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Line Started At 5:36 A.M. To Hear Obama's Farewell Speech

By Sam Cholke | January 10, 2017 2:12pm | Updated on January 10, 2017 4:07pm
 Thousands of people are waiting in line to see President Barack Obama's farewell speech in Chicago.
Obama speech line
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CHICAGO — It's still hours before President Barack Obama delivers his farewell address in Chicago, but thousands of people are already lining up to get a good spot inside McCormick Place, with the first people getting there before 6 a.m.

The doors to the main convention hall don't open until 5 p.m. The speech is set to begin at 8 p.m.

Yet, thousands of people turned out in the blustery, rainy conditions to get inside.

Hyde Parker Crystal Williams and her 11-year-old son, London, were the first in line Tuesday morning.

She said they arrived at McCormick Place at 5:36 a.m. to find only puzzled security guards unsure of where to start the line so early.

Williams said she and London have taken every opportunity to see Obama and are both hoping to meet him for the second time.

"I'm going to say to him, 'I'm glad you're the first black president and I'm proud of you,'" London said.

He's met Obama once before, London said, but doesn't remember it. She said that when London was 3 years old in 2008, he dressed up as then-U.S. Senator Obama to go trick-or-treating and ran into Obama out with his daughter Sasha and was immediately ready to leave his mom.

"He said, 'I don't want to go trick-or-treating with you, I want to go with Barack Obama,'" Williams said.

The second person in line, Sam Higgins of Beverly, said he got to McCormick Place at 6:15 a.m. to try to meet Obama for the first time.

"I didn't get a chance to go to the inauguration and I remembered seeing it on TV and feeling regret," Higgins said. "So I made it my mission to get tickets."

He said he started waiting in line at 4 a.m. Saturday to get tickets.

Higgins said he will be satisfied with just being in the same room as Obama while he is still the sitting president, but would like to shake his hand.

It was hours after Williams and Higgins arrived before the line started to fill up, but people started arriving in larger numbers by as early as noon Tuesday to get a prime spot in line for the first-come, first-serve seats.

Even VIP ticket holders arrived early for what was expected to be a long line of well-connected people hoping to also see Obama speak one more time.

Kari Steele, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, arrived before 3 p.m. and was still expecting to wait in line for a while despite her VIP ticket.

"Oh, I'm sure there will still be a line," Steele said. "It's going to get crazy here."

The weather also got crazy as people descended on McCormick Place during uncharacteristically warm and rainy weather.

High winds in Chicago forced the city to close down Cermak Road between Indiana and Calumet near McCormick Place. Crowds coming out for the speech are being directed through the West Building of the convention center.


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