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Nearly 11,000 people crammed themselves into an arena built for 10,000, and 3,000 more sat in Husky Stadium nearby to watch the jumbotron as a who's who of state Democrats warmed up the crowd for the arrival of Patty Murray and Barack Obama this morning.

I was early and am with the press, so I got a plum seat at the front of the press area and watched with amusement as a sea of red Patty Murray signs made a ruffle that swept around and around the arena, accompanied by a roar.

The mostly student crowd was there for more than than the novelty of it all, it soon became clear, because they knew who Jay Inslee was, and roared like a volcano when he took the podium.

They also roared madly when Dave Reichert's opponent, Suzan Delbene, spoke.

More and more press arrived as the event went on, and soon I was surrounded by bloggers and radio personalities, people with Reuters tags next to ponytailed guys hunched over laptops feeding live content to local papers.

Norm Dicks was followed by Christine Gregoire as the CNN guys showed up, and Gregoire delivered her pugnacious, take-no-prisoners style speech, at once funny and ready to brawl.

The wave began circling the arena again and the music came up.

Then the first people saw the president enter the room with Patty Murray and they set up a holler. They got everyone else going and then there they were, tiny Patty Murray who I have interviewed several times, and so was unsurprised by her small stature, and Barack Obama.

Not 60 feet away. That famous face, that repository of so many of our dreams for our country, that chosen and questioned champion of our values, that controversial figure, that lightning rod of the left, that hate sink of the right, the author, the senator, the president.

So thin. In person, he looks like an academic, hunched slightly forward like a thoughtful professor, nearly ascetic but for the quick and brilliant grin.

I've heard the speech before. "I love you back!" and "Put it in "D" for drive," etc. I have long and long regretted that the Obama I have so loved for his nuanced and eloquent, even profound observations has been forced to reduce himself to such inanities.

"I love you back!" he called to the audience.

No Boeing engine ever built in this city has exceeded the volume of the crowd that moment. It was almost frightening, the power of that sound, like a physical force that could take on its own life.

And he gave his speech.

We all acknowledge that Barack Obama gives an incredible speech.  

But there are those among us who will say that the speeches are empty, that they are better than the man himself. Watching, listening, from close enough to ignore the Jumbotron and focus on his (gaunt) face, I had an opportunity to compare his with all the speakers that went before him and identify a thing that does set him apart and make him remarkable.

The reason Barack Obama gives great speeches is precisely because they are not empty. They eloquent, which give power to them, but only because they are in essence true, and honest. And we sense that, and always have.

He is funny as hell, and even those of us who've heard that damn "put it in 'D'" speech lots were laughing openly and loudly as he put it over. He was very good at that bit, and pulled it off without seeming stale or cheesy as do, unfortunately, too many of his excellent but less inspiring peers.

But when he talked about his vision for America, for clean energy, for access to education, for jobs, I reflected that he is a great speaker because he passionately believes in his vision, and that his audience does as well.

That is why the Boeing-volume shriek, the steady calls of love and support that served to mostly obscure a few concern-hecklers.

The crowd in those minutes remembered who they were, as Democrats, what it is that is good and fine about us, about civil rights and the environment, about our legacy in the world and what part of human trajectory we impel, the part that carries us away from an age of hate and fear and moves us toward something bright and innocent, the belief that we can work as a species, not fight as factions, that the apocalypse is not a given, that we can get to a clean planet, a peaceful planet, an appreciative planet, in which we respect each other and solve problems as one.

Then the hugs, the wave, the inhuman howl of applause and the slow, hand-clasping exit.

The only way to tell where he and Patty were was by triangulating on the phones and cameras held aloft. Soon, the phones and cameras were triangulating on a spot very near me, but I still couldn't see the candidate or her remarkable companion. The phones began to point to the concrete tunnel out of the arena, and it seemed I would not glimpse them. Then the slim brown arm with the watch on it reached up not eight feet away, and touched the hands reaching down, strained to reach another, and then was swept away.

There might be an enthusiasm gap. But not today. Not in Seattle. Not at this desk.

I will phone bank tomorrow night for Patty Murray. I will vote tonight. I will get my boyfriend's ballot and put it in the mail with mine, and poke a stick at my roommate until he votes, too.

I still believe.

Originally posted to SeattleProgressive on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:14 PM PDT.

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