I have finally made it to the media security line on the hill after 1.5 hrs of walking through the biggest crowds I have ever seen. The mood is buoyant and happy and the body heat of the masses seems to be taking the edge off the cold — or at least blocking the wind. We’re like penguins here — penguins huddling and waddling along in Obama hats.
I made it to the media seats after two metal detectors and a walk through the basement of a goverment building. The view is amazing from here. Looking behind me I can see the view Obama will have. It’s breathtaking. The National Mall is absolutely full and crowds fill the streets. Obama’s podium is surrounded by what looks like bullet proof glass. The United States Marine Band is playing and the program officially begins in 45 minutes. There are helicopters circling overhead. VIPs are taking their seats. NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg walked by our row a few minutes ago.
Getting here was one thing. It will be interesting to see how we manage to get OUT.
I took some time last night to go back and listen to Obama’s speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention — the speech that launched his national political career. Chunks of that speech — and it’s core message of Obama’s personal life story as the incarnation of the American dream remained the same through his campaign speeches. But it was striking to see how much his delivery had improved, how fluent he has become in telling the tale, at improvising. Today’s speech is the most anticipated of the year. He had ditched a lot of the lofty rhetoric in his convention speech to talk bread and butter economic issues. There is an expectation here for some soaring, uplifting words at a time of crisis. This is a moment when oratory can help rally the spirit of the nation. The pressure is immense and it will be interesting to see what he delivers. No doubt he will talk about Lincoln. But will he make mention of himself as the first African American president — the reason so many people are here today? He tends to avoid that in favour of talking about unity. I’ll have a lot more on Obama and race in the forthcoming issue of Maclean’s.
Will the president be booed or applauded when he makes his entrance? His father was just applauded.
Michelle Obama has arrived clad in a bright yellow dress. The only explanation I can think of is she’s trying to be be bipartisan and not wear blue or red.
Dick Cheney arrived in a wheelchair, having hurt his back.
George W. Bush just arrived. I heard a smattering of applause and some booing from the crowd—all drowned out by the band playing.
Aretha Franklin has the crowd riled up, but I am looking at cellist Yo Yo Ma and thinking his bare fingers must be freezing.
Justice John Paul Stevens swore in Joe Biden. It’s likely that Obama will be naming Stevens’s successor. He is a liberal justice and getting on in years but managed to avoid retiring until a Democrat was back in the White House.
As I fight my way through the crowds, I get an urgent email from the fashion cognoscenti informing me that yellow is THE colour for spring. See, we can all learn from Michelle O.