Rare opportunity, rare experience

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The only way I can think to describe President Obama’s speech is to say that it was exactly like a rock concert.

I have been to countless other events at the Summerfest Grounds, which is where Obama’s speech took place, but to my surprise, this wasn’t much different.

Thanks to the organization of Royal Purple Multimedia Editor Paul Usher, I was able to join four other editors in attending Obama’s campaign re-election speech last Saturday as an official member of the media.

Walking onto the Summerfest Grounds was pure craziness. People were lined up from the door all the way around the block by 10:30 a.m., five hours before the scheduled speech.

As we walked through the first gate, Gillian Morris, the Obama campaign’s Wisconsin press secretary, greeted us. When we told her we were students from UW-Whitewater, she said she was so happy with the amount of student coverage the speech was getting.

Commentary by Abbey Bowen
Spotlight Editor

We were then escorted to an empty Marcus Amphitheater. The only things visible were an American flag, the podium and a huge “Forward” Obama campaign sign. We all started snapping pictures on our phones and sending them to friends and family.

At that point, it hadn’t hit me that I was going to see the president of the United States in a few hours. I kept saying, “this is not real life.”

Lucky for me, however, it was real. After dropping off equipment and a long coffee break, we arrived back at the grounds and waited by the press gate. Once allowed in, we were searched by the Secret Service and given credentials, which were large name tags reading “The White House Press Pool.”

We walked into the theater behind barricades put in place specifically for the media. It made me feel so official. Crowd members were even stopped by the volunteers so we could walk by.

Many spectators were wearing shirts with an image of the iconic “HOPE” poster created by Shepard Fairey, which represented Obama’s 2008 campaign. I even saw a woman who was wearing a shirt picturing the entire Obama family. She also had a handbag with four pictures of the Obamas transferred onto cloth and sewn together.

Crowd members slowly erupted in applause when Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., walked into their view. However, this didn’t even compare to the roar of the crowd when the car Obama was in passed the back stage.

The speech was opened with a prayer, and many speakers led up to Obama’s appearance including Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, D-Wis.

When the time came for Obama to walk on stage, an outside listener would’ve thought that John and George of The Beatles had been reincarnated and joined Paul and Ringo. Supporters were screaming, clapping and yelling. One audience member even fainted as Obama took the stage.

Obama began by shouting, “hello, Wisconsin,” which the crowd responded with a roar of applause.

In his speech, Obama covered many controversial issues including healthcare reforms, changes in schools, the creation of jobs and other changes the country has seen under his presidency and will see with his re-election.

At one point, he went over his successes and said, “a new tower rises in New York City and Osama Bin Laden is dead.” The audience responded by chanting, “U.S.A, U.S.A, U.S.A.”

It was an incredible atmosphere to be a part of. You could tell everyone in attendance truly had “HOPE” in Obama, and whole-heartedly felt he was the best person to lead the country. It was surreal to see so many people united under one goal.

After the speech, we were able to catch members of the crowd as they left and got their reactions.

Everyone we talked to said they enjoyed Obama’s speech and agreed with the topics he covered.

All in all, seeing Obama and acting as a professional member of the media was an incredible experience I will not soon forget.

I’m so thankful I was given this opportunity, and I am so happy I got to share it with other members of the Royal Purple editorial staff.