Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Rally Recap: One in 70,000

Posted by Craig on 11/05/2008
Electrifying. That's the first word that comes to mind to describe tonight.

I was so very fortunate to attend the Barack Obama rally tonight at Grant Park. Thirty-five thousand people received free tickets to sit in the area closest to the stage in a first-come, first-serve free-for-all online. Each could bring a guest. Out of hundreds of thousands of hopefuls, I was one of the 70,000 with a ticket to tonight's event (an estimated quarter of a million people scattered across Grant Park in total). A front row seat to history.

Let me say one thing right off the bat. This man sounds great on TV - he looks good, he's very photogenic. But it's nothing compared to seeing him in person. I wasn't expecting this, so it really blew me away, but he's so inspirational to see in person. The way he commands attention, the way the hundreds of thousands went silent and looked at him attentively, he puts a whole new meaning to "controlling a room." He has such a great presence and is amazing to see in person - and being tall came in handy tonight, because I did get a good view of him (though a good bunch of people between him and I) and was able to watch as he spoke.

I've only experienced two events anything like tonight in my life. And this goes back to my love for sports as much does! One, the Winter Classic in Buffalo - 70,000 people for a hockey game. The hype that generated, the excitement for that game, the energy in Ralph Wilson Stadium mirrored in a lot of ways the general "feel" of tonight at Grant Park. Two, 2007 NHL playoffs, Round 2, Game 5, Rangers vs. Sabres. Yes, indoors, and only 18,690, but the MOMENT when Chris Drury tied the score with 7.7 seconds left in regulation to force OT - as strangers embraced and everyone hopped up and down - was darn close to that moment when CNN projected Barack Obama had won the presidency just moments after 10 p.m. Central Time (we were watching CNN and big screen and everyone just erupted). Strangers embraced, but one noticeable difference from that sports event. Tears. Everywhere. I wasn't prepared for that either. Even I had tears, the magnitude of the moment just overcame me. And I don't really cry; I hadn't since I heard Tim Russert died back in June.

Finally, I got to comment on the media, as a journalist. I was in awe of them all day. First, when I'm at a polling place this morning for the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal is standing right next to me doing interviews as people walk out, just like I was. That was pretty cool, and it was exciting to watch them do their stuff, which included audio and video. Through the day, I saw reporters from NPR, Fox News, CNN, the BBC, and media outlets from around the world including Hong Kong, Australia, and Latin America. After the rally ended, everyone pushed toward the exits. I couldn't find myself to leave. I stayed a good 30-40 mins, and just watched the media scour the remaining crowd for interviews... I saw CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MTV, local Chicago outlets, endless international media, etc. do their stuff. It was really something.

Those are my initial impressions from the event. Surely, this was history - that's just my "piece," my little take on tonight.

Video from my vantage point:

Some pictures:

2 comments on "Obama Rally Recap: One in 70,000"

nando on November 12, 2008 at 11:19 PM said...

Hi Craig,
It's Fernando from Rochester now at The Reporter. I just watched your video. Nice job. I stumbled on your net omnipresence from Ning's Wired Journalists. It seems you have wasted no time in getting to know the city and getting immersed in the local media scene.

I'd love to get together for a cup of coffee if you have time.

I hope all is well and you are enjoying your experience so far in your new city.

Best of luck and keep up the great work. But try to get some sleep ;)

Craig on November 13, 2008 at 12:11 AM said...

Thanks Fernando. I appreciate you tracking me down. Glad my Wired Journalists' account was useful!

I'd love to meet up. I'll email you some times.

I'm definitely enjoying the city. I'll work on the sleep thing!


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