Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Rally in Cleveland

I just could not sleep as soon as I saw the e mail invitation to the rally late Friday evening. I simply had to be there. On Sunday I packed a small lunch, some sketch pens and sketchbook and hopped onto the RTA to get to the Mall in downtown Cleveland. It was eleven in the morning and there were already hundreds of supporters gathered in line. I joined the line when it was at the end of Ontario and St. Clair. The crowd slowly gathered and then volunteers were continuing the line across the street on Ontario. Some people estimated that the line wound around several blocks further down. I made a few sketches of the line stretching all the way to the Mall:




By a happy coincidence I was standing next to an illustrator-writer couple. The couple writes and illustrates for Wooster’s Daily Record. We got to chatting about our Art and showed each others’ work (pictures stored in our cellphones). This couple introduced me to their daughter and other family members who drove down with them from Rochester. Meanwhile a volunteer came by and said that we would not be allowed to take any newspapers and other signs into the Mall. I was concerned that I may not be able to take my sketchbook inside. I ran and caught up with the volunteer and asked if the book and pens were ok. When I walked back, the entire family wanted to know if I was allowed to take the book in and when I replied in the affirmative everyone around broke into a chant, “Yes he can! Yes he can!”. I was very touched.

There were a few negative things I noticed that day. Some bright spark had chalked on the sidewalk:
Communist Marxist
Go back to China (?!)

At some point someone shouted ‘McCain’ from across the road and people in the line chanted ‘Obama! Obama!’ and drowned out this voice. There was a cute little girl in a stroller (maybe 3 years old) who continued to chant Obama! for quite a while much to the surprise and amusement of everyone present.

Behind me was a father daughter pair. The daughter had gotten to shake Hillary Clinton’s hand when Clinton campaigned in Ohio for the primaries. The father would hoist the daughter up on his shoulders now and then and the daughter would give a running commentary on what she could see from up there. I felt so warm and comfortable with the folks around me. The excitement in the air was infectious. We were all fired up with a wave of positive energy. The diversity of the crowd should be seen to be believed. Black, white, brown, young, old, abled, disabled, people of different religions, atheists (well, I am guessing that I wasn’t the only atheist in there) – name any category.... every single one seemed to be represented in this enthusiastic crowd. There were many mothers with a baby on their arm waiting for hours on end to get into the Mall.

As we proceeded slowly towards the venue we saw that there were several people who tried (and unfortunately succeeded) in cutting the line. My new found friends told me to stick close to them so that we could prevent others from cutting in front of us. Holding each other we went past the rails and onto the security. I thought that I would probably lose my friends when I got into the venue. I was loitering about after taking time to put on my belt and stuffing back items taken out of my pockets during the security screening when the girl who shook Clinton’s hand came looking for me and took me to the group that had found a spot close to the stage! I was very moved by her gesture. The Rochester family members were delighted that I joined them and implored that I keep sketching. I was only glad to oblige.

Camera crew

I was already heady from my interaction with other democrats at the rally and finally, here was Obama himself with his family. The crowd was ecstatic as he spoke. I was prepared for his standard stump speech. However, I was pleasantly surprised when he took some humorous digs at his opponent that I never heard in any of his speeches before. He said that Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location to endorse John McCain. Cheney is passing his baton on to McCain, he said. “Actually, that is not a baton but a shovel”, Obama said as the crowd roared.

Obama has already delivered on the promise he made on Sunday. As the rain interrupted his speech in Cleveland, he quipped, “You see what happens when you mention Dick Cheney?” After the laughter died he got serious and said, “There will be sunshine on Tuesday”. Here it is:


Please go out and vote for Obama and give him the opportunity to deliver on a whole host of promises. If you have already voted go out there and get others to do the same. Your vote does not just affect Americans, it affects people around the world and yes, non-citizens like me are also going to stay up through the night waiting for news that the Republicans were dealt a resounding defeat on this historic night! Let us paint Ohio the colour of the sky in Cleveland!




The voters have done their job; and the man, perhaps the most appropriate for the post have won. His winning is the winning of a matured democracy.

Naval Langa

Balaji S Rajan said...


What a narration! You have come back with a bang. I enjoyed thoroughly. I felt like I was standing next to you. I have experienced similar situations in the past. Wonderful sketches. I should appreciate your spirit to draw inspite of going through the crowd and difficulties.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Forgot to mention about the picture. It is a classic. Believe me or not this picture was there in my mind for long and everywhere I stopped with my camera I wished a shot like this. On seeing the picture my wife thought that it was taken by me, knowing my thought.

So, just imagine how much I would have liked it.

Suji said...

Came by your blog after a long time. Nice narrative and sketches. Amazing that you managed to sketch in such crowds. Obama has won and hopefully he will lead USA and the world to a better future.

Citra said...

hi ar,

really enjoyed ur rally narration. its more than watching in the tv.


Miriam's Art Journal BLOG said...

a breath of fresh air to see politics in an art blog.....I have a similar blog....

LOOOVE your sketches.


RandomThoughts said...

Great Sketches Arvindh! What a narration! Obama has spread so much of hope world wide that he seems like he can do no wrong! God bless him. I've been a big fan of his all through.


Mad Guru said...

Great to see these sketches Arvindh! How are you?

I just moved my blog and finished my short film "Gul" at last.


jenna myers said...

Love your sketches! So much character for quick, gestural drawing. Fabulous!

BIO: Being Inward Outward said...

Nice sketch. I've started sketching again myself since I last did more than five years ago. Check it out as I posted it on my site. Thanks!