The glass. Did you see it? I'm referring to those two sheets that President-elect Barack Obama stood between as he spoke to us from Grant Park. Glass sheets so clear as to almost be unnoticeable, yet thick enough to protect the man in the event that someone in that crowd arrived there with murderous intent.
As Obama spoke, I was too carried away with the moment to worry that someone in that crowd might have a gun. Then I saw the glass. I remembered that there's a force of men and women who never get to forget: the United States Secret Service.
In my former life, I served as a presidential advance person. I know the difficult push-and-pull that happens between the Secret Service and a protectee's staff. Staffers want their person out there and able to move about with as much freedom as they feel necessary. Agents, however, must think security first, and often do so in ways that can feel claustrophobic and limiting to the protectee. The catch is that these are the ways that keep the person most safe from harm.
Now consider last night, and a million rallies previous. Barack Obama, his staff, and his agents were brave enough and smart enough to figure out how to make him as accessible as possible without sacrificing his security. Clearly this was the fruit of intense negotiations and preparations, of staffers and agents working as teams. I never served as an Obama advanceperson, so I do not know all the particular inside-baseball. All I know is what I've seen: beautifully executed events with a candidate that people could celebrate, close enough to touch.
I watched last night thinking that Obama's agents are heroes who deserve our gratitude and respect. I thought about those days that post-9/11 where cops were kissed and firemen were lionized and thought, you know, our agents deserve that affection too! Talk about people who kept hope alive -- literally! So please, next time you see an agent, take a moment to thank him or her for their service. We will spend a lot of time contemplating the brilliance and energy of the Obama campaign staff and volunteers. But without the expertise and manpower of the Secret Service, as assisted by local law enforcement, yesterday could have ended much differently.
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