been telling me lately about what it was like to see JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy get shot on TV, and the similarities she sees between this election and the political situation in the 60s. (Clearly she isn’t the only one). As my aunt and uncle said in an email to me afterwards, “We are the kids of John, Martin & Bobby, and tend to fret about the nuts.” But then I just decided to think about how thankful I was to be able to say I saw him, I heard him, and I voted for him.