Obama and Michelle

Barack & Michelle Obama visited Prague this weekend.  On Sunday, I got up before dawn and went to Hradčanské náměstí to stand in a queue (read: massive crowd) of people waiting to get in to hear Obama speak.  6:30 AM: There were already a good couple hundred waiting at the entrance, which opened at 7 AM.  According to the US Embassy in Prague, it was a free event with no ticket needed.

But at 7 AM, the police, in clipped shouts, instructed us to get in two lines–I use that term loosely–with invitation-holders on the right.  You see, there were no tickets, but there were invitations which you could obtain by being a) a Democrat Abroad, b) faculty or students from local schools, or c) at the right place at the right time: the day before the speech officials at the castle were handing out invitations to random passers-by.  It fits in with several of my experiences with the authorities here that officially there are no tickets, but actually…there are invites which you can get by who you know or the luck of the draw.

Nonetheless, I was there early enough to get in and find my friends who were already in the square of Prague castle.  We stood for another three hours until Obama spoke at 10:30 AM.  It was definitely worth the early morning and the wait to hear a live speech from my president.  I couldn’t see for the life of me, but one of my friends held me up so I could see his face for a few seconds. (!!)  Obama spoke words of praise for the difficulties that the Czech people have weathered and he pointed out that it is an amazing thing that an American president can give a speech in the heart of Prague and that both are countries are glad of that.  Obama said many noteworthy things, including this quote: “Moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.”  You can read the entire speech here.

More thoughts & photos to come.