I attended Tuesday night’s fundraiser for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. The event was held at the Harrison Opera House, which has a seating capacity of 1,632. I arrived around 6pm, when the doors were scheduled to open, and the parking lot was already full. I ran into Portsmouth Delegate Ken Melvin and his lovely wife, Sylvia. We checked in and, with a little assist from Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and his lovely wife, Beth, headed upstairs to the VIP area.
Governor and potential VP pick Tim Kaine was the host of this affair. One of the most interesting conversations I had was with the governor’s sons, 18-year-old Nat and 16-year-old Woody. I guess it’s impossible not to have politics in your blood when your father and grandfather have both been governor. The two are already showing signs of political aspirations – one as the candidate, the other as the “behind-the-scenes” guy.
Around 7pm, Michelle Obama entered the area and a line was formed for guests to get their picture with her. One of the first people in line was Senator Mame Locke. The line was quite long and while people moved through fairly quickly, it was about 7:40pm before all of the pictures were completed.
Heading downstairs, I arrived after the Bruce Hornsby concert had already started. Even though it was dark, I could see that the facility was almost completely full. Williamsburg native Hornsby did a wonderful job, his mastery of the piano on full display.
Kaine came out to introduce Obama. It was obvious from his introduction that he knows her well. After a few moment, Obama took the stage. Her remarks centered around the theme of narrowing the gap, between the world as it is and the world as it can be. She drew on an early experience that she had with Barack Obama, where he took her on a “date” to a meeting in a chuch basement on the Southside of Chicago. It was there that he discussed the gap. In her speech, Obama invited us to imagine the world as it can be and what we can do to move towards it. She also urged us to talk to friends and family, and to get people registered to vote.
Perhaps it was the setting, perhaps it was the crowd but this was not a campaign rally. The crowd listened respectfully and interrupted her with applause at the appropriate times, and gave her a standing ovation at the end. For the most part, there was something in her speech for everyone. As folks streamed out of the theater, I got the sense that people were both excited and determined: excited at the possibility of Obama as president and determined to do their part to help it happen.
By the way – I heard that the event raised about $400,000 for the Obama campaign.