Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reaction To Barack Obama's Appearance in Leesburg, VA

This is my general reaction to the Obama rally that was held in Leesburg, VA yesterday afternoon. In addition to my posts on local races, I will be posting more photos and in depth analysis on certain aspects of this event later today and over the course of the next few days.

While what the candidates have to say on the campaign trail is always important, during the last two weeks of the presidential election it is also worth watching where the candidates are focusing their energy and making campaign appearances. This is important to watch because it gives an indication of which states the candidates believe are still in play during these final days of the election. Based upon that theory and the fact that he’s leading in many polls focusing on the Commonwealth, it’s worthwhile noting that Barack Obama spent the day in Virginia yesterday making appearances in both Richmond and Leesburg. Even though I’ve already seen Obama in person on several occasions, I decided to make the drive out to Leesburg to attend the afternoon rally.

Based upon my experience at previous Obama rallies I knew that he attracted huge crowds and that people showed up hours before the gates were scheduled to open. This rally was no different as there were already thousands of people waiting to get in when I arrived. The Obama campaign used this to their advantage by sending volunteers up and down the line trying to get people signed up to volunteer if they weren't already doing so. While there were apparently some people in the audience that were frustrated the campaign was asking for their contact information, most people clearly understood this was just part of the campaign process.

Despite the frustration of a small number of people, I feel as though the method they used for gathering information at this event was much more productive than the one the campaign had been using. At many of the previous Obama events I had attended they treated a filled out information sheet as a ticket into the event. This ultimately meant that the campaign would have to enter thousands of names into their database, many of which were probably already there or might not be interested in volunteering. By just asking for new volunteers to fill out the form, however, the campaign saved a lot of data entry work and could use that extra time to knock on a few more doors.

As it got closer and closer to the beginning of the event, the crowd continued to grow and it was very obvious that people were excited about being part of such a historical election. What was very noteworthy to me was the fact that many parents brought their children to the event. A few of the parents I spoke to mentioned that that they felt it was important for their children to hear Obama speak and be a part of such an historic election. One mother I spoke to as we were heading back to our cars after the event was over said her son would “remember this for the rest of his life” and would be able to tell his own children one day that he was part of history. When I asked her if her son was part of the reason she was supporting Obama, she replied by saying “Yes. Parents are always looking out for the best interest of their children and I always vote for the candidate I think would leave a better future for my kids.”

The crowd got very excited as the speeches finally got started at about 5 o’clock. One of the first people to speak was Judy Feder who is running for Congress from Virginia’s 10th District. With all the energy that she usually displays on the campaign trail, Judy spoke about how we need change and she was going to help bring those new ideas to Washington. By stressing the theme of running as part of an Obama, Warner, and Feder ticket she reminded the audience that it’s important that Congress be willing to work with Obama if he is elected president. With this in mind, campaigns across the country have to make sure voters actually cast a ballot in the down ballot races.

After a brief break, it was time for Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and finally Barack Obama to speak. All three spoke about how we cannot have bitter partisanship in Washington and that we need to elect leaders who will be able to reach across party lines and work with the best interests of all Americans in mind. Obama stressed how we simply cannot afford to divide this country right now. This is especially true when you consider that this is a time when we need to come together in order to solve our economic situation at the same time that our troops are fighting in two wars. He gave a very similar speech to the one he gave in Richmond earlier yesterday afternoon and I want to highlight a portion of the speech that Lowell highlighted over at Raising Kaine because I think it gets to the heart of his message.
There are no 'real' parts of the country and 'fake' parts of the country. There are no 'pro-America' parts of the country and 'anti-America' parts of the country. We all love this country, no matter where we live, or where we come from - black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native America, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, city dwellers, farm dwellers, it doesn't matter, we're all together.

...The men and women from Virginia and all across this country who served on our battlefields, some are Democrats, some are Republicans, some are Independents. But they fought together and bled together. Some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America, they haven't served a blue America, they served the United States of America. Nobody should forget that.
Obama touched on similar themes throughout his speech and the crowd in Leesburg often times gave him thunderous applause. What I thought was truly telling, however, was the fact that the people standing around me were making comments such as “exactly right” and “thank you” and I even heard a few people say “amen” after certain points. I think this is important to remember because it goes to show that even at rallies that draw, according to some estimates, upwards of 30,000 people, Obama still has that ability to reach out to individual voters and touch on their concerns. He is truly running a campaign that addresses the concerns of people from all walks of life and it’s obvious that people believe he’ll make an inspirational president. For what it’s worth, I’m simply thankful I’ve had the opportunity to see this historical campaign in action.

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