Clayton’s Catastrophic Column: Obama is my homeboy

More from Clayton's Catastrophic Column

I’m not often one to wake up extremely early in the morning. The thought of having to get out of my bed before the sun rises pretty much repulses me. After all, the sun is like the world’s alarm clock, always ready to wake you up at a decent hour of the morning. However, I do make certain exceptions. I was willing to wake up very early three years ago when Mill Valley was chosen to be featured as the “Cool School” of the week. Earlier this year I forced myself out of my bed so that the senior class could execute the annual Blue Bomb at five in the morning. Though, neither of those instances were as early as just this morning, when I woke up at 3 a.m. so that senior Maddy Duvall and I could drive out to the University of Kansas to see President Barack Obama speak. It was totally worth it, though.

I first caught wind of President Obama’s trip on Friday, Jan. 16, though at that time no details at all had been released except for the date and the fact that it was happening. After ticketing and logistics details were announced to the public, I decided that I had to seize the opportunity, and though I was initially very worried that I would wait in line to get a ticket for hours only to not get one at all, my fear was misplaced. Maddy and I booked it out of school on Tuesday and drove out to the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Lawrence, where we waited for about two hours to get our tickets, and we did indeed receive them. It would now be two more days until the actual event.

Wednesday evening I attempted to force myself to go to bed extremely early, due to the fact that I would soon be hearing my 3 a.m. alarm go off. I successfully turned off all my electronics and lights around 9:30 p.m., but then I laid in bed for what seemed like hours on end before I maybe fell asleep; I really don’t know. Before I knew it, it was three in the morning, and I really wasn’t tired at all, surprisingly. I took a shower, gathered all my things, and headed out the door so we could arrive to the Anschutz Sports Pavilion as early as possible so we could get a really good spot for the President’s speech. On the way there, we made a stop at the McDonald’s off K-10 in De Soto. After waiting at a stop light for literally a full five minutes (that may not sound like a long time, but I can assure you it’s basically an eternity), we drove up to the drive-through and glanced over the menu before realizing that they don’t open until 5 a.m. Luckily, there was another McDonald’s in Lawrence that was more than happy to get me my breakfast burritos.

Due to the large amount of off-campus personnel that would be on campus today, KU had two large parking lots set aside for the public to park in that were rather far away from the event building itself. They did have a shuttle running in between the two areas, but it was nowhere to be found at 4:45 a.m., so we walked from the parking lot to the center of campus, McDonald’s in tow. We arrived in the line just after 5 a.m. and took our place in behind a couple KU students. I can say we were definitely within the first 100 people there, confidently. People poured in for the next four hours as we waited and waited for the doors to open at 8:30 a.m., all the while I was contemplating whether my toes were about to fall off, and why I didn’t wear more layers. It was a toasty 28 degrees the entire time we were outside, even after the sun came up. Just after 8:30 a.m., the staff began checking people through security so they could enter the building and reserve their spot in the standing room only pavilion. It didn’t take us very long to get to the front of the line, but it was definitely a different story for the people who had showed up only minutes before the doors opened.

As we walked inside, a soundtrack that I can only describe as “banjo-gospel” played over the speaker, and a large sign that read “MIDDLE CLASS ECONOMICS” sat behind a podium at the front of the stage. We were actually very close to the front of the stage, luckily, after we had waited four hours in the freezing cold, though we still had to wait another two or three hours until the actual program began. The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble played a couple tunes throughout the morning. They sounded real good. My personal favorite was either their rendition of the “Star Wars” theme, or their “Wizard of Oz” medley. Nearing the beginning of the program, the area around us started to get pretty tight, due in part to the fact that some people insisted on pretending they were looking for their friend who was up front, then staying there and pushing back every other person behind them. However, I still had a good view if I looked over the shoulder of the 6’8″ man standing directly in front of me.

After a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, a singing of the National Anthem, an introduction by University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and the final introduction from KU student Alyssa Cole, President of the United States Barack Obama took the stage. His speech focused on his newly introduced policy of middle class economics, which is based on the idea that the economy should grow by way of the middle class, not the extremely wealthy. Specifically, he spoke on the topics of affordable child care, equal pay for women, the minimum wage and ways to make a college education attainable and affordable. It was very similar to his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but it’s completely different when you’re watching it in person as opposed to on a television. After the conclusion of his speech, he took time to greet the people at the very front of the crowd, then made his way out of the building. We were then escorted out two sets of double doors (which took absolutely forever), and hopped on a shuttle to take us back the parking lot where we had parked in eight hours prior. After driving back to Shawnee, I got home and made a milkshake with ice cream sandwiches (we were out of ice cream), then fell asleep for a good four hours.

Overall, seeing a sitting president speak was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and it was definitely worth almost losing my toes to frostbite. That is all.

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