After attending a Marco Rubio rally and a Jeb Bush town hall last week, I had the opportunity to stroll on the other side of the fence last night. In company with an estimated 1,000 people, I watched the current superstar of the Democratic party state her case for the highest office in the country.
Hillary Clinton spoke at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Thursday night. Originally scheduled for 5 p.m., the event was pushed to 6 p.m. because a previous campaign stop of Clinton’s ran long. This provided me the perfect opportunity to get to the venue and watch the rally in its entirety. After waiting in line and getting frisked by the Secret Service, I entered the ballroom of the convention center. With all the seats taken, I stood in the back with the media.
Believe it or not, this was probably the best arrangement possible. Not only was I positioned directly across from where Hillary would deliver her stump, I was also able to see over the crowd since I was on my feet while everyone else was sitting down. The rally started with a five minute video introduction. Any guesses on who delivered it? Let’s be honest here, if your spouse was a former president you would have him/her introduce you as well.
After Bill’s video, Hillary came out with a local Myrtle Beach politician (I apologize, I can’t remember the man’s name or title). This local elected official gave a brief one minute introduction. Secretary Clinton then took the mic and went to work.
The first thing I really noticed? Hillary Clinton is a great speaker. She is on the same level as Marco Rubio and of course light years ahead of Jeb Bush. She was very skilled in connecting with the audience and telling stories. She drew genuine “ooohhhhs” and “ahhhhhhs” out of the crowd. I couldn’t help but respect it. The energy level from both Hillary and the crowd was present.
I had to battle through an adjustment period. After listening to two conservative speakers detail their very conservative ideas it was a little strange listening to a liberal speaker detail her very liberal ideas. But because I am not dead set on the platform of either party, perhaps I took less time to adjust than it might take others. Knowing that she has South Carolina in the bag, she focused most of her negative campaigning on the Republican candidates, basically calling them idiots. However, she did take on Bernie Sanders’ free college education plan and offered a logical critique of it. As someone who works at a university, this was something that was very interesting to me.
Hillary touched on many issues and much of it didn’t stick with me just because a lot of it went over my head. But there was absolutely a defining moment for me, a part of the rally that I will always remember. Probably midway through her stump, Clinton brought up the Osama Bin Laden raid. Except for the cell phones that kept going off, the ballroom became very quiet. She described the meeting that was held to approve the mission, the atmosphere inside the war room when the raid went down, the technology that was available to President Obama’s team to view the action, and the kindness that the Navy Seals showed after eliminating Bin Laden (the Seals escorted the women and children out of the compound and placed them in a safe place so that when they destroyed their downed helicopter no one would be injured from the explosion).
Of course Clinton used the story to her benefit. Hillary explained that during the meeting when they were deciding whether to order the mission or not, she told President Obama to go through with it. She then mentioned that other people in the room advised him not to go through with it.
The rally ended around 6:40 p.m. and it was a mad rush to the stage area to shake the hand or take a photo with Hillary Clinton. At first I didn’t think most people had a chance because she had another event in another South Carolina town at 7:30 p.m. But much respect to Hillary, she stayed at least 15 minutes after her speech to greet her supporters. For me, this was my favorite part of the whole evening and it had nothing to do with watching Clinton take selfies…
I moved close to the stage and stood on a chair to get a good view of Clinton interacting with the sea of people around her. Within that mob I closely watched and admired her Secret Service contingent. Because I am a United States Presidents buff, I am naturally a Secret Service fan as well. With interest I watched the seven agents who were in clear view perform their job. Three were stationed on Hillary’s right, three were stationed on her left, and one stood directly behind her at all times. When she moved, they moved. Yes yes yes, they all wore suits, ear pieces, and stoic expressions as their eyes scanned in all directions.
As I stood on the chair, Hillary fans came up to me and asked if I would snap photos for them with their phones of the candidate. I happily obliged and took about 6-8 photos with each device I was given to make sure the person would have a nice memory from the evening. In between serving as a photographer I took my own selfie with Hillary Clinton in plain view. I knew this would be my best shot for a photo op with the former First Lady because I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to meet her.
Before she exited the venue surrounded by the Secret Service, I was able to push to the very front. Many of the people around me were freaking out, obviously overjoyed to be so close to someone who might be our president in under a year from now.
I feel fortunate that I was able to attend a Hillary Clinton event. Even though I don’t necessarily share her political beliefs (because I don’t have many to begin with) I enjoyed the energy and excitement I could feel. Although I am bummed that I didn’t get to see Donald Trump (he held his rally during work hours) or Bernie Sanders (he didn’t come to Myrtle Beach), I am so happy I took time to watch three presidential candidates speak to me from just feet away. Whatever you feel about politics and politicians, if you have the opportunity to attend an event during this big election year I recommend that you do so. Don’t Blink.