Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama in the Viewfinder - Portland, OR March 21, 2008

On Wednesday this week, I found out from the Willamette Week website that Sen. Barack Obama would be making a stop in Portland Friday. In the comments section of the story, someone posted the URL for getting an online ticket, and a ticket was essential. I put in for one and got it, probably just in time, as later stories said tickets were gone shortly after noon.

I mentioned it on the Delphi Forums forum Pulling to the Left. Another participant suggested I should get there by 4 a.m. for a speech scheduled for 9:30 a.m. with doors opening at 7:30. The MAX doesn't run quite that early, but I did catch it this morning just after 4:30 and was getting off just after 5.
As I was walking from the MAX stop to the Coliseum, which is located behind the Rose Garden Arena, a guy caught up with me and asked if I was going to hear a speech. I said yes and we became event buddies and talked. His name was Joe and like me, he had a camera, which is one reason we both showed up early. It made the long wait much much easier, especially since I had forgotten to bring a book. It was cold, so I was glad I had my winter jacket, but at least the rain we'd had until around 4 a.m. didn't bother us again. When we got to the Coliseum, there were about 100-200 people already there and the place holds close to 12,000. We were right up front, especially after the line split for admittance through the many doors into the place.

Another thing I forgot was the Swiss Army knife which is always in my pocket and I hadn't removed. Well, the TSA people handling security had to take it, and the guy I spoke with indicated I probably wouldn't get it back - fortunately, I did. Reminder for anyone going to a candidate rally in post-9/11 America: Swiss Army knives, other small knives, umbrellas, water bottles and coffee containers (except for paper ones) can't be taken into an arena. I was somewhat mollified after the event to see a table with over 100 other small pocket knives, so I was far from the only person who'd forgotten about one.

Just before we were admitted at 7 a.m., a half hour earlier than scheduled, someone was handing out stickers for "Section 106." Joe and I got stickers and learned from others that we would be seated opposite the media crews with their cameras, so we had a chance of showing up on TV. Signs were passed out once we were in our seats, and I got a blue one that said "Change We Can Believe In." Some got a second red sign with the message "Stand For Change."

I took some pictures before things got started - signs, crowd shots, etc. and knew I would be pretty involved trying to get good pictures. Because of our location, that looked to be a challenge because their were large white lights opposite us. The camera did OK with them, though, and because of the glare, I ended up seeing most of the speeches by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico (the governor endorsed Obama in his speech), and Obama. Looking through the viewfinder or at the small screen, I didn't get as much glare as I saw just looking without the camera.

Because I was so focused on taking pictures, I didn't concentrate as much on the speeches. But Gov. Richardson's speech can be viewed here:

and Sen. Obama's speech, in four parts, can be seen here:

I plan to watch them myself later. So far I've taken a look to see if I show up, and it appears most of the time I'm out of frame on the left side to the point that so far I haven't spotted myself.

Richardson spoke for about 15 minutes, and Obama spoke of his former rival at some length. It made me wonder if Obama's thinking of Richardson as a VP, and I've seen comments to that effect at some of the sites I looked at while finding the videos.

Considering they were supposed to be in Salem, about an hour's drive south, at 11:30, I thought they spoke longer than I'd expected. Sen. Obama covered a lot of ground in his speech, covering many issues from health care, job outsourcing, national security, the Iraq debacle, education, and others. He's setting himself an ambitious agenda, but then, there is much in this country that needs serious fixing after eight years of the destructive Bush regime.

We all were very excited to be seeing Barack Obama just a few days after his historic speech in Philadelphia. We were on our feet much of the time, with the sections within media camera range waving signs enthusiastically. Several "waves" went around the Coliseum before the speeches, and several times we chanted "Yes we can!" My throat's a little scratchy right now from all the yelling and cheering.
It was an energizing event. Obama, as many probably already know, is a great speaker. While I thought because of our location I'd mostly be seeing only his back, things got better. I had mostly back views of Blumenauer and Richardson during their speeches, but Obama had a wireless mike and was able to face everyone in turn, which was good because this was a sort of theater in the round setting.
After he ended his speech, he went around in the crowd down on the arena floor, shaking hands and possibly autographing stuff, although I'm not sure about the latter. As the picture above shows, I saw him as one head in a sea of heads.

Afterward, I lost track of Joe, so I headed out. I figured it was worth a shot to try and see if I could recover the Swiss Army knife, so when I spotted a TSA guy just outside the doors, I asked him about it and he said stuff was on display at the Guest Services area, which meant I had to go back in. Rather than try to swim upstream like a salmon, I went past the outward-surging crowd into the arena itself and walked back, then joined the crowd again to get back to Guest Services. I spotted my knife among the hundred or so others, but we had to wait for word that Obama had left. After a while, the folks in charge of the confiscated stuff picked up the table with all the knives and carried it outside, with many of us in hot pursuit. I was able to quickly recover my possession and head back to the MAX stop.