Saturday, March 1, 2008

Volunteering at the Fort Worth Rally

I kept my daughters off school on Thursday, as you can see (left, at the top of the picture).

We have been volunteering locally at weekends for the Obama campaign and received an invitation to help at the Fort Worth Convention Center rally where thousands of people were expected to come and hear the Senator speak. We arrived six hours before the event, as requested.

Joy and I got separated from Lizzy early on. She called us gleefully from the main floor where she was acting as a runner and helping seat disabled visitors. Joy called her sister a "punk" under her breath; she and I were stuck outside helping get satellite trucks parked and keeping others away. Told we would not be forgotten and then (it seemed) promptly abandoned, we stood in the exhaust fumes of ABC and Faux news vans with two other volunteers and did our job faithfully for hour after hour.

Now, I'm a campaigner for hope, but I think I'm a realist too. My new friend, Ada, was adamant someone would come back for us eventually, but I began to try to let my co-workers down gently. "You know," I said, "I'm sure they mean well, but they have hundreds of volunteers to coral, and thousands upon thousands are pouring this way. The number of jobs they're working on in there will keep multiplying. We need to face the fact that we might not get in. Heck--the four of us are the only volunteers here who haven't even been able to get our credentials. We have nothing to prove we're in any way connected to the campaign--and now they've locked the doors for the bomb sweep."

But even at hour three, Ada was adamant. "The press director said he'd come back and get us. We're gonna be just fine. This is a campaign of integrity," she told me firmly. "They'll keep their word."

I had no doubt Brandon, the busy press director who left us with the trucks, meant to keep his word, but he had a lot on his plate, what with the Secret Service (who I tried to wave away at one point thinking they were visitors parking in my Sat truck spots--whoops!), the growing press crowd, and the sheer volume of logistics he had to juggle. I wasn't holding my breath that integrity alone would reach as far from the center of action as a side road full of trucks and cables where four slowly roasting volunteers waved on the traffic and dreamt of the possibility of a restroom sighting somewhere in the distant future.

...which all goes to show that I have a lot to learn about hope...

Just after hour three, back came Brandon to the rescue. The police were closing the road, so we were no longer needed to act as human traffic signs. He hadn't forgotten us. He walked us through every security check point, informing even the Secret Service that "These four are good; they're with me." He thanked us for our work and told us we were getting the best seats in the house. Then he politely but firmly argued us through every official until we were sitting on the risers right behind where the Senator would speak--with a bird's eye view behind the screen to where he would arrive backstage too. Though Lizzy had been giving me regular bulletins by phone throughout the day, it was a relief to her old mum when she was allowed through to join us too.

All in all, we had an incredible day, and of course being so close to our hero, Obama, was pretty cool, but it's sometimes not the obvious things that have the most impact. Lizzy had particularly enjoyed petting the Secret Service sniffer puppy and working the elevators, and Joy told me it was Brandon (pictured left) who was her new role model. We ran into him picking litter in his suit after the event was over, and Joy got her photo taken with him. He seemed surprised that she singled him out; it was a shame she never got to tell him why. He was in charge of so much, she told me, but he remembered the little things--like us! That's the kind of person she wants to be when she's all grown up and working in the White House.

In the picture at the top of the post, Lizzy (11), is standing in the middle at the back in the brown T-shirt. Joy (13) is to her right, and I'm to her left. Oh, and the cool-looking dude in the foreground... That's the next president of the United States of America!