.
November 7th, 2008
06:26 PM ET

Caught in the Crowd

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/07/obama_anna_110408.jpg caption="Anna Otieno watches Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park."]

Anna Otieno
Consumer Strategist at Iconoculture, Inc,
a freelance writer & Online Communications Dir. for African Diaspora for Obama

Editor's Note: Tuesday night, as Obama gave his acceptance speech in Grant Park, cameras panned across the massive crowd. Sometimes, a single shot of a face in the sea of people stood out. We reached out to one of those faces caught in the midst of the moment and asked Anna Otieno to reflect upon what she was thinking, and what happens when a camera pauses on your face amidst one of the most watched events in television history. Anna recently moved to Chicago from Minneapolis and found herself in the front row at Obama's acceptance speech in Grant Park Tuesday. She is a passionate Obama supporter. Below is her story.

"It's written all over your face." We have all heard that expression and on Tuesday night, truer words had ne'er been spoken. There I was in the front row at Grant Park watching our next President, Barack Obama, deliver his acceptance speech. This is it, this is really happening. At that very moment, all I could do was watch and listen. I took in every single word as if I was going to be tested on it. And truth be told, I sure was. From family to friends to Facebook, everyone wanted to know, what was it like?!

It was amazing.

The atmosphere in Grant Park was invigorating. Thousands among thousands filled this corner of Chicago to the brim. As we waited for Obama, some of us cried, some of us danced, and some of us sang our hearts out to the classics. Hope was flowing from city to stage. Drop a disco ball and it's a wrap – this was my kind of party. For one night, celebrity, socio-economic status, race and background were set aside. We all celebrated together.

As Barack Obama delivered his speech, I saw myself in him and his family. I saw someone I can relate to, a leader who truly understood my story and a person who is willing to read it from cover to cover. Like Obama, my father was also born in Kenya. My grandparents are a white Midwestern family who hosted my dad when he came to the United States for school. Today, my extended family includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim relatives from all over of the world. On Tuesday night, my family's differences became shared similarities. On Tuesday night, my family's differences were finally celebrated as the American story.

During his speech, Obama said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek, it is only the chance for us to make that change"

He was right. There's more work to be done.

But from the looks of it, plenty of people are on board. During and after the celebration, I received text messages, e-mails, phone calls, and Facebook messages (yes, Facebook is my lifeline) from people all around the world – including my relatives in Kenya.

We're ready. We're ready to be the change.

And that's what was going on in my mind during Obama's speech. No words will truly capture how I felt that night, but I'll never forget the sentiment that I walked away with. I was inspired by his words, amazed by our journey and even more proud to be American. As we all walked away from that historic moment, it was clear that behind each and every single facial expression was a story. A story that is definitely worth listening to.

So now, it's time to start the next chapter of our story. And I have a feeling that this one is gonna be good.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Behind The Scenes
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Julie Mackenzie

    Beautifully said. I especially liked your description of how he mirrors the positive will and the inclusive nature of Americans. He truly reflects the American Dream and your face shows the heart warming, inspiring transformation that his election has had on so many people all over the world.

    Thanks for sharing.

    November 10, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  2. l.a.otieno

    I could not have said it better even if I had been been there in Chicago. Thank you for sharing your experience with our friends and family members all over the world. Dady Otieno

    November 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm |
  3. Mike Owuor

    Nice that Ann represented many of us !!

    Just want to say that running a country is not running a corporate body !
    President-elect Obama has the right ideas and vision for this country;
    i believe he will identify (as he's doing) the right people to execute
    plans and way out of this economic mess !

    Even the most experienced politicians never run a country without consulting experts from different fields,it's also the choice of experts and pple around them that gives us the best glimpse into their judgements!!

    The picture of last minute squables within and
    amongst the republicans come to mind when you think of choices and the judgement some experienced leaders can make !!!

    All i see is an excellent sign of an experienced leader with wrong choices emanating from poor judgement !!
    Haven't i heard lately of Gov. Sarah Palin trying to defend herself over allegations that she messed it up..?

    The President-elect with his little or no experience; knows the right buttons and seems to understand Organizational drill and current needs of this country that many experienced leaders lack !!
    He's our President for the next 4 or 8 years
    We're proud to have him on board with or without experience!!!

    November 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
  4. Imani

    your illustration of change still sparks the spirit to fall over me. indeed, Obama's words reminded me of a sun shower and your depiction of the grant park moment was the rainbow. bravo and look forward to hearing your follow up of the forthcoming CHANGE very soon. Oui, nous pouvons!

    November 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm |
  5. Joe

    It was a defining moment in history. And even if one wasn't there, one could still be "caught in the crowd". Our new president will be facing extraordinary and daunting challenges. But one thing is certain. He will automatically be a better president than the one that's been sitting on the job for the past seven years.

    November 10, 2008 at 3:18 am |
  6. Tim Wheatfall

    As i watched history unfold and develope toward a new hope for the American people on the nite of Nov. 4th along with millions of other Americans, , , my heart was move socially and polictically like never before. With all that was felt and witnessed by many and all that the evening meant for some and what it didnt mean for others, , , AS I LISTENED TO SENATOR McCAINS SPEECH, , , AS HE ACKNOWLEDGED SENATOR OBAMA'S PRESIDENT ELECT NOMINATION SOME IN THE GROWD BOOED AS HE MENTIONED OBAMA'S VICTORY. . . SENATOR McCAIN GAVE RESPONE BY SAYING PLEASE! PLEASE! WHAT A GREAT ADDITION TO THE MARK IN HISTORY THAT WAS BEING MADE, , , HAD SENATOR McCAIN ADDRESSED THE BOOES WITH AN OPEN, FIRM YET PASSIONATE PLEE THAT THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES THAT WE WANT TO MOVE FROM, OUR COUNTRY HAS MADE GREAT STRIDES OVER THE YEARS AND TONIGHT CAN BE ONE OF THE FINAL STEPS TOWARD CLOSING DECADES OF STAINED HISTORY DUE TO RACIAL DIVIDES, FEAR AND IGNORANCE. IT'S NOT WHITE AMERICA OR BLACK AMERICA, , , IT'S THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. AS A RESPECTED SENATOR, WAR HERO AND FELLOW AMERICAN I BELIEVE WITH MILLIONS WATCHING, , , MR. McCAIN MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY TO SET A NEW STANDARD FOR YEARS TO COME. ANY RESPONSE WOULD BE WELCOME. THANK YOU.

    November 9, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  7. Gillian

    Well done cousin. You said it all. Now we all need to play our part by continuing to be responsible citizens of the earth and willing to be positive change makers as well and praying for him and one another. My heart goes out to your bereaving friend in CA.

    November 9, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  8. Caroline Okorie

    Beautifully stated Anna! You were able to put into words what I can only manage to shape into a tearful smile.

    It was a powerful night even for those of us watching in AZ (yes, we almost managed to turn AZ blue that night!) So there I was, in a room full of jubilent, tearful and silent Obama supporters hanging on the every word of our next president when I screamed "Ohmigosh! there's Anna!" They were all excited with me and for you.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience.

    Here's to what lies ahead!

    November 9, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  9. Patty

    It's probably too late for anyone to read this but I watched a video from Philly on Tues Night. People were yelling and screaming in all parts of the city for Obama. And then there was one person with a McCain/Palin t-shirt and he was arrested because he would not leave the area. He was not doing anything. Is this what happens if you do not support Obama????

    November 9, 2008 at 9:40 am |
  10. Cassandra

    I was watching "CNN After Party-Where Do We Go From Here" early Sunday, 11/9/08 and I found the host and his guest panel specifically Amy Holmes to be very shallow and biased. Suggesting that she and others have very low confidence in President-elect Obama. Where were all the nay sayers during the Bush Administration. No eyebrows raised, no judgements passed, no criminal charges taken againist the no child left behind act, CEO getting major payouts for poor performance, high healthcare, and the list goes on. Now, people want prejudge President-elect Obama without even giving him a chance to govern this country. No one even speaks about Bush, which is an injustice and a insult. I support our next President. I support our next President. I would like to commend Hillary Olsen for remaining fair and impartial.

    November 9, 2008 at 4:57 am |
  11. MPalalay (California)

    I very much agree with "Victoria," and I'm sure she was referring to "Nelson" also, as I reacted the same way when I read the latter's very denigrating and demeaning comments. It seems to me that for myopic, pea-brained people like Nelson, no matter how driven, highly accomplished, self-made, brilliant and experienced a person of color such as Pres.-elect Obama gets, he will never be qualified. I'm sure he thinks McCain, Palin, Joe the Plumber, himself or any member of the "superior" race are better qualified.

    Guess what, Nelson, with your comments you had just insulted the intelligence and wisdom of the majority of American voters of all colors, creeds and credibility. No proof, no logic, and no argument will ever convince you otherwise, because your IQ and EQ could never grasp the lowest bar.

    Pres.-elect Obama represents every American, and I'm confident the voters saw that, too. The actions and judgments that he has made hitherto were so right on the mark, unlike his opponents. The more I see, listen to him, and hear about him, the more that my decision to vote for him for the highest position in the land–is reaffirmed and reassured. He is someone who would not only rise to any occasion, but thrive in every occasion.

    November 9, 2008 at 2:35 am |
  12. Victoria

    For those who say Obama is not qualified: I am just wondering what would qualify him to be Presidential material? This is not attacking, but naysayers always say that Obama is not qualified or does not have enough experience. What is enough experience and what are these qualifications? Is it his age? His history as a community leader and politician in Chicago? His ability to move an entire generation of young people in America into action and make them proud of their country? I really do not understand and I would really appreciate if you would explain his lack of quality to me? Even though I sound somewhat attacking, I would really appreciate an honest and detailed answer because I really do not see what you see.

    November 8, 2008 at 11:41 pm |
  13. Aynes

    All that warm and fuzzy feeling is great but Obama has no experience. Feelings are not going to get the job done, folks....

    November 8, 2008 at 8:25 pm |
  14. Tasha

    It is important to realize that Obama's election does not mean that American has left its racist past behind; it means that we are on a new chapter to the end of that story.

    And I couldn't have said better what Anna wrote; American families are more and more diverse. Coming from a family with multiple races, ethnicities, and religions is not only the norm for me, but it is becoming the norm for the majority of Americans.

    Excellently said.

    November 8, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Drew

    Where was Rev. Wright ?? Oh -with Bill Aires both where in a dark room making plans for our lady liberty !!

    November 8, 2008 at 11:53 am |
  16. Dionne Rushin

    As the camera scanned the crowd, I found myself sitting on my bed crying. Was this really happening? As each face was broadcast on the screen, I slowly started to realize that we did it! We elected a man who stood for everything the American dream consisted of. We elected a man who is just like us, born to a single mother, supposedly doomed to failure but rose above his birth status to become a great person, a family man, the American dream. Our president elect gives me hope. His election renews my faith in our countrymen. It lets me know that tomorrow will be a better day.
    I was so happy to see your face in the crowd. I screamed, "Oh my God, there is Anna!" and then began sending everyone text messages. Seeing you there made me cry harder. It made me smile harder and your skin was flawless!

    November 8, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  17. Jone

    It is wonderful that such a historic accomplishment was celebrated. However, a life is to be celebrated as well.

    Does anyone know when Madelyn Dunham, the president-elect's dear grandmother, was put to rest? Did/will the president-elect attend her services?

    November 8, 2008 at 11:35 am |
  18. James

    Well done Annakin. You articulated the emotions that you felt so heartily and eloquently. I am so glad that you were there to witness history and the dawning of a new era. It is now our duty and responsibility to help and support Obama effect change. I am so proud of you sis!!

    November 8, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  19. Steph So

    Beautifully written, Anna! To think that you and our new President share the same story...

    I'm remembering when we were two college students, headed to DC with Prof Blacker. We were so inspired to learn... and now look where you've ended up!

    It was such an inspiring and exciting night. Glad you got to be there in person.

    November 8, 2008 at 10:43 am |
  20. Lily

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, fellow DAWNer!! 🙂 Great job!

    November 8, 2008 at 9:12 am |
  21. Chris Kiagiri

    Well penned, Anna. As the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother, I feel you when you say that your "family’s differences were finally celebrated as the American story."

    And while it was certainly Obama's night, it was great to see you on the screen because knowing you reminded me that this was our night too. Here's our chance to make the change.

    November 8, 2008 at 9:09 am |
  22. Larry L.

    President Obama is soon going to be known for who he is, or isn't.The numbers are in on who voted him in–African Americans,Hispanics,and single woman carried him–although this is fair and correct,I feel we are all now in a great big pile of dodo,and his administration will be a waist of our time.He is already surrounding himself with more of the same Washington insiders he promised he would not do !!!

    Change ?I don't think so,does it look like it to you ?

    November 8, 2008 at 8:50 am |
  23. Taara Sultaana Hassan

    This is one of the proudest moments in my life – and you have captured the "why," Anna!! I knew there was a reason my dear friend was front & center this incredible moment in time! 😉

    You're right, the truly divine aspect of this movement is that people from every single corner of this planet, every walk of life, every religion, every race, every class, every age sees a part of them reflected. Anna, you see your father & his host grandparents – like Obama's father and his grandparents. I see my biracial father in Obama. I see my White, Midwestern Grandma who helped raise “us kids” while my young parents struggled as first generation college-educated students in Mrs. Dunham. I see my Muslim name's dignity being restored after a misguided & tragic 9/11 (Hassan ~ Hussein). No, Obama is not Muslim; but IF he were, so what? I see my mom – a strong, educated Black woman – in our next First Lady.

    So you see, this moment in time is not JUST about the first Black President of the United States or record voting numbers or the largest crowds – it's about the healing of our Nation AND our World. King's dream is being fulfilled, Africa's pride is international, Indonesia's splendor is seen, "little ol' Midwestern states" (Kansas/Iowa) are heard.

    "Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared." It is because of this that the millions who took part in this movement and the millions who stood still on this November 4, 2008 moment will march forward TOGETHER and realize the CHANGE we ALL have been waiting for.

    Thank you, Obama, for calling us to action in this journey.
    Thank you, Anna, for being another beacon of light in this journey.
    Thank you, WORLD, for continuing to carry on this journey.

    November 8, 2008 at 6:01 am |
  24. KG

    nelson,

    He has the experience of being a state senator for 8 years then became a U.S. senator for 2 years. He's a Harvard Law grad and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Are you going to discount that as no experience? Some of our greatest presidents didn't have the appropriate experience as well like JFK and Abraham Lincoln but they did okay. No one running for president has experience in the field. John McCain has been in the Senate for 25 years or more but he made some big errors during his term. He agreed with George Bush most of the time and look where he took us. Change is what this country needs at this time and people are tired of this same argument of experience or no experience. It's irrelevant right now. We have bigger things to worry about.

    November 8, 2008 at 4:58 am |
  25. Lily

    The intensity of the evening was magnified when the camera stopped on Anna, who I know personally, for a few seconds. How apropos as our President-Elect addressed the future of my fellow Americans that I should see a fellow American in the form of a former Stanford roommate! I say this because Stanford is a euphoric place, one in which students and faculty from every country, race, orientation, religion, political ideology can discuss ideas freely and reasonably; one in which separating individuals into allies and terrorists would be viewed as ignorant and naive; one in which innovation and modernity are valued highly; one in which intellectual curiosity, analytical skills and judgment have a significant place alongside age and experience. In our excitement, let's not forget that it was our civic duty to participate in the electoral process and it is further our civic duty to keep our elected officials, including President-Elect Obama, accountable for their promises.

    November 8, 2008 at 3:40 am |
  26. Lucinda

    President Obama's success or failure will be ours as well. As he said, this country was built block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. We all have to participate and do our share. We cannot depend on the gov't for everything. Let us use the energy we built during the campaign to support our president and our country. He needs our help and we all need to participate. Keep up with the politics of our new president by visiting http://www.change.gov

    November 8, 2008 at 2:20 am |
  27. lovenah

    America, THE LORD OF HOSTS has purposed and who shall disannul it? His hand is stretched out, who shall turn it back? The LORD has chosen a LEADER for this Great Country at this crucial time, we should thank him for that. The Lord in his infinete mercy has promoted OBAMA, who shall demote him? OBAMA is blessed, who shall curse him? ney; not even mccain, sarah palin, tom delay, karl rove or other hateful republicans could turn the hand of GOD back. In this, the LORD has proven to the so CALLED Spiritual leaders who have become pulpit politicians that HIS WAYS ARE NOT their ways. That HE the LORD is the GOD of all FLESH regardless of your race or color. God bless America and The President – elect Obama.

    November 8, 2008 at 1:49 am |
  28. nelson

    this is another example that many Americans have made which indicates the poor/lack of judgement, to elect the least qualified candidate for the highest office of the United States, and the overwhelming evidence of a lack of history on his experience and thats why a small group of white people have propelled him to this position, for they knew all the black people would vote /unite behind him, because they knew that his qualifications would'nt matter they would vote for him any way along the other minorities, but is'nt America great No Experience required. Remember the blacks can now tell thier children even you can become President because you won't need experience either and as time goes by the bar will be set even lower, but is'nt America great, this moment will stand in infamy as the year the bar fell to the point of no experience required.

    November 8, 2008 at 1:26 am |
  29. Bill

    Lots of people cried, for many different reasons. His presidency begins appropriately with tears.

    November 7, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  30. lampe

    All I can say is, " I hope at the end of 4 or 8 years, everybody still has this warm and fuzzy feeling for him."

    November 7, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  31. MPalalay (California)

    This was one event that I really wished I were there, but I'm just thankful that I lived to witness such uplifting and historical milestone. I suppose channel-surfing, watching, absorbing and yes–savoring–the whole thing on my 73-inch HDTV was the second best to the real thing. God Bless President-elect Obama! God bless America!

    November 7, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  32. Linda - PA

    I envy you having had the chance to experience Obama's speech first hand. As emotional as it was on TV, I can only imagine how electrifying it must have been for you. For the first time in years I have hope that this country will become what it once was.

    November 7, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  33. C. Mitchell

    To strengthen the economy is a two prong operation: First, stimulant must put spending money in the hands of the middle and poor classes to buy goods and service thereby creating jobs to provide those goods and services. Secondly, when the demand from the first point creates jobs, we must keep those jobs in the US and not export them to China. This is what stimulates an economy – not putting $700B in the hands of Wall Street Bankers. We are back to Adam Smith's theory of supply and demand which is the basic for the capitalistic system.

    November 7, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  34. Paco - Tucson, AZ

    Beautifull said. Thank you.

    November 7, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
  35. Annie Kate

    I may not have been part of the crowd at Grant Park but the electricity and celebratory atmosphere was here at home too. As CNN showed all the people in different parts of the country and world celebrating, my children were calling home no matter what time it was to celebrate with me. An exciting night and now a world of promise even though to reach it we have some problems to work out. I hope everyone is as excited about this election and eager to do their part. We all now have a chance to shape our history by doing our bit towards the goals we want to see accomplished. What a wonderful gift that is.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 7, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  36. Rob Jackson Orlando,FL By way of Lansing Mich.

    It was an incredible night. But we must not forget that this is only the beginning . We are in the worst financial crisis we have ever faced and we as American's have to realize that it is going to get worse..

    Obama can be our leader but we also must lead....

    November 7, 2008 at 6:47 pm |