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“We’re making history here”

February 13, 2008

***WARNING: This is a very long post!!***

 The title of this post is what my Board member kept saying to me last week, on Saturday night, and on the phone this week, “We’re making history, we’re participating in history here!” On Sat. night Senators and Democratic Presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama came here to speak to the annual gala fundraiser for the state Democratic Party. I want to write about it before I forget it and come down off the “high” that I’m still on.

This event is an annual one, that used to be part of my job description. In a previous job I booked speakers for, I sold tickets and tables to, I decided on seating for and I handled all the logistics, emergencies and personalities that go into a political event for, at that time, about 1200 people. Fast forward 8 years–the state Democrats are in a very different position (better), we’ve got a Governor on our side, and the event included 2 Presidential candidates and over 6000 guests, raising more than $750,000! I was charged in my current job, with choosing who should sit at the 3 tables my Board member purchased. We ended up with a mix of legislators, candidates, Board members, staff and friends in general.

The afternoon before, I was in no mood to go. The process of seating 30 people (I know, nothing compared to 6000!) was frustrating, I was having to deal with the state party, and I was having flashbacks to my events and the late nights/crazy issues that it brought along with it. I also had the issue of having nothing to wear. My 5 month post pregnancy body is not exactly what I’d like it to be, and none of my cocktail attire fit. My cocktail attire, by the way consists of one dress, that I’m not sure I’ve ever worn. I have no idea when/why I bought it. But it’s black and short and would’ve been perfect. Except for the body I was trying to squeeze into it.

Anyway, I got over that issue by visiting a friend who has an extensive cocktail wardrobe (I’m not sure why, but who am I to ask when she’s offering to let me borrow it?) and borrowed another short, black dress. I borrowed shoes from a neighbor and a pashmina wrap from another neighbor, and I was set. The morning of the event J. announces that he doesn’t really want to go. I wasn’t shocked. He hadn’t been feeling well, plus he was slowly realizing what this event was going to involve. He doesn’t usually attend things like this with me, but had wanted to go to see/hear Obama, his candidate of choice. When I hear “dinner event,” I think several hours, getting dressed up, lots of speeches. He thought, dinner and a speech from a candidate. Oops. When he realized that with a planned early arrival to deal with Will Call and Security, it would probably be an 8 hour event, he decided not to go. That’s a full days work, in a suit (which he doesn’t even have to wear to his job), while not feeling so hot to begin with, in a room of 6000. While flitting around schmoozing is great fun for me, it’s not his thing.

Okay, so I asked the shoe-lending neighbor if she wanted to go with me. Absolutely, she was ready to make history with me! And we’re off.

Will Call and Security were not so bad, considering the number of people they were dealing with. We, along with a lobbyist/friend who was sitting at our table, checked in and received our credentials. They had a champagne bottle sticker on them, which was the “key” to some sort of VIP reception. I have no idea how we ended up with these credentials, but I wasn’t asking questions. We go to the reception, pick up our free (I was expecting cash bar) drinks, and start mingling. I got to see a lot of friends who I hadn’t connected with in awhile. I know people working on both Dem Presidential campaigns, and for Mark Warner who is running for US Senate. It was great to catch up with all of them, as well as some of my Board members and other friends. At some point we see the men “with the squiggly cords in their ears,” and I figure the Governor must be on his way. Gov. Kaine came in and starting talking to people individually. When we gets over to me, we hugged, exchanged “How are yous?” pretty standard conversation. I intro’d him to Neighbor and mentioned how excited I was to see Obama, since I had decided to support him. Gov. gave his huge smile and started in on how exciting this is, etc. I could tell he was really anxious to tell everyone how great “his” candidate is. Anyway, from the reception (it was in the private box of this basketball coliseum), we looked down onto the floor where the dinner was taking place. Incredible. Imagine something like 400 tables, jumbotrons and campaign signs, all over what is normally a college basketball court (I had actually seen a game there a couple weeks earlier with the fam).

We decided to make our way to our seats. And our seats were nothing to sneeze at. There were 400 tables, ours was #6! Nice to have friends in high places. So, mingle, sit, listen to some speeches, eat, more speeches, blah blah blah. Then, people start making their way to the “rope line” which is about 2 feet from our table. Evidently, Sen. Clinton has arrived early and is going to speak, out of order, according to the program. Our friend, and the youngest woman ever elected to the VA General Assembly, intros her political hero, Hillary Clinton. She took the stage to a raucous reception and gave a very good speech. I have no real problem with Clinton. I’ve always thought she was very intelligent, accomplished  in her own rite, and capable. When she finished speaking she came down to the rope line near my table. She shook a few hands and said, “I’ll be back.” She went to the opposite end of the line and started working her way back. The fans near me thinned out, so I figured I’d go up to the line. I wasn’t planning on voting for her, but she’s still an important political figure, and I’ll take this historic opportunity to shake her hand. While I’m standing there, there’s several older white women (50s-60s) who are just beside themselves with excitement. One woman in particular said she just “had” to have her picture taken w/Clinton. She was asking the Secret Svc to take her picture, and I told her to cool it, that they can’t do it, and you really shouldn’t annoy them. I saw a friend of mine who was (until last night) the deputy campaign mgr for the Clinton campaign. I said, “Mike, this woman loves Hillary, she needs a picture!” He throws me a Sharpie so she can get an autograph, and grabs the woman’s camera phone. Then it got crazy. Hillary’s in my face, talking to me like we’re old friends. I hope that lady got her picture. Mike, I still have your Sharpie.

Everyone sits back down, more speeches from VA politicians, yada yada yada. When the Governor is intro’d, everyone goes crazy again. He gave a great speech and intro of Obama. His theme was “I have a feeling…” At first I thought it was going to be a little rough, but he was great. Arm pumping, podium pounding, eyebrow raising, Timmy! The whole time he was speaking, people were crowding to the rope line near our table. WAY more people than had been there for Clinton. When Obama came out, I thought, “This must have been the way people reacted to the Beatles!” I’m not kidding, people cried, I actually heard a woman say, “I’ll never wash my hand again.” There was no safe way I was going to get a handshake, although Neighbor and lobbyist friend did. I stood on a (very unsteady) folding chair and got some good pics though. Then he got up on stage and gave an AMAZING speech. It was very obvious that the room was going for Obama, 2 to 1. And he knew it. But he has a way, he stood there waiting for applause and screaming to die down so he could speak, and he looked almost “regal.” Chin up, but not at all cocky. His speech started out strong, then came down a notch, just to calm people down and make them listen. Then he got to Hope.

“Some people call me a Hope Monger. Well, I’ve gotta have hope. The odds of me getting here weren’t very good.”

Crowd goes wild. From then on, he could have been preaching on Sunday morning. Hope. Change. Awesome.

When he was finished, he left the stage on the opposite side from where he came on, clearly freaking out the security detail. They ran across the front of the stage after him. Jeez, I bet those guys have ulcers. Tough job. Again, I knew there was no getting close to him, so I tried to get some more pics.

I know a lot of politicians and I have heard a lot of them give a lot of speeches. I will admit that it is HARD to inspire me. But Obama has done just that. I’ll do another post about primary day and why I voted for him. But I really do feel like I was part of history the other night. An historic event for the state party, historic in that VA is actually a player in the nomination process, historic in that 2 presidential candidates came to this event, as did more than 6000 others. If nothing else, it was such a motivating experience for VA Democrats. We made history, we participated in history!

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