Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama's Whistle Stop Tour to Draw Thousands...Woah, Not You Philadelphia

(The New York Times)
When Barack Obama makes his whistle-stop train ride from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. many people will be able to watch him speak along the way. A program is expected at 1pm on Saturday in Wilmington, and then here in town, Obama will be speaking at the War Memorial Plaza at 4:15pm (or later, we all know Amtrak). What about Philadelphia you ask? Well there won't be anything. No grand send off, no speechifying, no...anything...except if you were a "super supporter" of the Obama Campaign. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the send off at 30th Street Station will be limited to about 250 people and most will be inconvenienced because of " interruptions or delays because of the hoopla".

No stop at Independence Hall, or the Liberty Bell, or the steps of the Art Museum? If this is supposed to be a grand send off, where is the grand? where is the send off? The inauguration committee has been touting this as a retracing of Lincoln's 1861 trip to D.C. When honest Abe came to Philly he toured and spoke at Independence Hall in front of a crowed of 30,000 people. Not this time. A missed opportunity.

Here in Charm City the Obama Express will stop at the War Memorial, and the city is expecting crowds in upwards of 150,000. A far cry from Lincoln's visit in 1861 when he was secretly skirted between the the President Street and Camden Stations, because of an assassination plot (and general rabble rousing) and then onto DC with no fan fare. When the Baltimore crowds showed up to see the train Lincoln was supposed to be on, he was already in Washington.

Don't get me wrong, I love the nostalgia of it, bringing back memories of Presidential arrivals from years past. But this isn't your normal Teddy Roosevelt kind of whistle-stop. The Obama Express will be blowing down the Northeast Corridor at 125 MPH on a charter Acela. Don't expect to stand to close to the track at the stations along the way to to wave because local police will be along the whole route. I'm sure people will still line the right-of-way as he's passing through, just like they have had for every other president who has taken a train anywhere.

If you're in town on Saturday, head on down to War Memorial Plaza and check it out, should be interesting.

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