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South Enders celebrate Obama's speech
LANGLEY — It had all the makings of a good Super Bowl party: Snacks, burgers sizzling on the grill and a huge crowd scattered among six television sets.
But the roughly 60 people at the Riley residence in Langley had come together to hear Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination for president Thursday.
It was a colorful mix. Young and old, former hippies and church leaders, tree huggers and business owners, retirees and teenagers — all watching, waiting for history to be made.
Obama stepped on stage in Denver at 7 p.m. and the crowd in Langley fell silent. Then they broke into cheers along with the 80,000 supporters at the Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver.
“You think he is nervous?” Corinne Ludy asked others sitting nearby as Obama smiled into the crowd, waiting for the audience to settle down. Ludy watched on a tiny TV in the kitchen’s breakfast nook, attentively listening while shouts of glee floated into the room from seven kids bouncing on a trampoline outside.
In other rooms, people crowded around TV sets, sitting on the floor, leaning on door frames, holding hands or children in their laps.
By all accounts Obama did what political strategists and the media expected of him. He acknowledged his former opponent and now-ally Sen. Hillary Clinton. He stressed his ordinariness — not his extraordinariness — such as his humble upbringings, and addressed foreign policy, the ailing economy and healthcare.
And then he set his sights on his Republican opponent, attacking the strengths and weaknesses of Republican candidate John McCain, closely linking him with the Bush administration.
“Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?” Obama asked.
“I don’t know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10-percent chance on change,” he added.
The Langley group erupted into laughter.
“He comes out swinging,” one man noted. “He’s showing temperament,” another commented, nodding his head in approval.
Obama pointed out that the Republican leadership during the past eight years has been so poor that longtime Republicans have picked up a Democratic ballot.
“Good for them!” one woman in the Langley crowd shouted.
Obama stressed that it’s time for new leadership.
“The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.
“The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America,” Obama added.
The Langley group’s cheers echoed through the home.
“Now, that’s a moment,” Ludy remarked.
Obama stressed multiple times that he is ready to take the helm, despite repeated attacks on his level of experience.
“If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have,” he said.
Obama’s barbs sometimes came so quickly, members of the Langley crowd often asked each other, “What did he just say? What did he just say?” And somebody would whisper the missed line, only to quickly turn their attention back to the screen.
An hour later, when Obama concluded the speech, the audience in Langley did not skip a beat as they began their own post-game analysis.
“I don’t think he could have done better,” Ludy said.
“He addressed the specifics,” Neil Colburn added. “He didn’t leave any answers open.”
Obama had spelled out timelines and dollar figures for energy independence and tax cuts, he said.
And the crowd was glad to see that Obama was ready to rumble on the debate circuit. The Democratic nominee has endured weeks of harsh punditry for not attacking his Republican opponent. No more.
“He took the gloves off,” David Ludy said.
But Obama also managed to reach people on an emotional level. On the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — given when Obama was
2 — Obama evoked images of change, citing King’s words. The nominee said he represents a new generation of leadership.
“The work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on,” he said.
Susan Cyr was teary-eyed after the address.
“It was so full of hope,” she said. “It touched my heart. It’s hope.”
Helen Price Johnson, a candidate for Island County commissioner, said after the speech, that it was one for the history books.
“I’m going to go home on the computer and print this speech out,” she said. “It’s a keeper.”
Price Johnson said the speech would mobilize people across the country.
“Four years ago, I would have never dreamed of going to a party like this, but look at it,” she said, gazing across the room.
The event was organized by Donna Riley and the Whidbey chapter of MoveOn, an Internet-based grassroots movement for democracy.
McCain supporters will have their own chance for watch parties when the Republican National Convention kicks off next week in St. Paul, Minn.