In some respects, President Barack Obama’s appearance at USC last Friday was like a giant family gathering or love fest. In fact during his speech, one listener yelled out “We love you” and the president responded “We love you back.”
There was entertainment courtesy of the SC Trojan band, the Foshay Choir and the L.A-based urban-Latin band Ozomatli. There was comedian Jamie Foxx helping to keep folks entertained, while moving the program forward.
There were third, fourth and fifth grade students from Tom Bradley Environmental Science and Humanities Magnet generally running around and paying only occasional attention to the proceedings until the presidential helicopters thundered overhead and the man himself appeared on-stage to speak.
And then there were individual stories of why people like Christine Jordan began arriving as early as 5:45 a.m. to stand in a line that wrapped around campus buildings like a snake lying in the sun.
“My daughter is a freshman at USC,” explained the Hawthorne resident, who was in the company of her college and high school daughters as well as one of their friends from Bermuda, who said there were mixed emotions in her country, when Obama won in 2008.
“He was trying to restrict international business, which is our number one industry, but because so many people there are Black, they were happy because of that (his win),” explained Rebecca Heyliger.
Or how about the story of Patricia Ann Lemle, a third grade teacher at Theodore Alexander Science Center, a school located just figuratively steps from where the president stood speaking.
“I couldn’t make it to Washington (for the inauguration),” explained Lemle, also an USC alumni, who decided there was no way she was going to miss Obama speaking on her doorstep. “I’m taping it on my iPhone, and my students are going to do a report based on my report to them.”
View Park Prep 10th grader Eric Bratton led a contingent of his fellow classmates who won the right to attend the Moving America Forward rally by writing an essay detailing what question they would ask President Obama, if they could talk with him.
“I asked how do you think the economy will be in the next 10 years, and how it will affect African Americans,” explained Bratton, who added that he wanted to see the president because he felt inspired. “He inspired me to chase my dream . . . to become an astrophysicist. (He showed me) You can do anything, if you have the will and desire. I want to do something good to contribute to the world.”
And then at the end of the rally, as people were streaming back to their respective lives, snatches of overheard conversations showed how profound an impact President Obama made on his audience “. . . what I like about President Obama is that he says all the things I would say,” one woman shared.
“I was this close to Barack Obama; he shook my hand, and I didn’t want to let it go,” said Kimberly Myers, her voice still rang with the awe she felt. She was invited to the rally by friend Mary Eagle-Wright, a volunteer with Organize for America. During the rally, Myers had steadily inched her way toward the front, and as the president was leaving the stage, snagged a hand shake.
For in-home health care worker and SEIU member James Bates, the rally was totally worth leaving home at 5:45 a.m. to arrive at 9.
Friday’s rally was part of a final push Democrats are making to get voters to turn out in the record numbers they did in 2008. The USC event was followed by another press conference Monday, a national teleconference open to the public on Tuesday and the creation of a new web site–www.progress.barackobama.com–that details what Obama and the Democrats have done since they took office in 2008, and how this has specifically impacted African Americans.
And the theme the Democratic National Committee is pounding on is that Republicans are obstructionists and want to take the country backwards.
In fact, during his address at USC, the president used a car analogy to drive the point home: “When you want to go forward, you put the car in ‘D’, and when you want to go backwards, you put the car in ‘R.’”