When Oprah Winfrey announced last month that she’d be interviewing Beto O’Rourke during a live event in New York City, there was an air of palpable excitement among the O’Rourke fans of the world, a growing and increasingly enthusiastic faction. Some were excited that he was stepping back in the public eye following his Kerouac-esque post-election road trip (documented thoroughly on Medium); other wondered, and even hoped, that since this would be his first major public appearance since losing the Texas Senate election to Ted Cruz in November, O’Rourke might use the opportunity to announce a 2020 presidential bid.
And so, a number of his superfans rushed to buy tickets and flocked to Times Square to see him for Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, an afternoon of live interviews between Oprah and influential guests, set to air on OWN on February 16 at 8 p.m. But the actual event was more subdued than the O’Rouke fans in attendance may have imagined.
The politician demurred, even hedged, when prodded repeatedly by Oprah over whether he’d enter the presidential race. Though O’Rourke admitted that he was “thinking” about running and would decide before the end of the month, he gave no definitive answer either way. Yet, throughout the interview, his fans in attendance — some of whom wore “BETO FOR SENATE” shirts to show their support — cheered and clapped as he spoke, and the subtle excitement was infectious. A few of his fans chatted with the Cut about the experience.
I’m from McAllen, Texas, which is a border town, but I live in New York City now. I’m hoping he announces his 2020 run, but it’s also a lifelong dream to see Oprah, so to have the two in a room combined is a dream come true. Beto is from a border town, and he first and foremost understands that a border wall will not constitute border security. (The joke in my hometown is that if you build a wall, we’ll build a ladder that’s five feet higher than the wall.) Beto is exciting, he’s invigorating, and his energy levels are unlike any other person that has announced their 2020 presidential run. He is the main attraction; that’s why I paid $250 for this event — and it’s worth every penny.
I flew here from Texas yesterday just for this, to see Beto. I volunteered with his campaign in Texas. I was inspired for the first time in many years by a politician. I think he’s the right guy for the job. I certainly understand him not wanting to leave his family again for a couple of years to run for president, so who knows if he’s going to run. I hope he does. If he doesn’t, I hope he’ll run for Senate again in two years. If not that, maybe for governor of Texas. All of the major cities in Texas went to Beto. Texas’ demographics are changing. It’s purple.
We volunteered on Beto’s campaign electronically on Slack; they put out a call to everybody who signed up on his website to volunteer. I live in D.C., Jessica lives in Maryland, and it was a nationwide effort. We drove up here today — he was the No. 1 draw. We wanted to hear him speak, see what his thoughts are about the current environment, and where he’s going to go in future directions. I’ve been following his blog and been reading a lot about his travels. I really appreciate his upfrontness and transparency and genuine overall decency to how he interacts with everybody. On the way up, we were trying to think of ways he could still contribute, whether it’s to run for president or run for the Senate seat in 2020 or governorship. He’s got a lot of different things he can consider.
I’m here to see this dude right here. [Points at Beto shirt.] I’m from Texas, but I live in New York now. Seeing what he was able to do as far as getting national recognition and attention, and the fact that he was able to get so close to beating Ted Cruz, is such a phenomenal feat in a place that is as red and conservative as Texas. He showed a lot of promise and it would be really killer if he made an announcement. I was just really, really stoked to see him come here and sit down with Oprah and hear what he has to say. Oprah has obviously done amazing things and has had an amazing career, but I’m here more so to see Beto for sure.
I’m here to see all of the amazing speakers, but primarily to see Beto O’Rourke. I’m from El Paso, where he’s from, and I used to work in his congressional office. It was my first time voting this past election. First off, he’s a hometown hero. But his sheer ability to bring people together is one of his most admirable qualities. The margin that he came back with in his run against Ted Cruz was just outstanding and very unexpected. At the same time, it just draws attention to how much he brings people of different backgrounds and political settings together.
I volunteered on Beto’s campaign as a Beto ambassador, which means I helped get more volunteers involved and worked on fundraising. Several of us were discussing this event online and rather impulsively, I decided to see if I could get tickets — and I could. I brought my son Ben with me. We live in Austin, Texas, and we came to New York City just for this. We first saw him on campus in a classroom, and eventually someone remarked, “He’s the real deal.” That authenticity was just apparent throughout the campaign. Now, we’ve got people all over the country who have really been supportive of him and are ready to move. But it was very impulsive of me to say we’re going to go to New York to see him. We were hoping initially that we’d hear an announcement today, but whatever he decides, we’re ready to rally behind him. [Holds up a Beto sign.] This sign is from our yard. We have more there, but we grabbed one and brought it here.