This convention has been one of mixed emotions. Everyone seems to have taken in the historical significance of this next week. There are the most elevating moments of optimism and daunting displays of cynicism.
Such contradictions are intrinsic to a character like Barack Obama. As Senator Ted Kennedy walked onto the stage last night to a standing ovation and wave of blue “Kennedy” signs, I can’t describe the buzz in that arena fairly. To me, it represented the final link from Kennedy to Obama, over 40 years in the making.
“We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama,” the 76-year old senator declared to the Pepsi Center crowd, exultantly chanting “KEN-NE-DY.” “Yes we can, and finally, yes we will.”
It was easily the most emotionally charged moment of the night. A Kennedy, recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, who has carried his brothers’ legacy for over four decades, at last able to pass on the burden of carrying the message of hope.
“And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans,” he said, “and so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”
After Kennedy, from our nosebleed seats, Gus and I discussed whether Kennedy had stolen the show. I can speak to the excitement in that room as something similar to being live at a professional sporting event. You’re involved, and when a star like Kennedy takes the stage, you’re enveloped by the excitement. It instills passions and feelings in you that can’t be replicated in any other setting.
This sense has spread throughout Denver. Late last night, Gus and I decided to wander the 16th Street Mall with my video camera to try and capture some of the late-night buzz. We spoke to bums and delegates, and across the board, these people had been taken in by this sensation of optimism and hope.
But with the Kennedys’ heritage of hope also comes their legacy of tragedy. Two kids ran past Gus and me last night, and in a passing moment Gus asked them what they thought of Obama. They kept running, calling back, “I hate him. And you know why? He’s just gonna get sniped in two years anyway, idiot.”
It’s the tragic opposite of hope, and it’s very real. Last night, after coming back from the convention, Gus, Anne and I were sitting out on our balcony overlooking the corner of 16th and Blake. Flashing police lights and a barking dog had been carrying on without our noticing. After a while our neighbor came out to join us.
“It’s a bomb threat,” he said pointing down to the street. Three or four police cars had marked off a perimeter, with a huge Boulder County Bomb Squad truck on the side of the street. The dog was searching for explosives.
Anne and I went down to the street to snap some photos. Eventually the scene cleared, and the police cars pulled away. Meanwhile, my dad was relaying an article on cbs4denver.com to Gus about a foiled attempt by four men to snipe Obama during his speech Thursday at Invesco. For whatever reason the story hasn’t blown up yet.
Most people here are too excited by the spirit of hope to worry too much about any impending danger. Or maybe they’re just all too aware of the danger that lingers in every second of this campaign. Maybe it’s just too much to worry about one foiled attempt to destroy the hope they’ve waited so long to feel again.