Friday night we got three free tickets to go to a track meet. We love track meets. If you live anywhere else in the U.S. then you might not know how a local, low-key track meet can still be an exciting event that even produces world-class results and brings out over 5,000 fans. It helps that the location is the famous Hayward Field – site of the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials.
The East grandstands – where I’ve sat through many track meets, including three previous Olympic Trials (1972, 1976, 1980 – yes that dates me), and watched the marvelous Steve Prefontaine, amongst other greats.
So then . . .
About mid-way through the track meet several big buses and a string of police motorcycles passed by on the street behind us. We immediately knew it was Barack Obama (he was to speak at the UofO later that day). After a few minutes Obama came out onto the opposite end of the track from us. As any political candidate would do, he shook hands, congratulated some athletes, held babies, and waved to the crowd. Then he began to leave, which took a while.
My wife asked if I would go back to the car and get the stroller. Wilder was getting tired. I carried Wilder in the kiddie backpack and Lily asked to come along. When we turned the corner of the grandstands there were the buses. Lily said maybe we could see Obama. So we hurriedly walked down and stood in the crowd next to the bus. Here’s the picture: People crowding around, police and secret service everywhere, I’m holding Lily in one arm as high as I can get her, my camera is in my other hand, Wilder is in the backpack. We stood there for 15-20 minutes, with my arm going numb and Wilder beginning to fuss. But then Obama came by.
He shook my hand, he shook Lily’s hand, and then he looked at Wilder and then said something like “Who is that beautiful baby?” or “That’s the cutest baby!” We can’t remember exactly what he said because we were in a bit of a daze.
Overall a fun experience and a great memory
I am rather cynical about politics, but I will say this: There is something different about Obama than Clinton or McCain. He seems to be more easy going, less divisive, more hopeful, and somewhat visionary, at least in his tone. He seems to speak beyond, or above, the normal talking points of the left/right political split. I don’t know if he really has the ability to affect positive change, I don’t know if he can actually get anything done, and I don’t have many delusions about what politics and politicking really means. But I will say on the surface he exudes a kind of character decidedly different than his opponents. Quite possibly that is the kind of character this country needs in its leader right now.
One other thing: Seeing a person up close and shaking their hand creates an interesting perspective. I only had a few seconds to see Obama up close, but I was close enough to look into his eyes and get a very brief sense of the man. He exudes confidence without arogance, and strength without desperation. Sure, every politician wants power, but some seem to be desperate about it and others seem to seem to know it will come when it’s time. I can’t see into his heart, but Obama appears to have a good one. I hope he is not merely a great actor. That would be a tragedy for us and for him. And I have to say, what we don’t need is another actor in the White House.
We missed his speech, but here’s an amateur clip of some of the event:
In the presidential campaign it appears Obama is the rock star. But I have to say the best part of the day was being with my family and friends on a beautiful day at the track meet.