MANNO: The boy behind the president

I somehow found myself on stage behind President Obama during his campaign rally at Summerfest Grounds this past Saturday. Needless to say, it was a hoot.

One moment I was squeezed into an aisle to hear Sen. Herb Kohl and Congresswoman-slash-Senatorial-candidate Tammy Baldwin, and the next I was picked randomly to go on stage before the president spoke. I’m assuming it was the heads-up penny I found on the way down to Summerfest Grounds – or maybe I should just stuff myself in the corner next to the stage at campaign rallies from now on and hope for the best.

After restraining myself from making faces at the Secret Service like they were the British Royal Guard, we hopped up on stage just before the president was introduced.

Mr. Obama gave a rousing speech that appealed to the middle class and rallied to voters for another four years in office. It was fantastic. And as it turns out, you can learn a lot about a president after 30 minutes of staring at his back end.

I learned that the Presidential Dress Shirt dries raindrops in 10 seconds, and that Mr. Obama’s shirt ironing guy was out sick that day. And I learned that Mr. Obama is as superb an orator as he’s been labeled. Rarely was a line taken word-for-word from the teleprompter.

This was the real marvel. For some reason, I couldn’t stop looking at the teleprompter.

This is my dream of being on stage with the president – I’ve always been curious about what goes on in the presidential teleprompter. How fast does it scroll? What font do they use? Why can I see through the thing on TV? During his State of the Union addresses, the president’s eyes seem to look at four spots: far left, middle left, middle right, far right. Are these all teleprompters?

Turns out it’s white-on-black lettering that scrolls as the president speaks. Nothing special. Still, it was neat to see the president’s words before they were spoken.

This was probably the closest I’ll ever get to being in the president’s shoes. So I can’t help but wonder: what would I have done differently? (Cue thought bubble.) I know Mr. Obama had to get a taste of local cuisine – bratwurst at Milwaukee’s sausage staple Usinger’s, it turned out. This was a good call. I’d probably have checked out my recent favorite, the Broken Yolk.

But when I give a speech I just get sweaty palms and mumble like I have marbles in my mouth.

Well, at least now I know I’m not cut out for the job. No big. For now I’m just happy I saw a sitting president speak to a crowd of 18,000 from such a humbling perspective.

(That, and my shoes were on C-SPAN. Score!)

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