I landed in Denver, Colorado at 2:13 pm CST on Sunday, August 25th, the day before the official start of the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC). Shortly after arriving, I was met by throngs of Barack Obama supporters. It was like a huge welcoming committee.
Almost everywhere I looked, there were Barack Obama and DNCC volunteers welcoming everyone who arrived in the airport. It was exciting. In fact, it made me excited to see their excitement. When I finally reached baggage claim, I couldn’t believe the number of celebrities I saw in the airport. I saw people like Mike Thurmond, the Georgia secretary of labor; major news reporters from Atlanta; and Rza from the Wu Tang Clan.
Once everyone from the team had arrived, we stuffed ourselves and our luggage into a white mini van. I still wonder how all 7 of us were able to fit into the van and our entire luggage. But, somehow, we managed to do it. As the team and I traveled to our home, away from home, we saw solar panels outside of the airport and lots of billboards that reminded us to protect the environment.
It took approximately 40 minutes to get home and 30 minutes to get to downtown, Denver by car. To most that might sound like a long time (especially with the sky rocketing price of gas). But, in the DNCC atmosphere, that’s absolutely okay. In fact, that’s probably the norm. Let me explain. Due to the high demand for housing near the convention center, hotels cost more than $200.00 per night; and, nearby homes, cost even more. For example, word on the street is that Oprah Winfrey is staying in a home that she leased for 50K per week. So, as you can see, renting a home in the suburbs, 30 minutes away from town for the week, seems logical. Not to mention, our house is pretty cool! It’s an eco-friendly home! And although some of us are sleeping two to a bed, the experience of the house is phenomenal. Oh, and did I mention that the fridge is loaded with toms of healthy vegetarian food for the team.
Once we unloaded our belongings, we decided to find out about the Denver transit system and acclimate ourselves to downtown Denver. I must admit, the Denver transit system is a little complex. The kiosks, for the Denver transit system, have somehow managed to be very unhelpful in being helpful. Fortunately for us, there were locals around who were able to provide us with assistance. It didn’t take too long for our train to arrive. And, after loading onto the train, I noticed that there was nothing to check our transit passes; which, might I add, is very reminiscent of the Austrian transit system.
After getting over the shock that no one was interested in checking our bus passes, we finally reached Downtown Denver. I was amazed by the beautiful landscape and clean streets, the lack of people walking around, and the number of police officers situated around the Downtown area.
I felt like I was in a police state! There were tons of police officers and lots of barricades being put up around the Pepsi Convention Center. There were Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Denver police officers, private security staff, and members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff everywhere and, one of my colleagues mentioned that some of the police officers were geared with high tech headphones that had the ability to pick up conversations from far away distances.
Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of protesters. And, the few that could be seen focused on Barack Obama’s pro-choice stance or their support for Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Signs such as “a vote for Obama is a vote for dead children”, “Hillary for President”, and “McCain for President” floated around the Pepsi Convention Center (PCC).
When the members of my team and I, finally reached the security for the PCC, I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the convention center and onto the floor of the arena. I must admit that we couldn’t help taking thousands of pictures of ourselves in front of the building and on the floor of the PCC. I mean, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity! In fact, one of my colleagues was so excited, that he illegally took a picture at the podium where Barack Obama is scheduled to speak on Thursday. But, his time at the podium was short lived because he was practically yanked off the stage by a security guard.
Our first day, in downtown Denver, was brought to an abrupt end when it started to rain. But, fortunately for us, “there’s always tomorrow.”
I think I’ll call this morning “comedy of errors”! So, Rebecca- a senior producer for Youth Radio, and I were off to a great start. We were up by 6:30 a.m., in and out of the showers by 7:00 a.m., and out of the house by 7:45 a.m. to catch the 8:00 bus into downtown Denver. This was pretty good for us, since we went to bed well after 2:00 a.m.
Luckily, we only had to walk to the end of the street to reach our bus stop. Or so we thought, When we finally reached the end of the street, we unfortunately watched our bus pass by. We had arrived too late, But, all was not lost.
We could ride the bus into town from either direction and we had only missed the southbound bus. So, we stood beside what we thought was the bus stop, only to find that it was some other kind of orange city marker- Maybe something to measure the snow level? And, it wasn’t until 8:15 that we finally reached the bus stop (which was 4 blocks away from our house) and 8:30 that we were finally able to get on the bus.
I forgot to mention that I was scheduled for a 9:00 a.m. interview with Senator Peter Groff, head of the Colorado state senate; and that to get to town it takes approximately 15 minutes on the bus and then another 20 minutes on the rail. But, we were “saved by the bell” when Senator Groff’s assistant called to tell us that he was running behind schedule. So, our tardiness turned into the new early. We ended up being approximately 20 minutes early for the new scheduled interview time. Interviewing Senator Groff was absolutely great! He was such an interesting person and was a lot of fun to talk to.
After the interview, Rebecca and I headed over to the Pepsi Convention Center (PCC). When we finally arrived at the PCC, I felt like I was entering into a military zone. There was this long black fence that traveled along the perimeter of the PCC. People, from all walks of life were standing in this line. In fact, I ran into Al Shapton. After getting through the first line of security, we ran into another set of gates that outlined the immediate perimeter of the PCC.
We were sent through a second line of very rigorous security, only to reach heaven, there were so many cool people inside. I ran into Al Franken, Angela Bassett and Larry Willmore from the Daily show; and, some of my personal favorites, due to my Atlanta roots were Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
When I finally reached the arena, of the PCC, it was nothing like I observed yesterday. The security was extremely tight; and, the halls were filled with thousands of people. I couldn’t believe it! Shortly after entering the arena, I participated with Nico and Rebecca in a few impromptu interviews. Our focus, at the time, was to gauge older voter’s perception of youth involvement in this election.
Then, I wondered off to listen to some of the speeches offered by different elected officials, on behalf of Barack Obama. It was very interesting to watch the delegates interact with one another on the PCC floor. Instead of listening to the speakers, the delegates were more interested in having fun with one another. They were playing with a beach ball- bouncing it across the aisles, wearing bright colors, QWERTY glasses, and Uncle Sam hats, and laughing. It was also interesting to notice that the halls of the PCC were filled with thousands of people, while the stadium seats remained empty.
But, the delegates’ stopped their ball games as the speakers became more popular or better known. People like Edward Kennedy were able to grasp the attention of the delegates and the thousands of people in the halls. In fact, when it was time for Michelle Obama to speak, people were very attentive and interested in hearing what she had to say. Not a single seat was empty. As she approached the stage, a sea of Michelle Obama signs flew into the air all over the stadium! It was an absolutely amazing thing to see. Her speech received a similar response along with emotions of the crowd was electrifying. The audience’s focus was almost deafening. Their focus was connected to her every word. As I looked around the room, I could see hundreds of people crying and rooting her on as she sparked a feeling of hope that many American’s have been yearning for a long time.