I took this picture of people leaving the Grant Park Obama rally on Nov. 4, 2008.
Regardless of what you think about Barack Obama, I dug up this story of when I covered this rally for my community college school newspaper in 2008, the first year he won his presidency. This is an important year for our politicians, and it will be interesting to see who leads us into a brighter future. I hope that whoever it is they make the right choices, as we need them more than ever.
This was actually the second time that I covered Obama. I covered him when he was a senator at Moraine Valley Community College, and had the privilege to speak with him one on one. Again, regardless of your political views, I think it's pretty cool to be able to have spoken to a former president. He was down-to-earth, and spoke to you like you were a human being. I was fresh out of high school at the time, and for this big shot senator to speak to me in such a way was comforting. When I attended the rally to cover it, it was like no other event I had ever been to. The below is my original story from that historic day.
Forty years later, the whole world was still watching. Bars in Australia, villages in Kenya, those around the United States were watching in addition to the 125,000 some on hand. But unlike the shock and protests of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, this year’s Chicago rally was a celebration. 5,4,3,2,1...Happy New Year! Well, kind of. The last of the campaign coverage was airing on the jumbo sets around the park and predictions, followed by who won each state would be revealed. A countdown was set, New Year’s style with the sea of people chanting along. At about 10 p.m. central time, the results of the pacific states of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii were revealed, along with a screen that flashed: Barack Obama, president of the United States. The voters that were captivated by the energy of the campaign let their energy be known. An earthquake of sound that hit 9.0 on the Richter scale shook Grant Park in the minutes to come. Tears were dropped, smiles were raised. A city within a city was filled with good feelings and hope in government. Gloria Williams was dancing. She came to the United States at four years old from Edinburgh, Scotland, following the death of her father who served in the Air Force. Williams remembers not even knowing she was black in Scotland but came to know it after the move. “You know, I remember in the second grade I didn’t want to go to school. I had this teacher that if it was a black hand, she would not answer it,” Williams said, who grew up here in the 1970s. Williams says she is fed up with the war in Iraq, believing we have lost too many of our children over there and has said that if it were up to her father, she would have been raised in Germany. But today she is dancing. Even though she realizes there are many civil rights issues yet to be addressed, today has its place in history for her. “If my grandchild was to come to me and say, ‘I want to be president, I now know it’s possible,” she said. Susan O’Walker was in the front row by the Jumbotron and had tears continuously flowing down her face. She stood there, thinking about the relatives she lost and how far the African-American people have come. “It means so much. Years ago, women and negroes could not vote and now we’re fighting together for unity. Now we have hope,” she said. The youth vote was also a major contributing factor to Obama’s election. Columbian College freshman Carl Garcia brought a plastic goat named Mercutio with him in support of the convention that read “Goats for Obama.” He sported a “Vote for Pedro” shirt and crossed off Pedro, replacing it with Obama. “I like his style. I like the way he presents himself and I agree with a lot of his policies,” he said. Garcia snaked the goat around Grant Park, almost in a crowd surfing fashion and was malled by people with cameras every few minutes. But by 11 p.m., all eyes and ears were on Obama. He had a smile on his face and addressed a city that had been waiting to hear, to see him speak as the next president. “If there is anyone out there that still doubts anything’s possible, tonight is your answer,” he said to a roar of applause. Obama gave a message of hope. He told the story of Anne Nixon, a 106-year old black woman who for the first time in her life, voted in Atlanta. He repeated the theme of his “Yes We Can” campaign, given in part by his campaign team and in larger part because of the people that voted and were there Nov. 4. “Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope,” he spoke. And when the speech was over, he showed his emotion. He looked as if he were about to break down and cry, and then turned it into a smile. The crowd thinned out and headed down Michigan Ave. in a storm. From curb to curb, the people that elected a president walked away and from sea to shining sea Obama will enter a nation.