In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, February 03, 2008


OK - the next installment of my political weekend just happened.

Yesterday, I learned that Hillary Clinton was going to be speaking at the college where I work today, so I decided that I should go and check her out.

After our experience yesterday in the skyway, we decided that we could show up a little later. When we got there, we stood in another line outside (wrapping around the athletic dome). The line moved rather quickly (we weren't in one place for very long). Eventually, we got in.

The rally was held in our gymnasium, which is the biggest space that we have, but even the gym isn't that big. By the time we got in, all the bleacher seats were taken, so we stood on the floor. I realized that by standing on the floor, we were going to be incredibly close to the stage. This would be a much better view than we had for Obama (we only watched him on a jumbo-tron and through binoculars). Even when we saw Bill Clinton this fall, we weren't as close, even though we were in the 7th row. We were standing six people away from the stage (with no buffer space).

I think that my excitement to see my college hosting this event eclipsed my excitement at seeing a former first lady (and maybe a future president). Our Jazz Band played while we waited for her to get in. It was filled with our students, faculty, and staff. Our event services were splendid! Our college president gave a welcome at the very beginning of the string of speeches. He walked a fine line between promoting a healthy democracy and stopping short of endorsing Hillary. I don't think that an endorsement would have gone over well with everyone at our college (most...but not all).

When I heard that she was coming to our college, I called Event Services to find out the details. Apparently, they were trying to decide between our college and the Excel Energy Center. Since it is the Super Bowl and whatnot, they decided that she could either have a not-full Excel Center or a packed college gym. They opted for the college. Good for us. I'm glad that we have high-profile events!

As when we saw Bill Clinton, there were a string of "opening act" speakers. These are all great people, but when you are waiting to hear from the main speaker, you tend to get a little short with these people. And to top it off, Hillary was running late (from Missouri, I heard). So, we were standing for a long time as speakers were stretching out the agenda.

At one point, our Jazz Band began to play (to keep the crowd excited). They were great. I think after a while, they were just jamming. At least, I didn't hear a clear melody. Then we heard a voice say "check, check, 1,2,3". That stopped the band, because they thought that Hillary was entering. She wasn't. Someone was trying to tell the band director to keep playing. By the time the message got to him, someone just started playing the canned music. I was disappointed that our band didn't get to keep playing.

Finally, Hillary got out there. She entered with three people, former Vice President (and Minnesotan) Walter Mondale, the president of the U of MN College Democrats and the president of the College Democrats at my college! And my student (she has worked for me in the past), was the one who controlled the introductions! Yea! College pride!

Then Hillary spoke. There was a lot of excitement for her...just like Obama. She called for universal health care...just like Obama. She promised to withdraw troops from Iraq...just like Obama. At some point, I realized that their positions are so close together that they were indistinguishable from listening to them speak. Now, I know that there are differences. However, they were not accentuated in the speech.

We also noticed that soon after Hillary took the stage, there were two new people standing right in front of us. Two men. Wearing dark suits. With wires going into their ears. Yup, we got to stand right behind two Secret Service Agents. Normally, I wouldn't be too distracted by Secret Service or security or anything. However, they aren't watching the stage like we all are. They are scanning the crowd. That meant that they would turn around and we would be face to face. It's hard to avoid eye contact when someone is that close and looking in your direction.

I avoided the Secret Service men pretty well until a women who was sort of behind me started feeling dizzy. By then, it was late in the speech. We had stood for 2 hours in a pretty warm gym. I also realized this woman had a cast on, so she was probably standing on one foot. She leaned on me and the woman next to me. I suggested that she should sit down where she was. We helped lower her to the ground. One of the Secret Service agents turned and started taking off her jacket. The other one asked me if she was with me. The one who was talking with her offered to walk her out of the crowd to sit down. She said, "No, you have more important things to do." He insisted. He helped her get up and walk out. The other guy talked on his little radio to tell someone that his counterpart was taking a women who might need medical attention.

It's funny, because I was wondering what Secret Service do if there is another issue that comes up. Do they only care about their "assignment" or do they help others out? I wondered if having this woman sitting on the floor was some breach of security, or if they really did want to help her out. It seemed like they were helping her for her own good.

Because of this, I missed a section of the speech. When it was over, people rushed up to shake hands with Hillary and my other half said, "Do you want to go?" I said yes, and we walked back to the car.

I'm no closer to deciding between the two. I think I lean toward Obama, but I don't feel like I have good enough reasons to do so. It's more about "let's work on this together" than "I can fix things."

As you can see, Richard (my other half just granted permission to use his name) took some great photos during the event. I hope they help to "tell the story".


Blogger LoieJ said...

I know that universities invite all sorts of speakers because education consists of "broadening" the mind. But during a campaign, a speaker carries certain baggage that isn't present in other circumstances. Do you think that hosting a candidate makes it look like the college is endorsing that candidate?

In this case, you wrote that there was a choice between two locations. Does that mean that the campaign committee pays for the venue? Does the college do well, monetarily when it hosts such an event?

I'm just curious about this because I wonder if such a college would host a candidate that held positions quite contrary to the college's basic values.

Please take this as a question of curiosity, not of condemnation.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Ross said...

I'm wondering the same thing. In fact, I'm hoping to find out how much we got paid.

10:14 AM  

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