Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 3,000 this evening in a town hall meeting at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, IN. The visit was announced Tuesday and the campaign distributed tickets yesterday in downtown Lafayette and at the Village Coffee House on the Purdue University campus. Voters lined up for hours at both locations and the free tickets were gone in minutes.
After a year of blogging on behalf of Obama, this was the first time I'd been able to see him in person. I was worried at first, considering my teaching obligations at Purdue kept me from lining up for tickets, but thankfully, the Obama staff in Lafayette were kind enough to set aside a pair of tickets for this friendly blogger.
Hundreds lined up early this evening, waiting in the rain for law enforcement to prepare the gym for the crowd. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air, of history in the making. As we waited for Obama to take the stage, children were at play in the balcony above the court, and I couldn't help but feel thankful that their parents wanted them to be witness to this historic campaign.
Obama began with a 30 minute address concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the state of the economy, free trade, education, and other issues, drawing, at my count, twelve standing ovations. He then opened the floor to the crowd, fielding questions about education, health care, and the environment.
At one point, Obama took a question from a 9-year-old girl who asked if he would put an end to all the state testing she had to do in school. Obama agreed with the child that the U.S. education system could use an overhaul, much to the satisfaction of the youngster.
I'll post video as soon as it becomes available. Suffice it to say that the room was full of ordinary Americans who have endured seven years of tough times, and yet all looked forward with hope to the possibilities of the Obama administration.