Ford column: Woo hoo! My mama and Obama
By Emily Ford
If you saw the video last week of Barack Obama saying, “George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for,” then you saw my mom.
Mom is right there, over Obama’s left shoulder, in the Watertown, S.D., livestock arena.
She’s got some shifty eyes going on for the first minute of the video, probably a little suspicious of the pushy national media and the entourage that comes along with a presidential campaign. She’s a good South Dakotan. “Welcome to South Dakota! Now exactly what do you plan to do here?”
You can pick her out of the crowd. At 2 minutes 53 seconds on most clips, Mom stands up and leads the ovation when Obama challenges John McCain to a foreign-policy debate.
You can see hear mouth form the renowned Ford family cry, “Woo hoo!”
This speech received worldwide attention, and the video was prominently featured on Web sites including CNN, AP, MSNBC, the New York Times and even the Salisbury Post.
There’s Barack Obama. And there’s my mom.
My dad, who appears for a split second in some of the videos, immediately e-mailed eight links to the family.
It was an odd place for Obama to make a major foreign policy statement. Dirt floor, covered with sawdust, smelling like manure. South Dakota not only boasts a population of less than 800,000, it also boasts the very last primary election in the country.
But this year, even South Dakota counts.
Obama had planned to talk about, surprise, rural issues. But first, he told the 1,500 hardy souls in the livestock arena, he wanted to address the “dustup” that had occurred the day before.
At this point, the folks seated behind Obama nod knowingly and start smiling and clapping. Except Mom. So Dad leans in and whispers something like, “Bush implicitly attacked Obama’s approach to foreign policy yesterday in Israel.”
“Oh!” Mom says, and claps.
You just don’t expect a presidential foreign policy scuffle in South Dakota.
Earlier that morning, Mom had a little dustup of her own with Obama’s security detail. She arrived wearing her 1980 George McGovern T-shirt, hoping that Obama would sign it.
But when she headed for the VIP section right behind the podium (and right in front of all those cameras), it became clear that “McGovern” is not exactly the name that Obama strategists waging one of the toughest primary battles ever want floating over their candidate’s left shoulder during a 5-minute video clip seen ’round the world.
So my mom put her sweater back on.
McGovern, South Dakota’s brilliant native son and statesman, was unfortunately one of the biggest Democratic losers in presidential history. The former senator did introduce Obama at a rally in Sioux Falls.
People sitting near Mom and Dad were soon receiving text messages from friends watching them live on television. We don’t get CNN with our $9 cable package, which I like to refer to as “reception,” so we had to settle for watching video clips on the computer.But the next morning while the kids were watching cartoons, Nellie for some reason switched to the CBS Early Show. At first I scolded her for turning on the news, which is mostly inappropriate for her 4-year-old sister to view.
Then I saw a familiar face.
“Look, it’s Grandma!”
No matter how many times we’d seen the video online, it was still more exciting to see it on TV.
If Bush had not implicitly criticized Obama the day before, and if Obama had delivered a farm talk May 16 and not a major foreign policy statement, no one would have noticed his appearance in this little town on the prairie, just a few miles from where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up.But as it turned out, Mom heard from people all over the country who saw her over Obama’s left shoulder.
She’s a Barackstar.
In one video, my dad is, too. Go to www.YouTube. com and search for “Barack Obama Watertown South Dakota.”
When the crowd stands up, suddenly Obama has my fabulous mom over one shoulder and my handsome dad over the other.
This was a pretty powerful image for me. My mom, my dad and my president.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.
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