Saturday, August 30, 2008


I would not have been able to attend this historic convention and represent the Eleventh Congressional District of California without the support of the Democratic voters of our district, who chose to make a special trip on a sunny Sunday afternoon in April to vote for me, as well as the support of other fellow activists on the Obama campaign in the Bay Area.

To all of you I express my deep, heartfelt thanks for giving me the opportunity to represent you at this wonderful convention. There will never be another with its historic significance, and I will never forget you for sending me there for the experience of a lifetime.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 4: The Experience of a Lifetime – Part I

Thursday, August 28

When I picked up my daily delegate credential this morning before breakfast, I received the good news that the California Democratic Party had secured passes to Invesco Field for almost all the guests for whom delegates had requested tickets. This made a lot of people very happy, including my wife Joan.

The last California delegation breakfast featured mayors – John Hickenlooper of Denver, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, current San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, and Antonio Villarraigosa of Los Angeles. (By the way, in our goodie bags on Sunday, all the delegates had received a bobble-head doll of Mayor Villarraigosa.)

Willie Brown was Willie Brown, opinionated and passionate as ever, especially about the need to do everything we can to elect Barack Obama. Gavin Newsom gave a good talk about all that he has accomplished in San Francisco in spite of budget cuts, and saying several times, “If we can do it in San Francisco, we can do it in California.” He sure sounded like a candidate for governor.

I could not stay for the talk by Mayor Villarraigosa, as I had to get over to the Convention Center by 10:00 for the Alliance Labor Caucus. This caucus is a partnership by four unions (IFPTE, CWA, steelworkers and autoworkers) formed to advocate aggressively for Democrats in future elections. Levin Sy and Mark Mitchell of our Local 20 of Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE, had asked me to attend. Our president, Greg Junemann, they said, would introduce me to the assembled. What I did not know was the content of the program that was planned from 10:00 to 12:30. And was I ever surprised!

The following elected leaders, who are friends of Labor, appeared in this order and spoke for about 6 or 7 minutes each:
Gov. Joe Manchin (WV)
Sen. Carl Levin (MI)
Sen. Dick Durbin (IL)
Rep. Betty Sutton (OH)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT)
Rep. Danny Davis (IL)
Rep. Nick Lampson (TX)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI)

I was like a kid in a candy store, because I love to hear what our Democratic leaders think and have to say. Each one spoke with passion that showed they get it. They get what’s going on in our country economically, as Sen. Stabenow pointed out. All were very much in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which was a prime topic of discussion. We must have an Obama administration in January to get this signed into law.

I was impressed by all of them, but especially with Danny Davis, whom I had neither seen nor heard before. Not only does he have a passion for the well-being of his constituents, but also he is a very learned man. He began and ended his talk by quoting several lines of classic literature. He also delivered a great line when, speaking about why any brother or sister in Labor would not vote for Obama, he said, “I have never heard of a turkey voting for an early Thanksgiving.”

President Junemann then introduced me and had me stand up. He mentioned that I had become a member of IFPTE within the last year and specifically that I had become a member through a neutral card check procedure, something the EFCA would guarantee for all workers.

The program at Invesco Field was scheduled to begin at 4:30, with DNC shuttles starting to run at 2:00. I walked back to the hotel to change my shirt (a daily necessity with high humidity, i.e., relative to California), post my “Day 3” diary to this blog, and catch the shuttle. Only credentialed delegates and those with “Special Guest” credentials were allowed to ride the shuttles, so all the guests and the public that had gotten “Community Passes” had to find their way to Invesco on their own.

My wife left the Sheraton at 12:30 and ended up walking all the way to Union Station in LoDo and on over to Invesco. That is a decent hike, and there were thousands of people doing it. Because of the strict security measures, she waited in line for 2 ½ hours, as did almost all of the public. The weather was sunny and hot, and I saw a couple of people being carted off for medical attention and receiving oxygen.

This was the first day that I could not simply get on the first bus at the designated stop, but instead had to wait in line. The shuttle bus got us to Invesco in decent time, and I had a nice conversation with a young man from Washington, DC named Jesse on the bus. But after we got there, we had to wait in the delegate security check line in the heat for an hour until we got through. Lea and Ken were already in the stadium, having gotten an earlier start. Lea called me to direct me to where they were sitting.

But then we got in, and was that ever an adrenaline rush! Later in Part II, I’ll describe the evening from my vantage point 40 yards away from the podium.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 3: Even better than Day 2! We did what we came to do!

Here is quick overview of Day 3. I'll post in detail later. Right after I post this, I am catching the shuttle bus to Invesco Field to attend tonight's acceptance speech.
1. Cast my vote for Barack Obama before breakfast.
2. I participated in recording a radio show as part of a roundtable on “What it means to be a Democrat.” This was a show produced by Minnesota Public Radio.
3. Attended a talk by Dennis Kucinich in my hotel sponsored by the American Muslim Task Force.
4. Shuttle to Pepsi Center
5. Listen to nomination speeches for Hillary and Barack.
6. The Roll Call Vote! – This was the highlight of the day for me until the very end of the program. There were some rumblings among the California delegation when Art Torres passed.
7. Hillary’s call for nomination by acclamation.
8. The nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States!
9. Bill Clinton’s welcoming by the delegates and speech
10. John Kerry’s speech
11. Steven Spielberg short film about America’s war veterans, narrated by Tom Hanks (extremely moving)
12. Tammy Duckworth
13. Beau Biden
14. The nomination of Joe Biden as the Democratic Party’s candidate for Vice-President of the United States!
15. Joe Biden’s acceptance speech
16. Surprise guest Barack Obama
17. California Delegation Gala at the Colorado Museum of Natural Science

Also, Melissa Etheridge fired us up with a couple great songs at the Pepsi Center.

Whew! What a day!

Day 4 is sure to top it. The excitement and anticipation is in the air all around. Everyone is clamoring for any available ticket. Some great news is that the California delegation leadership came through with Invesco Field passes for about all guests of California delegates. Now my wife, Joan, will finally be able to attend part of the convention in person. And what a part it will be!

Day 2: Proud to be a Democrat

Tuesday, Augusr 26

I came down to breakfast at 7:00 and immediately got into line to request a guest pass to the Pepsi Center for my wife for Tuesday. I was seventh on the list but did not get a call in the afternoon, which is when they distribute those precious ducats. It’s a mystery how they allocate the passes that they are able to get their hands on.

The next step was to show my ID to get my delegate pass for the day. Then it was into the large ballroom for breakfast. It’s served individually, but it consisted of a hash brown patty, two bacon strips, scrambled eggs, and three cooked cherry tomatoes. Not exactly what I needed or wanted if I’m watching fats and cholesterol. And my Jewish friends could only simply turn it down.

Three governors spoke to us after breakfast: David Patterson (New York), Ted Strickland (Ohio), and Joe Manchin (West Virginia). Governor Patterson is really, really impressive with his wit and his quick recall of facts and numbers.

After breakfast I attended a fascinating panel on "Taking Back America," sponsored by the AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO president John Sweeney introduced it. The panel was truly impressive: moderated by Ezra Klein and Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect, former UMW president and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, economist Paul Krugman and journalist Robert Kuttner. There were some good lines I heard there which I’ll post later.

At noon I attended an Alliance Caucus of four labor unions, including my own (IFPTE), and met its international president, Greg Junemann, and our San Francisco Area business manager Mark Mitchell.

I could not stay long, and on my way out I noticed that Jim Wallis of Sojourners was in a panel next door, so I peeked in but then had be on my way right away. Back to the Sheraton where Emily’s List was having a gala program with Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Barbara Mikulski, and Nancy Pelosi. I did not attend, but picked up my wife’s ticket for her and pointed her in the right direction.

Right after that I caught the shuttle (which is a tour bus) to the Pepsi Center. Other than stoplights and many busses crowding the streets, the ride went without delay today. This time I was there by 3:00 and got to hear the invocation, say the Pledge of Allegiance, watch the presentation of the colors, and sing the national anthem.

Today was the day for women senators to speak, and were they good! We can rightly be proud of the Democratic women in the Senate. This was fairly early on in the convention schedule, and the place had only about half the number of people that would later occupy the Pepsi Center that night. But before and after Sen. Boxer spoke, the California delegation, being 10% of the total delegates, made its presence known. We made sure Sen. Boxer heard our cheers and yells. She waved to us from the stage.

Later, California state controller John Chiang spoke and did a great job. I’m sure you can find these individual speeches on Youtube, so I will link some of them later.

Seven governors spoke next, including all three that spoke to us in the morning. But Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana brought down the house. He was witty, funny, and engaging. At one point he launched into a really fun audience-response series of questions to be loudly and resoundingly answered “NO” about "John McCain – More of the Same." We all had our red signs to hold up that said that same thing.

Alabama’s Lily Ledbetter, who chose to fight discrimination against her based on gender in the workplace, delivered an address to the convention that was memorable, emotional and deeply troubling. It is astounding and wrong-headed that the Supreme Court ruled that she should have brought her case within six months of the discrimination occurring despite the fact that she did not know about it until years later. The new Congress must take up this matter and change this horrid law in January 2009. As Lily said, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s a fairness issue.

Mark Warner delivered the keynote speech. It was a decent speech, but it sounded like a speech he would make in running for senator from Virginia, which he is.

By this time the fire marshal had shut the doors to allow no one else into the convention. There were all kinds of people including little kids who had gained entrance with parents (some of whom I presume were dignitaries). This was all for Hillary Clinton’s speech.

Hillary hit it out of the ballpark with her speech. She came right out at the beginning and emphatically stated that Barack Obama will be her president. The crowd went wild at that. Of course, Hillary was greeted like a rock star. Each state delegation’s pages had passed out “Hillary” signs for us to wave. (About 4 or 5 different signs get passed out each day, each about 5 minutes before it’s time to wave them.) I think Hillary accomplished exactly what she had to do to achieve unity among the delegates at this convention.

By the time of her speech, the place had gotten very crowded. As I mentioned, the fire marshal would let no one else be admitted. We were told that if we left the floor (even for the restroom), we would not get back in. There was an area of seats next to us that had been reserved with masking tape. These were right next to the California sign where the delegation chairpersons have a station of phones and TV screen, and a small flat surface for papers. There is a young lady named Crystal (Art Torres' assistant) who is the “seat nazi” for these reserved seats, as she controls who gets to sit in them and when. When Hillary’s speech began, Steve Westly was sitting in front of me, Antonio Villaraigosa was next to him (he squeezed by me then climbed down a row to his seat), and Barbara Boxer was three seats to my left. It is all so amazing.

I noticed something interesting about Sen. Boxer during this speech. She applauded Hillary respectfully at the appropriate times. However, she did not take a sign to wave, and she stayed seated throughout the speech (most of us were alternately standing up and sitting down to applaud and wave signs). This was in contrast to earlier in the evening when she enthusiastically waved the “McCain, More of the Same” sign and also when we were all standing, swaying, and moving to the music. Just saying, not criticizing.

Day 2 was even better than Day 1. You might think six hours would be a very long time to be at this event, but it doesn’t seem like six hours with all the enthusiasm and adrenaline going. The concessions stands are open for food and drink (no alcohol). However, the ushers (guards?) that checked my credentials to get back inside wouldn’t let me bring the food I had purchased inside. I had to eat it before I went in. And I could not take my cup of Pepsi in either, but I was allowed to take a purchased ($3.25) bottle of water in.

A small group of us closed out the night at a party at Coors Field given by the airline pilots union and "Labor and Vets United." It was about a 25-minute stroll through LoDo, which was hopping with night life, to get to Coors. What a beautiful ballpark! The party was in the luxury suite section of the park. After that we walked back down the 16th Street Mall to the hotel. Even though it was late, we felt completely safe during the 20-minute walk back.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 1 Rocks!

Monday, August 25

At noon, I went over to the Colorado Convention Center to attend the Rural Caucus. The convention center is where most of the Democratic interest group caucuses are taking place in late morning and early afternoon. One entrance is for delegates and other pass holders who can get in without a search. Others are subject to search at the other entrance.

Now you might wonder, how is Pleasanton rural? Well at one time it was, although that was far too long ago for me to remember, having moved there in 1987. However, I grew up in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, land of coal mines and farmland. My dad was a farmer for the first 10 years of my life. The rural lifestyle is indelibly etched in my mind.

Here is some of what I took away: What a lot of people fail to realize is that what rural people want is the same thing everyone else wants. And we can’t talk about helping rural folks without talking about making a profit. Small farmers and businessmen need to turn a profit or the rural lifestyles will not survive. These are America’s farmlands and energy production areas. A federal effort to rebuild energy infrastructure and retain manufacturing jobs would directly benefit rural America.

Jim Hightower (former Texas Ag commissioner) and Cecil Roberts (president of the United Mine Workers), were two of the speakers. Cecil Roberts is quite a fire-and-brimstone speaker! I got my photo taken with each one.

Outside the convention center (you need to understand that this is not the Pepsi Center where the convention is), there is a circus going on all day. There are all kinds of vendors hawking souvenirs, anti-abortion protesters holding grotesque banners, Code Pink people, people dressed in foam Statue of Liberty costumes, two people dressed up as pink pigs to advocate taxing meat to combat global warming, and police everywhere.

By the way, the weather here in Denver has been sunny and hot, temperatures about 90 and humid. I’m glad I brought plenty of shirts.

Lea, Ken and I caught the shuttle to the Pepsi Center right outside our hotel. It took an hour to get there because there was a traffic snafu along the way. Once we got there, it was a short walk to the security tents, where we had our bags searched and were given the once over with the metal detector wand. That was pretty fast though, and then it was a 300-yard walk to the Pepsi Center, where we all took photos to remember the occasion. The convention officially started at 3:00, and we got inside at 4:00. The live band was playing as we walked in. It was such an awesome and indescribable sight. The place was rocking with the huge stage and video screens and the music and the joy all around.

Once inside we entered the arena seating area and found out that the California section was on the other side from where we were. What a feeling it was to walk down those steps to the floor of the arena! This was it! This is what the long journey since February 2007 has been about! I am finally here to cast my vote on behalf of the voters of CD-11 for Barack Obama for our next president to restore our great nation, to take our country back! The choice in this election could not be starker. I am here to do my small part to save our country from the mediocrity, economic misery and malaise of the past 8 years.

If you can imagine in your mind the view looking toward the stage, the California section is to the right and occupying one and one-quarter sections of the lower bowl. These would be $75 and $50 seats at a Sharks game. In the shared section, Ohio has the first 7 rows, California has about 10 rows, and Georgia and Missouri are further up. Then we have all of the adjacent section.

Not every delegation is actually on the “floor,” which is the size of the Avalanche’s hockey rink. About 11 states are there, and they are the battleground states, except for Illinois and Delaware. I’m sure they are placed there for maximum TV visibility for those states viewers. The rest are in the lower bowl of the arena.

CNN is down on the actual floor right in front of our delegation. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Donna Brazile, John King, and Jim Carville are sitting facing us, looking into their cameras. MSNBC"s Dick Gregory is also down on the floor to our left.

I was in heaven with my new digital SLR camera. I walked all around the floor snapping photos of anyone and anything. I took about 200 pictures and as soon as I can, I will upload a lot of them here.

We were all surprised that Ted Kennedy was here in person to speak. I was thinking maybe he’d send a video message. Everyone in the house loved “Uncle Teddy,” as Caroline called him in her introduction. He was magnificent in all respects as he riled up the crowd as only Ted Kennedy can do, touching on many of his signature issues.

Of course the highlight of Monday night was Michelle Obama. All day was like we were building to a crescendo with her speech. I think she hit just the right tone and message. The moment she talked about Barack driving home from the hospital with their newborn baby daughter was an emotional moment, especially for those of us who have done the exact same thing. I’m sure there was many a moist eye in the house. Michelle will make a great first lady. She has so much to offer, such an intelligent and caring lady and mother she is.

If Day 1 is any indicator, the rest of the convention promises to be a blast. I had a good idea what this convention would be like, but this has exceeded my expectations.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I missed breakfast!

Today did not start well. I overslept and missed the entire delegation breakfast. It went until 10 a.m., and I got there at 9:50a.m. My mistake was in relying on the hotel alarm clock. It had a dinky little beep-beep-beep sound that did not wake me up. Tomorrow, I set it on the radio setting at full volume.

One of the wait staff at the ballroom was so kind to get me something to eat, while everyone else was buzzing about, talking to each other and the speakers. I was told that John Chiang, the state controller, was an excellent speaker.

Of course, Nancy Pelosi led things off, and there were a signs that had been passed out that said, “Madame Speaker!” I did manage to get one that was left under a table. I'm disappointed I missed her, but I take solace from having seen her at Netroots Nation last month.

Just over to my left now is Art Torres who has attracted a small crowd around him. Now I’m off to get my credential and maybe go to a Progressive Democrats of America event with the editor of “The Nation” magazine.

I'm here in Denver!

Sunday, August 24

Today was the big day! My wife and I arrived in Denver at 2:30 p.m. on Frontier Airlines. We first met a helpful lady from the airline at the arrival gate who told me that when I fly out on Friday, I could use the preferred customer line to speed through check-in. I’ll take that.

After collecting our bags, we caught SuperShuttle to the Sheraton Hotel downtown, where the California and New York delegations are staying. The van made stops at four other hotels first. At the Hyatt Hotel, there were a huge number of police in riot gear lining the sidewalk. The police presence is tremendous. They wear this heavy riot gear, and they are always in groups of at least 5 or 6 and usually more.

After checking into the Sheraton, which was buzzing with activity, and finding our room, I found the California delegation check-in table downstairs below the lobby. I picked up an extra free ticket for my wife to attend the DNCC delegate welcome reception at the Colorado Convention Center, which is only three blocks away. I also signed my wife up on a list to receive a ticket to Invesco Field on Thursday, in the very unlikely event that any extras are available to the California delegation.

The reception was scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. As it had already started, I hurried back to the room to get Joan. As I was waiting for the elevator, the door opened and out stepped Charlie Rangel! The New York delegation appeared to be having a reception nearby. I stood by as another person greeted him. Then he turned to me, I said hello, and we shook hands. Then he left. Damn! I had my camera with me, but I didn’t have it out. Next time I’ll be ready.

So Joan and I walked over to the Convention Center, walking by horde of souvenir vendors hawking buttons and $10 t-shirts. The center was crowded. As we entered the ballroom, Howard Dean was addressing the crowd, which was whooping it up. After sampling the Cajun fare (jambalaya, rice and red beans, crawdad pastry), and walking around a short time, we ran into Lea Austin (the other CD11 Obama delegate), Ken Richard, Maria Alegria, and a couple other Bay Area delegates. It was great to see them, chat and take some photos, and coordinate some future activities. By the way, Lisa V. in The Contra Costa Times featured both Ken and Lea with photos in a story today on the Bay Area delegates.

When it was time to leave the convention center there was a crowd outside consisting of souvenir hawkers, police, departing delegates, and a couple guys holding a picture of a fetus and saying nasty things about Obama and abortion.

Back to my room then to plan my first day of the convention on Monday. It begins with credentialing and a delegation breakfast program with Nancy Pelosi from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. This will be only the second time that the whole delegation has been together, the first being in Sacramento on May 17.

Now a glimpse of the Olympic closing ceremonies, then off to bed for an exciting day tomorrow.