I yield the floor to sagereader of Think On These Things, who was there in South Carolina this weekend.

Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey In South Carolina: Random Thoughts and News Clippings


The state troopers were seriously out on the highway the morning of the rally. Is there usually a SC state trooper every mile going into Columbia early on Sunday morning?

“God has smiled on me…” is what I was thinking but “This is the day that the Lord has made” was the phrase that came to Obama’s mind as he started his speech. It was December 9, at least 70 degrees, and the sun was beaming down on people as they tried to find shade while waiting in line. It felt like it was July. Simply coincidence? The Clean Coal people had enthusiastic hands grabbing for their fliers as people waited in line, but that was more a matter of people needing a piece of paper to keep the sun out of their eyes than anything else.

Ummm…Why was there someone walking around the line with a Ron Paul sign? I’m not inclined to think that Obama’s support will easily go to Ron Paul.

The media are also out in full effect with their satellite trucks facing the beaming sun. One perky reporter goes around interviewing people about whether they are there more for Oprah or for Obama. I’m annoyed that the reporters already have their framing of the event before it even begins and that they can’t ask a more important question than that.

The line wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and we stood and stood and stood. Some people had the right idea and stopped at Bojangles to eat while they waited. Every few meters, we are asked by volunteers if we have signed our supporter card and have it checked. We must have it signed and ready to turn in when we enter. Another person comes by, “Anyone need to register to vote? It’s very easy. If you’re not going to be in town that day you can do absentee.” Two smiling younger kids come by, “Anyone want to donate their canned goods for hope?” I feel ashamed that I forgot to bring my cans.

Yep. Folk probably didn’t go to church today. We actually see some church buses there at the stadium, so maybe they had church there. This is an historic event…who could miss it?

As we finally walk into the stadium, campaign volunteers are handing out another sheet of paper with some golf pencils. Everyone grabs for one, not knowing what it’s about. I think most people were probably thinking it was for a raffle or giveaway. Hey, when Oprah’s involved you never know what bountiful gifts you might be eligible to receive.

A rock band plays as we enter…Pretty good. Not sure if they’re locals or not. They try to get people excited but I think most people are just glad to sit down. We’re conserving our energy for Obama and Oprah.

Two high school marching bands are there (HBCU style)…Very cute. I’m thankful that their dance moves were not as “provocative”as my high school marching band’s moves were. We were down on the ground. Lord have mercy. No wonder they got us a new tamer band director…we had no business doing that stuff at that age. But I digress. These kids were good and they danced their age.

Arrested Development

Arrested Development is up next. I forgot they had other hits besides Tennessee. They started off with Mr. Wendel…

Here, have a dollar, in fact no brother, man here have two. Two dollars means a snack to me, but it means a big deal to you…

A 70+ year old man on stage with them who they claim is “the oldest man in hip-hop” starts dancin’ and gets lowwww… I think most people are thinking that they wish they could be that agile when they get over 70 years old…or even right now. Ishi (sp?) then proceeds to dance her butt off. You go girl.
Then came those Calgon-like sultry words we had been waiting to hear…

Take me hoooooo-o-ome… Take me hoooo-ooo-oome…. Hooomme. Take meee to another plaaaaace. Won’t you help me? Won’t you help me? Won’t you help me under-stand your plannnnnnnn?

Y’all know that was the jam. I’m amazed that they have probably sang this song a million times and can still sing it with so much feeling as if it were brand new.
Then Speech took us back with one of our icons…

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,

These songs of freedom? –
cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Man, I love that song. I’m reminded of the genius of Bob Marley and the redemption song we need to sing right now to get our country out of the mess it’s in.

But then another Arrested Development hit comes on—I had completely forgotten about this one!

“Iiiiiiii am everyday people…”

In the midst of all this the audience stirs as people start whispering that they saw Gayle King walk out into the crowd–”You see! She’s over there in the cream color! Do you see her?” “Oh okay! I see her now.”

The Rally Gets Rolling
Obama campaign volunteers come out and ask people to text the SC campaign to receive updates and so that three of them can randomly be selected to sit right down front at the rally. They also come out and help the crowd break the record for largest phonebank ever as people are asked to call the four numbers on the piece of paper they handed out and read the phonebanking script to inquire about who they are supporting in the SC primary. We’re supposed to use the golf pencils to fill out responses and then turn them in to the volunteers walking through the aisles. The Guinness Book of World Records guy comes out on stage and certifies the record. The previous phonebank record had been 15,000. Today’s was a little over 36,000. What is clear is that the Obama campaign is disciplined and organized and making sure they sign up voters and get contact info so they can get out the vote. This is good because if they’re not going to get out the vote, all of this is for naught.

Then comes Michelle Obama…. Woooo! Whoever is her stylist and all that is doing a bang up job. She is really representing. If we are going to have our first African American First Lady, we better do it with style and grace. It’s clear that Michelle Obama is going to lead the charge. She gives an empowered speech that’s short but potent and then…

out comes Oprah!!! Woooo!!!! The crowd goes wild! Everyone whispers about how she looks just like she does on TV!

I expected Oprah to endorse Obama, but I didn’t really know she would endorse Obama. She really nailed some of the major criticisms of his candidacy including people who say he should wait. She says, “None of us are God. We don’t know what the future holds.” We need to act when we are pressured to do so and that time is now. She nails the criticism of Obama’s experience. She discusses how mothers know that it is not how much time you spend with your child but the quality of time you spend with them. She links this to saying the audience shouldn’t let people fool them into thinking that experience learning the ways of Washington is superior to the wisdom learned working on the ground with people outside of Washington…

She reminds us that if she had listened to people who said she needed to wait or needed more experience before doing things, she wouldn’t be sitting on that stage right now. Heads nod as her words resonate deeply with many of us who know Oprah’s amazing story. Images of a young Oprah fresh out of Tennessee State University taking on a news job a little before her time flash through my mind. Memories of her standing with a microphone and an afro and her many battle stories of people telling her she was too this and too that to do what she has done have already been etched into my brain from years of watching her show. We all know that Oprah is telling the truth about her story. She is telling the truth about Obama’s story. To deny that she’s telling the truth would be to deny the possibilities for our own lives. We should not wait.

She tells SC that on January 26, it is their moment. She gets the mike off its stand and gets into talk show mode walking around the stage saying that it will be SC’s moment. This is Mama Oprah’s time…exhorting her children to “vote Dr. King’s dream.”

Oprah is in our homes every day advising us on our finances, relationships, interior decorating, fashion, etc. However, I have never seen this side of Oprah. She could have been a “neutral” endorser, but she wasn’t. She put her foot all up in the criticism of Obama–experience, needing to “wait his turn,” and more–and made all those excuses null and void.

You can watch clips from her speech online so I won’t recount the whole thing. She ends though with the refrain from The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, “Are you the one?” Such a powerful refrain because it takes our vote for President and imbues it with a spiritual and almost divine meaning that it wouldn’t otherwise have. Not “Who are you going to vote for?” but “Are you the one?” With that she tells the crowd that she believes Obama is the one and out he comes…The audience screams!

Watch the full 20-minute speech from Oprah here.

Contrary to Ben Smith at Politico and Mark Halperin at The Page, Barack Obama’s speech did not “silence the crowd.” After one of Obama’s initial lines about “In November 2008, George Bush will no longer be on the ballot” the audience went wild for at least a minute until Obama had to quiet them down. From then on we were hanging on to his every word. In fact, it occurred to me that Barack Obama is much better at giving speeches than even Oprah. Her speech was good and she’s the queen at daytime talk show moderation, but Obama is truly an amazing orator in front of a crowd. He told the “Barack, I’m a Republican” joke that I’ve heard him say over hundred times and I and the crowd still laughed. There is no way that he had turned the crowd off in any way shape or form.

In fact, there were a few fired up random people standing up and screaming “I love you Barack!” while he was trying to make a deep point and people looked quickly as if to say, “Shhh…we’re trying to hear what he’s saying.” If there was any quiet moment it was because people were listening intently.

Obama gave the speech he gave at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner…A powerful speech. I love it.

Parting Thoughts

Some people are confused about turnout. There were about 36,000 folk there.
The Hillary campaign is truly aware of the power of this event. On the black gospel station that most of the black folk were probably listening to on the way home from the rally, the Hillary campaign was running radio spots featuring Maya Angelou. Angelou echoed the Clinton campaign’s “strength and experience to lead” argument and emphasized that Clinton is a woman. I don’t think the content and timing of those ads were coincidental.

Just wanted to thank sagereader for that personal account.

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