A first hand account of my brush with Campaign 2008.

Barak Obama gave a big speech at American University today with the Kennedy’s to receive the endorsements of Ted, Caroline, and Patrick Kennedy. The speech was announced to the campus community over the weekend, and it instantly cause a palpable buzz of excitement. Thousands converged on our campus to hear the speech.

The speech was scheduled for Bender Arena (our gym / all purpose room) at 12:15, doors opening at 10:30. I teach from 9:55 – 11:10. Over the weekend, several students in my morning class emailed to say that they were skipping our riveting session discussing David Kang’s ISQ article on North Korea in favor of waiting in line to see Obama. I decided to have class anyway, figuring that a) the event didn’t start until an hour after the class ended, and b) I (and anyone else from the class) could go over after class, jump in the line, and sneak into the back of the rally.

Oh how wrong I was. After class, myself and several colleagues walked over to the arena to scope the line. People were entering the arena, and we started to hike toward the end of the queue. (For those of you not familiar with AU geography, you can see a map here) We went from Bender arena, up the road to the main entrance to campus. The line then turned left, down Massachusetts Ave., down several blocks past the seminary, and then turned left onto University. At its height, I think it got to Quebec, and perhaps down that road as well. It was easily the longest line I’d ever seen for anything at our school.

We waited for a bit as the line filled up behind us and slowly started to move. After about 20 minutes, the line really started to roll and picked up pace. We hiked back up the hill, and as we got to the main gate of camps, people were saying that the doors to the event had closed 20 minutes ago with a capacity crowd inside. Overflow venues were full as well. A number of people went over to the outdoor amphitheater (and would eventually be rewarded when Obama and Kennedy would come out and greet them after the speech). My friends and I bailed at this point, and eventually returned to our office.

We decided to still watch the speech, however, as it seemed too big of a deal to miss. Plus, we were already invested and wanted to see how it went. So, we went to the new media lab next to our office and started to stream the feed on the very nice 30-something inch monitor they have. After about 30 minutes, nothing was happening and we almost gave up. They were just late in starting. Finally, the folks in the lab down the hall got the stream working from the local NBC website. They threw the image up onto the overhead projector and we had a movie-sized view of the speech. In all, there were about 20 of us from the floor in the lab watching the show.

After it was over, it was back to work.

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