Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama on campus

I received this email Wednesday morning:

Dear Students:

I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Mardi Gras. I am sure you all
noticed that this year's Rex was former chair and current member of the
Tulane Board, John Koerner. John certainly deserved this wonderful

Over the Mardi Gras holiday we also received a surprise request to host an
on-campus speech by Sen. Barack Obama tomorrow morning. It took considerable
effort for us to coordinate this event and its numerous details during a
time when the city was virtually shut down. However, despite the challenges
and hardships, I thought it was an important opportunity that we should not
pass up.

Sen. Obama's speech is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. tomorrow morning at Fogelman
Arena. Doors open at 7:45 a.m. This event is open to the public, but an RSVP
is strongly encouraged. Space is available on a first-come, first-served
basis. For more information or to RSVP please visit
For security reasons, please do not bring
bags or large purses. No signs or banners are permitted.

We are honored to have Sen. Obama speak on campus and, of course, welcome
requests from any other remaining presidential candidates to address the
university community. I hope you have an opportunity to attend this event in
what looks like a very exciting and historic presidential election year.

President Cowen
I arrived on campus at about 8:50. When I got there, the line went from Fogleman Arena, all the way up McCalister, and turned onto Willow. People later told me that it had reached all the way to Calhoun at one point. The line moved slowly and steadily, because they sent everyone into the arena via a metal detector. At 9:15, the arena was deemed full, and they sent the rest of us to the overfill area, in a courtyard behind the arena. I was in the overfill area. The official word is that there were 3400 people inside, and about 500 of us outside.

Before he went inside to give the real speech, Obama stopped outside to say a few words to the overfill crowd. He spent about 5 minutes with us, then went inside. The real speech started exactly at 9:45., and took about 45 minutes.

The speech itself was competent, and not too surprising. It was a pretty standard campaign speech, but written for a New Orleans audience. If I had to summarize it in two sentences, it would be: "New Orleans is a microcosm of the United States. It represents everything that this country can be, and everything that this country has failed to be." He discussed New Orleans's rich history of racial and social pluralism (Creoles, Cajuns, Free People of Color, Catholics, Jews, etc). He mentioned three fauilures of the government regarding the storm: the failure to competently build the levees, the failure to mobilize rescue operations, and the failure to help rebuild. He concluded by saying that the government should not do stuff for us, but rather should be our partner in doing things for ourselves. A friend later noted that he used the word "reconstruction," and that this suggested an interesting comparison to Reconstruction.

There was an obligatory joke about how we all appeared to be recovering well from Mardi Gras. This was followed by an apology for not coming down for Mardi Gras, and a joke that he didn't because any photos resulting from a his attending Mardi Gras would have destroyed his candidacy. He also congratulated us on native son Eli Manning's Glorious Victory in the Super Bowl. That was followed by the obligatory joke about how the Bears need a new quarterback, and is there another Manning brother than could play for the Bears?

Obama now has a video of the speech up on his website.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next President of the US?

What do youthink?


February 13, 2008 at 11:11 AM  

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