CHARLOTTE, N.C. — IU history professor Michael Grossberg had a ticket and a plan. He was going to drive to North Carolina to watch President Barack Obama’s speech.
The Democratic National Convention didn’t have room for him.
“It’s a disappointment, but it’s not an earth-shattering thing,” Grossberg said.
The president was scheduled to speak at Bank of America Stadium, which could house about 74,000 attendees. It was announced Tuesday the president would instead speak in Time Warner Cable Arena, which could squeeze in only 20,000. This number was quickly filled once delegates, volunteers and press were accounted for.
Grossberg is both an Obama supporter and director of the Political and Civic Engagement Program at IU. Though he has never attended one, he studies the importance of events like political conventions.
He said he was curious to see what they were like in person. He couldn’t satisfy that curiosity this year.
“I think they’re very important gatherings even though they’re no longer a place where the candidate is chosen, since that’s done in the primaries,” Grossberg said.
The official reason for the venue change, given by Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the convention’s organizing committee, was a forecast of thunderstorms.
Skeptics were more cynical about the move, saying the committee had trouble trying to fill the stadium. In 2008, Obama’s convention speech in Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High was packed with 84,000 attendees.
Grossberg said the more muted energy may be in part because this campaign is less historic than in 2008, when Obama campaigned to become the first African-American president.
Whether enthusiasm for the campaign was the true reason for the change of venue, the excitement was palpable in the smaller setting.
The crowd had already been galvanized by guests, such as Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and actresses Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johannson. They’d held signs that thanked the troops, praised the vice president and fired them up.
By the time the president took the stage, the crowd, many of whom had arrived hours earlier for a good seat, was ecstatic.
It wasn’t signs printed with a name on cardboard that the quiet, quick volunteers in yellow vests handed out for Obama’s speech. It was American flags.
His wife introduced him as the love of her life, a father and the president.
“Thank you,” he said several times after the crowd quieted. They didn’t stay that way long.
“Four more years!”
He declared his love for his wife, informed his daughters they’d go to school the next day and accepted the Democrats’ nomination.
He talked about his start addressing the convention as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2004. He joked about the long road that brought him here.
“If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I,” Obama said.
Obama discussed the different visions of the future kept by Republicans and Democrats, and he told the story of his grandparents to send home the message that everyone should have a chance when they play by the rules.
“I ran for president because I saw that basic bargain slipping away,” he said.
He said the Republicans have so far analyzed all that’s wrong with America. They just haven’t said how they’d make it right.
The rest of his speech mirrored the entire convention, outlining his successes in national security, health care, manufacturing, education and tax cuts.
“You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” Obama said. “You elected me to tell the truth.”
He asked Americans to choose his vision for the future.
As he listed his past success and insisted he needed four more years to accomplish even more, he said the same thing after every assertion and plea.
“You can choose that future,” he said.
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