Sunday, November 9, 2008

Six victory themes: how Washington DC celebrated when Obama won the election

Here it is! The definitive video series depicting events in the United States capital on one of the most historic nights in the country's history. I'm talking about the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in DC in the wake of the declaration that Barack Obama had won the presidency on Tuesday Nov. 4, 2008.

The enthusiasm of the people in each of the seven videos is infectious. Viewers report that one of the tunes in video #3 (Goodbye Bush) is contagious.

I shot a lot of video that night. Looking over my video clips the next day -- people cheering, dancing, telling jokes and shouting out their feelings -- a pattern emerged.

Before I get into that, though, take a look at the seventh -- and final -- of my videos about the spontaneous Obama victory celebrations outside the White House. It serves as a rousing introduction to the night:

The video above coveys to you the tremendous positive energy shared by nearly everyone present.

Each of the six other videos conveys a theme that that can be seen to have characterized the public's reaction to the Obama victory. The public reactions are listed below, with links to the respective videos.

1. The Greatest Day.I watched an Englishman get interviewed on telivision outside the White House. The man said:
"It was the greatest day."
And it was. It was the day that saw the election of the first African American president; the demise of the worst US Administration in memory; a chance for Americans to begin to reclaim their country's reputation among the nations; for everyone else on the planet, it was as if dark storm clouds had been blown away. It seemed as if the US might beome a necessary beacon of social stability, good government, human rights and leadership on the environment.

The greatest day was truly the happiest of days. The first video captures some of that joy.

2. Yes we did. I came to understand the secret of Obama's success more fully that night -- as "Yes we can" became "Yes we did." Obama had made an entire generation, whole new segments of American society connect with the political system.

The celebrants had not come to worship a hero, but to celebrate what they and their country had done, and the new future they might realize. Obama's achievement is not so much in having created a following of believers, but in having taught people the power of collective action.

To say that's it too soon for his supporters to say, "Yes we did," would be to miss this vital point. I think this video conveys what I am talking about.

3. Goodbye Bush. Tuesday night the people on the street said goodbye to Bush, and good riddance.

I heard someone say, "If we impeach Bush now, we can have first woman president (Pelosi) before the first black president."

Her words capture was on everyone's mind. Bush cannot leave soon enough. (I was informed that President Bush and his family had actually been moved out of the White House as the crowd gathered outside the White House.) The "goodbye Bush" cheers were some of the most fun to watch. Look for them on this video.

4. This country is ours. With the victory of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections, Americans have every reason to be proud. I watched Americans point at the White House and cry out, "That house is ours!"

There was the sense that Americans were taking back their country from the war-makers and the big corporations. Americans chanted and sang. People had stood up for the possibility that patriotism might might once again align itself with the Enlightenment spirit of the country's founders: America as beacon for human rights and democracy. Although the media seems reluctant to depict this trend, Obama's supporters have shown that the US flag and other symbols patriotism are not the property of the those on the right. See this post and my accompanying video.

5. The dream is real. November 4, 2008 will go down as one of the greatest and happiest days in American history. For African Americans, the event was the fulfillment of a dream. I listened to a some women sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at the front gates of the White House. Witnessing this scene was one of one of the real highlights of the extraordinary night. And I captured the whole thing on video. If you only watch one of these videos, make it this one.

6. The people take back the capital. I witnessed a "three mile dance" through the streets of capital. It began outside the White House and finished up at the foot of Capitol Hill. The event was the culmination of an incredible evening of festivities. Five hundred people embarked on this journey. Although spontaneous, the dance seemed deeply symbolic. It was an enactment of the people taking back their capital, and by extension the country. The march is captured in this video:


  1. I got here via (great blog), must comment ..... as I watched the people take to the streets in DC in your wonderful video, I was moved to tears! It was so great to see ... I spent about 10 years in Calvert County, so was in DC often, and it was so great to see "real" people in the streets instead of the hussling and bussling suits and cell phones or throngs of tourists. Must have been a great experience, thanks for sharing.
    "Tired Mom" (Richmond, VA) come visit at the Flats!

  2. We went to this celebration and left early (around 1 am!), but it was absolutely amazing. I've never seen anything like it--the media barely reported on the spontaneous celebrations like this that erupted all over this country--and the world, but they happened. A truly unique and unparalleled event!


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