Trip Start Jul 30, 2007
34Trip End Jan 31, 2008
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I know this blog comes about a month too late, but the campaign has been extraordinarily busy. Our efforts on the ground are intensifying as today marks just 31 more days until South Carolina votes in the primary, and just 8 days until Iowa kicks off the primary elections.
I take you back 18 days to Saturday, December 8th, 2007, the night before the largest day of our South Carolina campaign, to date. Our office finished off a day of calling in Greenwood at around 5:30pm, so we could allow ourselves ample time to arrive in Columbia by 8pm for a walkthrough of Williams-Brice Stadium, capacity 81,000. I drove by myself down to the Columbia Headquarters, and arrived by 7:00. When I got in, I quickly noticed boxes, shirts, tickets, bumper stickers, signs, and other event materials strewn about in an effort to organize what would turn out to be the largest political rally in Democratic Primary history. At around 7:45 I drove over to the stadium where I was to meet up with the rest of the Greenwood-Aiken office along with staffers from HQ and the other regional offices. We began our walkthrough with a trip up to the press box to go over the logistics of seating the large amount of people we were expecting to arrive the next day.
Our office, being given the largest and most important job, was in charge of crowd control inside the stadium, ensuring people would sit in the seats we directed them. A good way of picturing this would be like telling a herd of 100 elephants to go to the field with the grass 400 yards away instead of the field with grass just 40 yards away. People were bound and determined to sit where they wanted, but we would not allow it, to ensure the perfect shot for the cameras, and to ensure a better viewing experience for the attendees of the event (the sound hit an empty space if people would sit on the side opposite the stage because of the direction of the loudspeakers). By the time we left the stadium, it was roughly 1:30AM. A friend of mine from the Rock Hill region and I were to stay at a mutual friends house in Columbia, and found that we were unable to sleep because of the excitement of the weekend. It was 3AM by the time we were able to fall asleep, with the intent of rising at 6:30AM.
The next morning was easy in waking up. I was up by 6:15, and Jeff, my friend from Rock Hill, was up just shortly after that. We were ready to go by 7:30 and drove off to the stadium. The morning of the event was extremely foggy, as the weather was cool the night before and a warm front coming over Columbia that morning causing the thick air. The view of the stadium with the fog created a phantasmagorical sense as seen in the photos included. The adrenaline kicked in upon walking up to the check-in gate and seeing a line of 20 people who had arrived at 5:30 AM to ensure spectacular seating (and that they certainly got), along with the press corps of 5 cameras capturing the early morning set up. Upon arriving, our office did a final walk through determining and writing down the placement and number of volunteers needed to be staffed in our area.
Around 10AM the volunteers began pouring into the check-in line, a total of around 1,300 volunteers came out that morning to help the campaign. We were first given around 300 volunteers and trained them, but immediately decided we needed more to sufficiently staff and manage the job we were to complete. In the end we had about 500 volunteers assisting our office with the dubious duty of crowd control
By 12:30 P.M. the line was twice wrapped around the stadium and was up and down the road along the stadium and snaking throughout the closed parking lot in front of the main entrance. We knew this was a good problem as the lower bowl began to fill in, and people were still lined up and down the road. By 2:15 P.M., the majority of the sections we were to fill were just about to capacity, with us filling in more sections across from the main stands.
By 2:30, the bands that were playing had concluded, and we had attempted (successfully) to break the world record for holding the world's largest phonebank, making tens of thousands of phone calls (our campaign will be in the 2009 Guinness Book of World's Records printed book on sale next year). Michelle Obama took the stage first, gracing the crowd with talk of the inevitability of Barack announcing his candidacy for president, and then introducing the next speaker as the "First Woman of Television." When Ms. Winfrey hit the opening of the tunnel into the stadium, the decibel of the screams reached that of a departing 747 Airliner. The stadium was going wild, with people outside the stadium wondering if an unexpected USC football game was scheduled late into the season. But no, Oprah Winfrey was taking the stage in front of more than 19,000 rally attendees. She spoke so eloquently on topics of Senator Being "the one", and citing the Biography of Ms. Pittman when a character asks "are you the one?" She then went on to say, "he is the one" then introducing Senator Barack Obama. The screams he encountered rivaled those of Oprah's entrance, he smiled cheerfully at the attendance and waved to the spectators of the event. He went on and thanked the "lady with a funny name", for the great introduction, and went on to state his famous quote of this campaign that "one year from now, you will be entering the voting booth. One name you will not see on the ballot is George W. Bush." This was then followed with more cheers, chants, and gleeful waves to the Senator, followed with the crowd drowning him out with the chant "O-BAM-A." This went on for 5 minutes until he was then able to continue on with his masterful speech in challenging attacks on his policy and experience.
The event was widely enjoyed by the attendees, the staff, and the press, as people are STILL talking about it just a month later.
After the event, Rick Wade, a senior advisor to the campaign, held a holiday party for all of us to relax a little before the holidays and to enjoy the company of each other.