Barack Obama: Iowa City Earth Day 4/22/07
12:21 on one of two press platforms. Had to choose between visibility and electricity – the print platform was closer but no juice, the TV platform had plugins but I’m behind cameras). Outdoor events are a little problematic for a laptop, as the sun is bright and I have glare issues (organizers were worrying about rain but that looks to be later.
Just to give you the layout I’m facing west toward the Old Capitol, on the west (river) sid. I think I’ll be able to see between a couple cameras – as usual with Obama, there’s big TV interest - but I may have a stiff neck by the end. Obama will be facing south to speak. So it’s not on the downtown side of the Pentacrest as is typical.
The obligatory music review: it’s all U2 today but not just the obligatory “Beautiful Day.” Sounds like the “18” singles compilation since we’re hearing greatest hits.
The organizers I chitchatted with expected roughly 6000. Crowd looks really young, very, very student. Feels more like October of election year than April of the year before.
12:42 – a couple reports from the private meeting: “hot” (temperature, not rhetoric); Obama reports 3000 trees planted this morning. Former John Kerry body guy Marvin Nicholson spotted in Obama’s employ.
Some electeds sighted: state senator Bolkcom, county attorney Lyness, supervisor Sullivan (who’s endorsed). Probably many more who didn’t cross my path on that particular stroll. I detect the shining dome of state rep Dave Jacoby (I should talk as my hair is thin too)… Wind picking up a bit, music has switched with a little Peter Gabriel in the mix. TV platform filling up even more but I still have a line of sight. Dick Myers (for non-Iowans, former Iowa House leader and major major political player – Obama supporter) sighted, chatting with The Underrated One, AP's Mike Glover. The VIP’s on the speaker’s platform are 90% students; the campus/Earth Day combo is no accident. Lawn filling up but not mosh-pit packed. Applause for the staffers who toss out free t-shirts. Some non-standard, green and white Obama Earth Day shirts spotted.
The music goes old school with the Stones and “Satisfaction,” released when Obama was about 5 but still timeless. Not sure what the political message is but it still rocks and it’s nice that they play something without parsing every lyric.
12:55 Ross Wilburn (Iowa City mayor) and Sue Dvorsky (key local activist, married to state senator). Wilburn call us “#1 county in #1 state.” Wilburn's intro enviro-focused. But “wrong war wrong place wrong time” gets biggest applause.
Sue Dvorsky is announced as Johnson County co-chair with Wilburn. This is new, and Johnson County politicos will know this is big. Doesn’t necessarily mean Senator Bob is part of the deal, but Sue is major activist in her own right. Points to large crowd and says it’s a sign they system is “broken.”
1:01 Obama announced. Entering through crowd – there was a great shot of him running toward the crowd that I can’t quite describe, maybe I’ll link it later. Wonder how long it’ll take to work his way to stage; Music is back to U2. Hard to track him but just follow the scrum.
1:05 and he made it through right on cue. The typical attire of Tieless Full Obama. Brief sound trouble solved fast.
Some thanks – Students for Obama “give it up for them!’ Wilburn/S. Dvorsky, 500 volunteers from tree planting, and he made the Hamburg Inn pilgrimage. Not as many local electeds intro-ed as is usual for this sort of thing
“About as big a crowd as we’ve seen” - he says 20,000 in Atlanta (we aren’t at that – the 6000 estimate sounds good). Jokes about kids and “Daddy’s president thing.”
Why now, why us? The country is calling us. I did not plan to go into politics (Chicago gets applause-UIowa is chock full of students from Chicagoland). Cubs get bigger cheer than Sox.
Some standard biographical intro – this is my fourth time seeing Obama and thus I’m recognizing stuff Discusses move into electoral politics – all of us sometimes feel discouraged and cynical. “Feels like a business not a mission.) (Applause) We don’t have confidence it will make a difference. But there has always been a tradition that says we are all connected, based on ties that bind us together as Americans. The idea that we are our brother’s keeper has built America.
1:19 So far this is seeming like the standard Obama speech without an Earth Day twist – but still, new to this crowd. Voice is echoing off the surrounding buildings, in a striking sort of way….
Time for us to turn the page on the politics that have been, we need something new. For the last 6 years we’ve been divided not brought together. Litany of anti-Bush. That’s not meeting the challenges we face. We need not just to win an election but also to transform the country. A few sentences on each of these:
· Health care broken and bankrupting us.
· Education is leaving kids behind despite the name
· Energy policy is just the absence of policy and is funding both sides of war – and he mentions global warming, first environmental reference. But brief, now moving to economy.
Most of all, war should have never been authorized (big applause)
Speaks of meeting parents of troops. And they ask for the war to end. Loud sirens cutting across speech (later seen: someone passed out – it was warm and folks stood quite a while - and local ambulance saved the day).
Need to match strength of military with strength of diplomacy. Talking longer on war than on other bullet points.
What is stopping us from change? It goes beyond Bush. We have not been involved in the process as much. Makes an exception for Iowa City and Loebsack (local congressman and major upset winner) gets the love.
Cynicism has led us to step back, and special interests step into the void. But I’m excited by new mood across country. Volunteerism, and calls for change. We can solve our problems. Not a lack of plans – problem a lack of will and urgency,
Now on to the Earth Day chunk: Global warming not open for debate. It’s not irreversible – we know what we need to do. Low-carbon fuel standard like California would lower emissions 10% by 2020. We could increase fuel efficiency – 43 MPG would mean 0 oil imports from mid east. Just those two things could reduce greenhouse gases = to getting 90 million cars off road. Cap power plants and reduce emissions 80% by 2050. We can do these things now.
And what’s true for energy is true for all issues. Pledges universal health care by end of first term. We spend 50% more on health care than anyone else yet 43 million uninsured. We can address that now.
More bullet points again: Early childhood ed, teacher salaries. Quad Cities Channel 8 doing standup while speech continues. Looks like about 6 TV crews here, all local/regional unlike February Cedar Rapids event on announcement day when national press followed him to Iowa.
Hard to get things done while there’s this enormous distraction of Iraq. I opposed from beginning. Wants all troops out by 3/31/08. We must pressure on this Congress for veto override. Time to bring them home.
One last thing we can do on behalf of troops: no more Walter Reeds. Sacred obligation whether for or against war.
At their core American people are decent. Distracted sometimes… but when we pay attention our best instincts come out. Nothing we can’t accomplish. Turn the page on politics of division and create an America where everyone has a place.
Speaks of Edmund Pettis bridge to a crowd too young to remember: MLK – “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” We each need to help bend that arc.
More TV standups and departures.
At each and every juncture of American history, change has been from the bottom up. Because of ordinary people coming together. Going through the fast forward American history again – (fourth time with this speech for me
Once more it is time for ordinary citizens to ruse up. Applause more frequent now and at 1:45 he wraps. We leave the stage to Jackie Wilson “Higher and Higher”
So bottom line: a good and well received Standard Obama Speech which just happened to be Earth Day in Iowa City. I get clobbered by a TV tripod blown over in the rising wind but no lasting damage to me or more importantly laptop. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” and “Shout” play. Five minutes out half the crowd is gone, the other half gravitating toward the handshake scrum.
UPDATE: I may be seriously underestimating the turnout: other sources saying 10-12,000.