By Maury Castro, Las Cruces Volunteer
New Mexico volunteers arrived at the president’s venue for his visit to El Paso, Texas at 9:00 am that morning. The Chamizal National Monument proved to be the perfect place to address his chosen subject of immigration reform. In his speech he presented his case for repairing a broken system of laws and policies that have created pain and misery for millions, economic issues, and law enforcement problems that present a tremendous challenge for his administration and the nation.
We, the volunteers were greeted by rising temperatures that reached 90 degrees by noon-time. We noted the attendees flocking towards the site on foot and by car. New Mexico was well represented with people coming from Hidalgo, Luna, Otero, and Dona Ana counties. They streamed through our vantage point prudently dressed in wide-brimmed hats, short-sleeved shirts, shorts and comfortable shoes but some donned more formal attire – fitting for what they were representing. All, it seemed, exuded an air of high expectations and good energy. Security appeared appropriately tight with numerous police squad-cars and officers conspicuously dispersed through-out the vicinity. Secret Service personnel assigned to protect the president wore their usual black suits and serious looks constantly shifting their eyes and turning their heads surveying the crowds. A sprinkling of border patrolmen added to the security task at hand.
We were led to a place in front of Bowie High School adjacent to the Chamizal Park, were we were briefed on our duties and assigned ID tags. Mike Apodaca and a secret service agent were our mentors. After what seemed an eternity baking under the hot sun while assisting and directing the on-coming crowds toward the site, we were assigned seats and after sighs of relief we sat down to wait for the president. Everyone seemed to be gulping down water served by another group of volunteers working under a canopied structure.
Like clockwork that amazed even the cynics among us, the president appeared as scheduled; at about 1:00 pm. As he approached we could sense his proximity through the helicopter’s noisy blades and the ratcheting up of the crowd’s din. The euphoric anticipation of the charismatic leader was reflective in every face in our section of the seated audience and it exploded into a roaring applause and positive yells when the young leader hopped up the stairs onto the stage in his shirt sleeves. Never mind the discomfort of the hot sun and the long wait, we were thrilled at seeing and hearing our first African-American President speak.
He did not disappoint anybody; he was his usual eloquent-electrifying persona demonstrating a complete command of his subject – Immigration Reform. He effectively made his case on the issues and for the urgency of the need to repair the broken system under a most trying of times involving a political division unseen in the annals of our government’s history. But he also communicated optimism.
The flow of his oratory was sprinkled with the crowds’ positive vocal demonstration of approval. His concluding statements were incredibly moving. His wrap-up included a story of a young Mexican Americans triumph over enormous obstacles and the challenges presented to migrant farm workers and their families. It involved a child who burdened by the nomadic life’s negative impact on a school child’s education received inspiration by the astronauts. Although weak in language subjects, he excelled in science and math and ultimately ended working as an astronaut for NASA. The standing ovation given Obama was warranted.
Very few eyes were dry after the president waved goodbye. This writer found himself choked as well, knowing the President was passionate and determined to achieve real progress on this issue.