I got an email Thursday that Barack Obama would be coming for a public rally at Georgia Tech on Saturday. So, of course, I decided to go.
The gate-opening time was 10am and the rally was supposed to start at 11. I got to the Yellow Jacket Park around 11 and there were a lot of people there with more coming. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 20,000 people attended.
While waiting for Obama to come, I surveyed the crowd. There were US flags, Obama’08 signs and saw a couple of antiwar signs (“War no more, Peace is good”).
Senator Obama came at 11:56am. He started off by expressing surprise at the large crowd. He said that we are at a crossroads where change is a necessity, but a lot of people are cynical and don’t think they can affect the government or politics. Then Obama got into his history, especially his time as a community organizer and how he learned that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Obama also went through a list of problems, like veterans issues, healthcare, economic inequality, education, global warming, civil liberties, unions and the Iraq war and said all of these can be solved if we pull together as a people and work on these issues. However, he said that nothing can be done until we end the Iraq war by getting our troops home. He talked about a careful exit from Iraq and a diplomatic surge and there being no military solution and blamed the administration for its stubbornness.
Senator Obama took a jab at those saying that he doesn’t have much experience by saying that people around the country don’t see his not being in Washington DC for a long time as a problem. As is common with all politicians, he also positioned himself as an outsider by saying that he had been in Washington long enough to realize it needs to change.
Near the end of his speech, he asked for help from the people as he couldn’t lead the country alone. He said that there might be times when he is weary, makes mistakes or doesn’t have the answers, but a million people can do a lot together and it is time to retake the government back for the people.
Obama mentioned several incidents from the civil rights movement. One thing that he said about them (and I agree wholeheartedly) is that this is not African American history, but rather American history. He also mentioned slavery, suffragettes, and the union movement.
One phrase that got used a lot of times during Obama’s speech was “time to turn the page.”
I had to leave as I had a gaming session planned with friends, but as I was leaving, Obama’s speech ended. He talked for about 35-40 minutes.
Overall, his speech was good. He has the oratorical skills that are probably necessary for all candidates. He did not say anything unexpected. While he mentioned a litany of issues, he did not try to fill his speech with policy solutions. In the end, I am a policy wonk kind of guy but those details don’t work in the speech format, especially at public rallies.
As for my support, I don’t intend to decide until it is close to the start of the primaries. I liked what I saw of Obama, but I do need to find out more about his policies and ideas.
Do let me know if any other Presidential candidates visit Atlanta.