Somebody Somewhere Was Willing to Hope

Senator Obama mocks Senator Clinton's "3 a.m. Phone Call" advertisement. Photo Credit: Amanda Toth

By Amanda Toth
Outlook Editor

I was getting dinner in McGowan when I received a voicemail from my friend, a student at Penn State. It took me a while to decipher what she was saying, as she was squeaking at a pitch only dogs and bats can hear. Barack Obama was coming to Penn State and she, as ardent an Obama supporter as I, wanted to me to go with her.

This was before the Obama campaign announced his stops in Wilkes-Barre and Dunmore, so, not knowing if I would ever have another chance to see him in person, I agreed. Two days later, I was on I-80 westbound, on   my little road trip to State College.

And so, after two days of bonding with my friends, I found myself in line at 8 am on a Sunday morning, when I would normally be sound asleep. After leaving the dorm, we made a pit stop at a grocery store, where we picked up all the essentials of waiting in line for a political rally—mini-bagels, cream cheese, doughnuts, and juice boxes.

Over the next three hours, we chatted and were entertained by a deejay with dreads, who alternated between blasting rap music and videotaping us explaining why we were voting for Obama and waxing poetically on our favorite issues. We were given t-shirts with the phrase “DividedWeFail.org” by AARP members, and hats printed with “Clean Coal.”

They finally let us in and we made our way to security. We had gotten “limited reserved seating” tickets, which let us get in before those without tickets, so we expected to have a great spot. What we did not expect was that we would end up in the third row. I pointed out to my friend that if Obama would spit while he spoke, we would see it.

Of course, in any large crowd, there are going to be people who will push and shove. This outing was no exception. While I foolishly turned around to talk to my friends, several students pushed their way into the crowd and practically gypped me, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Over the next few hours, I managed to steal my spot back, while pushing the students away. Surprisingly, despite my best attempts, they remained oblivious to my efforts, even when I hit one of them in the face with my hair, or when the same kid was so close behind me that my jacket hood was almost in his mouth.

As a huge Penn State football fan, I was super excited to see the players among the hundreds of volunteers, as well as in their capacity as security in front of the metal detectors. I was even more thrilled when Gerald Cadogan, a starting tackle, sang the national anthem. Who would have thought that a 6’5″, 314-pound football player would have such a beautiful tenor voice?

After the performance of a fraternity’s step team, cornerback Lydell Sargeant came out to introduce Senator Bob Casey, a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention, who had recently pledged his support to Obama. Being a Casey supporter, I was beside myself.

Then, after a brief speech from Casey, came the moment we were all waiting for—his introduction of Obama. The crowd was so noisy that it seemed as if there were 222,000 in attendance, not just 22,000. Seeing Obama walk through the doors of Old Main is a sight I will seriously never forget.

During his speech, he covered such topics as health care, Iraq, and education. The crowd, mostly students, was vocally receptive to his idea to offer every student $4,000 in tuition in exchange for a year or two of community service. Although he took jabs at John McCain and Hillary Clinton, they were subtle and appropriate.

One thing Obama is known for is his belief in hope and change, and neither was forgotten in his speech. “Nothing worthwhile in this country has ever happened,” he said to applause, “except somebody somewhere was willing to hope.”

After he finished speaking, instead of turning around and walking back the catwalk-like stage to Old Main, he walked down the stairs right in front of us. O f course, we all panicked, thinking he was going to come over to us. However, he walked back to Old Main, walked up the stairs, and began to shake hands and make his way down the stairs.

The crush of the crowd was enormous. If I were claustrophobic, I probably would have passed out. Several minutes later, Barack Obama was standing right in front of me. It was as if it happened in slow motion. He was smiling, looking around, and all of a sudden, he comes his hand, moving right towards mine. Although I only shook his hand for a few seconds, it felt like a lifetime.

If you think Obama is charismatic on TV or on the Internet, he is even more so in person. I had chills the entire time he spoke, and I was wearing two shirts, a sweatshirt, and a wool coat, so it was not due to body temperature.

Politicians tend to pay people lip service, to tell them what they want to hear. Not Obama. It was quite obvious that he really believes in the change and the hope he preaches. One could literally see the hope emanating from his eyes.

The United States has come to a crossroads in history. Our reputation to the rest of the world has been tarnished because of the Iraq fiasco. We need to elect a leader to repair our reputation and to get the country back on the right track.

After seeing him speak in person, I firmly believe that at this point in history, the worst mistake the United States can make is to not elect Barack Obama as president.