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.

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