Monday, May 05, 2008

An afternoon with the Obamas

Today Barack Obama and his family came to Fort Wayne, IN for a pitch-in, pot luck picnic. Of course, I made sure my whole family showed up.

The previous evening, we had a couple of out-of-state Obama volunteers stay at our home, in addition to Sheri staying up to nearly 3:00am making enough pasta salad to feed an army. This morning, someone from Obama headquarters called to make sure we were coming and asked if we were going to stay and work the event. Sheri told them yes. The previous day, she had told another volunteer that we would be coming as a family and asked if it was alright to bring the kids. "Sure!"

We left home about 12:25pm and drove the five minutes to Headwaters Park along with over 80 cups of pasta and three kids in tow. We brought the pasta to the rear entrance only to be stopped and told that kids would have to wait until the gates opened at 2:30. Anyone who knows our family understands we have Dustin, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, in addition to a five-year old and a four-year old. Sheri went back to the car and waited with the kids while I took the pasta in. I returned to the van because all the volunteers had to leave while the bomb sniffing dogs mad the rounds.

Later, I returned for instructions and asked one of the volunteer leaders if Sheri and the kids could help me out at the front as I signed in new volunteers. He said it was fine, so we went in - after going through an airport style security check point - and headed to the front gates to prepare for the throng.

Sheri went over to the food line to help get the pasta salad prepared properly and ran into some problems with an over zealous volunteer. Sheri berated the woman for speaking to a volunteer in that manner. The next thing you know, she is being told to step away and wait for the secret service. Needless to say, Sheri was concerned she had gone too far, but in reality, they had chosen our family to have our lunch next the Senator Obama and his family. I was pulled off the gate and after a briefing from a member of Obama's Senate staff, we were lead behind the ropes and seated along with a few others, including community leader, Denise Porter-Ross.

We had a pretty good time watching the long lines pass right past our table and took a certain delight in the looks on the faces of people who knew us. One volunteer called my cell phone and asked me how we rated. I explained that we were probably picked because we were volunteers and had children with us. She said she assumed I had donated a large chuck to the campaign. Uh, yeah. Sure.

We waited and waited while over two-thousand people made their way through the serpentine line to the food. Yet we were not allowed to leave the area to get our own food. We were told food would be brought to us. Unfortunately, we had to wait until it was close to time for the Senator to arrive before our trays were brought to us.

We knew once the Secret Service officers started multiplying that the time was near. They brought the food to the tables along with a few bottles of water. Then we hear the roar of the motorcycles as the motorcade approached the pavilion.

The Illinois Senator was introduced and came in flanked by his wife Michelle and their two daughters, Malia, nine, and Sasha, six. Michelle spoke first and explained how great it was to have the family together. It marked the first time the four had appeared together on the campaign trail since Iowa back in January. Michelle reached down and asked Sasha what everyone needed to do on Tuesday. Sasha replied, "vote for my Daddy."

After Michelle and the girls left the stage, Obama - who, according to the latest Zogby poll is leading Clinton in both Indiana and North Carolina spoke to the enthusiastic crowd. He discussed the distractions, Hillary's gas tax holiday, and how this race was about the people. It was your basic Obama stump speech, but hearing it live is always inspiring.

After his speech, he worked the line then came directly to our table. He shook my hand and when I asked if I could get a photo with him, he smiled a huge smile and said, "absolutely!" While my wife was snapping the picture, my son Harrison ran over and hugged Obama's legs. The Senator reached down, lifted a beaming Harrison up and asked him his name and how old he was. Sen. Obama spent nearly five minutes with us, discussing our lives and children. He even complimented McCartney on her red and blue toenails and fingernails. It was an amazing moment. I didn't even realize that news cameras were snapping away at our little chat until I saw all the cameras after Obama picked Harrison up.

Once Obama enters the White House in January, my children will have photos of themselves with the first black President of the United States. It was indeed a historic day for our family.


Craig said...

Great pics Robert!

Rachel said...

I was one of the many in the "herd" in line for the food and saw your family sitting in the roped off area. I too wondered how you got there. We were sitting way back and could only catch a glimpse or two of Barack but I really only needed to listen to be inspired once again by Barack.

I am all for a woman being president and I actually used to like Hillary. But her typical Washington style of dirty campaigning has truly disappointed me. Barack has taken the high road in a race for *the* most important race in this country. Plus, I've read through his *blueprint* at his website and am duly impressed. I truly believe that he cares about America.

On a side note, I found your website as I'm still undecided who to vote for tomorrow for governor and was looking for some unbiased info (haha). I'm not crazy about either dem. candidate, but I figure that either one HAS to be better than Mitch.

Scott Greider said...

Such great memories for you and your family! Kind of like that Bill Clinton photo shaking Kennedy's hand... who knows where your kids might end up.