Last night some friends and I stood in line for three and a half hours, outside, in Boston, on a chilly February night. Why? To hear Barack Obama. The candidate held an election-eve rally at the city's World Trade Center last evening - it was supposed to start around 8:30, but we didn't even get through the doors until nearly 10:30 (or home to bed until nearly 1 a.m.).
When we got off the T and took our place in line, the queue was probably already a quarter of a mile long or more (two hours before the event was scheduled to begin). Within a half hour or so, the line behind us snaked for blocks (I have no idea how many people there were, but it was pretty incredible to see). We finally began inching forward as the Secret Service herded small groups of folks through metal detectors - and by inching, I mean inching.
It was cold, it was dark, it was getting closer and closer to bedtime, and still we stood on the sidewalk - not knowing if we were going to by among those who actually got into the venue or would be among the unlucky who simply wouldn't fit inside. And yet people were happy, excited, talking amongst themselves and to their neighbors about the shared experience. We stood in front of a couple who had brought their 7-year old out to see her first political rally - and I have to say, of all of us in the vicinity I think she was the only one who never said a word about being cold or wanting to go home. The crowd skewed very young, which impressed me (now they've just got to get out there and vote today!).
Eventually I guess the Secret Service gave up, as we were all allowed to enter the hall through a side entrance. The room didn't offer an optimal speaking arrangement (not very many people could see the speakers), but the crowd stayed fired up and excited as the hour of the main event finally drew near. Governor Patrick, then Senators Kerry and Kennedy spoke briefly before Obama took the stage - Kennedy roared out a big old "HELLO BOSTON!" and really wound up the crowd in anticipation of the candidate. Obama, clearly exhausted, gave a slightly modified version of his stump speech - I was surprised his voice was hanging in there after the last few days, but he sounded good, sounded positive and sounded ready to see what today's results bring.
When we left to head homeward last night, my legs were tired, my mouth was dry, I wanted to sleep (and knew full well that the alarm wasn't going to sound too friendly at 6 this morning). But then I thought of Senator Obama and knew that whatever my complaints, they could be nothing compared to the stresses and strains he's faced over the last few weeks and will continue to face as we move forward. He and the other candidates put themselves through hell to ask for our support - the least we can do is go hear them when we have the chance.
Was it worth it? You bet. It's not every day that one has the opportunity to hear (and spottily see) the governor, two senators, a presidential candidate and 10,000 friends, all ready for a new kind of politics, a new way of doing things, and a new vision for America.