"I am so grateful to be in this gorgeous Shenandoah Valley. I am so grateful to be with all the people of Harrisonburg and the Valley as a whole, and here at JMU."
So yeah, that's definitely a shot of Obama's plane at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport on Tuesday, in none other than Weyers Cave, VA (a wee little town 15 minutes from where I grew up, with an airport just as small); and yeah, those are also our boo-yow Blue Ridge Mountains in the background--aren't they beautiful? Obama was coming in for a rally at JMU, in Harrisonburg, VA, but he was, believe it or not (for you fellow Stauntonians out there), planning a stop in Staunton before that!! Unfortunately he got in late, as this piece in our Staunton paper talks about (fun piece by the way, gives a good sense of the hubbub of having a candidate in the area). The Daily News Leader there in Staunton also has a good collection of online pics they took of the whole episode of Obama landing, the security folks running all over the place, etc. You can also see some of the dichotomy of folks in the area with the comments they left on the paper's website for the various articles they did on the visit (like this one here).
As far as the JMU rally though, my mom, one of my little sisters, my grandmother, and some family friends started standing in line at 1:45 or so Tuesday to see Obama, and got in about two hours later--that's cause there were 20,000 people who showed up. Only 8,000 got in, with the other 12 left apparently hanging outside. Here's a pic to the right that our family friend took of Obama inside, though hopefully there are some more I can post in an update later. I'll also post some other shots from the area and a video of some parts of the speech a little farther down.
But I'll tell you, my grandmother is a rock star, making the trek down from DC to see him speak. She's also a real pragmatist though, and so I was surprised to hear her mention how she found herself stirred when she heard Obama in person talk about the idea of motivating people by hope instead of fear (and believe me, she's a politico to the heart, living in DC most of her life, so she's heard tons of his speeches, read about him throughout the year-and-a-half of the campaign, etc.). I know I've told people who have shirked at the idea of Obama's hope-talk that hope can mean everything or it can mean nothing, depending on whether there is any substance behind it.
In my view there is with Obama. In talking to my grandmother tonight about the rally, it made me think about the seemingly-eternal comparison presidential candidates will have to our goliath US presidents, such as FDR. Some would say Roosevelt did some bad, but many say he did much more good (I actually watched an interesting news piece tonight on PBS' NewsHour about FDR's handling of the economy in a financial crisis, with a comparison to today's economic situation; for anyone interested you can listen to the audio here). But if a presidential candidate were to ever reproduce some of the successes of FDR, and/or the related public approval that won him four terms in office, then it would most certainly be through bold propositions of what might be, not by scaring people into what's "safe." Obama is comfortable in the realm of what might be, but, as with anything new, it takes an openness to change, an energy to work towards what might be (which many would call "hope"), and, as my grandmother pointed out, an innovative spirit.
FDR is known for having said "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something" (emphasis added). I have no fear that Obama would try things--but I at the same time think he will balance innovation with the methodical approach he's become known for. In that respect, he may even, if I can dare to say it, surpass FDR in ways; for FDR, according to the above piece I watched tonight, would aribtrarily raise and lower the price of gold to see what happened (though they noted that most else he did was much more pointed and purposeful). Perhaps the ever-increasing respect and related ubiquity of science and research will also allow an Obama administration the opportunity to do some precision governing that wasn't as possible during FDR's time (to certain extents; though I'm sad to say that Bush doesn't appear to have that same excuse for some things).
Enough said in that respect though, now for some random Shenandoah Valley-related stuff--here's a few front page shots from newspapers in Harrisonburg (at left) and Staunton (which again, is where I grew up, half-an-hour South of Harrisonburg, where Obama spoke; you can click on the pictures to enlarge, where you'll see a 78-year old woman in tears in the Harrisonburg paper as she listens to Obama speak; you can also read about how "Daily swim keeps man fit"--I love it):
Check it out though, we even got a piece on a New York Times blog post about the huge event it was to have a presidential candidate come to the Valley--after all, as Obama points out in his speech, "the last time a Democratic presidential nominee visited the city was 148 years ago when Stephen Douglas, another Illinois senator...came through en route to losing the election to Abraham Lincoln."
Lastly, here's some video clips from the JMU rally that the Daily News Leader put together:
Photo credit of plane above: The Daily News Leader