Last week Democrats had a chance to come together in massive numbers in Charlotte, N.C., to host our national convention from Sept. 4-7. I had the distinct pleasure of making the trip with the Mississippi delegation. This year we were treated to powerful party leaders and quite a few upcoming stars, from primetime speakers such as Michelle Obama, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden to the president himself. By the end of the week, I left not only more informed, but more energized about my party.
I have received a lot of questions about how I got to take part in the DNC this year. Truth be told, I had to run for this position at our state convention in Jackson, Miss. I’m not a newcomer to elections, so I jumped at the opportunity and succeeded against individuals who, in my opinion, have twice the wisdom of a college student. Besides being a delegate, I’m involved in the Democratic Party in my hometown of Calhoun City as a treasurer, serve as a co-chair for Young Democrats of Mississippi and have packed in six years on the state executive committee.
I also stay in close contact with the party chairman, Rickey Cole. I’ve canvassed, done voter registration drives, worked with various campaigns, worked on elections and hosted a couple of fundraisers.
Now a little more about my experience at the convention. I set my alarm for 7 a.m. and rolled out of bed at around 8:30. I headed uptown on a very nice shuttle provided by the DNC. Lunch was provided at noon at different locations throughout the week.
Tuesday’s lunch was provided by Entergy, Wednesday’s by The Blue South Project and Thursday’s by Mississippi Power. I can honestly say I had my fair share of filet mignon that week.
Before events took place each day, I had a chance to visit different caucuses: the women’s caucus on Tuesday and the black caucus on Thursday. On Tuesday, the discussion was focused on women’s health, abortion rights and equality for women in the work force and was hosted by various representatives. Wednesday, between the two caucuses, I was invited to a luncheon hosted by NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. The black caucus on Thursday was filled as California Congresswomen Karen Bass talked about legislative challenges to voter rights, a discussion that still continues in Mississippi with the recent Voting Rights Amendment of 2011. A note to voters: As of today, Mississippi does not require voter identification at the polls.
The final day of the DNC not only had the president and vice president on the schedule, but James Taylor, Mary J. Blige, The Foo Fighters, Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria made appearances as well.
Thursday’s event was also packed because of the venue change from Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Arena due to weather conditions. This led to a more packed event than anticipated, causing the fire marshall to close off access to the floor entirely by the early start of the night.
The speakers each delivered something different but essential. Words can’t describe the feeling inside of the arena from start to finish, but I know that when attending a national convention, you feel like somewhat of an evangelical of your political party.
I can honestly say I will never forget this experience and I know this will most certainly not be my last national convention. From 5 p.m. to midnight each night and starting again in the morning, I felt energized, ready to vote, ready to help my party and exhausted all at the same darn time.
My favorite moments at the DNC were not seeing and listening to current leaders, but hearing the message of all the upcoming leaders of the party. This made me feel very optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party.
Many of the speeches, regardless of your political preferences, were awe-inspiring, and having the opportunity to see future mayors, governors, senators and representatives take the stage and encourage our base and newcomers to move our country “Forward, Not Back” was unreal to witness and the experience of a lifetime.
Kegan Coleman is a senior public policy major from Calhoun City MS. Follow him on Twitter @KeganColeman.
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