Yes, he can!
The Obama speech simulcast drew a full - and enthusiastic - house at the Golden State Theatre in downtown Monterey Aug. 28.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Under the marquis of the Golden State Theatre, volunteers coax pedestrians into the lobby and hand them modest, round stickers that read: "Obama '08."
Inside the spacious lobby, lined with folding tables and poster signs, more volunteers and members of the Monterey County Democrats flit to and fro with purpose.
Behind half-closed doors to the bowl of the theater, the seats are filled shoulder-to-shoulder, with people in the doorway; the balcony upstairs is packed near the front, and more sparsely occupied in its upper half. The terra cotta walls of the theater are warmly spotlit, highlighting its baroque designs. As a polished video biography of Barack Obama plays on the screen, the audience waits.
They are here to witness history, by way of the Monterey County Democrats' live simulcast of the fourth and final day of the Democratic Convention, where Obama will accept his party's nomination for presidency. Amidst the polite buzz of conversation, two young boys appear. Looking not old enough to vote yet, they are shirtless, painted over with blue "O" and peace signs on their torsos, arms and faces. They pump their fists and yell "Obama!"
The video montage ends and is replaced by an eruption of cheering by an estimated 85,000 people in Invesco Field stadium in Denver, captured by swooping C-Span cameras. That cheer is matched by the Golden State Theatre audience, who rise to their feet in standing ovation as, on the big screen, Barrack Obama strides to the podium.
After finally quieting the Denver crowd with a modulated series of thank-you's, Obama begins the momentous speech: "With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination..." At that, the theater audience cheers so boisterously that the rest of his words--"for the presidency of the United States"--are obscured.
As Obama extends praise, in turn, to Hillary and Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, his wife Michelle and two daughters, the theater audience doesn't just applaud, but cheers. The entire 44-minute speech is punctuated with cheers; booing upon mention of Bush and Cheney; laughter at deft lines like "Eight is enough" and (of McCain) "What does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?"; and, probably, mirroring the close-ups on the faces of the Denver audience, tears.
Most all of his policy points (29 of them, by MSNBC's count) receive applause; noisily so when he talks of reducing the country's dependence on oil, less so for his challenge to reduce the number of abortions. At one point the theater audience joins the Denver audience in a chant of "Yes we can! Yes we can!" and "We want change! We want change!"
Toward the end of his oratory, Obama talks about the "young preacher from Georgia," Martin Luther King, Jr., whose "I Have a Dream" speech occurred on this same day 45 years ago. He goes on to reference the "dream deferred" line from Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. By the time he utters "Thank you, God bless..." the rest of his words are swallowed up in another eruption of cheers and a final standing ovation.
Immediately, the broadcast is ended and the screen goes blank. The Golden State Theatre audience would have to go elsewhere to witness the fireworks, music and ticker-tape that followed. They would have to defer for later the sight of the Obama family and the Biden family basking in the spotlight on stage, the kids playing together under a showers of red, white and blue ticker-taper. Instead, the theater audience is treated to a line-up of local electoral candidates—15 of them, all on the stage—running for school boards, council seats and mayoral office. Each is introduced and the audience is implored to support them.
In the lobby, people mingle and talk excitedly about what they have just witnessed.
Shira Crawford, a 25-year-old from Monterey, says she thought Obama's speech was "awesome." She doesn't have a TV, but has been following and volunteering for Obama's campaign from the start, including with campaign contributions—a first for her and her husband.
Two trustees from Salinas, Bill Freeman of North County and Juan Martinez of South County, recall echoes of the '60s. "[The speech] was one of the best in 30 years—since [John F.] Kennedy," says Freeman.
"My first election was in '68," says Martinez. "I organized for Bobby Kennedy in Salinas Valley. I see the same kinds of hope and dreams. An unjust war, poor people, confusion, vets coming back demoralized and confused. We need to take ownership of the country."
Standing outside the theater, Tyler Vocelka, from Marina, makes clear who he would cast his lot with: "The man is a brilliant speaker. He has all the right ideas. About abortion, homosexual rights, civil rights for women." Though he's not old enough to vote, he donated money to Obama's campaign.
As the theater continues to empty, a young man hawks white t-shirts printed with an intricate portrait drawing of Barack Obama; the Presidential seal hovers behind his head. The seller is the artist and the artist's name is Todd McClair, son of former Seaside mayor Lance McClair. Asked about the night's proceedings, he responds, "I loved it. Barack is my man." He says he will sell the shirts every Saturday at the Seaside American Legion "until Obama is elected."
Day Walker, a 24-year-old who just moved to Seaside, says, "People in my generation didn't think we would see this day. It's good that the older generation got to see this because they put in work for this." He happened to be walking by, searching for a place to watch the speech, when he came across the Golden State Theatre and went in.
Ted Black, 45, born and raised in Seaside, says, "I never been chocked up like this, man. It was powerful." Just then a young man drives by, honks his horn and yells "Obama!"; his cry is met by whoops and cheers from people outside the theater. Black continues: "I liked that [Obama] didn't attack McCain's integrity, just his direction." Post-speech commentary by network news analysts is laudatory. "I don't know how the Republicans can answer this," says one. "It's history," says another.