The first lady came to the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) to speak last night. Because I work on the campaign and I was doing a good deed, they gave me two VIP tickets to the event. This is a story of unforeseen consequences. More below the fold.
When I was phone banking back in May, trolling for volunteers, I spoke to a seventy-two year old woman who desperately wanted to volunteer, but she had bladder cancer and was in the middle of chemotherapy. She was too tired and sick to make the effort, but she was sooo disappointed! I suggested that I call her when her chemo was done and she was thrilled. Now, organization at the field office was not so great at this time and I knew she would be called every week if I didn't manage it myself. So I told the team leader I was taking her off the list and would keep her number on my phone (I had her permission too). At that time (I'll call her Beth) Beth asked if I would call her if either the president or first lady came into the Lehigh Valley. She was so excited about the thought of seeing either one, but actually preferred that it be the first lady who she idolizes.
So, this visit from the first lady fell exactly at the right time to call her. I can't even describe Beth's excitement. She almost cried. And then she did cry; it seems that within the last four weeks, she had gone blind. And her bladder cancer wasn't eradicated. I had a moment of panic. Could I take care of her and keep her safe at this kind of event? Right in the same area of Bethlehem a huge annual event was taking place - Musicfest. They would be selling parking as far as three miles away. What would I do with her while I parked and walked back? The team leader said she could send a volunteer to stay with beth while I parked. So we were on!
Parking turned out to be easy thanks to Moravian College who opened up their parking lots for the event. We arrived at 4:00, as did hundreds of others for an event that was to start at 7:00 and I'm glad we did. We had been given VIP tickets in the handicapped section so we had the advantage of being close and the disadvantage of being off to the side. You could feel the energy emanating from the crowd for the full three hours. I can vouch for the fact that no one was bussed in! I haven't looked at a paper, but I estimate about 2,500 people in Moravian's auditorium.
We had a couple of speakers, the most beautiful rendition of the Star-spangled Banner I've ever heard, and then the first lady came on. The crowd went wild and Beth almost fainted. The first lady spoke for about 45 minutes and then made the rounds shaking hands along the barrier. I had only two goals for this night - keep Beth safe and get an autograph for her. Michelle started at our end of the barrier, but it was clear she wasn't giving autographs. I leaped out front to beg her for Beth's sake. Beth also made it to the front and told her story. Michelle was so sincerely sympathetic and she said, "You need a hug" and she proceeded to hug and kiss Beth, who will probably never get over it. I hope she doesn't.
Here are a few pictures. I apologize - we were so to the side and once Michele started her rounds, it went so quickly and I was more focused on getting Beth an autograph than on pics when she was close:
What a wonderful night and what a wonderful outcome from a phone bank call!
UPDATE: I forgot the autograph part! Beth had picture of the first family that had been sent to her in response to a donation. It was this picture that she wanted signed. After the hug and kiss, Michelle sent the pic backstage, signed it when she was done shaking hands, and made sure that it got back to Beth. So Beth has a signed photo, a ticket stub, and a hug and a kiss from the first lady.
UPDATE 2: Someone rightfully pointed out that I've said nothing about the First Lady's speech. To be perfectly honest, I was way too keyed up to pay as much attention as I should have. The crux is the idea of "one". Talk to one friend, one family member, one stranger, one colleague and the word will get around. Talk about what? The accomplishments of this administration: Osama, health care, lowered taxes, pell grants, student loan interest rates, 1.1 million auto worker's jobs, continued private sector job growth. Applause points? Almost every sentence, but especially as the accomplishments were itemized. Applause and agreement at the idea of just "one"! Talk to one person, make one phone call, put up one sign, etc. This is the focus of the field office as well.