Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will appear in next week’s issue.
What was supposed to be a full car has dwindled down to the two of us; the empty seats symbolizing Quinnipiac’s political numbness. Alone, we are en route to New Hampshire to see Barack Obama speak at Keene State College.
No prior obligations, class or job would stop us from going to see the man who many of our peers mistake for a band, although in our minds he is a rock star.
Interstate 91 becomes our own Autobahn as the Jetta hits 100 mph. Through Western Massachusetts the towns all seem to end in “field” – Northfield, Deerfield, Cowfield – and we search the AM dial for the opening day game as our Red Sox play on another field at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Fueled by cigarettes, Led Zeppelin and good political banter, we are two news junkies driving up to our own Woodstock with Obama as our Hendrix. This is our first foray in the political machine that is American Politics and we hope this fresh face will change the landscape of our democracy.
As we take our place in the line that snakes through the heart of Keene’s campus, we quickly realize we are no longer big fish in a little pond. Instead we are surrounded by both seasoned veterans of the political process and scores of young enthusiastic faces. Doors open at 6 p.m. and we joke that if this was Quinnipiac, students would not stumble in until 7 p.m., if at all.
We’ve waited in long lines before but no line has been as foreign as this. Minute by minute, staffers walk by with stickers, neon green forms for those who want to join the mailing list and collecting books to be signed by the rock star himself.
After a 30-minute wait, we take our seats in the gymnasium bleachers, as guests of the KSC Owls. The buzz inside the gym is unlike anything we had imagined a political event to be. Fatboy Slim blares through the enormous speakers as a DJ spins records in the corner.
It is impossible to avoid the excitement that fills the air. It is palpable. Keene State is excited enough to send in their cheerleaders to pump up the already spirited crowd. In full uniform they chant “We are Keene State,” in case anyone forgot where they were.
As if our anticipation wasn’t already at its peak, a sudden movement or clap would send a ripple of turning heads in a certain direction even though Obama was no where in sight. This repetition of false hopes went for an hour and suddenly, like a closer coming out of the bullpen, Barack emerges to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
Towering over the crowd he shakes hands weaving his way to the stage more fit for a stand-up comedian than a politician. We look at each other and as our eyes meet we seem to say “Here we go!” and our pens are eager to fill the blank pages in our spiral notebooks.