I’ve been in Colorado for a week now, and I can honestly admit that I have never seen a town build up excitement and passion like Denver has this week. I arrived last Sunday as a participant in The Washington Center National Political Conventions Seminar for the Democratic National Convention (DNC). There are five of us from Indiana State, and close to 500 students total from all over the United States and the world.
Shortly after our arrival, we were greeted by The Washington Center (TWC) staff and the staff of Regis University, where all of us are living for these two weeks. I was a little stunned to hear that being confused was a normal part of being involved with a convention. Much of what goes on can be called “organized chaos” and the adjective is often questionable. The first night’s program left us all wondering what we would get out of this program and hoping for fantastic fieldwork to land a political dream job. No wonder we were warned to lower expectations and be flexible.
Throughout the past week I have listened to the following speakers:
Ricky Kirshner - Executive Producer of the DNC
Reverend Leah Daughtry - Chief Executive Officer, DNC Committee
Wally Podrazik (and other members of Convention logistics)
Governor Bill Ritter - Governor of Colorado
CSPAN Media Perspective Panel
Governor Howard Dean - Chairman of DNC
Though not all of us are networking with each speaker, the program has been thought-provoking so far, and I’m ready to see what will happen in Denver in the next few days. Last night I attended a media party at Elich Gardens with unofficial credentials, and as I savored the free food, drinks, and fireworks, I realized that a political convention is a big experience if you make it one. Meeting people around town, pretending like my credentials mean that I should have access to everything, and keeping my ears open have allowed me to be a pretty savvy figure in Denver, and I’m hoping that will give me access to events throughout the week.
Tonight the Colorado Convention Center (CCC), a venue that will be used for parties and caucuses this week, hosted a welcome event for the DNC and a tribute to Katrina relief organizations as well as some smaller parties and meetings. Tomorrow will undoubtedly be a busy day as delegates head to the CCC in the morning for caucus meetings and then move to the Pepsi Center for the opening speeches for the DNC. Denver has rolled out a welcome mat for these high-profile visitors; most of them are staying in hotels downtown so they can attend convention events easily and take advantage of the booming nightlife the city promises.
Not all of the action has been positive, however. I got my first taste of political protest up close yesterday when I saw a man sharing his views on Obama’s stance on Israel and PETA representatives holding signs and giving out “Tax Meat” buttons. The protests grew more intense today as anti-abortion groups used loudspeakers outside the CCC and even disturbed the Inter-faith gathering to shout their views.
Overall, it has been a great first week in Denver, and I’m really learning what it is like to be in the thick of a political event.
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