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Youth Ball, Part II

(Reuters/Jim Young)

Our colleague DeNeen Brown reports:

Geraldo Rivera is in rose color shades speaking in superlatives.

Kanye West just told a story on stage about his grandfather. "To see this day... This is the greatest story ever told." West starts singing, "Oh, Mama!" The crowd roars. "From all around, they came to speak to save a country they thought had lost its soul. The American dream... Obama...." The crowd chants: "Obama!" Fists raised. The U.S. Air Force Band starts playing.

The crowd chants, "USA! USA!" The color guard arrives. Digital cameras flash.

At 10:31 p.m., a voice announces: "Ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States."

A moment of doubt. We've heard this announcement thrice before -- earlier, when the band was practicing.

But then Obama and Michelle appear in the middle of the stage in front of a presidential shield.

The crowd roars. They are early!

Obama takes the microphone: "I've been looking forward to this ball for quite some time," Obama says. "Because when you look at the history of this campaign, what started out was an improbable journey. When no one gave us a chance....This was carried forward, inspired, driven by, energized by young people all across America."

The crowd roars. "Yes, we can! Yes, we can." They shoot raised fists in the air.

Kanye West performs at the Youth Ball. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)

Obama raises his left hand. And they fall quiet.

"I can't tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, 'My daughter, she wouldn't budge. She just told me I need to vote for Obama.' And 'My son has been out volunteering, traveling and knocking on doors, getting involved.'"

He said it was this generation that inspired others. "That is how change happens in America. It doesn't just happen in elections and campaigns, it happens in service all across America.... We know young people, everywhere, are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease they imagine a public health system that works.

"Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands.... You will make it happen."

The crowd chants: "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"

Then Obama takes Michelle's hand and kisses her. Looks in her eyes the way they used to on slow dances. He wraps his hand on her waist. He snuggles her cheek and they swirl, real slow. He smiles. She smiles. They twirl to a tuba music.

He swings her out and looks out at the audience, like watch this.

They dance from 10:37 p.m. to 10:38. Obama grabs the mike: "That's what's called old school. Have a great night, guys! Thank you."

A woman in black says: "Did you see the way he looks at her? That's no joke. That dance was beautiful."

A man says: "Did you recognize that song?"

"No," a woman in a red dress says. "But that was beautiful. He really seems to love her. You can't fake that. The way he looks at her."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 21, 2009; 12:27 AM ET
Categories:  Parties  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Youth Ball, Part I
Next: Youth Ball, Part III


This was great from the inside the room perspective, but to a lot of the attendees the ball was absolutely terrible. We waited outside in the cold well over an hour to get in and see the stampede of people running to the ballroom where Kid Rock was about to start playing. We tried to go in and a wall of fire marshalls and Metro Police lined up arm-in-arm yelling on megaphones to get back in the other room, that the ballroom was over-filled and no one would get in the rest of the night. The physically lined up like riot police and pushed back men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns back into the other room. We were stuck in the overflow room, watching the bands on TV's, when they were working. occasionally being shoved out of the way by Rosario Dawson's security team. The food was lousy and their were huge lines to buy a $10 watered down drink. All and all it was a terrible evening.

Posted by: roteki | January 21, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I certainly hope that these kids, who for the most part were volunteering their time, with no income, yet scratched together the 75 bucks a ticket for the Youth Ball that all the volunteer staff members were invited to AND paid for tuxes, ball gowns, cab fares, hotel and airfare are going to GET THEIR MONEY BACK FROM THE INAUGURAL COMMITTEE! For my part, I am immediately CANCELLING my contributions to the Inaugural Committee. They can pound sand before they'll get another penny from me for the heartache they caused these kids who were locked out last night. SHAME ON THE P.I.C.

Posted by: DemMom1 | January 21, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

It's exceptional how poorly planned this event was. Everything listed above is absolutely true, and I feel compelled to add another component. Where were the PIC officials when complaints started flying? The committee left hundreds, if not a thousand, of paying attendees to voice their frustrations on police officials and hotel workers - none of which were the responsible parties for creating a complete debacle. Our safety was put in danger. The prohibited crowd quickly turned ugly while police restricted our access to the exits, the coat check, and the overflow room. We were stuck like cattle in a pen.

How we were treated last night would never have been tolerated at any other event. Because this was marketed to 18-35 year olds, there was an attitude of disrespect towards the attendees. This kind of disorganization and disregard to what was promised would have never happened at another ball.

And, sadly, at least we were allowed into the hotel at all. When we left at 11 p.m. there were still a couple hundred people outside in the cold waiting to get in. Clearly no one was communicating that they would not be allowed inside.

As a fellow event planner, I would have been shamed to have been any part of last night's mess. I hope the other thousand people displaced raise their voices and somehow we are compensated for the disaster that should have been a night of celebration.

Posted by: czara77 | January 21, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The above comments regarding the reaction of the police, fire marshall, hotel staff (as well as drink (over) prices) are absolutely on point, accurate and well written. While the "official" price of the event was $75, that was only if you were so lucky as to get a ticket directly from the PIC, many tickets sold for much more through Craigslist and Ebay. I met one person that paid a $1000 to wait upstairs in the lobby. It was an incredible let down as everyone was there to see Obama even if from across the ballroom (100 yards) but many were completely shut out. Even some of the flat screens were turned off. Refunding the money would be the first step but couldn't compensate the people that got "scalped". A representative of the PIC should have been on hand to identify those that were shut out so they could have been given some mechanism to identify them for some way for them to see a future Obama event. I am a veteran of 4 of the last 5 inaugural balls and I can say that the youth ball was a complete and utter disappointment to the thousands that were shut out. Equity demands something be done.

Posted by: jimaleg1 | January 21, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line: PIC and Hilton sold 7500 tickets to an event which could only really accommodate 3000. 7500 waited for hours in the cold, less than HALF WERE ALLOWED IN. For those who got in, I'm glad you had a good time, for the rest of us, this was perhaps the absolute worst experience ever. To be blocked by a silent security guard, hearing the cheering and not being allowed to participate in the only reason we actually came. I want those two days of my life back. Mystery meat in a bucket and five dollar waters doesn't cut it. SHAME ON PIC!

Posted by: andrew22 | January 21, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

All of the above comments are spot on. My friend and I paid $75 each for a DJ, bad buffet food, and drinks were a two part process: stand in line for a drink ticket, pay more money then you would at a local bar, then stand in another line and get your drink. We got the ball at 7 PM when doors opened and it took us about an hour to get inside. The sad part is that we could have been one of the 1,500 in the "special" MTV taping room where ALL the live performances/Obama were. However, when we entered the "main" room of the ball, we had no idea there was a single door in the far corner that led to a holding room and eventually the room where the actual party was held. The people who got in weren't even the first 1,500 people at the Ball, but rather the people who were lucky enough, typsy enough, or tipped off to go to that holding room early on. My friend and I had the doors shut in our face with just about 100 people in front of us. We were lucky enough to get in and see Fall Out Boy later and some stars wandering around, but it felt more like being in Hollywood, then D.C. chillen with Obama which is what every single person at the ball went for. I felt even worse for the people screaming "Yes We Did" from behind closed doors, who quit their full time jobs to work on the campaign, then came to D.C. for a chance to see Obama, only to be ripped off by a poorly planned Inaugural Ball Committee. Not the fault of the police or hotel staff, but they were the only ones there to be upset with. $75 for a DJ? I want my money back! Anyone know who we talk to?

Posted by: kimkimmy04 | January 23, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I for one felt decieved, the first time in my life I have ever felt that way.

Join The Oversold Inaugural Youth Ball Was A Total Disaster Facebook Group to join forces for a resolution.

Also, hints that there may be restitution to the blocked individuals.

Posted by: ashleylstamets | January 23, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

There's a facebook group for those of us who were defrauded by the Presidential Inaugural Committee:

I spent all of my savings traveling from state-to-state to volunteer for the Obama campaign and I can't afford to be ripped off like this.

Posted by: kwt6 | January 23, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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