(Photo introducing Michelle)
There were 1500 in attendance, over 200 turned away (including Jon, unfortunately). The crowd was electric in that way that Obama crowds always are. The diversity in the room alone inspired me. I spoke with many African Americans who had been Hillary fans originally who've come over to Obama. Interestingly, Hillary hosted an "invitation only" meeting at Skyline Chili downtown causing a traffic jam for over an hour. The people around me were mad both at the level of disruption in town and even more that she would come and limit who got to hear her speak. The whole idea of "invitation only" (even if the motivation was to find major donors) left the regular folk pissed off. They felt disrespected by it.
Meanwhile, the Michelle crowd arrived more than an hour before she spoke, to line up outside in the freezing, icy weather. There was one moment I'll never forget. Michelle talked about how difficult change is for people. They don't like it. Even when unhappy, we often cling to the familiar rather than face change (this resonated with me and explains my vote for Bush last time instead of Kerry - I was afraid of Kerry, but at least knew what I was getting with Bush... mistake, I readily admit now).
Then she said, "For instance, I know that some of you still have plastic on your sofas."
Ripples of laughter, lots of African Americans poking each other conspiratorially, naming the family member or friend this must apply to.
"I know you do. You know who you are! And I know you want to protect that couch from stains, to keep it beautiful. But the plastic is meanwhile turning yellow and cracking. You've got to take a risk that a stain will appear. In this campaign, in Barack's term as president, we're counting on your to risk, to make change happen. You've got to risk what you've got, not just protect it!"
This was how she framed her appeal to us to change! I had no idea what she was talking about. I'm a white girl, raised with lots of money and privilege, no plastic on sofas. I had to turn to Brian's wife, Ty (my friend) to ask her what this all meant. Apparently in the black community, it was true that sometimes you bought one couch and it would be the only couch you'd have for the rest of your life.
I found it humbling to be "in on" the conversation, as an outsider, but getting the chance to hear how it is, how it's been for others. This is also what Obama brings - a chance for the rest of us to hear an alternative perspective so that we can stop the addiction to isolation that has characterized much of my generation.