I’ve shaken hands with past (unsuccessful) candidates for the White House, but last night stands as the most historic event of my life thus far. To witness Sen. Obama announce his success in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was electric and moving—to say the least.
Opinion: A night of hope
I was planning on heading home after work to eat and change after work, and perhaps head back downtown closer to 7:00. But when I stepped out of my office, something in the air compelled me to just start walking. Crossing the Wabasha Bridge, St. Paul did not appear much different than on any other weekday afternoon. But when I emerged from a convenience store after stopping for a sandwich and granola bar, I found throngs of people snaking through the streets. By the time I found the end of the line to enter the Xcel Energy Center, the line was over 12 blocks long. As I took my place at the corner of Kellogg and Wabasha, two more blocks filled with people behind me in less than a minute and the line disappeared down Kellogg.
As I waited in line for over three hours, it became very clear that the Obama camp does not consist only of people wearing suitcoats and holding diplomas. It does not consist only of elitists. It does not consist only of minorities. It does not consist only of working-class people. It does not consist only of union members. It does not consist only of students, and it does not consist only of seniors. Obama’s supporters are a diverse group of people from all walks of life across America.
And beyond. As I stood in line, I recognized a familiar sound near me, a language I recognized from having spent time living in the country from which my ancestors immigrated. I suppose the odds of running into Norwegians in Minnesota aren’t all that long, but under the circumstances it was particularly special. They were Lutheran pastors here for the summer, living at Luther Seminary in a program for hospital chaplains. We spoke at length, enjoyed our new company, and shared in the experience of the historic rally. They also appreciated the magnitude of the event, and they are very excited for the change that we believe is coming. Having already had a woman as a national leader in their own country, they welcomed the progress they’ve seen in the United States over the past several months—a time when we’ve seen both a woman and an African-American within grasping distance of the presidential nomination of a major party.
In the Xcel Energy Center, there were fewer open seats than at a Wild playoff game.
This was not the first time I’ve heard voices of support for Sen. Obama from beyond our borders. While on a recent vacation to Mexico, I spoke at length with a hardworking street vendor who makes everything he sells right there at his cart. He was so excited at the news from the U.S., and he pleaded for us to do everything we can make Sen. Obama our next president.
As we finally made our way into the arena and found seats, my new friends Tor and Jan were amazed at the sight and the energy. There were fewer open seats than at a Wild playoff game. As individuals working in a country that provides health care for all of its people and that conducts its international relations with honor, they stood and applauded Sen. Obama’s message. Last night, we truly heard from a leader. From a uniter. From an individual who can form a complete sentence without shrugging his shoulders and making a word up.
Last night, we heard hope.