“I feel like we’re at a rock concert,” Oiyan observed. Lisa and I nodded and looked ahead at the snaking line leading to a small lawn at Los Angeles Trade Tech College.
“Actually,” I noted, “it feels like we’re at an amusement park.”
I mean, who really goes to rock concerts at 8:30 in the morning?
But Oiyan was right, the town hall with Senator Obama was rather rock concert-ish.
For more photos and more on the town hall, click below.
Waiting: Like any good rock concert, you have to wait. We arrived around 8:45, picked up our tickets (really, just a 1/4 page flyer) at the “will call table” and got in a long line full of Latino and black youth (high school kids, college kids) and older adults too. Once we got in to the venue, a grassy quad, we waited more.
Pre-concert background music: Dated Latino pop hits like Shakira’s “Ciega Sordamuda”, Maná’s “Oye Mi Amor”, and Ricky Martin’s “María.” At least who ever put together the playlist ventured in to the 21st century of Latino pop and added Juanes’ “La Camisa Negra” and “A Dios le Pido.”
I noted to Oiyan and Lisa that the music was a tactical effort by the Obama campaign to show his ability to connect with Latino youth (well, Latinos who were young in the mid 1990s… ahem). My friend, Chispa, thinks that Obama would’ve been better off playing Morrissey. That’ll really get those young Latino voters.
Opening acts: Obama’s opening acts were several LA-area politicians and leaders including Congressman Xavier Becerra, Assemblywoman Gloria Romero, Senator Gil Cedillo, Supervisor Yvonne Burke, and Obama campaign national co-chair and LA County Federation of Labor executive secretary-treasurer María Elena Durazo. The opening acts hyped up the crowd and led us in chants of “¡sí se puede! yes we can.” Congressman Becerra also compared Obama to RFK, but that made the crowd rather somber.
Headliner setlist: Obama began by outlining his experience and plans. He address the supposed black/brown divide by discussing past experience as an organizer in Chicago. He worked with laid off steel workers who included lots of Latinos. (Duh, it’s Chicago, there’s lot of brown folks there.) Obama also discussed how health care and education problems disproportionately affect Latinos and African Americans. It’s clear that he really wanted to tie in how he could be a leader for Latinos and that he understood “our” issues.
Obama supports the DREAM Act and voiced his commitment to signing the DREAM Act in to law if elected. My only criticism was that Obama didn’t make it too clear that the DREAM Act was targeted toward undocumented youth.
After his short speech, members of the audience posed questions on things like ending the war in Iraq, improving the economy, health care, immigration reform, preventing homelessness, racial profiling, education (both K-12 and postsecondary), who he would pick as a running mate and how he would make appointments, and how kids feel about him becoming president.
In between outlining his platform, the crowd would break in to chants of “sí se puede! yes we can!”
Obama closed by addressing the “fundamental urgency of now” and the need for change.
“America should be designed for people like us…”
Post-concert background music: Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and some country song I didn’t recognize.
Backstage/groupies: Okay, so we didn’t get to go backstage, and we’re certainly not groupies. But there was something about Senator Obama that just had us smitten. We were seated right next to the pathway where Senator Obama made his entrance and exit. Oiyan and another friend from school, Greg, both got to shake his hand. I stood back just trying to get a few clear pictures. Oiyan also called out to Obama and urged him not to forget Asians. He answered, “how could I forget, I’m from Hawaii.” He also noted that he had a Chinese niece.
Interview: I talked to a KPCC reporter on the way out about being an undecided voter and now being decided. The reporter’s story didn’t include any quotes from people he talked to, but he did talk about the town hall, the atmosphere and Obama’s rockstar quality (KPCC story, scroll down to candidates in the southland).
Post-concert meal: The bacon wrapped hot dog vendors (I’ve never had one of these, by the way) dropped the ball. There was no one around selling fattening street food. We just headed back to campus and sated our thirst and hunger with Zankou Chicken and mango nectar. Yum.
It was a good morning.