From UVA students to senior citizens, from volunteers to the guys selling Obama rocks—local stones with “Obama rocks” etched into them—nobody seemed to mind waiting around for the President yesterday. President Barack Obama made a stop in Charlottesville, and supporters from all over the region began lining up on the Downtown Mall hours before the rally. The gates opened at 1pm, and inside the Pavilion, the air of excitement was palpable.
Ralliers waited patiently, chatting with one another and reporters about what they expected to hear from the President. Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine received a warm welcome from the audience, despite the building anticipation for Obama’s arrival. With a short speech emphasizing the “doom and gloom and negativity” of the GOP, Kaine got the crowd revved up for Obama’s brand of optimism.
And optimistic he was. An estimated 7,500 people greeted President Obama with deafening screams and cheers when he walked onto stage, sleeves rolled up, smiling and waving to his supporters. Upon reaching the podium, Obama turned and acknowledged the hundreds of orange and blue clad students on the risers behind him, and said into the microphone, “I still don’t know what a Wahoo is!”
The President’s smile and charisma seemed infectious, as thousands of adoring fans hung on his every word. Some in attendance were, evidently, less impressed, as a small group began yelling overtop of him early into his speech. The rest of the crowd quickly drowned out the apparent protestors by chanting “Obama! Obama! Obama!” Though he couldn’t hear what the group was yelling, Obama laughed and said he was glad to see young people getting involved.
“But don’t just chant,” he said. “Vote!”
Eighteen-year-old high school graduate Tessa Diehl said she was impressed with Obama’s positivity and poise throughout the entire speech.
“I tend to get really discouraged by negative politics,” she said after the rally. What spoke to her the most, she said, was when Obama discouraged any booing from his supporters at the mention of the Republican National Convention.
The President did not likely surprise anyone with his speech—he hit the hot-ticket items: health care, women’s rights, immigration, veterans’ rights, the economy, and affordable education. But even though the event’s focus was on students and young voters, the diverse crowd of families, students, and senior citizens seemed to react the most strongly to two topics: women’s rights and the treatment of veterans returning home.
At the end of his speech, Obama immediately turned to the Wahoos behind him and walked up and down the front of the bleachers, shaking hands with anyone who was lucky enough to sit up front or bold enough to shove their way through. He then stepped off the stage into the crowd, which welcomed him with open arms, full of fans who had waited in line for hours just for a shot at seeing the President up close and personal.
Once Obama finally left, his supporters filed out of the Pavilion, grinning and chattering with an air of anticipation and hope for this fall, as Brooks and Dunn’s “Only in America” rang out over the speakers.
As if his speech weren’t enough, President Obama made his way to the campaign office on the Downtown Mall for an unscheduled stop to meet with local volunteers after the rally. Hundreds gathered at the intersection of East Main and Fourth Streets, many standing on tables and chairs, even climbing lampposts, to catch one last glimpse of the nation’s leader. The President had a brief exchange with Sissy Spacek, exchanging compliments, and with members of Gallatin Canyon, the bluegrass band that opened for him, outside of Positively 4th Street restaurant.
The day ended on a high note when Obama emerged from the office and, smiling ear to ear, waved goodbye to Charlottesville and climbed into one of the tinted federal vehicles to take him home.
Click here for photos from the event!