I have been volunteering for the Obama campaign throughout 2008. Most of my efforts have centered on writing, hosting Republicans for Obama meetings, canvassing and registering voters. I've put in real effort, even been written up in The New York Times and other media covering Obama's candidacy.
Last weekend, a campaign staffer called and said that I could attend an upcoming Obama event in Indianapolis with "VIP" tickets. Later that night, a staffer dropped off three tickets at my house. I felt that my volunteer efforts were being rewarded with special seating, the way volunteers have been rewarded at other Obama events.
I took my son, David, and his girlfriend, Mindy, to the venue, the Indiana State Fairgrounds. When we arrived it was lightly raining. We parked far away and walked to the Pepsi Coliseum, where security took our umbrellas and placed them in a huge pile near the entrance.
The crowd was huge. People were almost running into the Coliseum as it was clear the 8,000 seats would fill up quickly. We took our time, since we had "VIP" seating! With our special orange tickets, we were directed through a special entrance. Walking through the opening, I looked for the "VIP" seats. Instead, we were directed to a large open area with barriers around it to the left of the stage. Further and further we were sent, until we were standing in a crowd in a muddy area where we could not even see the stage. Even though it was before noon, a huge commercial light was beaming from the other side of the stage, blinding us when we looked in the direction of the platform.
My VIP View
The view from the "regular" stadium seating was much better, as well as out of the rain and mud, but it was getting so full we decided not to move. Since this was my fourth time to see Senator Obama live, and David and Mindy had seen him before, we actually considered leaving. We were only drawn this time because of the expected "VIP" seating.
My next thought was that all of the people in this "VIP" area were either active volunteers or others who had sacrificed for the cause. So I started chatting away. In the 90 minutes until the event actually began, I didn't speak to a single volunteer. It seems the "VIP" tickets were given away en masse. I made the decision to buck up and try to enjoy the moment.
After the pledge, a prayer and speeches given by a campaign staffer, Indiana Gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson, Congressional candidate Andre Carson, and Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Obama finally came onto the stage. We could not look at him for more than a few seconds at a time as the light to his side was beaming into our retinas. My photos were useless. But Obama's speech was inspirational, worthy of comparison to John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. It was clear we were witnessing history, a presidential candidate at a level not seen in a generation. I forgot the mud and rain, and remembered again why I was supporting Obama for President.
Barack Obama in Front of Light
After his speech, the crowds began to leave. It was apparent that several hundred people had come into the "VIP" area behind us. They forced everyone in the mud area to exit through a single fence opening, over a couple of three-foot-wide planks that spanned a six-inch-deep puddle. It took us over 20 minutes to get out; wet, cold and wearing ruined shoes.
Was it the campaign staff or the venue staff that chose to put a crowd into an uncovered sandy area while it was raining? Who decided to limit the exit to one puddle-covered path? How much better would Obama's poll numbers be if the campaign were run better? And who took my red, white and blue umbrella from the umbrella pile?
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