There are a lot of ways to be a part of the convention, from volunteering to coming as someone’s guest to being an actual delegate. More work and expectation going into being a delegate, more than I initially thought. There are also benefits and rewards. I considered going as a guest if I didn’t get elected as a delegate, and glad that it didn’t come to that.
When it comes to convention, you have to expect the unexpected. It’s a but easier to handle if you are there in an official capacity. I’ve been a state delegate for several years now, but even that didn’t really prepare me for being a delegate on the national level.
That said, here are five things I’ve learned about being a delegate at the DNC:
1. Be familiar with the national platform!
Every delegate should be familiar with the national platform, as it is one of the things you will vote on. You don’t have to know it cover to cover, but there should be one or two platform items that speak to you (that’s why you’re a delegate, right?!). As a delegate, people will ask your opinion about the platform, especially the media. Media is everywhere and they want delegate reactions to everything! When the media approaches you, the first thing they will ask is “Are you a delegate?” They don’t want to talk to anyone that isn’t one when it comes to meaty questions.
On the other side of that coin, it can be embarrassing if you, as a delegate, can’t answer questions about something you are there to vote for. I saw it happen on more than one occasion last week. It’s not pretty.
Lastly, your name is attached to the platform, literally. On our chairs Tuesday night, we received a book that contained the platform. In the back of the book, all of the delegates names are listed. I am now on record as part of the platform approval. Thus, it’s good to know what you’re attaching your name to.
2. Be a responsible delegate!
Going to the DNC for the most part is a self-funded event. You pay for everything (airfare, hotel, etc.). For California delegates, the average cost was about $2,600. Some people were able to pay for themselves. Others fund-raised, like I and many others did. Those who donated to the cause did so because they felt the importance of you being there, and in a way, you are living this experience for them. In feeling that way myself, I shared the experience by blogging, taking photos and attending every meeting and caucus that I could.
There are more events, caucuses, receptions and parties that I could count. It’s easy to only get 3 hours of sleep due to all of this. While the temptation to sleep in was always there, I still got up to attend the breakfast meetings to hear various speakers address California delegates specifically on how things on the national level are relevant to our state. In my mind, I couldn’t justify skipping out just because I may have decided to celebrate and socialize a little too much into the wee hours of the morning.
3. Delegate status = You’re in!
I stated in an earlier post my dismay of the contingency planning for changing locations for the President’s speech from a 70,000+ venue to one that holds about 20,000. Those with community tickets would no longer be able to attend. Delegates, however, were not effected by the change. We are part of the official count, so we couldn’t be booted or left out.
It’s amazing how many people you get access to, and who want access to you. I’m speaking mostly about my fellow delegates/peers, but also about state and national elected officials. The ability to ask meaningful questions in the small window of opportunity that occurs is pretty amazing. Two opportunities that stand out for me the most include speaking with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. In the one minute I had with her, I told her I grew up in Detroit and am still very much invested in the success of the manufacturing and automotive industries there. I asked what is or can be done to help? She told me to direct people to the DOL.gov website and encourage people to attend classes to gain credentials and further their education. There is a big push to get people certified and credentialed in an effort to earn more money and stability. I really appreciated that answer.
The second incident involved seeing former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on my way back to SFO. She was on the same flight as I was and we’d both been up a good 24 hours. While I didn’t want to bother her, the speech she gave the night before was still fresh on my brain, and I really wanted to thank her for talking about what happened back in 2009/10. She was gracious when I approached her, and she thanked me for being vested in the success of Michigan’s economy though I was now in California.
5. Randomness of celebrity!
The California delegation probably had the most “celebrity” in-house at the DNC. One afternoon, I witnessed a conversation between Sen. Feinstein, Mayor Ed Lee and MC Hammer. I later spoke with MC Hammer and Mark Leno in the hotel bar before they went off to discuss local politics. Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield roamed the hotel lobby, Eric McCormack had a few drinks with us, and Kerry Washington was regal even when relaxed.
In the arena, I watched as Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame walk over to sit with the Oregon delegation while Will.I.Am waved to the crowd as he walked the main floor. I saw CNN’s Roland Martin get his boogie on between broadcasts, and I swear Wolf Blitzen’s facial expression didn’t change at all over the past 3 days.
My favorite celeb sighting was one I orchestrated: I wanted to meet Chef Art Smith and I made it happen. Second is meeting Alexis Bledel, aka Rory Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls.
All in all, it was a great but tiring experience. I will make sure not to have to go to work soon after stepping off the plane next time. Thanks to everyone who helped me get to the convention, and I hope the blog posts and photos made you feel like a part of the festivities.