Stowaway on the the Obama for America Campaign

As a native Chicagoan, I was delighted when Barack Obama declared his intent to run for president. I’d actually emailed his campaign and offered to assist in any way I could. To my surprise, I got an email last week asking if I’d be available to help his media team shoot video at the Atlanta rally. Of course!!!!

Jen (my wife) has been working in D.C. and was coming into town, and she was also excited to help out. We signed her up as a photographer. Likewise, we enlisted the help of my talented friend and pro-photographer, Andrew Kornylak.

Jen and Andrew worked the crowd to get the sort of grassroots photo journalism shots of people that most main stream photographers overlook. My task was to interview the crowd and document the qualities they expect in the next president of the United States.

One big perk we received were the press-passes that gave us access to the entire venue. Most of us stayed right in front of the stage, until the police evicted us. No matter, it was exhilarating while it lasted.

Jen and Andrew got some great shots. One of Jen’s was actually chosen for the homepage on!

Barack Obama Atlanta Rally
(photo by Jennifer Wills)

Photo by Andrew Kornylak
(Photo by Andrew Kornylak)

Photo by Jennifer Wills
(photo by Jennifer Wills)

Barack Obama takes the stage
(Photo by Jennifer Wills)

The Senator was stirring, inspiring, humorous at times, and always engaging. I really appreciated not only his vision, but his frankness. He’s ready, willing, and able to lead. Above all, he may not have all the answers (does anyone?); his commitment isn’t to posturing, but rather to doing what is right — no matter the difficulty. Justice in all things.

I must have interviewed at least 50 people at the rally. There really was a diverse group from all backgrounds and walks of life. I talked to business people, grandparents, students, teachers, public servants, you name it. One gentleman in the front row hadn’t voted Democrat in 32 years but was ready for change. I spoke with a marine veteran, concerned about his friends in Iraq. I spoke with a mother who told me her gray hair was a result of worrying about her son in Iraq. I spoke with recent immigrants and families who showed me their daughters and said “this is the future.” Several people compared the Senator to JFK. A few more compared him to FDR. Barack was charming as always. He started off telling a few personal anecdotes and how when he thought about declaring his intent to first run for office (State Senator in IL), he did what most first timers do and he consulted two higher powers: he prayed to God, and he spoke with his wife. Barack spoke a lot about change over the course of history and how the American people needed to take their gov’t back. I won’t give away too many spoilers, you need to see the footage.

I should mention that quite a few people in the crowd likened him to JFK. Some had no idea what he stood for, but had a gut feeling he was different. Many talked about his commitment to the long-term vs. the here and now.

What’s really been missing from politics is leadership; the two are definitely not the same. A good leader gives leadership to the masses and also receives it from them. I saw a lot of that yesterday, the idea that our leaders guide and inspire us, but also respond to our needs and our desires. We lead them from the ground up and tell them what is important to us. The good leaders take these movements and drive them. The term “grassroots” is typically a perjorative, when really all successful movements are grassroots. Unless you live in a fascist country, most national policy originates as a citizens’ movement before being co-opted by a national party.

I digress. I was refreshed today. It’s still too early in the primaries to know how things will play out. Obama is still refining his stump speech, and all the candidates know it’s a long road ahead. Certainly, Atlanta is a city sympathetic to him. He may have taken some liberties and used this rally as an experiment here to see how some of his positions would play out in the tougher and bigger markets.

Check the blog and TV postings to see updated video. Here’s an amateur cam of the event, I’m sure more is on the way.

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