I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m., prepping in the darkness for the 60-minute drive south over the Sunshine Skyway. The temptation was to ignore the alarm. Instead, at 6:15 I pulled into an Ed Smith Stadium — spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds — parking lot that was already two-thirds full, nailing down a close in spot and feeling smug, if not superior, about my judgement. That lasted just until security notified everyone that the unmarked lot was reserved for handicapped only — move or get towed. Over an hour later I rejoined my place in line, shuffling from one foot to the other in an attempt to ward off the pre-dawn chill seeping through my sneakers, now sopping wet from the long cross country hike across the dew-soaked grass of the remote parking lot. As a pink sky rose on our small group, so also did the level of excitement. There was a sense of pride and accomplishment and a feeling that this time we were experiencing together belonged to history.
The runup to the candidate’s appearance was relaxed, exuberant and anticipatory. The playlist was a laid back combo of funk, country, doo wop. The weather, scripted: a gentle breeze spread warm sun on our faces as the engaged enthusiasm of the young people signaled hope for the future.
After hours of waiting, the opening ceremonies began.
The campaign plane passed low overhead, just slightly off to the north for a landing a few miles away.
The gospel choir’s exultant national anthem rang crisp and true in perfect harmony.
An emotional and heartfelt pledge of allegiance was delivered in full throat by the thousands on hand in what was, for the moment, the nexus of democracy.
And then it was time. Dignity. Competency. Confident. Relaxed. Perceptive. Eager, not anxious. Intelligent. And curious. I thought for a moment that the roar from the crowd as Barack Obama broke into a jog on his way to the podium would lift the stadium off the ground. Yes. We. Can.
It was a fabulous day to be an American.