Executed to Perfection
August 29, 2008
Unbelievable. I watched Obama’s acceptance all from high atop Invesco field in Section 530. I was directly behind the stage and ten rows from the top of the stadium. As the smoke from the pyrotechnics faded into the perfect Rocky Mountain night, and as confetti still tricked down from the heaven, I realized I had witnessed human perfection. Like Tuesday night, the artist within me told me that I had witnessed a political campaign execute its game plan to perfection. It was a thing of surpassing beauty.
As the evening unfolded, my mind transported me back to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on October 18, 1992. That evening U2 treated me to the greatest rock concert that I have ever seen. From start to finish it was a brilliantly conceived production that was executed with breathtaking perfection. Every detail was considered. Through a cutting edge approach to technology the U2 team turned Arrowhead Stadium into an intimate stage, and they transformed the audience into a choir.
I’ve never met Willie Williams, who was/is largely responsible for the set design and lighting for U2, but when I do I will be in the presence of creative genius. He doesn’t write the music, but he makes it possible for them to deliver the message.
Tonight’s DNC finale was a combination rock concert and post-modern revival meeting unlike anything either America or I have ever seen. From start to finish it was the perfect culmination to the script that had been written and executed since the time Nancy Pelosi opened the convention. Save for Hillary and Bill Clinton, who would not play along and who were not in attendance tonight, every speech, every video clip, even every pause for the 24 hours of programming was scripted and choreographed. Tonight’s event was the climax, the fulfillment, of someone or some group of people who possess the genius of Willie Williams.
Obama’s speech was designed to put an exclamation point on every element of the message countless speakers and video clips had presented all week. And he did, down to every detail.
What the Obama campaign pulled off redefined the meaning of excellence in this era of Presidential campaigns. They got hundreds of party officials and thousands of party delegates to say and do precisely what they wanted them to do and say. The campaign leaves Denver with a disciplined candidate armed with a coherent message and well-conceived game plan.
Tonight was a rock concert and revival meeting. The design of set, the use of lighting, pyrotechnics, and film in support of the headlining act was first rate, and the audience loved it. The standing ovations and chants throughout the speech were spontaneous and genuine. The tears and expressions of ecstasy were real. Biblical imagery was woven into the entire evening, and the concluding message of hope that Obama delivered in his final line was drawn direction from the Bible. This was not MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech, but it referenced the same source.
People left Invesco Field devoted fans, and, more importantly, excited about democracy. Not merely the party elite, but also people from Colorado of all ages and backgrounds. Moreover, it was an evening when a crowd with extraordinary racial diversity experienced an answer to prayer sung decades ago in Arrowhead Stadium that “all the colors would bleed into one.”
What was notable is that as people shuffled down the exit ramps you could hear one group of people spontaneously chant, “we believe in change,” while you could hear another group spontaneously sing, “How long do we need to sing this song?” (”40″, U2, War).
It was simultaneously surreal and profound.
Obama will be criticized for acting like a rock star and embracing elements of American revivalism. That’s simply unfair. The most profound and important experiences of my life have occurred at U2 concerts and revival meetings. If Obama can be as effective a President of the United States as Bono (of U2) has been in being an Ambassador for Africa, we will all be the better for it. Additionally, America needs to have its soul nurtured and inspired again. If Obama can do that for us, we will be better for it.
But I’ve seen this before. In the snows of New Hampshire last January, Obama moved the soul of our state. Hillary Clinton got watery eyes when she walked into a campaign event in Portsmouth the day before the Primary because there was virtually no one there. Obama had thousands flock to his meetings, while Hillary was left with the crumbs from his table.
We all knew Obama would win the New Hampshire Primary. It wasn’t just the pollsters who were wrong, it was all of us. What we learned in New Hampshire was that lots of people wanted to go to a rock concert, but more wanted something different in a President.
I can’t yet divine November’s results.
But the rules change when the Obama campaign leaves Denver. No longer can everything be choreographed and scripted. John McCain and Hurricanes and Vladimir Putin can’t be scripted any more than Hillary and Bill Clinton.
When people go vote in November, like in January, they will be voting for President.
But for this night, I tip my hat to Barack Obama and the “Willie Williams” of the Obama campaign who choreographed the “perfect” convention.
Tonight was unbelievable.