As Teacherken pointed out in his liveblog of the event over at RK, I was sitting next to him at the town hall meeting Barack Obama held here in Fairfax County at Robinson Secondary School on Thursday. Ken did a great job of laying out what was discussed, so I'm not going to do that here but would highly recommend checking out what he had to say. However, I did want to give my personal reaction to the event and share some photos.
There was about 3,000 - 4,000 people at the event, which is a good size crowd when you consider the fact that the event was held in the middle of the work day and people were only given a few days notice. Many of the people who were there were very energetic and were lining up outside Robinson as early as 9am even though Obama wouldn't be speaking until after 1pm. Of course I was happy to be able to briefly chat with Karen from Anonymous Is A Woman and her husband Dan since they were sitting just a few rows in front of the press section. Dan is a great photographer and a few of the photos he took while at the event are posted over at AIAW. It also might be worth noting that they seemed to be some of the more energetic people as they were joining in the "Yes we can" chants while we were waiting for Obama.
In addition to many of the great activists who were present at the event, there were also several elected officials and candidates in attendance. Del. Dave Marsden, Del. David Bulova, the mayor of Alexandria, Judy Feder, Jane Barker (wife of Sen. George Barker and chair of the Democratic Women of Clifton), and Gerry Connolly. As Ken pointed out during his live blog, Gerry actually gave one of the warm up speeches. I think people know Gerry know that he has a good sense of humor that comes out when he's talking to individuals or small groups. Yesterday he got a few good jokes in during his speech mentioning that "When you are a warmup speaker, you know your place" and poking fun at himself for giving a speech at an elementary school that some students called "boring." He was also able to really rally the crowd when speaking about Iraq and the need to reverse the damage done by the Bush Administration. If Gerry can take the type of passion he illustrated during his brief speech at this event, he could go a long ways in helping to increase the turnout that is truly needed in NoVA for Obama to win Virginia.
I was also impressed with Virginia's First Lady, Anne Holton. This was the first time that I had heard her speak in person and I thought she did a fantastic job of combining her own personal experience as a mom, wife, and professional with her passion for politics and support for Obama in order to rally the crowd. She came across as extremely intelligent and someone who I could see running for office in the future. It appears as though I wasn't the only person who felt that way because after the event was over, several people mentioned to me that Holton's speech provided us with a prime example of what the Kaine/Holton family would bring to the Democratic ticket. At the very least, she was a great example of the political talent that is lining up behind Obama here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Finally, I just wanted to point out that I thought the event was extremely well organized. With all of the security concerns that surround a presidential candidate, the Obama campaign, the Secret Service, and local police were able to get everyone into the high school relatively quickly. The Obama campaign was also able to illustrate a good campaign structure as there were a large number of volunteers and staff members all over the event who were talking to the public and trying to get them more involved in the campaign. They even had Obama himself talk about how volunteering could help the campaign and asked people to fill out one of the volunteer forms that were being passed around.
Since a lot of polling reports suggest that Virginia will be a battleground state, I have a strong feeling this won't be the last time Obama visits our great Commonwealth. It'll be interesting to see if the increasing amount of attention the presidential campaigns have been giving to Virginia will also has a positive boost for Congressional candidates like Judy Feder, Gerry Connolly, and Glenn Nye who all have a chance of taking over seats currently held by Republicans.