Shortly after Barack Obama left the Choom Gang and became a U.S. senator, I saw him speak against the Iraq War during a session of Congress. The tens of us in attendance rose out of our seats the moment we heard his baritone. My friend, a Republican who had gotten me into the event, thanks to her employment with a congressman, fawned over Barack and mentioned for the 132nd time how she really enjoyed his book. I knew then that Barack Obama would president.
Fast-forward 10 years. President Obama served two transformative terms and left office with an approval rating near 60 percent. And while Obama mania has died down–I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a du-rag with his logo–he’s still one of the most admired people in the world. So of course we pulled the kids out of school early and drove two hours north to Cleveland to see O’Beezy in person.
The event was held in an old high school gym turned administrative building, in a neighborhood that you’ve probably heard of if you’re a fan of Bone Thugs. As you can see below, the line was wrapped around the street. Entry was free, but you had to get tickets in advance by signing up to receive a grip of emails from Richard Cordray, who’s running for governor.
Doors opened at 5 p.m., but we didn’t get in line until 7, which was when Secret Service actually started to admit people. As we got about 15 feet from the entrance, a bunch of young, overdressed staffers announced that the gym was near capacity and everyone would not be admitted. But we made it in, as did the few people behind us. See, Obama cares.
Walking into the gym meant walking into a cloud of funk and humidity. It was packed. More than 3,000 people patiently waited for Barack while trying to show enthusiasm for the warmup speakers, like Senator Sherrod Brown, who gives a pretty good speech despite having a voice that sounds as if he takes shots of sand and smokes Godfather OG blunts. The kids handled the wait well. Cassius and Larke wrestled and kept asking “Is that Obama?” Nile sat on the floor and tried not to pass out.
The Man finally hit the stage around 8 p.m. It was classic Obama—booming voice, humor, slick disses of that guy currently in the White House, policy differences between the two major parties, and a call for props for stabilizing and growing the economy that Trump wants to take all the credit for. Forty-four spoke for at least 40 minutes. It was longer than I anticipated, but having been quiet while seemingly pursing a post-presidency career in vacationing, I guess he’s ready to get back to work. And I plan on helping him out. As he said at the conclusion of his speech, “Let’s do this!” Or as I prefer to put it: Trump and company, we’re on yo’ ass this year!