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Rudy and the rally

Stephanie DePrez | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Last Friday I had the unique opportunity to meet a man you probably feel very passionate about – John McCain. Love him or hate him, he and Barak Obama are igniting debate and political exploration all over the country, even here on campus. Being of the McCain camp, I jumped at the chance to see him in person at a rally held near Detroit, joining my fellow College Republicans as we went to hear what he had to say the day after his nomination acceptance speech. Plus, all my Dem friends back in Denver got to work the Obama convention, and I wanted some political stories of my own. We piled into cars early Friday morning, dressed in our ND GOP shirts and pretty much ready for anything. We’d been asked to volunteer, which was perfect because it meant we got into the rally for free. As we began to drive away, I realized my menial knowledge of Midwestern geography left me completely disoriented. I had no idea what direction we were driving, and the only thing I knew about Detroit was that it’s where the Tigers come from. I had a vague idea it might be in Michigan, which I had a vague idea might be near Indiana. This was quickly remedied, and I got the geography lesson (complete with the hand map, someone pointing to the fingers and explaining where Detroit is). Upon arrival, we were given our volunteer passes and told to wait with fellow Republicans from the University of Michigan.  (Don’t worry – our T-shirts were way cooler).  We ended up spread all over the venue ushering people to their seats and making sure no one bothered the press.When it came to the main event, we ended up right at the front – literally feet from the podium. Thus began the waiting. A series of speakers each explained why they think John McCain is the ideal President for the next four years. As McCain’s entrance came closer, the music got louder. Then, as the luck of the Irish would have it, the resounding theme from “Rudy” was pumped into the arena and our group of more than 20 college kids went crazy. We lifted up our leprechaun flag and began to wave it – kind of hard to miss – in front of the over 8,000 McCain supporters behind us. Thunderous, victory-oriented music is no stranger to political conventions these days, but McCain happened to be using our theme song, our music. It was, needless to say, a nice touch. He and Sarah Palin entered – along with Cindy McCain and one of their daughters soon after – and we were content to stand directly in front of them and cheer along with the rest of the crowd, perhaps a little louder, though, knowing that we could indeed be heard.  Palin said all the right things, firing up the crowd and expressing her respect and admiration of McCain, and McCain managed to hit every mark. A lot of what was said echoed each of their speeches from the previous nights, but it was indescribable to see them say it for real, not from a screen, and to be able to look at their eyes surveying the crowd and watch their feet shuffling behind the podium as they spoke so passionately about a country you could tell they both love deeply. After McCain’s speech, both he and Palin walked along the front of the crowd and shook hands. I managed to stick my shoulder through the crowd as McCain came along, and when he took my hand I looked him in the eye and said, “My father was in your squadron in 1975.”  McCain stopped for a moment and looked down at me, asking, “Oh yeah? What was his name?” Completely caught off guard at his response and even acknowledgement of my comment, I replied, “Greg DePrez.” “Oh sure,” he said. “Great guy. How’s he doing?” Now, I am fully aware of how politics work, and that he probably doesn’t even remember my dad, who met him a few times in meetings and passing when McCain was his Executive Officer. But the mere fact that McCain stopped, looked me in the eye and asked me for my dad’s name, well, ladies and gentlemen, that was special. That rocked my world a bit. Plus, when he saw our Notre Dame spirit, as he passed us he put two thumbs up and said, “Go Irish!”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Stephanie DePrez at sdeprez@nd.edu