Obama in Town
I guess he's always "in town" since he works right around the corner, in the Senate, but last Friday, he was at George Mason University for a rally sponsored by Students for Barack Obama. I was invited to this event through Facebook, and since GMU is my alma mater, the political junkie in me just had more reason to spend my Friday standing up for a couple of hours so I can see Mr. Obama for about 20 minutes. Thankfully, he did make an appearance, and gave a moving speech about the way he grew up and how that has influenced his plans to run for president in order to take the country off the disastrous path it is on now. I won't go into much detail, because the speech is of course available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.
But I would like to note something interesting about this event that will surely have an influence on the whole 2008 election process. The event, as I mentioned, was organized by SFBO, and the event was advertised primarily through a Facebook event page. If you don't know what Facebook is, well, there's not much hope for you. No really, it's a social networking site that began on the college level and has now expanded so that anyone can sign up. It's the 7th most visited site in the US, with more than 7.5 million users and 20,000 new members joining everyday. The fact that such a political event was organized through this website shows just how important new media will be in the upcoming elections. In the 2006 midterm elections, many candidates (or their staffers) created Facebook accounts, listing their political platforms, and other information that might attract young voters. Each Facebook account holder also had the opportunity to add certain "agenda items" that they considered important, such as "I support abortion" or "I oppose the war on Iraq". Your personal profile becomes a place for you to share your political opinions with friends and acquaintances, and a medium through which politicians can reach out to you. Candidates are also starting their own blogs in an attempt to tap into all forms of media to communicate with voters and potential supporters.
And of course, we all know the important role bloggers can play in reporting happenings, recording videos of events, and revealing information about candidates before the mainstream media can get to it. All it took was a YouTube video to bring down Republican Senator George Allen after the infamous macaca incident. In addition to recognizing the organizers of the rally, Senator Obama also recognized the creator of a Facebook group called "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)". It's really amazing how important these tools will become in the next few months leading up to the primaries and the elections. We will just have to wait and see who takes advantage of them most, and who does so successfully.
Until then, here are some pics and clips from the event taken by yours truly. (No, I didn't jump on stage after he finished talking, or race to grab his hand and get his autograph, or follow him out to his motorcade. Others definitely did, I witnessed. He was definitely a celebrity, and he knew how to work that crowd.)
You can watch the full video of the event here, or check the short clips below taken by me.