I received word Wednesday evening that I would be one of about 15 Obama volunteer team leaders and organizers who would be meeting the President on Thursday when he came to my city of Madison for a campaign rally. I was glad that I had some time to think about what to wear but not too much time that I would obsess over it. You see I have been organizing politically since the summer of 2008 for then Senator Obama and haven’t stopped since. This is a complete volunteer position that has taken up 10-30 hours per week of my time. Thus, when I got word that I would get a chance to meet him, I felt appreciated. I felt my work was validated. The campaign clearly felt like my contribution MATTERED. Of course, even as I type this, I can’t help but to think about how this isn’t that much different than what we all feel about Duran Duran. While we might not be organizing or working for them, we have been fans for a long time. For many of us, we have been fans for decades. Duranies, too, like to know that they are appreciated and that their loyalty matters.
I was told by the campaign to arrive at a certain spot at the rally at 1 pm. Once the entire group of team leaders assembled, we were escorted into a closed building where the President would come. At this time, I was already feeling pretty special. Why? It was the little things that really made me feel like I was going VIP. First of all, the line to get into the rally was HUGE (there were 30,000 people there). I did not have to stand in line. Second, while we had to go through security like everyone else, we were allowed to go in before everyone else. Tell me that this doesn’t sound like early entry?! Then, when we were shown into this lovely room to wait with comfortable chairs and a beautiful view, I immediately saw that we were in the same room as the rest of the rally speakers. This included the woman running for US Senate, the man running to take her spot in the US House of Representative and more. I was in awe. Again, I continued to feel special.
After awhile, we were given instructions that included the order in which we were going to greet the President and that we could not bring any personal items with us. With that, we were escorted into a room that had been divided in half by large blue curtains, which would also act as the backdrop for the official photos. Then, we waited. As we waited, one of our current US Senators joined us and introduced himself. Wow. Soon enough, we heard a flurry of activity in the hallway and knew that he had arrived. When he stepped into the room and greeted us generally, we clapped and cheered. Then, there was more waiting until, finally, it was our turn. I was nervous and had no idea how to properly greet him since I wanted to be respectful. Since I was toward the end of the line, I saw that he was greeting people with hugs! He initiated them! Thus, I thought it was only right that I return the hug! Then, we got into position for the group picture. I managed to be right in front of him because he is tall and I’m short. This position was perfect for him to put his hand on my shoulder! Before we left the room, he thank us a few times and pointed out that we are the “core of the campaign”. I blurted something about how I was tired. (Wow! What a genius move that was! I’m tired?! Like he isn’t WAY more tired?!). He nodded and stated that we could do it for 33 more days. I nodded back and said that I would keep working. I will do work and get it done. He said something about how he needed us.
There are no words to state what I felt like at that moment. I felt unbelievably giddy. I felt proud. I mattered. I am needed. This once in a lifetime moment will stay with me forever. I got my moment. I got my moment with someone I look up to. When I looked at the faces of my fellow leaders, they all had the same expression on their faces. They, too, felt this way. It was like we had all become fans. While still shaking with excitement, we were led out the same doors that President Obama would walk to get to the stage. In our case, we walked to the VIP section, which was in front, on the side. Within a few minutes, President Obama came out and spoke. During that time, I stood next to the woman running for Senate. I was able to speak to her and get a picture. I looked back at the rest of the people and realized that unlike them, I didn’t have to get there early. I didn’t have to stand all day. This truly was real VIP treatment. I never felt so special.
As soon as I came back down to planet earth (pun intended), I began to think about my typical focus of fandom, Duran Duran, or fan meet and greets, in general. Here’s what I know. Fans, like me, all want to feel special, to feel like we matter. We want to feel like serious VIPs. After all, we have been fans for a long time and give much support with everything from our money for albums, concert tickets, merchandise and more to emotional support as we are constantly sending messages or comments in one way shape or form telling the band or band members about how much the band matters to us. We want to get at least that 1/100th of the love back that we feel like we send to them. I had that with the President yesterday. I feel both lucky and appreciated. It was a real gift. So, why did it go so well, from my point of view?
First, my expectations were realistic. In fact, I expected that it would be an assembly line of photographs with our very large group being pushed through quickly. I didn’t expect words to be exchanged. I certainly didn’t expect to touch him and I would have never even dreamed that I might be able to get a hug! (What would I have to do to get a hug from say…a certain bass player?!) Second, the meet and greet was set up well. There was space and time so that no side felt pressured or cornered. We weren’t made to feel like we were part of an assembly line and the President had a lot of space and didn’t have to deal with everyone at once. Each person was directed when to approach. This provided comfort to me as someone who isn’t good at just going up to people and introducing myself and I’m willing to bet that it helped the President not feel overwhelmed. Yes, I know that the man probably is used to large crowds and a lot of people begging for his attention at the same time. Likewise, I’m sure that Duran is, too. Even if they are used to it, should they have to deal with it? Why can’t they be allowed time and space that we all get? Plus, I wonder if that rush affects not only their immediate meetings with fans but future meetings with fans. Third, as part of the set up, instructions were given. We all knew what we could do and what we couldn’t. We knew not to ask for other pictures. Thus, the President wasn’t put in a position to have to answer that question. Lastly, I think that the rest of the crowd helped. We were all very aware that we needed to be respectful. No one approached President Obama for a hug before HE initiated it. I like this. This way, I knew that President Obama was truly okay with hugs once he started giving them himself.
What is my point here? It is simple really. We, fans, all wants our moment with our idols. We all do. I think this is normal. After all, we are only human and we give a lot of ourselves by being fans. We may not give work like I do with President Obama but we do give of ourselves when we become fans. We give a piece of our heart. We give our emotions. Thus, we want a little bit of the love back at us. We want our moment. This meet and greet was done correctly. It was done in such a way that I felt special and loved the whole time from minute one to the very end. On top of that, it was done in such a way that everyone involved from regular people to the leader of our country felt comfortable as rules were clear or everyone followed the same principles of being respectful. If I ever get the chance of having a meet and greet with Duran, I would hope to have something similar. Until then, I gotta wonder why it was easier for me to meet the President than it is to really meet John Taylor (yes, I “met” him at a cd signing but that isn’t the same!)…Someday, I hope I could frame both the picture with President Obama and a picture with John. *sigh* If only!
Edited to add the picture! I cropped the rest of the people out. I didn’t do it because I’m self-centered. I just didn’t think they would want to be on this blog about Duran Duran fans!