When I learned that Hillary would be at Independence Hall with the Obama’s and Bill and Chelsea – I had to be there. That the first female candidate for president would be rallying at the birthplace of our country seemed profound and I wanted to witness it. As it turns out, I didn’t plan all that well. Apparently, while I was hanging out in a coffee shop reading a book, people were lining up to get in. By the time I exited the subway at 2nd Street around 5:30 pm, the line to get into the rally was – no lie – a mile long. Undeterred, I found a spot at the barrier fence where I could mostly see the Jumbotron and waited.
While standing there, I struck up a conversation with a man wearing a green hat who’d waited in that mile long line for two hours before he decided to cut his losses and find a spot to see and hear the speeches. I met an Irishwoman who’d traveled to the United States specifically to witness this historic election. She, like me, had made the trip to Old City by herself just to witness the rally. Unlike me, she’d never been to Philadelphia and still found her way!
As we waited in the chill, a quiet crowd filled around us. Despite the quiet, the crowd emanated a sense of hope, of anticipation. Next to me was a couple with a ten-year old; they’d driven from Lambertville. Behind me was a group of college students. Up in front, standing against the barrier was an old woman with two other women who could have been her adult daughters. A nearby man told me that his mother was born the year that women got the vote. He said that she was excited to vote for the first woman president. She’d wanted to come to the rally, but she’s wheelchair bound.
Finally, after almost two hours of waiting and chatting, Jon Bon Jovi took the stage. His last song, dedicated to Hillary, was “Here Comes the Sun.” As he sang, everyone around me joined in, hundreds and hundreds of voices rose into the clear night air, united in this moment. Next, Bruce Springsteen sang three of his classics. I loved that after he sang his songs, he spoke in support of Hillary while strumming his guitar.
Chelsea spoke of being proud of her mother; Bill spoke of Hillary being so qualified. Their words were familiar, but being on that city street, surrounded by supporters, elevated the experience of hearing those words. About halfway through Michele Obama’s speech, a heckler disrupted our crowd. In a booming voice, he yelled out insults. Someone yelled an insult back. Another person called out, “When they go low, we go high.” A chorus of “Love Trumps Hate” rang out.
When Obama was introduced, the crowd erupted into joy. And when he stated that Hillary was more qualified than he was, the crowd went wild. Hillary took the stage to overwhelming cheers. The heckler continued to bark out his insults. A woman offered him a hug. People chanted “Hillary!” An older man near me declared that the heckler needed to be stopped and he turned to confront the man. We urged him to stay with us, not to engage with a man so full of anger. Someone guided the heckler away. Hillary made her famous statement about the woman card. The heckler yelled out an insult, but now he was so far away that his voice seemed inconsequential and laughter rippled through the crowd.
After I left the rally, as I walked the streets of Philadelphia, I felt proud of our country and joyful from spending time with others who had felt moved to attend the rally. This morning I voted. The volunteer held open the curtain like a gentleman holding a door. The curtain closed around me and I looked at Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot. Unexpectedly, my eyes welled with tears at seeing a woman’s name on the ballot for President of the United States of America.
I understand that some of you who are reading this post will have voted the same as me and some of you will have voted differently. The beautiful reality is that today, we each have the right to vote in the way that we choose – regardless of “race, color or previous servitude,” regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of gender. We each have one vote. How cool is that?