It was a great game and the commercials were entertaining. People around here seem to like nearly anyone named Manning, and the brothers made their own history. My sympathies to my kith and kin in the Northeast since Memphis is also partial to the Patriot's "Flying Elvis Head" insignia. I've heard of leaving everything on the field, but the losing coach left his entire team out there. And what was the deal about going for it on 4th and 14? For the only pro football game I've watched in its' entirety all year, this was a good one, but I've been more fixated on the other contest.
Earlier in the day, instead of watching beefy, steroidal men without necks exchange their opinions about what was only just about to happen, I watched C-Span so you don't have to. There was another sort of pre-game pep rally going on at UCLA, where thousands packed an auditorium for an early morning Barack Obama campaign event. While the men were tailgating, four strong women orchestrated one of the most significant political events of the year. Energized by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's endorsement of Obama in last week's New York Times, the women made a full frontal assault on Hillary's claim to "California Girls," and the rally began to take on the air of an evangelical tent meeting.
Caroline Kennedy spoke first. At the risk of sounding sexist, there is a certain sweetness to her in the discomfort she feels in the spotlight, and I understand what Neil "The Real Deal" Diamond had in mind. Motivated by her children, this is the first time Kennedy has taken so active a role on behalf of any candidate, so her boldness is thus meaningful and admirable. Saying that this was "the first time I get to introduce someone who's not my Uncle Teddy," Caroline brought out the undisputed champ; Oprah Winfrey. I've discussed Oprah's influence in an earlier post, but nowhere was it more evident than in California. A confidant Oprah strode to the stage to thunderous applause and worked the crowd like the pro she is, with lines like, "I have followed the truth and it has lead me to Barack Obama," and "I'm not voting for Barack Obama because he's black. I'm voting for him because he's brilliant." A rapturous, rainbow-coalition audience responded with delight to the most influential media figure in America, who then introduced Michelle Obama.
Any doubts I had about the perceived reluctance of Michelle to stand by her man were forever put aside by her electrifying address, which was part advocacy and part defender against the Clintons. Entering the arena with Stevie Wonder on her arm, Michelle provided the first serious drama of the day. While ascending steps to the speakers' platform, Stevie slipped and fell sideways off the staircase. I was reminded of a similar event in the North Hall of Ellis Auditorium in 1963. Unlike that shocking memory, someone was there to catch him this time, and after retrieving his glasses he was non-plussed about the whole thing. Stevie spoke of peace and love and sang his new Barack Obama chant. Stevie Wonder is another person who's influence should not be dismissed. After all, who was mainly responsible for the MLK holiday?
Michelle Obama displayed an informal earthiness along with the gift of communication that reflected her Princeton education and had the crowd on its' feet with every poignant remark. She opened by saying that, "Only in America could Michelle Obama follow Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and Stevie Wonder." She made the case that Barack did not concoct his convictions on the eve of a Presidential run, and his choice to work in the communities on Chicago's South side, rather than Wall Street, made him better qualified to understand the realities of life than any other candidate. She even made a lawyer joke. Michelle repeated Barack's truthful observation of a "deficit of empathy" in this country, and is the only politician or political advocate who has publicly said that a society is measured by how we treat "the least of these" since Jimmy Carter. She also came up with the line of the day; "Americans can handle the truth. Sometimes we don't know what the truth looks like because we haven't seen it in so long." Every sentence was punctuated by Michelle's graceful pianist's fingers making her points in the air.
The surprise of the day, after Stevie, was the introduction of Maria Shriver, who claimed to have arrived from a horse show with her daughter without changing clothes or applying make-up. Shriver said her daughter had told her, "If you feel like you should be at UCLA," to officially endorse Barack Obama, "You have to go." So there was yet another dynamic Kennedy, standing with Michelle, Oprah, and her cousin Caroline, in a picture of feminist unity that must have sent chills through the Clinton campaign of quite another kind than the ones experienced by those in attendance. Also, the endorsement of Obama by California's First Lady pretty much terminates the buzz over Arnold's endorsement of John McCain.
These four women, all with something to lose, were putting themselves on the line for a cause. Kennedy-Schlossberg must step out of her comfort zone and sacrifice her anonimity; Oprah, who has never campaigned for a political candidate, puts her considerable clout and reputation at risk; Michelle Obama sacrifices time as a mother and a professional for a greater good; and Maria Shriver shows personal and political courage by "following her heart," and standing in opposition to her husband. On this "Super Sunday," while the men were making beer runs, a small coterie of women were trying to wrest the female vote in California away from Hillary Clinton, and if they succeed, as Maria Shriver said, "As California goes, so goes the nation." Now that the game is over and the Giants are the champs, we can refocus on the real contest, Super Tuesday. Don't look now fellows, but today, while you were staring at a zombie jamboree collectively known as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the ladies might have gotten together and wrapped this whole thing up.