I didn’t know what I stepped into that year that I travelled to Columbia to see then Sen. Barack Obama speak at William Brice Stadium. I just knew I had to be there. Oprah was bringing him to the Carolinas so he must be someone special.
After nearly a decade, I don’t remember his speech. I’m sure it was about hope and change. I do however remember the feeling. Everyone was so excited and enthusiastic. Even after enduring hours of lines and security checks, everyone felt hopeful. I do remember that it was in South Carolina that Obama says he met an older black woman who taught him the phrase “Fired Up & Ready To Go!” It would become the campaign slogan for 2008.
I was reporter for the Charlotte Observer back then, and I joined veteran political reporter Jim Morrill on the campaign trail that year. I got to meet Obama once, as a Senator, but I covered him and First Lady Michelle Obama countless times through the years as they’ve visited Charlotte on the campaign trail. It has been an awesome experience, and one that I will never forget. It’s the experience that I draw upon as our country reenters a period of nationalism and separatism and continued racism. Remembering those rallies and those speeches will always inspire me be hopeful about how great America can be when more of us believe in hope than hate.