Obama Rally Update: Bicentennial Park Crowd is Pumped, So Are the French

It’s Tuesday afternoon, still a couple of hours before Barack Obama is to address thousands of chanting, whistling partisans at Bicentennial Park, when Edna Kaiywa offers some international perspective on the electric scene.

“This would never happen in France today,” says Kaiywa, a young black documentarian with a Parisian accent who wears a short Afro and carries a small digital video camera. “Our system just doesn’t let someone rise so quickly in just four years. And we haven’t had the black leaders to pave the way, like your Jesse Jackson.”

Just a few hours earlier, Obama met with governors from several swing states and addressed a crowd in Palm Beach. Kaiywa, who is producing a film about the election for the Paris-based television station Arte, has followed Obama’s campaign since the Democratic National Convention in Denver this past August.

The convention was a topsy-turvy scene unlike any she has seen before. “I had no idea so many would want to get in just for a political speech,” she says of the hordes lined up outside Denver’s Invesco Field that day for Obama’s acceptance speech.

The crowd in Miami this hot fall afternoon is no less exuberant, milling among dozens of stands selling every conceivable variety of Obama T-shirt and “Hope” trinket. Construction crews building the unfinished skyscrapers across Biscayne Boulevard stop working and lean on the dusty balconies to watch the madness.

The French are also wild for Obama, Kaiywa says. A recent poll showed 63 percent want him in office. But they would never elect someone so young or so, well, minority, Kaiywa says.

She looks into the ocean of sun-drenched Obama T-shirts and waving signs and adds, “France, I’m sorry, is not ready for this.”

-- Tim Elfrink

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