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Kennedy's Obama endorsement in Albuquerque

“Calmly proceed to the award-winning Roy E. Disney Performing Arts Center for an instructional presentation on shouting in unison.”
“Calmly proceed to the award-winning Roy E. Disney Performing Arts Center for an instructional presentation on shouting in unison.”

Just as the applause died down from Sen. Kennedy's entering the room, just as Eric Griego stepped up to the podium and inhaled for his preamble, an alarm went off at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Not a metaphorical one.

"Attention! Attention! Attention! An emergency has been reported." The automated alert poured out of speakers hidden in what the NHCC has described as both "modernist Latin" and "Mayan-influenced" architecture. This was followed by overwrought instructions on evacuating the building ("calmly proceed toward the nearest exit ..."). Then the robo-alarm politely repeated itself. "There is an emergency!" A woman in the back of the room shouted. She was being metaphorical, of course.

Recognizing an opportunity to spread some coveted New England charm in New Mexico, Sen. Kennedy stood and raised his arms wide, energetically booming, "I cahn't think of a nicer crowd to go with!"

The crowd, swollen with Obama supporters and various press people, appeared to appreciate the solidarity. Whether Kennedy was talking about going up in flames with us or merely evacuating the building at our sides is open to interpretation. The alarm finished with no calamity in sight. (Non-metaphorically speaking, anyway.) Eric Griego resumed commencing.

The room selected for today's pro-Obama Kennedy appearance was stately but not formal. The same goes for the event's speakers. Former City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Eric Griego introduced a volunteer organizer named Charlotte (I didn't quite catch her last name), who in turn introduced State Treasurer James Lewis, who prepped the crowd for Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy.

In the audience, Former Mayor Jim Baca could be seen snapping pictures of the speakers at the podium. An AP photographer at his side documented the moment. People shifted weight to the other foot.

Before he officially began with his endorsement, Kennedy tried to get a round of "OBAMA"s going in the crowd. This posed an awkward problem, and it's a stumbling block that will continue to trip Obama and his supporters if he's to proceed in the 2008 presidential election. Simply put, no one could figure out how to chant "Obama" in unison.

It's stupid, I know. But some kind of protocol needs to be instituted on this. Shouting someone's name over and over again is supposed to generate excitement, but things went painfully the the other way today. The crowd alternately experimented with "OH-BA-MA!" and "Oh-BA-ma!" Instead of a wave of energy cresting and crashing with unified force, it floundered along the shoreline for a brief while, then broke into a confused flock of syllabic seagulls. Then, unceremoniously, it just sort of died. There wasn't a lot of inter-audience eye contact.

Kennedy, on the other hand, was direct and very likable. He compelled the crowd to welcome his wife, Vicki, who upon learning he was flying to New Mexico, decided to join him on a whim that morning. She stood up and waved gamely. Kennedy's New English was delightful. The aforementioned "cahn't" begat an "ahfta" and quite a few "volunt-eeyas." His casual insertion of the Spanish phrase "¡Si se puede!" was surprisingly natural. His finishing, uninflected "Un voto para Obama eso un vot para la gente" was not, but it did inspire a fresh round of "OBAMA"s from the audience. Er ... maybe not.

A solution was finally offered by an elderly gentleman to my right: "¡Que viva Obama!"

The crowd crowed back, "¡Viva!"

The call and response volleyed through the room a few times, and ended in applause. Now that's a beat the America people can dance to.