Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Speech - part II

Several people mentioned that I titled my last post "the speech," but did not actually say anything about the content. This was mostly because everyone was watching from home, and because it was really late by the time I got to a computer to post about the day.

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

The speech

Lisa with Ken Preston and Ray Rivera
Lisa Daly, Ken Preston and Ray Rivera

I spent most of the time this evening with Diana and Corey and the rest of the delegation. I saw Ray Rivera again - since leaving as the Northeast Field Director, he has taken up responsibilities closer to home in Colorado, and he was the campaign spokesman who made the regular announcements to the crowd about signing up for text messages. He must be pretty fearless - there were 80,000 people in that stadium, but he did a great job at the podium.

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.

Last Day

Today was the big day. We took the shuttle buses over to Invesco Field for the final night of the convention. The logistics were such that we were warned to leave very early, which we did. It was a good thing that we did because there was a lot of waiting in line, both for the buses, and after we got off, waiting to get into the delegate and press entry to the arena.

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

Protesters and more

All week there were roving protesters who would come down the street with handkercheifs over their mouths, banging on drums. It was not clear what their message was except that their signs were vaguely anti-nuclear. There were also abortion protesters all over downtown (no doubt about what their message was), and the occassional trio or foursome of uncomfortable looking McCain supporters hoisting McCain lawn signs in the air and halfheartedly chanting something. (I don't mean to stereotype, but with the exception of the anti-abortion protesters, it does seem pretty clear that the left is WAY better at the protest thing than the right. We are pretty much forced to protest our own, just to make sure it gets done right...)

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"

More media interviews

All of us do multiple media interviews each night, but it is becoming apparent that a lot of what gets recorded does not get used. Tonight I was interviewed by German television, XM Satellite radio and HKS Network (Harvard Kennedy School students?), in addition to WSYR TV and WSYR radio in Syracuse, and WRVO Oswego. The Entertainment Tonight footage from yesterday apparently never aired, and neither did the Daily Show interview. We are constantly on camera, but it is difficult to tell if it is the the pool feed, a local Denver TV station, or something else.

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...

Parade of Stars

We got the front row again tonight - here's the roundup: Mo Rocca, Chevy Chase, Kirstin Dunst, Etan Thomas (go SU!), Joe Scarboro, Senator Chuck Schumer and Jamie Fox each worked their way through the crowd immediately in front of us, in addition to the news correspondents who would come and go. Apparently Corey had an actual conversation with Spike Lee this time, but I was not around to see it at that particular time. Ken Rudin is still working the mental telepathy on getting Diana to mail him her delegate button. I think she may do it...

Big night for speeches and special appearance by Barack

Tonight there was a great lineup of high powered speakers. We had John Kerry, former President Clinton, Joe Biden, Madeleine Albright, Tom Daschle and several others. I will leave the analysis of their speeches to others, but would say that the crowd was definitely fired up tonight, despite the chronic lack of sleep that just about everyone is suffering from.

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...

Roll call of states

Today we finally found out how the rollcall vote works. This morning when we got our credentials, we were also asked to vote for our candidate with an X next to the name and a signature. I found my name on the list, marked an X for Senator Obama, and signed the sheet. Senator Clinton met with all of her delegates at 3pm today, just prior to the rollcall, and released each of them to vote as they saw fit, while stating that she was supporting Barack and hoped they would too. As an Obama delegate, I was not present at the meeting, but just knew what Clinton delegates had told me about it. I am not sure if the New York Clinton delegates were directly told this ahead of our morning vote or not, but many seemed to know already and voted accordingly.

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

Service Day

Today is delegate service day, and all delegates were encouraged to sign up for one service project within the city of Denver. I signed up for a project to build a new playground for Force Elementary school. I was worried that with so many people signed up that it would just be a photo opp, and not real work, but they actually did an excellent job of organizing the effort and making sure that we all had real work to do. With so many people there the playground went up very quickly and was done, landscaping and all, in about an hour and a half. The kids came out for a little bit to watch and say thank you in unison.

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.

After Party

Tonight the New York, Pennsylvania and Florida Delegations had a combined reception at Investco Field. We took a bus there, and must have driven five loops around the city before the bus driver found the entrance to the stadium. The bus situation is a real shame, because Denver has an excellent public transportation system, but has shut it down for the week for security concerns. The result is that thousands of delegates are spending hours on shuttle buses covering relatively short distances.

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...

Mission Accomplished

Before heading over to the convention this afternoon, Diana and I walked down the 16th St. Promenade and saw all the vendors selling Obama T-shirts, buttons and other souveniers. Before taking a left to go to the Pepsi center, we stopped by the MSNBC stage, where Chris Matthews was taping Hardball live in front of a crowd. I was able to get him the delegate button I made for him, and was able to talk to him for just a moment. He seemed genuinely pleased, and said something like "oh, aren't you sweet! You made those? That's great!" Keith Olberman
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.

Senator Clinton's night

Walking into the arena, both Diana and I were interviewed by a reporter from NPR in Boston about who we would like to see Senator Obama name to his cabinet for foreign policy issues. This was a much more substantial than usual question, but we both offered some thoughts.
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

NY Delgation Breakfast Day 2

This morning's breakfast was dedicated to the theme of women in politics. Diana got there early and got us seats right up near the front. I got a chance to speak with Congressman Rangel about Dan Maffei's Congressional race, and was seated next to Westchester County Executive, Andrew Spano.

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 ( 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...

Willie Nelson concert

Ok, so this was even better than I expected. It wasn't actually in Investco field, but rather, in a party tent outside. The event was set up to promote environmental sustainability and alternative fuels - something that Willie has invested in and promoted. It was definitely invitation only. I am not sure how I was selected, except that I have some involvement with environmental issues, and I am a delegate. None of my colleagues got an invitation. It was a great concert and Willie stayed after to sign everyone's credentials.

Chuck Todd

Yes, I am this big of a political geek...

To the actual convention

Diana Cihak, Corey Ellis (an up and coming City Councilor from Albany), and I went together to get one of the shuttles to the convention center at around 3pm. The gavel on the convention is at 4pm local time, but we were told to get there early if we wanted decent seats. The shuttle ride there could not have been more than a mile, but it took almost a full hour - we are definitely walking tomorrow. When I watched convention coverage in the past, I always wondered why people in the hall always seemed to be kibbitzing and not paying attention. Now, I get it.

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.

Lunch Conversation

Having bought a sandwich and a frozen hot chocolate at the Colorado Convention center, I looked for a place to sit and eat, and a gentleman at one of the tables offered me a seat. He turned out to be on the DNC finance committee, and we had a fascinating conversation about the primary in Puerto Rico, where he is from, and where he works on issues of internet security. Like me he has a PhD in something totally different that than the area he works in - in his case, physics. We discussed energy policy, and also his days in law school with Barack Obama. There are so many fascinating people here!

Hillary speaks at NY Delegation Breakfast

Senator Clinton spoke this morning at the NY Delegation breakfast. She gave a very good speech and said she hopes that her supporters will work as hard for Barack as they did for her. She got a very warm reception and supporters mobbed her afterward, looking to talk with her.

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

Chatty Kathys

Ok, I have been trying to check my email and post on this blog for at least an hour now in the lobby of the hotel, where there is free wifi, and it has been a non-stop parade of friendly people stopping to talk.
A man named Ira
Lisa with Ira
who is selling and trading campaign buttons came by to talk and show me all the interesting buttons he had found and traded. He gave me a couple of unusual ones, and also came back and gave me special "Denver '08" coffee packets he had picked up from who-knows-where. I gave him a "New York for Obama" button.
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...

Flight in and campaign buttons

On the second leg of my flight, from Atlanta to Denver the entire plane was filled with delegates. I have never been on happier, (or chattier) flight in my life. Everyone was talking politics and sharing stories about the campaign. The woman next to me was from Northern California and was flying in only to attend the big acceptance speech at Investco Field Thursday night. The woman next to her was a delegate from Georgia, who told me she had never seen such enthusiasm for a Democrat in rural Georgia.

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...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

I have been spending my spare time this week getting ready to go to Denver, and while I have been doing this, I have had a couple of fun media opportunities. Chris Ulanowski from WRVO in Oswego interviewed me for a profile to run Monday. [Link here] ]He said the entire interview might get posted online along with the story. Also, I had to run out to get a photo taken for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which may be running something about each of the local delegates on Sunday. Finally, this morning at 7am I got to drop in for a brief spot on air with Big Mike in the morning at Sunny 102. County Legislator (and friend of the campaign), Tom Buckel set it up, and we gave Big Mike a Syracuse for Obama T-shirt and hat. It was a lot of fun, and definitely worth having to get up at the crack of dawn! I know this will all fly by very quickly - but it is definitely fun while it lasts...