As I briefly mentioned last night, I had the honor of seeing President Bush speak here in Bangor, Maine. And it was truly an amazing experience.
A Bangor Daily News estimate put the crowd at about 4000, but it seems to me that the crowd was more in the 7,000 to 10,000 range. Alfond Arena, where the Maine Black Bears play hockey, holds a little under 6,000, and the were way more people at the rally than a packed house during the Hockey East finals. Our local paper also estimated that there were several hundred protestors near the rally. Unless they were hiding somewhere, this number was inflated. There was only a handful (5-10) near the exit to the rally, and maybe 75 to 100 on Union Street, a major thoroughfare in Bangor.
With the number game aside, the rally was awesome. The President’s speech was great, touching on the major campaign issues as well as some local groups and issues.
Bangor International Airport is the first stop for troops returning from overseas. President Bush praised the efforts of 82-year old Bill Knight, who organizes troop greeters and makes sure that there is always someone at the airport to greet troops at all times of the day and night.
The president also addressed the local lobstermen, sportsmen, and talked about tax relief for small businesses here in Maine. There is a great entrepreneurial spirit here in this state, but since we are so heavily taxed, small businesses don’t flourish here like they should.
After the rally, the President took time to greet a troop transport flight headed to Middle East. This was a complete surprise to the troops.
Sgt. 1st Class Maxie Tolar of North Carolina said he was excited to go to Iraq and that the trip had "just been made even better by seeing the president." Tolar also would have been happy just to get a picture of Air Force One.
"But right now this is Air Force One," Tolar said.
This is from Sgt. 1st Class Keith Hopper who was about the troop transport:
Sgt. 1st Class Keith Hopper had hoped for a glimpse of Air Force One. Instead, he got to look his boss right in the eye when President Bush made a surprise inspection aboard an Iraq-bound troop transport plane Thursday at the Maine Air National Guard base. "This is pretty exciting," said Hopper. "I've even got my absentee ballot with me, but I already knew who I was voting for."
President Bush’s stop here in Bangor was awesome. The rally was well worth the security, the blazing sun, and the long wait. I am still awestruck that I was some 100 or so feet from the leader of the free world and got to hear him speak in person. It was great that the troops heading overseas got to see their commander-and-chief in person before heading to Kuwait and Iraq to fight for and spread democracy and freedom.
And the crowd chanted “4 more years”…
We the people of the United States, and particularly Maine, need to make this a reality, not only for our country but also for the world.
Update: The Portland Press Herald puts the rally numbers around 9,000. More quality reporting from the Bangor Daily News.