Inaugural balls were not held just in Washington, D.C. on January 20th.
In Davenport, Iowa, where Obama’s race for the presidency got its first big boost when he won the Iowa caucuses, several hundred Obama supporters gathered in formal dress to dine, dance and celebrate.
The event was held in the Davenport River Center, the very same venue that hosted Obama on December 28, 2007 at a rally attended by several hundred supporters, including Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, whose daughter worked for the Obama organization.
When I entered the River Center, I went to the press risers, where photographers and journalists from a Rockford (Illinois) paper were setting up, and I asked them, “Whose rallies are the most exciting, so far?”
They answered, in unison, “Obama’s.”
That night, Hillary Clinton appeared at the Figge Art Museum and John Edwards appeared at the IMAX Theater and Obama was in the River Center, traveling with General Merrill “Tony” McPeak of Oregon. I remember the excitement in the room, and I remembered the assessment of the press corps, which felt that his rallies were drawing the biggest crowds and creating the most excitement.
I raced across town to get to John Edwards’ rally at the IMAX Theater, and it was definitely less well attended and less spirited. I was still wearing my Obama Press Pass when posed with John Edwards. I remember saying, “Try to act like you’re having fun,” as our picture was snapped by a bystander. (Who knew that he really was?)
Returning to the River Center on Inauguration Night seemed fitting. It seemed right. It seemed as though I had come full circle, from seeing him for the first time in the River Center auditorium to celebrating this night in the River Center ballroom. I couldn’t be in Washington, D.C., but I could still dance the night away with kindred spirits and remember that this is where it all began. Without Iowa, Obama would not have won the nomination and, subsequently, the election. And I was there at the beginning and I was there at the end.