Barack Obama visited Boise during his 2008 presidential campaign. A surprising and raucously supportive crowd of 15,000 crammed into the Taco Bell Arena to see this lightening rod of controversy and hope for the United States. I was not among them because I had to work.
As the unexpected rumor that President Obama would again visit Boise gained credibility, I rejoiced. This is why I am retired! I am free to waste my time in lengthy lines and endure discomfort for hours on end! But I wondered why President Obama would come to Boise.
With the mid-term election behind us, Democrats having been practically shut out; there is no Democratic candidate for whom a presidential visit could add oomph or stir up financial gain. On the other hand, a wildly unpopular Democratic president would also do no harm to an already deflated party. Would he address Idaho’s perplexing right-wing legislation and policy decisions?
- The state of Idaho is ranked second to last in amount of per-student funding for Education; Idaho would be a splendid place to promote his Free Community College idea.
- For decades, controversy over the proposed Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness Area has loggerheaded environmentalists against preservationists; Perhaps Obama would announce his decision to designate the debated area as a National Monument?
- Idaho is home to a staggering number of Immigrant Workers; Would Obama talk about his deferred deportation program?
- Idaho is also home to a staunch and defiant gun lobby, which has successfully pushed shockingly loose concealed carry laws through the state legislature; Perhaps Obama would revisit his, so far unsuccessful, gun control agenda?
Smart folks snack before reaching the security gate. What’s more appropriate for #POTATUS than a spud?
From the frigid outdoors we pack into the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, where we long for seats and coat racks.
Initially the excitement is palpable, but as the hours (3 of them) drag on, boredom, sore feet, and hunger begin nibbling around the edges.
Watching a live feed of Air Force One landing via cell phone.
A little before 3 pm, the BSU student body president jumped up to the podium to lead the crowd in a hearty pledge of allegiance which was followed by a spectacular rendition of the throat-dicing national anthem, sung by theater-arts major, Tess Gregg Worstell. When Camille Eddy, a mechanical engineering student who has been working on microgravity research, with eyes as big a saucers, introduced “The President of the United States!”, the mostly young crowd erupted in deafening applause. With his characteristic bounce, Barack Obama took over the podium and credited 7th grader Bella Williams’ letter to Michelle the year before with triggering his idea to visit Boise again.
Hip charmer that he is, Obama’s message was carefully personalized with frequent references to Boise State’s illustrious Bronocs football team. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, in DC for a conference of mayors, hitched a ride home with Obama in Air Force One. Bieter gushed over the experience in later press reports. But Obama used the air time to pick the mayor’s brain for thoughtful lead-ins for his speech. The Commander in Chief proudly parroted what he had learned from our Mayor about Idaho’s history with Basque immigrants and sheepherders, from whom Bieter is descended.
The President’s curiosity had already been piqued somewhere along the line by innovative research at Boise State’s Engineering Department in areas like nano technology and micro gravity. Between the Boise airport and his waiting audience, Obama detoured to the engineering lab. Imagine being the student tasked with explaining your pet project to the President of the United States!
Alas, except for mentioning the community college proposal, the President did not directly address any of the above issues during yesterday’s address to over 5,000 adoring fans. Instead, he used his 30 minutes of mic time to cheerlead his vision for the next two years which he had so eloquently expressed the previous night in his State of the Union address. He hammered trite motivational key words like innovation, leadership, pride, and expanding opportunity. He also emphasized middle class economics—an economy that generates income for everyone—and the importance of women and minorities in science. President Obama included everyone in his view of the future: Republican, Democrat, Independent, black, white, young, old, gay, straight, he even spoke the word LGBT! “I believe we are not just a collection of red and blue states, but we are still The United States of America!”
Having invested about 12 hours queuing up to see the President of the United States, I have made up for all the other lines I refused to wait in. I can’t think of anything that would entice me to endure a cattle call like this in the future. But I can heartily report that this experience was worth every second. Yes, I can watch live streaming and even get a better view of the man by watching TV (and hopefully you can too from the KTVB link below). But I will never again experience the fairy dust of breathing in the same molecules of air that just floated off Barack Obama’s tongue. My eyes fill and my skin tingles just thinking about it.