President Barack Obama addressed — and delighted — a packed, purple house of Huskies at Hec Edmondson Pavilion today, part of a whistlestop-style tour to get out the Democratic vote, especially for Sen. Patty Murray, before the mid-term elections.
“I am thrilled to back in Seattle, thrilled to be back in the state of Washington!” Obama said as cheers rocked the hall. As he started his speech, someone called out, but the audience only heard his answer as he flashed a grin: “I love you back!” The crowd roared again.
After saying the country had avoided a second Great Depression, Obama heard another voice from the crowd. When he said, “Yes we still have a long way to go. Families are hanging on by a thread,” a woman called out in reply, “We’re here!”
Obama’s was the last in a series of feisty political speeches given by Democrats in the nearly two-hour rally. Other speakers were King County Executive Dow Constantine, U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee and Norm Dicks, congressional candidate Suzan DelBene and Gov. Christine Gregoire, who in turn established their Husky credentials as they spoke.
Murray and the president took the stage together. He stood aside, white shirt sleeves rolled up, smiling and occasionally applauding as she spoke. Then Murray introduced him to a wild ovation.
Before them all, UW Student Madeleine McKenna helped warm up the crowd, saying, “I can’t think of a better venue for welcoming the president to our state than the University of Washington.” She wound up her brief, energetic remarks saying, “We need you to vote because we matter — young people matter.”
Traffic slowed and lines started forming even early this morning for the 11 a.m. event, which was paid for by the Murray campaign. The capacity crowd of 10,000 — another 3,000 watched on closed-circuit TV at Husky Stadium — was mostly younger, but many senior citizens were evident, too, as well as parents who brought their young children to see the president speak.
Among these was Joel Tieder, a pediatrician with Children’s Hospital, who hoisted his 7-year-old son, Tiago, on his shoulders to get a better view. “It’s not every day we get the president in our back yard,” Tieder said — or a chance to miss school, his son added. “For me personally, we definitely support health care coverage for children. … I want to support that because …” he thought a moment — “because this may be the only opportunity we’ll have in a while to approve health care coverage for children.”
The audience was, of course, mostly Democrats. One woman wore a button that said, “Friends don’t let friends vote Republican.” An older man said, “And friends don’t let their friends’ sons go to war, either — especially wars that can’t be fought.”
Before the speeches began, the hall had a rock concert feeling. Confident themes were featured in the pre-show playlist that came over the speakers: Steve Wonder’s Higher Ground, Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, Springsteen’s No Retreat, No Surrender and Aretha Franklin singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Opening the whole event, clad in red t-shirts, were members of Seattle’s Total Experience Gospel Choir, who sang God Bless America and swayed winningly through Lean on Me and Amazing Grace before ending with The Star-Spangled Banner.
So, in today’s enthusiastic and well-received appearance, President Obama was preaching to the choir in more ways than one.