Archive for February 8th, 2008

“SWEPT AWAY ON A WAVE OF OBAMA” FROM COURANT.COM (HARTFORD,CONNECTICUT)

February 8, 2008

from courant.com

February 7, 2008
Away On A Wave Of Obama
Rick Green
February 5, 2008
Whatever happens today, whomever you vote for, know this: Something rare happened in Hartford yesterday.

The “unlikely journey” of Barack Obama swirled into the city, and for a few transcendent hours, I was somewhere else, more perfect.

“It is not like ever before,” Obama told me and 17,000 others stuffed into the XL Center Monday evening. “The last thing we need is the same old folks doing the same old things.”

This was loud, hopeful, adoring and proudly multi-racial. Downtown Hartford on a Monday night has never, ever looked like this, even when the Whalers were in town.

I know this because I met Janice Shearer, a retired 66-year-old white high school teacher from Stratford who has never voted for a Democrat for president in her life. I know because Carlos Moreno, a lineman for the electric company, stood in line for hours at the XL Center holding a dog-eared copy of Obama’s last book. And I know it because Chris Dietl, a 20-year-old man of mixed-race background, told me this:

“You understand when he is speaking to you.”

I’m late to the Obama show, still not quite convinced by this positive message of “the politics of hope” and a resume thin on experience. But the political tornado that swept into the old Civic Center knocked me over. It was like nothing downtown Hartford has seen in a generation.

Obama, for certain, needs Connecticut today. But something about this rowdy crowd that packed the house told me we may be aching for this message of change, longing to believe in something greater than another divisive Clinton or another Republican whose message of inspiration is nothing more than “no surrender.”

This rock-star politician, who looks like a banker and speaks like a preacher, came to Hartford and told them what they wanted to hear — about health care, the cost of college and ending the war in Iraq. He was young, vibrant and surrounded by Kennedy royalty. Who wouldn’t be swept away?

Laugh, but there will come a day when folks say to you, “I saw Obama in Hartford on that snowy evening back in 2008, when he told us, ‘America is back.'”

The crowd was everything: black, white, Asian and Hispanic. There were head scarves, white hairs and blue hairs. I saw babies, little boys and teenagers. Call me pathetic or these folks misguided, but I heard the same thing again and again among the dozens I spoke to Monday in a freezing line that snaked though downtown Hartford.

“This is something I have to witness,” said 23-year-old Andre Rochester of Hartford, a black man who wore a Marvin Gaye T-shirt. “Barack is going to bring change.”

Further down the line I spoke with Gunnar Heinrich, in sport coat, white shirt and knotted tie. “He has a message that seems moderate and temperate and I respect that.”

Behind him, Arshe Ahmed, an optometrist wearing a head scarf, stood with Sohaib Sultan, Trinity’s Muslim chaplain.

“There’s something in the air,” she said, in the understatement of the evening.

Outside, on the sidewalk along Asylum Street, I ran into a couple of young businessmen, one white, one Asian, who own a software company in Manchester.

“You grow up all your life having idealism”only to be disappointed, Anoop Frank explained. “And then you hear somebody saying the things that you want to hear.”

Not far away, Steve Rosenberg, a lawyer from Hamden, took the day off to come with his wife, Sara, and their two young children.

“I just couldn’t not be here,” said Sara Rosenberg.

At stop after stop, Obama announces that “something is happening in America. We are not as divided as our politics suggest.”

What if he’s right? Something really could be happening.

Rick Green’s column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at rgreen@courant.com


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