My young friend Josh still believes in Obama, do you?

A young friend of mine named Josh Chamberlain, just had the opportunity to shake hands with Obama a few days ago, when the President was in Ann Arbor, speaking about college affordability, student debt, and the economy. Josh, who is presently finishing up high school at Washtenaw Community College, was there, covering the event for his school paper, The Washtenaw Voice. What follows are his thoughts, accompanied by a few of the incredible photos that he took that morning.


I was lucky enough to meet President Obama when he spoke at U of M, and I have several things to tell you.

Most important, his handshake. It might be judging a book by its cover but it’s everything I had hoped for: Barack Obama’s hands are cool and strong and smooth from millions of handshakes, and he looks each individual in the eye as he makes contact.

The second most important thing I learned is that the president is small. He’s a slender dude, and when he’s standing next to dozens of huge suited guys wearing ear pieces, he might disappear if he was any less instantly recognizable.

The third thing you need to know is the pure efficiency of the president’s movements. This is facilitated by the thousands of people hired to work each event — that’s right, Obama’s like Midas. Everything he touches turns to jobs.

When you are in the same building as the president you are safer than in Hogwarts. When you are within 20 feet, you are never out of arm’s reach of a 6’4” guy watching your hands, eyes, camera, and every movement. In fact, our next president better be a decent person, because it is a coordinated power we should all hope is used only on our enemies. As Obama moved around the semicircle of the lucky attendees in “handshake territory” a row of impressive guards edged behind our ranks, boxing us in. We had been instructed to keep our hands visible. Had I pulled something out of my pocket at that moment I would likely be picking turf pellets from the side of my face now.

Before the event, secret service agents dressed as construction workers and surveyors stood around video taping the entrance and exit points of the Al Glick Fieldhouse on State street. The president was only in the building for 45 minutes. State Street was closed, but these people organize two speeches daily — most people barely noticed a traffic increase. It’s an oddly beautiful science.

As for his speech, Obama did nothing but impress as usual. He made a few jokes, directly greeted Denard Robinson (the superstar U of M football quarterback), and spoke about the importance of keeping education affordable. Tax the rich fairly in order to maintain the infrastructure that nurtured their success. Build a strong Detroit to make cars more efficient.

It wasn’t a campaign speech, but hopefully young voters everywhere will see that the intention of the Obama administration is to invest in education. My school is free — the government is giving me money just for living here, because of these investments.

I briefly thought Obama’s leadership had turned sour, and was disappointed as his supporter. When he spoke, though, he wasn’t spewing bullshit and trying to get votes — they’re the words of millions of people who back him, and he’s simply right.

Those are the experiences I have brought from the belly of the beast, the political machine, the fabrications designed to distract us or whatever. Call me crazy, but Obama still convinces me every bit.

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28 Comments

  1. Josh
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the feature, Mark!

  2. Posted January 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Here’s hoping my more militant readers (on either side of the political spectrum) don’t beat you up too bad over your gushing Obama man-crush, Josh. And, thanks again for the firsthand account.

  3. Posted January 30, 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Thas ma boi. I can confirm everything stated here. His hands are like butter and his eye contact is like seeing god. I think this is best conveyed in a picture taken of josh, my mom and I taken moments before we interacted with him. My mom looks like she has the vapors, I am clearly overtaken with emotion and gratitude and am bawling and therefore look like a troll and josh is, of course, cool calm and collected, reaching out to give Obama a firm shake. One of the best moments of my life for sure. It was an amazing and inspiring speech. It’s only half an hour. People should go watch it if they care about education or the economy.

  4. Posted January 30, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    here is the aforementioned photo:

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/423311_2564560033762_1246950034_32065619_101078779_n.jpg

  5. Edward
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Is Josh the 9′ tall guy on the left of the photo, Olivia?

    And this is a sweet write-up. It’s cool to see young people getting involved and giving a damn.

  6. Larry
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

  7. Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    It may make me a pariah among my friends, but I am proud to say that I’ll vote for the man in November.

  8. Mr. X
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I will vote for him. I’m often frustrated with his administration, and wish that they would fight harder for things like Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to run the consumer protection bureau, publicly funded health care for all, the removal of money from politics, the prosecution of investment bankers, and the restoration of American civil rights, but, deep down, I realize that he can only do so much, and that incremental improvement is being made in many areas. I just feel that Bush/Cheney did a much better job of forcing their agenda when they got in, and I’d like to see some of that same spunk now, in service of the progressive agenda. Maybe that will happen, though, when we retake the House.

  9. Demetrius
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    President Obama is very smart man, and an exceptionally gifted speaker. I agree with much of what he has to say, and often have found him very inspiring.

    My disappointment stems mostly from what I see as a frequent disconnect between his words and deeds.

  10. Mr. X
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I agree, Demetrius, and it won’t be with a completely clear conscience that I pull the lever for him come November. He’s certainly not the socialist messiah that a lot of us were praying for in the way of Bush/Cheney, but it was unrealistic to think that he could be, given the power and money involved in politics today. He is, however, I’m convinced, slowly chipping away at the big problems confronting our nation. I’d like to vote Green Party, in hopes of accelerating the move toward sanity and reason, but there’s just too much riding on it this year, with Gingrich, Santorum and Romney waiting in the wings.

  11. Demetrius
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Probably no surprise to learn that our good friend JHK no longer “believes.”

    http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/01/jive-talkin.html

  12. Chris Hedges
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    “. . . until the corporate superstructure is dismantled it does not matter which member of the native elite is elected or anointed to rule. The Canadian prime minister is as much a servant of corporate power as the American president. And replacing either will not alter corporate domination.”

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/corporations_have_no_use_for_borders_20120130/

  13. james
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I think the left’s expectations on what Obama can deliver were and are unrealistic, given that there are large amounts of people in America who are in the lower 90% of income/wealth but are still willing to vote Republican.

  14. EOS
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Probably 90% of Republicans are in the lower 90% of income/wealth. What’s that got to do with Obama’s failed campaign promises?

  15. Lynne
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that I have not been disappointed in Obama very much. He is way more conservative than I would like but I knew that when I voted for him last time. He’s actually far exceeded my expectations and has accomplished more than I would have thought possible. I will happily vote for him this year. I hope that in a second term, when he doesn’t have to worry about reelection, he’ll take a big step to the left. That might not be a realistic hope but it is what I hope for from him.

    I am pissed at him for signing that defense bill though. But I also know that any one of his opponents save Paul would have signed it too and I can’t vote for *him* because he is willing to dismiss the rights of half of the population here at home. Ah such is the two party system.

    I did catch an interview with John McCain earlier this week that convinced me that our country dodged a real bullet by not electing him. If he had been elected, we would probably be at war with Iran by now. As if we needed *that* , especially in this economy.

  16. james
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Obama has failed in delivering many of his campaign promises. The ones that I am the most angry about are:

    1) Closing Guantanamo
    2) Real health-care reform- in my case, I want a single-payer system run by the government
    3) Repealing the Bush-era ‘temporary’ tax cuts.

    So now, I have to ask myself- would McCain have done any of these things? (answer: no). Will whoever wins the Republican nomination for 2012 do any of these things (answer: no, although I guess if somehow Paul gets the nomination he would close Gitmo).

  17. Josh
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Obama is one man against many more. He doesn’t have a lot of power to create reform — he’s come SO far. Health care, Afghanistan, Bin Laden, Gaddafi, etc.

  18. Rebecca Dunkle
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this – beautifully written piece, Josh, whether you happen to be a supporter of President Obama or not. I saw the event live streamed on campus and talked to people who were there, and you captured everything perfectly. And I for one am supporting him again.

  19. Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I will be strategic in my vote. If it looks like the Republican might actually win in Michigan, (Michigan has gone D in every Presidential election since 92) then I might vote for Obama. If it looks like Obama will take Michigan (most likely scenario) then I will vote 3rd. party. My biggest disappointment (among several) is him joining with the Repugtards in burying due process. The defense of all of our rights rests on the fundamental right to due process. Once upon a time in America (and we fought many struggles to extend this right to all–in fact the anti-choice folks want to extend this to fetuses ) you had the right to due process before they took your life, liberty or property . Not anymore Now we have “Star Chamber” proceedings for everything from unemployment insurance (the imposition of fraud penalties) to the death sentence and execution of American citizens. Obama did not have to authorize the murder of my fellow citizens without due process, but he has. It makes it very difficult to vote for him.

  20. Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    How anybody could vote for a guy who murdered two U.S. citizens without a trial and took away every other U.S. citizen’s right to a trial is beyond me. That’s f-ing insane.

  21. dragon
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    For once I’m with you Jake Ass.

    Kerry 04′
    America deserves better

  22. Jiggs
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    I have not been impressed overall and I never really got on board. My opinion though is that he’s been held back by the current pitiful and terrifying “only do, vote and say what’s necessary to be re-elected” state of American politics. While I like to think that’s all there is to it, his not-so-subtle nods to the banks, oil companies, factory farming/agribusiness and the natural gas industry and his broken campaign “promises” are despicable.

    However, I think if he’s re-elected and Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and/or the Senate, then we will see what he is all about. If he does not come through in such a scenario, then I will be disappointed. But at this point there is no other viable option.

  23. JC
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    “But at this point there is no other viable option.”

    At the risk of belaboring an earlier point, I believe the blossoming global Occupy / Commons movement is demonstrating that there is, in fact, another viable option. It’ll just take a ton of work and commiseration.

  24. Watching Laughing.
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Hell yah, I’m voting for Obama in November 2012.
    You’ve got to have your head checked if you vote in these Republican loonies of today.
    Bunch of lying, non factual, double standard, non human, piles. PLEAAAASSEE!!!
    And absolutely no solutions, but small wedge issues to stir the base, get elected and fuck everything up and take ZERO responsibility for single handily doing it, same old BS.
    Stop the insanity.

    WL.

  25. Andy C
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m just glad that the secret service didn’t mistaken Josh’s camera for and AK47 or a RPG.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CollateralMurder.ogv

  26. Max Abuelsamid
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    His fault lies in his passivity. He allows the Republicans to continue to do stupid shit, and to influence his decisions. All this stuff about reducing the military and bringing more jobs is temporary to guarantee him another four years of power, where he will most likely return to total passivity immediately.

  27. Watching Laughing.
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    When you’re dealing with a literally, Psychotic Republican Party of today; that doesn’t play be any rules, you can’t be some HUGE PIT BULL on a chair barking.
    The President understands this and compromises to get something done.
    Any other way, Obama would of got nothing.
    These are the same people that kicked and screamed every second of everyday, about Obamas stimulus package and the very next moment; they were at their ribbon cutting ceremonies touting how they, themselves, brought jobs their district.
    These are the very same people kicking and screaming about the Affordable Healthcare Act which is now kicking in and December 2011; saw the provision that insurance companies have to cover preexisting conditions to mention one of many, now kicking in.
    Who would not want to be covered now???
    The GOP of today don’t make any sense and dealing with them is insanity.
    It has to be done right.
    Or NOTHING would ever get done.

    Just my quick 2 cents,

    WL.

  28. Josh
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    jesus, andy, that video’s horrible.

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