Friday, April 10, 2009

President Obama in Prague!

Dreams of My Father (in Czech!)

President Obama came to Prague to speak and 30,000 of us showed up! I was excited especially after my blogged open letter asking President Obama to come to Prague to talk to the Czechs about the radar base was read by a corespondent at the BBC. A producer emailed me and asked if I would be willing to do an interview. "Could you also find us a skeptical Czech to interview," they asked. Someone who represents Prime Minister Topolanek's viewpoint [that the American way is the "highway to hell?"]. Ha. That would be easy. ALL Czechs are skeptical!

I tried to get a press pass at the American Cultural Center. And why not? Bloggers get press passes to almost everything back home from the Democratic and Republican conventions to the Inauguration. Now that newspapers are closing at the rate of one a week in America, bloggers have never been a more important part of the democracy conversation. I have to admit I felt sheepish though when I took my place in press pass pickup line and asked the embassy lady if I was on the list. The guy in front of me was from Danish TV. The guy behind me was from the Washington Post Berlin bureau.

"Name?" she said. I told her my first name and surname. "No, the name of your media outlet." I gamely replied "Empty Nest Expat." Gentle readers, you would have been proud of me. I managed to carry that off with a straight face. "Uh, I don't think you're on the list," she said. "But here, she said, is an invitation to have a closer spot at the speech."

It was harder than I thought to find a skeptical Czech who was willing to go with me and be interviewed. I called a friend on April 1st and asked him but he couldn't talk right then. He called me back the next day and asked "Is this for real? I was laying in bed thinking about it and then I remembered that you Americans have this holiday...." No, no. This was for real. Not an April Fool's joke.

I asked another Czech who I knew to be really skeptical of Obama's stimulus package. He had asked me after the stimulus package passed, "Why is America spending all of that money going into debt? We [the Czech Republic] couldn't afford that debt. And why is all of that money being funneled to companies rather than regular people? It just creates graft."

He wouldn't be my skeptical Czech either though. "Journalists? I'm skeptical of them too. They just pull a bit out of what everyone says to manipulate the news." Man, these Czechs are tough cookies. They don't have much faith in ANYBODY!

Luckily, I met this articulate young man at the tram stop on the way to the speech. We instantly hit it off. He looked at my invitation and said "this is very Czech. It's meaningless. It's just to make you feel important while you stand with everyone else at the speech."

"But it's from the American Embassy!" I said. "Doesn't matter. It's not going to get you any closer. This is Czech," he kept saying.

He was right. We were in the back half, far, far from the press risers. The producer emailed me and said they were unable to get down from the risers to talk to the people. It didn't look like the interview would come off. I was disappointed but knew that the interview wasn't the point of the morning.

Protestors at the entrance to Prague Castle.

Gee, I guess I needn't have worried
about how I looked when I went
to try and get a press pass.

Yes, that number is 70!

A Czech patriot wearing his medals
and proudly displaying a beloved photograph
of his father with Founder of the Czech Republic Masaryk.
This man was imprisoned by Communists after WWII.

My pal Petr whom I met that day
kept me entertained for three hours.
He was my skeptical Czech!

Align CenterMichael
aka Blogging Gelle!

Everybody watching for the big entrance.

30,000 cameras reach up as the couple takes the stage.

The experience itself was underwhelming.
Three hours of waiting
with the realization you can't see a thing!

Thank goodness someone invented YouTube.
I hope to write more
about Obama's speech after the Easter Holiday.

The American flag, the Czech flag,
and the European Union Flag.

There is always room for wit on my blog.
These protestors made their point
by making everyone smile.

30,000 people leaving the square -
all wanting to go
a different direction than us.

After we had left the square, I got another text from the producer saying "can you come down here in five minutes, we are able to get off the risers." By then we were long gone out of the square and going back through the alley of 30,000 people and into the square would easily have taken a half hour.

I have increased appreciation for journalists after this. We were tired. We just wanted to go home. Journalists have to write something, after all that standing, and then produce it on deadline. Their job is a lot less glamorous than TV makes it look. And they do it day, after day, after day.


*lynne* said...

Yeah, I'm not a fan of crowds.. I would have stayed far far away from the event! :p

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
I just knew you were there!!!!! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Chaplain said...

Hi Karen,

I'm sorry you were left feeling underwhelmed by the event. However, I was fairly sure that the average man or woman wouldn't have a hope of getting anywhere near the platform, even if you went hours before the starting time. And I'm sorry the BBC interview didn't come off as I'm sure you would have enjoyed doing it & would have had some interesting things to say.

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