Wednesday August 29, 2012
Amazing that my friend Lynda emails me on Tuesday to find out if I am back in Charlottesville and to tell me that President Obama is coming to speak the next day at the end of his “college tour”.
WOW! Color me excited!
She says she can get tickets for us and that he won’t be arriving until about 3:00 but the tickets say the gates will open at 1:00. Her office is just down the block from the open air pavilion where he is to speak so she suggests I meet her at her office at 1 and we will just go on down and sit and wait and talk.
At about 12:45 here I am approaching Charlottesville’s downtown mall which is a gathering place in this town. It is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country at 8 blocks long, is bricked in and lined with shops, restaurants with outdoor seating ,a movie theater and an ice rink.
The Omni hotel anchors one end and the open air Pavilion where we are headed the other. City Hall is also here as is the beautifully restored 1930’s Paramount Theater where vintage movies and live touring entertainment perform. There is a children’s merry go round, a Free Speech wall complete with chalk for stating your opinion and lots of vendors with tables. It’s the old main street of the town and a very interesting place to visit.
Just walk on down and sit and wait…..
So here I come at the far end of the mall, 8 blocks from the pavilion.
As I approach the Regal Cinema, one block in, I see it…. the line to get in is SEVEN blocks long. Duh….it’s the President. What WERE we thinking??
I hurry up to Lynda’s office, she gets her things and in the 5 minutes that takes, the line is another block long by the time we get back.
But it is now 1:00 and the line SLOWLY starts moving forward. It takes an hour to walk those 8 blocks. LOL! We go by the Free Speech wall. VICTORY is right since it is just steps away from the point at which we see why the line is moving so slowly.
They take Our tickets and shuttle us through 3 secret service check points. You have to have electronics on, so they can make sure they are real I’m told, and all bags opened. They take everything out of ladies purses. HA! I don’t want that job for sure. I don’t take a picture of this “just in case”.
Well maybe this isn’t going to be so bad, look at the room.
At first it seems there is a nice open area under the tent cover so we go on in. A few other folks do too. But mostly everyone is to the left. We wonder why. We have a fairly good look at what we think is the “stage” there in front of the American Flag.
There is a Virginia Blue Grass group playing music there while we wait some more. And wait we do. Another hour and a half.
We figure it out when the speeches start and someone about six feet tall says that the podium is in front of the camera platform which we are BEHIND. WAY BEHIND! Another DUH here!!!
Good thing it’s a friendly crowd.
This in fact is our spot along with ultimately 7500 of our closest friends and I do mean close as we are in the standing room only section. This is what we get for not coming as about 10 folks did at 8:15 in the morning to make sure they got good seats up front
But it’s not as bad as it could be, these are the folks behind us standing in the 86 degree Virginia sunshine. Whew….glad we at least got under the tent.
We stand for another hour and a half waiting and listening to UVA student speakers, the former very popular local congressman, the former governor now running for the senate.
Finally a roar goes up and we know he’s come in.
He shakes hands with students in the bleachers set up for the cameras. I’ve wisely brought my binoculars so that when the camera man on the platform leans to his left, I can actually see the President of the United States.
But this picture, taken with my camera, is compliments of a man 6 foot tall standing to my side. In my next life, that’s how tall I’m going to be, so that no matter how far back I am, I can still see!!
The President’s speech draws lots of cheers and is directed at the students, reminding them that they were very instrumental in his victory 4 years ago and that he has kept faith with them. He promised he would tackle the student loan problem and he has, he promised he would deal with health care and his plan allows them to stay on their parents coverage until they are 27, time enough to get through college and even some graduate school. He mentions green jobs as the real energy future and numerous other parts of his platform geared to the young and tells them that again he needs them to stand with him so he can finish what he’s started in trying to right an economy it took 8 years to move from a budget surplus we had in 2000 to the deficit we have now. This gathering of people love him as he tells them that he loves to hear their chanting but what he needs is their voting!
We’re all energized by his enthusiasm and that of the people around us.
When he leaves people stream out looking happy and excited. Charlottesville is a pretty small town for a Presidential visit.
We later hear that he actually walked down the mall and stopped at the recreation center and made a surprise visit to the Democratic campaign office also on the mall. Imagine what the secret service thought about all of that. But good for you Mr. President!
We are pretty happy too that we were able to hear the President speak just by being willing to spend some time waiting. Well worth it say we both. But maybe we should have milled around some more. Who knows??