We were lucky enough to attend a Michelle Obama rally in Phoenix a couple weeks ago, as well as a Hillary Clinton rally in Tempe just the other day. I say lucky, because I never in a million years thought that either of them would be making a point to visit Arizona because we are a notoriously red state. However, that may very well be changing, hence the extensive outreach by the Democratic party. After the AZ Republic formally endorsed Hillary Clinton, I knew that things were changing in a big way.
We had an amazing time at both rallies and I can tell you it’s because of one thing: the positivity of both the crowds and the speakers. The Michelle Obama rally was crazy crowded. When we entered the Phoenix Convention Center, Pharrell’s “Happy” was playing over the loudspeakers. That should give you an idea of how the rest of the afternoon went. Local politicians spoke and then introduced the First Lady, who walked out confidently and greeted everyone with a smile. She spoke to us as though she knew us, and in a way, she does. We were a roomful of Democrats eager to show our support for her, as well as Hillary Clinton. She encouraged us to speak to those we know who were still iffy on whether or not to even vote; will my vote count? Yes, she said, it most certainly will. She insisted that we must not become so disgusted with Hillary’s opponent that we choose to have nothing to do with the election at all; voting is crucial no matter what. She didn’t speak for too long, but the crowd was just going wild. I didn’t get too many good photos as we were a bit off to the side, but you can see how crowded it was.
Flash forward to a couple of weeks later. It was last weekend that I was notified by email that Hillary Clinton would be coming to Arizona in the next couple of days. I couldn’t believe it. Like I said, we are a red state and this was just unheard of. I stayed tuned to her team for details, and the night before the rally it was announced that she would be speaking at the Sun Devil Athletic field at Arizona State University, aka, my alma mater. Again, I was shocked. I was sure she would be speaking at the convention center downtown but to be in Tempe, at ASU?
Luckily, I was on a shorter work schedule this past week and was going to be off work at 1 pm. That left plenty of time for us to meet up and drive down to Tempe in time to find parking and get to where the rally was being held, which was, literally, out in a giant field. An immense line of people snaked its way around the field when we arrived at 3:30, the time the event would be opening. We didn’t actually get into the rally until 4:30 or so, and it was filling up fast. Just like at Michelle Obama’s rally, there was upbeat music playing courtesy of a live DJ, and since we were outside there were food trucks, a gelato stand, water and drinks. It felt more like a festival than a political rally. People brought their children, everyone was dancing and the excitement in the air was so palpable I couldn’t help but take tons of pictures.
A big surprise was that one of the speakers was Gabrielle Giffords. She got a much-deserved standing ovation from the entire crowd, since we are her home state and have been cheering her on during her recovery all these years later. She is living proof that gun laws need to be changed.
By the time Hillary Clinton arrived (a little late but I didn’t mind) it was announced that over twenty thousand people were now present. It didn’t feel overwhelming or uncomfortable, even though we were all pretty squished in together. When Hillary came out and began walking toward the podium, everything erupted. I haven’t seen a crowd so fired up since, well, in a very long time. She spoke confidently and proudly and I was, as I always have been, completely in awe of how well she conducts herself in person. In that sense, if any, she is an incredibly admirable person. Since I voted weeks ago via an absentee ballot which I already mailed, I wasn’t there to be convinced of anything. I just was there to witness how historic this was that she was here, and of course to see her in person. The spotlights on her kind of ruined most of my shots, but here are a few good ones:
At the end of the day, I firmly believe that we are incredibly lucky to be living in an age in which two strong women such as Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton are public figures we can look up to. They are each the epitome of not just grace and intellect, but passion, kindness and perseverance. They have arrived at where they are in life through hard work and it shows through their professionalism and integrity. I just feel so lucky to have been able to see them both in such a short time. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience I will treasure for a long time to come.