Saturday, August 30, 2008
In the spirit of correcting that though, here is a link to the speech, in case you were not one of the 38 million people who watched it live:
As for commentary, I think on this one occasion in my life, I will let Pat Buchanan speak for me (see video below). Pat Buchanan and I have one thing in common - a love for great political speeches:
Friday, August 29, 2008
|Lisa Daly, Ken Preston and Ray Rivera|
After Al Gore's speech, and after Sheryl Crowe and Stevie Wonder performed, as it came time for the main event, a producer from WABC in NY, pulled me aside and asked if I would watch the speech with them and comment afterwards. I hesitated, because I did not want to give up my prime seat in the New York delegation, and wanted to watch with my friends, but she promised I would still be on the field, so I took a chance. It paid off, as I now got to watch the speech from the press risers, which were about 10 feet higher up and closer to the stage, so I got an excellent view and watched it with Joe Thompson, a fellow New York delegate with the reporters working around us. When it was over, Bill Ritter from WABC interviewed us live about our reactions.
After it was all over and the red white and blue star-shaped confetti had all fallen, we tried to take the shuttle buses back, but our luck with the buses had not been great, and the line for buses was filled with people, and with no clear indication of how those people were being directed to which buses, so... we walked back the couple of miles, and probably got back sooner anyway.
On the walk back we finally got something to eat, and ran into a couple of familiar faces - Gustavo Santos, joined me at Subway for something to eat, and we saw Ashok Malhotra again as well. Over the past few days we have gotten to know many of the members of the New York delegation from around the state, and as the week is ending it feels as if we are leaving behind a lot of new friends. I am hopeful that as the campaign goes forward in New York that we will continue to remain in contact with them, as they organize in their communities, and we in ours.
Fortunately, the time waiting in line flew by, because were in line right behind E. J. Dionne, my favorite columnist from the Washington Post, and Mitchell Berger, who had been a senior advisor to Al Gore when he ran for President in 2000. We had a fascinating conversation with them for about an hour as the line inched along. E.J. asked me about the delegate buttons, and I told him I would make one for him and mail it to him, but he asked instead if I would make one for his son, who has been a very big Obama supporter for quite some time, and I said I would be happy to do so. When we finally got into the stadium, E.J. gave us a big hug, and headed off to the press area, and we went to the delegate area.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
In that vein, here were a couple of the more entertaining sights of the week: PETA protesters in pig suits, among other activity:
See article for what they were up to.
Protest demanding a stop to "Bird Porn"
And the flier they were handing out:
Finally, some supporters right outside of the Pepsi Center, "Rednecks for Obama"
As we were walking out of the Pepsi center for the last time, a delegate from California lamented that all the attention from the press is somewhat addictive, and wondered what he would do when he got back home and no one any longer cared about his opinion(!) There is definitely an unreal feeling to the entire experience.
While I write this in the hotel lobby, former California Governor Gray Davis is waiting in line across from me at the desk for something or other...
At some point during the evening, a DNCC staff person whispered to me "he's here." I asked who, and he said that Barack was going to make a surprise appearance. I didn't believe him, but he said - "you watch, you are going to start to see secret service very soon," and he was right. When Barack walked out on stage the crowd cheered and screemed at the surprise and anticipation of the big night tomorrow.
The final night of the convention will be at Investco Field, rather than the Pepsi center, and everyone is getting ready to get there very early to make sure we don't miss a thing. Rumor has it that Bruce Springstein will play, but other than that and the actual acceptance speech, most of us do not know what the agenda will be for the evening...
It was very exciting to be in the arena for the actual rollcall. I have watched this tradition on TV since I was a kid, and it was somewhat surreal to actually be there in the arena as it was happening. We were very worried that we would not get in on time, but we only missed the first couple of states. By the time we were safely in our seats, the roll had gotten to Florida. We knew that the roll would be stopped at NY, but did not know exactly how it would work.
The anticipation built as each state called out its votes, and some states announced unanimous votes for Senator Obama, which caused a great cheer to go up. When we got to New York, and Speaker Silver began the littany, "The great state of New York, home of..." a murmur went up through the crowd. I could not see what everyone was looking at until the big screen showed Senator Clinton working her way toward the delegation and Speaker Silver. As she moved through the crowd we wondered what she was going to do? Then in dramatic fashion, she took over the microphone and moved that all the votes be counted, but that Senator Obama be made the nominee by acclamation. The cheering was deafening, and whether due to a sense of the significance of this gesture, the realization that at long last it was official, or just plain sleep depravation, I, and many around me were moved to tears.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I think that delegate service day was a convention first. I hope they keep it for next time, as it was an excellent opportunity to give back a little bit to the community that is hosting us, and was a very pleasant break from sitting and listening to speeches all day.
In any event, when we got to the arena, and took the escalator up to the reception, we heard the booming voice of former President Clinton, speaking to the gathering. He and Senator Clinton greeted delegates before making an exit and leaving for what I would imagine would be some much needed rest.
I was there for a while before I noticed that people were sneaking out to look at the stadium as it was being prepared for the big acceptance speech Thursday. I don't know if you get a sense from the video below, but walking out into that stadium at night was sort of a goosebumps kind of moment. I don't think the video quite encompasses the enormity of a 70,000 seat stadium
filled with empty seats, but people just sat quietly staring at it, realizing how big that moment will be Thursday night. It felt a little bit like looking out at the stars and realizing what a small part of the universe one is. Each of us has organized hundreds of people to work on this campaign, and yet, looking out on that stadium, I could not help but appreciate how much vastly larger this is than any one of our individual parts in it...
was not around, so no dice on that one.
The only remaining celebrity buttons I had left were for the cast of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which is taping this week from somewhere in Denver, but no one seems to know where. I had just about given up on this one, but when we left the stadium after Senator Clinton's speech, we got a little lost and ended up in a parking lot, where I saw John Oliver from the Daily Show interviewing a Clinton delegate. When he was done, I explained the delegate button thing and said I had one for him. His button said, "John Oliver, Honorary Delegate: Bedford,
England." He seemed touched that I had made this and had put his hometown on it. I told him I had buttons for the other cast members as well. When I dug out the other buttons he asked if I would want to be interviewed, to which I believe I said, "hell yeah!"
I have no idea whether it will actually air or not, but it was fun either way. He asked me if, now that I had heard Senator Clinton's speech I felt the the party was totally healed. I said, "Yes, I think she gave a great speech and everyone left feeling very unified and motivated to go on and win the election." He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes, I am pretty sure." He said, "Pretty sure? But what about that thing with Nevada?" I asked what thing, and he said, "you know, I heard they weren't so happy." I said, "Oh. Well, I didn't know about anything going on with Nevada, but it seemed really good from the New York delegation." I think he said something like "Well, that's not what I heard," and then moved on to "So, by healing, do you mean that there is a giant scab formed now?" And I said, "Well, sometimes the healing process can be kind of painful, but I think we are totally healed now." To which he said, "But if we scratch off that scab, will there be a horrible infected wound underneath, or healthy skin cells?" "I said, I think there would be totally healthy skin." He said something like, are you sure there wouldn't be infected puss underneath? To which I said, "no, I think you would never know anything had happened. Totally healed." Then he thanked me and that was it.
As we got into the arena, Diana led us over to the NPR booth because she saw Ken Rudin, NPR's political editor, and is a big fan of his work. Ken and his colleague were eager to trade buttons. Ken specifically wanted an official delegate button (the ones that the state gave us to identify ourselves as NY delegates and to gain access to New York events.) We explained that we needed to keep those, but I offered them a Syracuse for Obama button, which while clearly not the plum that an official delegate button would be, was pretty unique. They accepted it and gave me an NPR button, which I pinned to my credentials. We saw them again later in the night and Ken smiled and made another plea for a delegate button, but to no avail. I think he smelled weakness on Diana, and thought she still might be persuaded, but no luck.
You could tell that this was the night that Senator Clinton was scheduled to give her big speech, because the international media was all over the New York delegation. Everyone wanted to sit with us, even the guy who played Toby on the West Wing (Richard Schiff). He walked by, chatted us up and asked if there was a seat open for him, to which the people behind me said they would make room for him. He climbed over and stayed with us for the rest of the night.
Scan of NY delegation, plus Richard Schiff:
Diana, Cory, Mark Poloncarz and I each sat in the front row of the New York delegation area tonight, which was a prime spot for people watching, and speech watching. While we were there, Dennis Kucinich came by, and Missouri Senator, Claire McCaskil. a lso, a famous actor whom none of us could successfully identify (including the Entertainment Tonight guy who interviewed him)... Corey remembered that he had been in "And the Band Played on" on HBO, and complimented him on his performance, which un-named famous guy seemed to appreciate. [Late update - mystery famous guy was Matthew Modine.] Angela Basset walked by us, and Mark Sheilds from the PBS News Hour stopped to talk for a minute.
Before Senator Clinton's speech we had speeches from Governor Mark Warner of Virginia and Governor Schweitzer of Montana. While these speeched were going on, Art Harris, from Entertainment tonight asked if he could sneak in with us, interview us and watch the speech with us. We agreed and he asked Diana, Corey and I what we expected from the speech, shot some reaction shots while she was speaking, and then interviewed us again when it was over. He also did periodic stand up shots where he referred to himself as being "embedded" with the New York delegation. He did not know for sure, what if any of it would be aired, but said it should run tomorrow night. At one point while he was doing one of the stand-up shots, I had moved so that I was sitting facing the delegation on the railing in front of us. Someone knocked into me, and as he did, Cory called out to Spike Lee, who greeted him, and did not in any manner apologize for pushing me off my ledge :)
As we got nearer to Senator Clinton's speech, I was interviewed by a woman from an African news network. She asked if anyone there spoke French, and I said "un petit peu." She asked me a few questions in English, but wanted at least one response in French and I had to beg out, because my French is no longer good enough to say anything of much intelligence, so I apologized and said "trop difficile." She asked me in English if I understood what an important moment in history this is. I said I did, and I put my hand over my heart and whispered, "I think we can do this." To which she smiled at me and said "thank you America."
For all this circus-like atmosphere, everyone really did listen intently to Senator Clinton's speech, which was very warmly received in the hall. It is one of the strange things of being in the center of what is going on, that you simultaneously have a very acute sense of what is going on around you, but no sense at all of what other people think is going on. None of us have seen any news or commentary in days. So, I have no idea how the speech was received, but it seemed like a home run within the arena.
After the speech was over I did a very brief interview with a reporter from BBC1. He was looking for reactions to the speech. I said I thought it was a very good speech, and that I thought it was particularly important that Senator Clinton had stressed that it is not about the personalities, but rather about the issues and people we care about. That if we believe in getting healthcare for all Americans, or if we believe in changing the course in Iraq, then we just cannot afford to have good people stay on the sidelines.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was among the speakers, and I got a chance to give her her delegate button, and to mention that I work for a Rochester based company (LogicalSolutions.net). She sends her greetings!
The featured speakers this morning were Caroline Kennedy and Arizona Governer Janet Napolitano. Governor Napolitano got a big laugh when she mentioned that her state of Arizona is the only state in the country that does not have a governor's mansion - so she lives in the only "Governor's Condo" in the country.
The women's caucus events are today, and Governor Paterson will be speaking at the convention this afternoon. Everyone I know here is crushingly tired from running from event to event and party to party. I am thinking that there better be a nap time this afternoon...
Diana, Corey and I sat in seats set aside for the New York delegation. Throughout the evening, people would stand up and turn around as one famous politician after another took a leisurely stroll down our aisle, soaking up attention and shaking hands as they went. First, Governor Richardson of New Mexico came through, then John Kerry, Chris Dodd, etc.
Also, as various people would speak handlers would come through the aisles and pass out message-specific signs to wave at the appropriate time. When the Republican Congressman (Jim Leech) spoke and edorsed Senator Obama, we got signs that said "One Nation" in large letters. When Senator Kennedy spoke, we got plackards that said "Kennedy." When Michelle Obama spoke we first got tall vertical signs that said "Michelle," then placards that said "common values, common purpose."
People started to pay better attention as we got nearer to prime time though. The tribute to Senator Kennedy moved many delegates to tears, and Michelle Obama's speech did as well as she spoke about her father, how hard he had worked to give her the opportunities she had been given, and about the values he had instilled in her, which she hoped to pass on to her daughters.
After she spoke, I got an opportunity to speak with Congressman John Hall, in whose district my brother and sister-in-law live. I gave him his delegate pin and got a photo with him. I also got to sit and have breakfast with Syracuse common council president Bea Gonzales and a mix of Clinton and Obama delegates from around the state.
After the breakfast, everyone gets in line to get their credentials for the day. Each day there are different credentials, and they allow delegates into almost all of the events onto the floor of the Pepsi center. If you miss the handing out of credentials you are out of luck for the day, so everyone is told that the breakfast meetings are mandatory.
After breakfast, I went to the young Democrats press availability at the Colorado convention center. Their definition of "young" is very loose, and by some technicality, I still qualify. Wandering out of that one, I stopped for the first time since I have been here to actually pay for food. Everywhere we go there seems to be free food and free drinks. There had been a rumor that the DNC had mandated that all food be healthy - no fried food and lots of fruits and vegetables. I have seen no evidence of that rule yet...
Monday, August 25, 2008
A man named Ira
|Lisa with Ira|
I also just stopped to talk to Mark Green, for whose Attorney General campaign I had done some work back in '06. A couple of Buffalo and Rochester delegates stopped by to say hello as well. Political people are almost pathologically friendly...
When we arrived at the airport in Denver there was a row of people holding "welcome delegates" signs, and Obama signs. Once at the hotel, I signed in, got my goodie bags (see video below) and went to the welcome reception for the New York Delegation.
One of the things I did in order to have an excuse to meet and talk to people was to create personalized buttons for members of the New York delegation. They each say "Obama '08" with the delegate's name and home town. The first button I got to give away was to Governor Paterson, who it turns out, is staying right down the hall from me. Having seen him in the hall, I got a chance to give him his button before there was a crush of people. [Late update - Gov. Paterson wore the button to the evening's receptions and while he spoke to the delegation.] At the reception I brought all the delegate buttons, and Diana Cihak, my roommate (and elected delegate from Buffalo) helped me spread them all out on the table. Soon there was somewhat of a feeding frenzy as people searched for their names and took their buttons.
Because of time constraints and and the fact that some delegates were added to the list at the last minute, I did not have one for every single one of the 330 person New York delegation. For those who I missed, I traded business cards and promised to mail them their button after next week. While everyone was searching for his or her button on the table, a woman from WNYC radio interviewed me and asked me about the whole thing.
While the button idea took more time and effort than I expected, they were definitely a big hit and I got an excuse to talk with several people whom I wanted to meet. I caught Congressman Arcuri in the hallway and give him his button. He was talking to Congressman Jose Serrano (whom I am embarrassed to say I did not recognize). Congressman Serrano gave me one of his signed Congressional baseball cards. I also found Senator Chuck Schumer and gave him his button as well.
I still have about 100 left to give out as I find people throughout the week. I also created a special set of personalized buttons for non-delegates I am hoping to meet. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is shooting from Denver this week, and I made "honorary delegate" buttons for each of the reporters and for Jon Stewart. I am hoping to get one of them to wear one on the air. Also, I made one for Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman, Chuck Todd and Stephen T. Colbert, DFA. We will see...
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sigh... Broke my heart.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Although the convention is still more than a month away, I thought I would start with an answer to a question that I get asked frequently: how does one get to be a delegate?
Having been involved in campaigns off and on for many years, I wondered about this question myself. As recently as a year ago, I still did not know anything other than that every four years I had the opportunity to vote for delegates when I voted in the Democratic primary, and it was almost entirely for people, of whom I had never heard. Note: Republicans in New York do not actually vote for their delegates, but Dems do. Very early on in the campaign I started to ask people who I thought would know, how might I become a delegate for Senator Obama? Those who knew something about the process told me two thing: first, "they will take elected officials over organizers every time," and second, "If you actually want to go, you need to back the person who will win - i.e., Senator Clinton." To this I politely replied that I did not want to be a delegate in the abstract, I wanted to be a delegate for Senator Obama.
Fortunately, their assertions turned out to be wrong on three counts: the Obama campaign was very good about rewarding grassroots organizers, Senator Clinton was not going to be the inevitable winner, and even if she had been, the Obama campaign still would have won some delegates, even in New York.
One of the arcane bits of work that needs to be done before a Presidential primary in New York state is petitioning to get your candidate on the ballot. In order to get this done, the campaign must mobilize volunteers in every congressional district to go out and get at least 500 valid signatures from registered Democrats only. This was done in November of '07, and Ken Preston and I helped lead that effort in the 25th Congressional District, with both of our groups helping some nearby districts as well.
As we prepared for this effort, I found the answer to my question. Jeff Berman, who ran the campaign's nationwide delegate selection process spent countless hours on the phone with people like Ken and myself, asking who might be good loyal supporters to put on the ballot for the Obama delegate slate in their districts. Joyce Johnson, who headed up the delegate process in New York State, also spent untold hours on the phone, at all hours, getting the details right, right up to the last minute. (At one point I was on the phone with her around midnight dealing with a crisis involving an incorrect address on the petitions.)
There were several criteria the campaign used to select delegates: by state law the delegate slate had to be balanced by gender, and the Democratic Party asked that each slate reflect the diversity of the area and the party. In addition to that, people who are well known and well regarded are thought to attract more votes to a candidate, by virtue of having their name on the same line as a supporter. This is why elected officials are often chosen - they presumably have enough supporters out there to make a difference.
In our case, because Senator Clinton had worked closely with almost every elected Democrat in the state, she had the early support of almost all of the elected officials here. There were some notable exceptions, like State Senator William Perkins, who endorsed Senator Obama way back in May of '07, and indeed he was rewarded with a spot as a delegate from Harlem.
In our case though, Ken and I forwarded names of people who we thought would represent the campaign well, and also who would be loyal enough to continue to vote for Senator Obama on second or third ballots if it came down to a brokered convention. Joyce took these suggestions, ordered them and forwarded recommendations to Jeff, with our names included. Our slate, as it was put on the ballot, included myself, Ken Preston, Thelie Selzer, who with her husband Jon had been (and continue to be) outstanding volunteers, Ralph Jones, who was an early supporter and who also serves on the executive board of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, and Mary Nelson, who is a dynamo activist for youth in Central New York. She had invited the campaign in to her yearly "Back to School Barbecue," in which she has hundreds of volunteers give out school supplies to thousands of kids who need them. For those of you who don't know who Mary is, here she is featured on Regis and Kelly recently for her outstanding community work:
(In the video box on the right, select "Mary's story.")
So, when we went to pass petitions to get Senator Obama on the ballot in New York, those petitions also had each of our names on it as delegates. Having successfully gotten enough signatures, our five names were placed on the ballot next to Senator Obama's. I asked everyone I knew, who I thought might be able to vote in the primary, to consider voting for me as a delegate, and many of them told me that they had (thank you!).
When the voting was over, Senator Obama had won enough of the vote in our district to earn two of the five delegates from this area. I, and everyone else on the ballot, had to wait almost two full weeks to know which ones they would be. (The highest vote-getting female and the highest vote-getting male for each candidate get picked first, but we didn't know who that would be.)
It turned out that I had two advantages: my name was placed in the first position, and I was well known to many of Senator Obama's supporters in the area. Lest I get too impressed with myself, it turns out that having the first position on the ballot was probably all that was necessary - people tend to not know who the delegates are and just vote for the first couple.
After two weeks, I had an unofficial count from the Board of Elections, but the election was not certified, and I was superstitious enough to not want to tell people yet. But, after it was printed in the paper, I decided that was good enough and bought my
After that article, the congratulations and advice started to roll in - "wear confortable shoes," "bring buttons to trade," and my favorite, from one of my former Maxwell School history professors: "First find out where the bathrooms are in the convention center. All else is secondary."
Eventually, the election results really were certified, Ken and I were officially notified, and the campaign started to work with their delegates to make sure everyone knew what they needed to know, booked what they needed to book, and had a few chances to get to know each other...
I set up this blog as a place to write about my experiences representing the 25th district at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August 25th through the 28th. My counterpart from the Rochester end of the district is Ken Preston, who has been a lead organizer in Rochester for the campaign, and will also be going to Denver as an elected delegate. Hopefully I can persuade him to take the time to make a few entries as well, while we are there.
For a little background on me and my involvement in the campaign, in February of 2007, I founded the group "Syracuse for Obama," a grassroots group of supporters and volunteers for the campaign in the Central New York area. Since then, this group has grown to over 650 members. Note: Anyone interested in joining the campaign and hearing about volunteer opportunities in this area, should visit the group's page on the my.barackobama.com site (shortcut here: www.syracuseforobama.com), and click to join the group.