By Kelly Nuxoll and Dawn Teo
Thursday, August 28
DENVER -- It was not just the speech. It was the moment. Sure, the words that Barack Obama said tonight mattered, and those words were incredibly apt and eloquent. But for the tens of thousands of people at Invesco Field, what made this day remarkable was history--both recent and old.
Obama's speech marked the culmination of a hard primary. It was the pinnacle achievement of decades of civil rights battles. It was the disbelief that we were actually attending this transcendent moment. It was not only the Democratic community coming together -- the unity of a family after a difficult squabble - but Americans loving our country enough to make it better.
The day had a patriotic Fourth of July feeling, and not just because of the props -- the flags, the fireworks, the nachos, the lemonade, the soundtrack of Melissa Ethridge and Bruce Springsteen, which all contributed to the feeling of a grand celebration. It was also about the small moments of the people in the stands.
During the seven hours we spent waiting in the sun, we got to know our bleacher neighbors. The ladies in front of us work for the Democratic National Convention Committee and were celebrating the end of the week by cheering and waving the American flags that had been distributed to almost everyone in the stands. The people behind us work for the Obama campaign and seemed exhausted and relieved that this day, a day they had worked so hard for, had finally come. A woman apparently without any credentials (the other folks at the forty yard line were mostly badged with "Special Guest" and "Honored Guest") eventually put down her book to chat with the woman behind her. Across the aisle a young couple danced with their infant son.
The columned stage set that was such a hot topic this week seemed unremarkable within the huge arena. It was dwarfed within the 75,000 seat stadium. We barely noticed it, and after talking to more than 100 spectators afterward, we realized that no one ever mentioned the set.
When Barack Obama took the stage, only a few minutes behind schedule--an achievement in itself for a political event--he expounded on the theme of unity. He appealed to our common values as Americans. He thanked his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, and noted her achievements. He transcended party politics. And he showed political courage by talking about issues that are typically taboo in elections, most notably appealing to a common belief that our "gay and lesbian brothers and sisters" should be able to visit the person they love in the hospital.
The crowd was on their feet often throughout Obama's speech. As Obama came to the end of his speech, the audience rose to their feet for the final ovation and then remained standing as he completed the final threads of his speech and even after his final words--applauding, screaming, waving flags. The crowd did not rush to get to their cars as he concluded (or after). When it was over--and this was the most remarkable thing--no one left. We just stayed, most of us standing, and watched him stroll around the stage and wave (presumably, security prevented him from working a rope line), and wished the evening wouldn't end.