Collegiate Times reporter Justin Graves got the unique opportunity last week to attend the Democratic National Convention. Following is his account of the event.
I’ve never been one for politics. I believe that the issues change, and the solutions change even more, especially depending on who you’re talking to. But for me, an opportunity to help volunteer at the Democratic National Convention this year was a unique opportunity that I didn’t want to miss. This blog will not be an analysis of what policies were and weren’t discussed at the convention, but instead an analysis of what it was like to attend the event.
For this election, the Dems decided to hold the event at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. The location happens to be the second largest banking center in the country behind New York City and is only three hours away from Blacksburg. It is within ear shot of at least a dozen other higher education institutions and there seemed to be a ton of students there – from High Point, Duke, Davidson, and more. I, however, was one of only a few Hokies I knew in attendance at any point during the event.
I received an opportunity from a member of the staff for the First Lady of the United States, and was excited that they had thought of me and extended an offer based on our relationship formed during preparation for Virginia Tech’s commencement this past May. I had never been to a political convention of any kind, so I was excited to not only hear all of the excitement of a political rally, but also to see Hollywood A-listers hobnobbing right alongside your favorite news anchors — right across from your local Senators and lobbyists.
And that’s exactly what this event was. The event was orchestrated to secure a solid nomination, and make a solid bid for reelection of the nation’s first African-American President. Over the course of the three days that I assisted with and attended the convention, there were several well-planned and intentionally choreographed speeches and video montages.
I quickly realized that this was the purpose of such an event. Everything beautifully staged and coordinated in order to get the country – the political left, and right, if possible – excited about the next four years under the leadership of this one man.
At some points, it felt more like being on Capitol Hill in Richmond, walking the halls of the General Assembly with older men and women wearing pant suits and neck ties, shaking hands and giving interviews. At other points, it felt like walking around the streets of Los Angeles.
I was able to shake hands with, chat with, and fork over a business card or two to: Sen. John Kerry, Mayor Julian Castro, Mayor and DNC Chair Antonio Villaraigosa, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, and Vice President Joe Biden.
Amongst the famous people that were in attendance and I had a similar interaction with: Zach Braff, Eva Longoria, Marc Anthony, M.C. Hammer, BET founder Bob Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Wolf Blitzer.
This event was clearly not only just an exercise in politics, but also an event that has transformed over the years to become more accountable to pop culture. I can only imagine that back in 1836, Charles Dickens or Davy Crockett didn’t attend this event to give his view on politics and to unite his fans for one political party. But, now, this has become a cross section of famous people, politicians, and more.
If you ever have the chance to attend an event like this, even if you’re not politically inclined, I couldn’t recommend it more. I’ll spend all weekend catching up with work, but now fifty more potential employers know my name, and this might be a chance to open a door somewhere down the road.