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Dispatch From D.C.: The Obama Home States Ball

By Marcus Gilmer in Miscellaneous on Jan 21, 2009 4:30PM

While other revelers who attended yesterday's swearing in headed home or to the parade, I fought the crush of people and made my way back to temporary HQ where I filed yesterday's Dispatch, got all gussied up in my tux, and headed out for some formal fun. After going through a series of security checkpoints, I wound up in Hall E of the Washington D.C. Convention Center for the Obama Home States Ball, celebrating Obama's connection to both Hawaii and Illinois. We had strict instructions to be signed in by 5:30 p.m. After wandering around the cavernous hall for 10 minutes, I finally found the press corral and settled in for a long evening. None of the press realized at the time that we wouldn't be allowed to leave the corral for any reason without an escort (including to the bathroom). So pretty much confined to the press area, we still managed to grab some nice pics of the evening's events and watched as potential interview subjects passed us by to hang out with DL Hughley, not that I'm bitter or anything. There was a weird swing/jazz band that no one danced to until they started playing Bon Jovi and Usher covers, the President and First Lady made an appearance and danced, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Dr. Jill popped in, and Jack Johnson and Common performed for the crowd, respectively representing the host states of Hawaii and Illinois.

On the whole, the evening was enjoyable. The crowd spent time milling about, waiting in the cash bar line, and anxiously anticipated the arrival of President Barack Obama. One of the best parts of the evening for me was watching the crowd walk up to the press corral, trying to figure out what celebrities were contained within, and the look of disappointment and borderline disgust when they realized, "Oh, it's press." It was a wonderful recognition. I bumped into Richard Francis, son of Obama's great uncle Charles Francis, who said, "We feel great. It's the right moment in history. We're incredibly proud." Asked if the inauguration finally puts to rest any question of taint Blagojevich may cause Obama, Payne said, "Absolutely. [Obama] has shown he's so far above that." Payne's companion, University of Washington political science professor Naomi Murakawa seconded Payne's opinion that there would be, "no taint."

The Obama's appearance was brief, as expected, as was the Biden's, and the music of Johnson and Common kept the party rolling late, even if the President had long since departed. And, just like that, the events of the day drew to a close and we were left feeling - besides hungry - like maybe things will be okay after all.

Oh, we also managed to talk to Sen. Roland Burris and Rev. Jesse Jackson very, very briefly, but we'll hit that in a bit.