Seeing Barack in Houston
On Tuesday, I went to see Barack Obama speak at the Toyota Center, along with 18,500 other people. As you can imagine, it was pretty intense.
We arrived at 4:30, discovering that the lines were already HUGE. Lines were snaking around corners. The majority of people there were on standby, meaning they had no tickets and no guarantee of getting in. The mix of people was pretty diverse, from yuppies to thugs, children and college students to old people and everything in between. The crowd was predominantly black, although there were alot of white people too. There were not many Hispanics, which is somewhat discouraging.
They started letting people in at 6. Entrance to the building was orderly and rather swift. Once inside, however, it was a mad house. They had no way of controlling the flows of people, and there was no sense of order whatsoever. We must have walked around for 45 minutes trying to find seats. We eventually got into an area they had just decided to open up. We had to pass through metal detectors (presumably because of our proximity to Barack), and show the security guards that all of our electronics were functioning. Some people, including Sarah, were wanded as well. Once we were inside, we managed to find seats near the back of the section. The seats were very good though. They probably cost hundreds at a Rockets game. They were the first level, behind and to the left of the podium for Barack.
We were there at about 7, fired up and ready to go. First, a band with sequin encrusted shirts played a bunch of soul music, which was quite good. Then, three different speakers, all of whom were women, showed up and spoke about voting and Barack and how the crowd should be excited because the entrance of Barack was imminent. They also led the crowd in some cheers like Yes We Can.
At about 8:30 (as I had predicted), Barack came out to speak. The crowd went absolutely nuts. The only time I have every experienced the intensity I did for Barack’s entrance was at an Astros NLCS game and at an Incubus concert, 30 feet from the stage in the mashpit.
…and pictures hosted by flickr.
His speech was his standard stump. Apparently it was very long, but it certainly didn’t bother me. He added a few new things, like some stories he had recently been told. Much to my personal joy, Barack proclaimed that he believed in the market, saying:
If you are ready for change, if you’re really ready, then we can start restoring some balance to our economy. I believe in the free market. I know Texans believe in entrepreneurship. We are an independent and a self-reliant people. We don’t believe in government doing what we can do for ourselves.
But when we’ve got CEOs making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in a year and it’s the CEOs who are getting a tax break and workers are left with nothing, then something is wrong, and something has to change.
I was stunned when nobody clapped for the part about “I believe in the free market.” I clapped and yelled as loud as I could. However, during the “CEOs making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in a year” part, he got extremely loud cheers. I think it is interesting which bits of his rhetoric really resonated with the crowd. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed.
Anyway, you can read the speech at the New York Times, as well as some analysis. Also, Obama’s website has a short clip of the actual speech.