Barack Obama delivered a serious, reflective, and forward-looking acceptance speech to an emotional and relieved audience in Grant Park last night. But when the crowd and many joiners took to Michigan Avenue to celebrate, no one was in the mood for political sobriety.
Revelers mounted the flowerpots dividing one of Chicago’s showcase streets and broke out into spontaneous musical celebrations, dancing with fellow supporters, sharing big smiles, and obsessively snapping photos.
The scene inside Obama’s ticketed victory party was considerably more subdued, though no less emotional. There were periodic roars as Obama wins rolled in on the jumbotron, and a resounding cry of joy from the crowd when the words “Barack Obama Elected President” flashed triumphantly onto the screen beside Wolf Blitzer. It was, not surprisingly, the emotional climax of the rally and was punctuated with tearful hugs.
The communal spirit of the night was unmistakable, and the sense of mutual respect that flowed between the diverse slices of humanity that descended upon downtown Chicago to fete Obama was really special to be a part of. As we shuffled out of Hutchinson Field in a giant mass after Obama’s acceptance speech, a middle-aged white man next to me watched an older black woman who was waving at the crowd and talking to the other partygoers from a small riser. He turned to his wife and said, “Imagine how she must feel after everything she’s seen.”
Black, white, young, old, it’s safe to say the weight of the moment was lost on no one. And Chicago’s euphoric spirit didn’t fade overnight. As I sit here typing this blog the morning after, Obama cheers and chants are floating up to my third-story window on Chicago Avenue, a couple of miles west of downtown.
Here are some snapshots of election night in Obama’s hometown.