We had arrived at 3:30.
Really, the delegation of Tufts students had arrived in Manchester at 12:00, fired up and ready to canvass. The field office was packed; volunteers young and old congregated around the snacks table and huddled to hear instructions before exiting the office to knock on doors in the wilds of suburban New Hampshire.
After returning from our various canvassing missions, the Tufts students walked to the Radisson in the center of town. We arrived at 3:30, with already 300 people in front of us. You had to get there early, if you wanted to attend Hillary Clinton’s rally that night.
She wasn’t in New Hampshire yet—she was halfway across the country at that point, campaigning with LeBron James in Cleveland. We waited, sitting on the floor of the Radisson hallway, eating takeout paninis from a local cafe and reading for homework or for fun. After two hours, we went through a checkpoint staffed by TSA officers and entered the hotel ballroom.
One more hour of waiting, then another hour of speeches from New Hampshire politicians: Congresswomen Ann McLane Custer and Carol Shea Porter, Governor Maggie Hassan, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern all told us we were stronger together, all encouraged us to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.
7:45, James Taylor and his band took the stage, and the rally audience swayed to his most popular songs. When he left, Clinton staffers labored to angle the candidate’s teleprompter to be perfectly adjusted to her height.
At 8:35, she was there—after five hours of waiting, eight hours in New Hampshire—accompanied by Khizr Khan, who introduced her with a passion and poignancy reminiscent of his speech at the Democratic National Convention. A brief introduction, and then the candidate took the podium, her voice a little hoarse from weeks of campaigning, her tone a little subdued after an already full day. Yet she smiled widely for us, allowing the audience’s cheers and chants to punctuate her speech. She denigrated her opponent, but also made the case for optimism and respect in politics. Hillary Clinton believed that she could change this broken political system: she believed it, so the audience believed it too.
After her speech ended, we all rushed to the front of the stage, edging our way through the crowd to see her. She must have been exhausted, but she didn’t show it; she paused with every person, holding their phones for a selfie and offering a wide smile. I was pushed at an awkward angle, but she still took two selfies with me—“It’s blurry, I don’t know why,” she told me, after trying to get the best angle—and then she paused with me for a second after handing back my phone.
“I’m from New York,” I told her. I wanted to tell her that my mom, a single mother who worked three jobs while attending school, always took me with her on Election Day. She let me come into the polling booth and pull the lever for her chosen candidate. I voted for Hillary Clinton as senator of New York in 2006. She was my senator, my mom’s senator. But there was no time or space for that: all I could say was “I’m from New York.” Hillary Clinton smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up.
Then she moved on to the next person, ready to take their phone and their picture, making sure that every got their turn.