Obama spoke at the Wynnewood train station, in suburban Philadelphia, this morning. I’m a suburb away, home for Passover with my family, and so I went at 10, feverishly excited.
The first thing you notice is that things are incredibly well organized. Obama has a million young volunteers. They are proud to be there, they take themselves seriously. It’s cool. They’re well trained, they don’t get thrown, they’re the Obama army. They’re a little hip, and they’re in control.
The next thing is the security. It’s a little scary. I went into the handicapped section at first because
my wife has a broken foot; I got patted down by a big cop, and wanded.
I left her to find my sisters in the general section, and there were
great crowds of people waiting to come through the metal detectors. For
the first twenty minutes after Obama got there, all I could think about
was how vulnerable he is. It’s sort of amazing we can get this close. I
kept looking around to see where someone who hated Obama could get to,
and wondered how many scores of people were being paid to do the same
Amazed that we could get that close… You can’t get
over the rock star/god/charisma stuff. People were there out of a sense
They roared when the train arrived, they seemed
disbelieving when he got off the back of the train. They held up their
cell phones to get his photograph, and a lot of women called out, "I
love you," or "We love you." I don’t imagine this happens with Hillary,
I’m sure it doesn’t happen with McCain. Obama wore an open blue shirt
and s big natural smile. There isn’t a lot of joking and you notice how
thin he is, reserved. He’s completely comfortable in the role of African-American king.
Senator Robert Casey introduced Obama and it’s
interesting to see a real live natural politician with the common touch
alongside Obama. Casey is a real person, Obama isn’t. Casey spoke
feelingly of Obama’s origins. "A life of struggle," he said. But
Obama never spoke so personally in his speech. He’s not really a
politician. He’s something else, he’s above all that. Politicians are
people who wear flag pins.
The best part of his speech was his anti-politics. It
was a stump speech, he’s giving it a dozen times a day, a little rote,
but when he says that Hillary offers herself as the most experienced
person to play the complex Washington game. "I’m not in this race to
play the game better, I’m in this race to put an end to the game play."
There’s some real sense in that. It’s arrogant, it’s superior, but
that’s Obama’s genuine sense of himself, and our sense of him, too, as
a great leader who has emerged from nowhere and has the capacity to
bring us to a whole new chapter of American life. America isn’t
perfect, he said, but "this country has always had the capacity to get
better and become more perfect, if the American people decide that they
want to bring about change." That is the sincere sense of who he is and
why we love him.
My three sisters all ended up being there, with their
children. That was part of the excitement for me, no one had to tell us
to go, we were drawn. I saw black kids in corrnows, Main Line Wasps
with golf tans, guys with yarmulkes and a guy in a Brit Tzedek t-shirt.
Obama’s claim that he can bring us together is again something that his
audience sincerely feels. My wife was sitting next to a black woman and
said she’d never had so open a conversation about race as she did,
waiting for Obama. The woman said, I keep looking inside for why I’m
supporting him, and it’s not because he’s black. Like she’d be
disappointed with herself if that was the case. It makes you want to
grow up too.
So Obama has already taken us to a new ground. That
postracial thing, it’s actually working. You see biracial people out
there, and you say, I’m not supposed to notice this any more. As we
waited for him to arrive, volunteers handed out water bottles and
beautifull printed copies of his race speech from March, a brilliant
speech, of course, but oversized, on paper large as a menu, already
consecrated as a historic document.
One of Obama’s workers, testing the microphone,
said, "We need to get you involved in the movement," and there’s no
question that it is a movement with a religious character. I’m in it,
sharing that feeling, shared by Obama himself, that he is being borne
along by a selfless and idealistic wave of fervor in the body politic,
a historic wave, a spiritual renewal of our vows as Americans. "He can
lead us, he can heal us," Casey said.
"This is a defining moment in our history, all of you are here because you feel it," Obama said, and kept invoking the
Declaration of Independence. "More than 200 years ago a group of
patriots gathered to do something that no one thought could be done… This election is our chance to declare independence…" Why
would he ever want to be a politician?