Sarah Palin in Naples
“Palin speaks to us like a real person without all that political mumbo jumbo,” said Amy Kauffman, who attended with island friends including Carole Roberts and Cheryl Mueller.
“We felt like we were making history,” Kauffman said.
While many adults were among the approximate 9,000 visitors, students were also in the crowd, including middle school and high school students from Winterberry Christian Academy.
T.J. Freeman, the school’s administrator, said he was very proud of the 11 students who stayed in their seats nearly five hours waiting for Palin.
The students said they sat in the front row just to the back of Palin.
Paul Neptune, 13, said “a lot of stuff” about the event stood out to him. He quoted Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott’s introduction nearly word for word.
“There are people who make things happen; people who watch things happen and people who wonder what happened,” said Neptune, recalling the line that stirred an uproar from the crowd.
Neptune and his schoolmates Googled Palin as they sat in class Tuesday, reading the media frenzy about Scott’s next line: “On Nov. 4 let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened.”
“You’re not supposed to say his middle name,” said Neptune.
Freeman said he was a bit surprised by the reaction to using democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s middle name.
“It was a pro-McCain and Palin rally. That’s a common critique or comment made about Obama. I didn’t think it would have this big of an impact,” Freeman said as his students continued to talk about the event.
While the Hussein comment was discussed, many said it wasn’t the part of the rally that struck them the most.
“When this guy started yelling at (Palin,) I was really impressed. She stood up for herself and her son and said “my son is fighting in Iraq for your right to protest right now,” Joe Byrne, 11 recalled of Palin’s statement.
Roberts agreed. “There is no doubt that was the highlight,” she said.
Byrne, still seven years away from being able to vote, said he wasn’t sure “yet” who he would pick.
“I’ve heard good and bad from both sides. I’d like to attend the democrats rally next and hear more from both sides ... It was a really good historical thing to do,” Byrne said adding that he would pray for Palin’s son in the army.
Neptune and classmate Joey Lang, 14 said they had stronger republican leanings and, along with their parents, supported McCain and Palin.