Obama’s speech in Denver: What was it like?
Article and Photos by Ramona du Houx
What was it like to be a part of 85,000 people gathered together to hear Barack Obama’s acceptance speech? How can anyone put the energy, enthusiasm, hope, and emotions into words?
The lines stretched for miles to what is known as the Invesco Field Mile High stadium. For most, waiting in line was the means to the end, a given, so people were patient, joking to one another, sharing stories about why they were there and why change in this country is so desperately needed.
It’s those individual stories that say it all. "I’m here to be a part of history," said Jerry Craine, from Bucksport who had no ticket to get into the stadium but was going to sit on the hill next to Mile High to hear Obama’s words. "I had to come; this man will change the world and get us back on track as a world leader. I have a son in Iraq; I want him home."
Slowly, the stadium filled to the echo of speakers and musicians building the anticipation of Obama’s arrival.
"This is so cool," said Dawn Caroll, a Denver university student who had been volunteering all week helping delegates with directions around town. "I didn’t have a ticket, then someone from the DNC approached me and gave me one today. I really didn’t expect to be here; it’s so exciting," she said almost breathless. "I got involved because of Obama. I’m a poli-science major, and when we heard the convention was going to be here, it just really made students from all over the state come together. Our student loans are driving us into debt. With Obama’s plan, we can do community service to help work them off. I think it’s great. We’ll turn Colorado blue."
Looking out over the stadium, not a seat was empty, and the energy grew with each successive speaker. Wolf Blitzer and Donna Brazile were dancing in the CNN podium next to us, the atmosphere was so contagious, with people unified in the hope and promise of a new day when we can reclaim the American Dream. Then the audience began to pound the stands with their feet, creating a boom that roared out into the evening.
"Wouldn’t it be awesome if they started a wave of unity with everyone getting up and waving?" asked Caroll. Two minutes later that wave spontaneously developed, circling the stadium over and over.
"I’ve been to games with this place packed," said Tom Haskins, "but this is different, most everyone here is on the same team, which is so electrifying. If it’s like this now, what’s it going to be like when he speaks?" Haskins was a Republican who now supports Obama, because his wife died of cancer when their insurance ran out. "Further treatment could have saved her, but no one would extend us anymore credit." He paused taking a breath, "We need universal health care, so I’m getting out the vote for Obama."
As the sun set, the level of excitement grew even more, and when Obama walked out to the podium, the crowd exploded with cheers, shouts, and tears.
Then he began. The atmosphere was ignited. Like building waves , his words grew and broke upon 32 million listeners worldwide.
"America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this. This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work. This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news. We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes. Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and
Independents across this great land — enough! This moment — this election — is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive."
"We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president — when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000, like it has under George Bush.
"We measure the strength of our economy, not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job — an economy that honors the dignity of work. The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great — a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.
"Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it
should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education, keep our water clean and our toys safe, invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology. Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.
That’s the promise of America — the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."
"Yes, hope, truth to believe in!" said Carroll, all smiles.
All across the stadium veterans holding giant flags waved them back and forth, as fireworks exploded along with the emotions of the spectators. Tears streamed down Sargent Mick Bond’s face, as he pivoted the enormous flag. "Now its time we fight for our country," he said.
The atmosphere and experience was, as Carroll expressed, "Electrifying. This crowd’s going home to get out the vote, for the world’s future."
Barack Obama’s Mile High speech drew a total of 38.4 million television viewers. It was the third time a presidential Democratic nominee gave his acceptance speech in a stadium, following in the footsteps of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The number of viewers represented a 57 percent increase over the 24.4 million who watched the final night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.