The air was crisp and cold in the “Press Only” section for the Barack Obama rally inside the Oval Sunday. The sun shot golden rays through the yellowing trees, covering the audience risers and Obama’s eventual podium in a sharp light.
As I set up the camera I was given just that morning to film Obama’s speech, I imagined the rally as a bee hive, with thousands of bees swarming around the queen bee, or king for today.
Skeptical of the fabled Obama-rally magic I have heard about, I waited with the rest of the press for the man himself to arrive. From the platform next to where he’d be, I watched thousands upon thousands pile into the Oval, many of whom had been waiting all day just for the chance to get a glimpse of the presidential candidate.
The crowd’s cheering grew from a rumble to an explosion when Obama made his way on stage. Just like the man seen by millions on television, the real Obama walked with a swagger of confidence as he beamed to the thousands chanting his name. His energy was electrifying. I shuddered a little as he began. I wanted so badly to meet him by the end of the rally.
The crowd, already energized for the presence of Obama, roared at the end of nearly every statement he made, making goose bump formations climb up and down my arm with every cheer.
Once the rally ended and I stopped filming, I viciously fought with the camera tripod, forcing its legs to collapse as fast as they could. I needed to try and meet Obama.
Having successfully infiltrated the office of newspaper legend Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, last spring during a trip to Washington D.C., I confidently pushed my way to the gate where certain press members were being allowed to cross over to the other side of the Oval where Obama was currently shaking hands.
“No, no definitely not!” one of the Obama volunteers, the chosen gatekeeper for the event screeched, slamming the gate shut in front of me. Recognizing me as a student she glared, reading my mind, while a secret service agent stood at her side.
“If you are thinking about getting to him you’ll have to just give up. I’ve been volunteering for months and still haven’t met him,” she said.
Determined not to give up, I walked a few yards away from the gatekeeper’s view and slipped over a fence. I was surprised nobody had said anything to me at that point, but I kept moving in fear of being spotted.
Nearly behind the stands that seated the supporters behind Obama’s podium, I walked briskly toward the other side of the Oval — toward Obama’s bus. As I tried to pass a group of what I assumed was military police officers, judging from their brown police-like suits, I made eye contact with one.
Should I run, should I stop? After deciding that being Tasered wasn’t on my agenda for the day, I stopped and approached him. I knew the officer had seen me, and to pretend like I didn’t might have resulted in serious consequences.
Trying to look like I belonged there, I asked, “Do you think it would be alright if I tried to meet Barack Obama?” I immediately regretted how dumb that sounded.
“No. That wouldn’t be alright,” he said, slowly backing away from me with an expression that screamed ‘I want to break you in half.’ I realized I was probably the first unauthorized person he had seen back behind the stands all day.
I decided making it past the gatekeeper was enough of a success for the day, so I slowly turned and walked away from the officer as gently as I could before he could decide whether or not to put me in handcuffs.
As I walked away from the rally, anxious to tell anyone who would listen how close I came to Obama’s bus, I wasn’t disappointed with the outcome. Even though I wasn’t able to meet him, I was consoled by how rewarding covering the rally was, shoulder to shoulder with the professionals. And how even more memorable the experience will be if he is elected in eight days.
Kelley Bruce Robinson is a freshman journalism and technical communication major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Editorials Editor Sean Reed’s column will return next week.