To see an influential leader speak in person is a rare and moving experience. Late Friday night, Orlando got that chance. Obama graced the stage and gave a powerful speech to a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters at the CFE Arena on UCF’s main campus. Thousands of people endured long lines, heat and sun to hear what our Commander-in-Chief had to say in support of Hillary Clinton.
I was one of those people.
Among an excited crowd, I felt one with my community. This is a feeling I haven't felt since the Pulse tragedy earlier this year. With two of my closest friends and my mother, we eagerly made the line to see our president speak. It’s an odd feeling. Starstruck doesn’t cover it. He isn’t a celebrity. He is one of the most powerful men on this planet, if not the most powerful. He inspires our nation to unite on different causes that make our home, our country, a better place. So as I stood in line in the late fall Florida heat, I knew I was in for a life-changing experience.
I almost didn’t make it in. I was deep in the infamous line outside of the CFE Arena. I had not budgeted my time well. Let’s say I won’t be making that mistake again. As the line inched forward every 5-10 minutes, my heart sank because I knew I was getting further from seeing and hearing our leader speak at a place I call home. That hope about almost disappeared when I heard that Obama had landed and he was on his way to UCF. Rumors had begun to circulate that once Obama arrived no one else would be let inside of the arena. I was nowhere near the entrance.
After about 45 minutes, the roads around us began to clear as a sign that President Barack Obama was about to arrive. While my heart sank that I would not hear him speak, I knew he was going to drive past where I stood in line and that, my friends, is exactly what occurred.
To quote my mother (sort of, she said this in spanish), “It was just like in the movies.” My mother, Esperanza, loves a great action movie and many feature a U.S. president at some capacity. Their entrance is always a big moment and what I witnessed Friday afternoon, was a BIG moment. Car after car, some filled with important, well-dressed people. Some filled with very scary and very armed SWAT officers. Even an ambulance arrived, which I found smart but also alarming. But it was nothing like I had ever seen, other than in movies. It lasted about 90 seconds but my heart was pound for every moment. I knew my president was in that lineup and that was mind blowing for me.
After that incredible moment, we were all pretty pumped but we knew it was time to head out. If we hadn’t gotten in by that point, chances are we weren’t and we still weren’t near the entrance of the arena. My friends, my mom and I got out of line and began to make our way toward the arena to see the chaos there. And chaos it was. My friends left and my mom and I stood by the line watching people more hopeful than us stand their ground and continue hoping to get a lucky seat inside.
I was beginning to pity them when the line began to move again. They were letting more people inside! I knew this was my last chance to get in. I had a moment of boldness, I ducked under the ropes and joined the line, my mother following me. Those in line were not too happy about my actions, but honestly, I didn’t care. I was going to get in and that is exactly what I did.
We passed the doors. We passed the walk-through metal detectors. We walked up the stairs. We sat down and I couldn’t believe my mother and I had done it. We had gotten in. We had made it. You could feel the exciting buzz in the atmosphere. We were beyond giddy.
We took our seats toward the every back of the arena’s second floor seating and finally breathed. Everything that proceed was a blur of cheering and clapping. I apparently has missed the District 49 candidate for Florida House of Representatives, Carlos Guillermo Smith, pump up the crowd, as well as the UCF Gospel and Cultural Choir sing but that was OK. I was going to hear President Obama speak. Devi Moody, the Vice President of Democrats at UCF, took the stage and gave a great speech about what this moment meant for her.
And then came the opening act himself. The crowd erupted in cheers, rumbling with sheer joy to welcome President Obama to UCF. He greeted us back with a calm and cool “hello” and the rest was what you would expect. He gave a fantastic speech in support of Hillary Clinton and why we should vote for her and why the “other guy” is a joke.
It was truly one of the most inspiring things to witness and it was such a treasure to share with my mom. We both are voting in this election. As Latina women in the U.S., we understand the battle it took to have this right and we aren’t going to pass up this chance to make our country better and neither should you.
In one week, our country will change for better or worse. Make the right choice for our country. If you won’t listen to me, listen to our president. He wants us all millennials voting because our vote is powerful in this country. Vote and make your voice heard. November 8 is practically upon us.
See you at the polls.