Obama on the Stump
Last night I had the first of what I hope will be many opportunities to see and listen to Barack Obama as he swooped into Boston for a quick campaign stop with gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick. More than 2,000 people (says the Globe) came out to see Patrick and Obama - it was a very energetic crowd with a great deal of optimism and excitement. After the down-ballot folks had their turns at the podium, Obama and Patrick were brought out together (wise move), and the crowd just roared. Not since a McCain rally I attended just before we kicked George W. Bush's tail in the '00 primary have I seen a crowd quite as enthusiastic.
Obama took a few minutes to get into his stride as he spoke, but once he hit the rhythm he was off and running. He spoke of hope, and how, while it's easier to be cynical, we've got to dare to think that things can be better. Very RFK-esque, he kept returning to the question "Why not?" on issues like teacher pay, alternative energy, and crime reduction. It was an impressive speech, and delivered with the kind of casual power that has been Obama's trademark.
I expected to be impressed by Obama, and I was. What I did not expect was how impressed I was with Patrick. His speech was also excellent, and what I heard from him was indeed a little bit different than the usual. When he mentioned that the other candidates all have some good ideas and included Kerry Healey in that, some in the crowd began to boo. He immediately stopped and, with some irritation, said loudly "No. That's not who we are! We're not the people who refuse to work together on anything because we don't agree on everything." He too spoke of hope, and challenges, and finding common ground. And frankly, he was right. Sure, it's a stump speech, but it was a good one.
This election is indeed about a new direction, and a new hope. Deval Patrick and Barack Obama (especially Obama) have given a voice to that hope that few others in American politics have managed to capture, and if you get a chance to see either of them in the last few days of this campaign, I urge you to jump at it. I wasn't disappointed.