Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grand Junction Town Hall

A friend who lives in Hotchkiss Colorado was able to get tickets for the President's town hall in Grand Junction. This was his report.
From: imaginerivendell
Subject: Report of the Pres. Visit
To: "imaginerivendell"
Date: Sunday, August 16, 2009, 12:46 PM

We wrote most of you earlier about our good fortune to get tickets for the Grand Junction Town Hall meeting with Obama (completely random selection). You all had great ideas for questions. Unfortunately, with almost 2000 people there and him only taking less than a dozen questions, we had no chance to ask any. We thought we were getting there at a reasonable time, but the gym was already packed by the time we got there. However, we ended up with some of the best seats in the house: slightly behind the podium, but above it and about 75 feet from Obama. We were right above the dignitary section which included the Governor, both Senators, etc.

I wanted to give a feeling of what it was like. And will try and avoid personal opinions or partisan comments, but you know me....

The most unpleasant part was driving through the protestors to get to the parking area. I favor discussion and debate about differing opinions, but seeing signs depicting Obama dressed like Hitler is way beyond anything resembling good taste and civilized behavior. There were lots of pro Reform pickets as well, but maybe I am getting at that age where all this to me is a waste of time. These people and these signs dont persuade anyone but if it makes them feel good....

The gym was packed and the behavior was very civil. We spoke politely with our seat neighbors, with only some indication they were strongly anti Obama. Stay away from politics and you can get along with most people.

We were at the very end of the bleachers (K was thankful for the pillow that security let her bring in!) and we spent much of the two hour wait watching the Secret Service milling around behind the curtains. Not hard to tell who SS is: black suits, grim demeanor, no smiles, no joking around or chit chat. You could tell when Obama entered the building. Two black suits calmly walked to the sides of the stage and took their statue positions, not moving, staring ahead. Then the dignitaries came in, walking in just ten feet below us. When the crowd realized it, the gym erupted in applause. This was the first indication that probably 80-90% was either pro Obama or at least genuinely polite and non partisan. Nice to know there may still be respect for elected officials.

Obama was introduced by a citizen picked to speak first because he had a compelling story: driven nearly to bankruptcy to due health insurance costs and hassles. What an honor this person had to introduce the President.

This was my first exposure to a sitting president and I was very impressed by his presence. He was confident but not at all arrogant or condescending. The thing that impressed me was his self assured dignity. I felt honestly I was in the presence of a great man, but a common man. He seemed just like the guy next door whom you would really like to know. His in- depth grasp of the issue and the details was amazing. He responded immediately to every question and was able to go into details in a way I certainly could understand. I felt like he avoided the talking point style of one liners and party line. He seemed open and honest and frank. Something I dont feel from most politicians whom you hear talking about issues. I came away feeling that if everyone could sit down with him and talk, we could avoid all the harshness, the divisiveness and rancor now going on. Listening to his reasons for the need for health reform, I could not see how anyone could disagree with him. He admitted there could legitimately be disagreement over details and stated he felt his solutions were the best answer, but that there could be other answers as well.

One person asked a question I wanted to ask and that dealt with the hatred and misinformation being thrown about. His answer was very good and did not throw blame (as I would have done). He said it came down to hope versus fear. He said people were simply being dishonest (Republicans who supported the idea of end of life counseling two years ago but are now using the pull the plug on Granny and death panel hyperbole). When asked about the issue of government taking over health care and making personal decisions, he drew big applause when he briskly replied that big insurance companies are making those decisions now-- do you trust them?

The tone from the audience was very civil, thankfully. I was very interested in watching the Secret service during his talk. One agent just below us was fixed on the audience in front of him. No facial expressions, almost no movement at all, just a stare that made me think he was counting every molecule on every person. The stare I see in my dog when she spots a chipmunk. Kinda spooky, but these guys are very very professional. I guess that is what I want. Strange to think how dozens if not hundreds of people are like a protective shell around this one person, allowing him to do anything in the world he wants.

When he left the stage, no one was allowed to move until he left the building. It's like our lives were put on hold for about 15 minutes until he was out of the way. I guess that is standard, but strange to me.

Overall, my impression was one of power, yet a benevolent, intelligent and calming power. He exuded a sense of hope and reassuring. This was at odds with what I see surrounding me in everyday life. I watched Meet the Press this morning since it was on health care. Listening to the business as usual rancor and name calling and 'talking without listening' type debate, I couldnt stand it and turned off the TV. Back to the real world. My thoughts once again----if only people, pro and con in this issue, could sit down and actually discuss issues and listen to each other and get past this hate and fear. I do believe the Fourth Turning will be about civil war----I dont know how we can get past the hate that exists between the two sides of this or any debate.

I do feel there is hope, but its going to take a lot of patience from all of us. And a very good Secret Service.

P.S. from K: As Sharyl said---It was all "Way cool!"
P.P.S. from K: Obama really does have a nice butt!

Joe and Katherine Colwell
Rivendell Retreat, LLC
30048 North Road, Hotchkiss CO 81419

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