Democratic Convention in Denver

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 | Denver, CO, USA

Delegates and fans waved flags for an evening speaker in Denver's convention center.
Wow, what a week. The Democratic National Convention in Denver was a wild blur of famous people, parties, and events at all times and in all places throughout the city. (And what a city! I was very impressed with Denver—downtown is all murals, funky bars and restaurants, museums, and cultural sites.)

The excitement peaked each evening at the convention, which I was lucky to attend all four nights for work.

My organization's focus is exclusively international, with one exception. Every four years the group invites hundreds of distinguished political leaders from around the globe to the DNC to give them an opportunity to observe the American democratic process firsthand. Thanks to the remarkable worldwide interest in this year's US presidential campaign, turnout was high.

Each day, our foreign dignitaries lounged in an auditorium, listening to star-studded panel discussions on the US political process, the role of media and advertising in the '08 race, US engagement abroad, global poverty, or foreign policy priorities for the next administration. While Madeleine Albright laid down the line, Bill Clinton meandered on- and off-topic, Ben Affleck tried to keep up, and the many other panelists pontificated and opined, I found Tom Brokaw impressive. I had always considered him more of a talking head than a public intellectual, but as a moderator, he enriched his panel's discussion as much as the panelists themselves did.

All day every day, famous faces cruised the streets of Denver. I met Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (former Lieutenant Governor of my home state of Maryland) and the Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, and spotted Walter Mondale, Howard Dean, and others.

Each night, I and other staff ferried clusters of our foreign guests into the convention hall. Monday, I watched Michelle Obama tell her husband's story and her own. Tuesday, young democratic governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Brian Schweitzer of Montana got the crowd pumped up before Hillary's resounding endorsement speech for Obama, which I witnessed from the convention floor. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton gave a dazzling speech to remind us all why he was on top for eight years. Joe Biden delivered an emotional personal history and continued to throw punches at the Republicans.

I was among the nearly 80,000 people who witnessed Thursday night's magnificent spectacle at Mile High Stadium in person. The evening began with rounds of introduction from Al Gore, Obama's fellow Senators, Stevie Wonder, and several poignant "average Americans."

Nobody in the stadium could contain themselves; between speakers, we did the wave around and around, buzzing with anticipation. The mood reached a thunderous climax as Obama finally emerged, and strode to the podium. In his speech, he outlined a sweeping vision of his priorities as the Democratic nominee, and wrenched the emotions of his fans. Among the crowd, tears flowed. When the volleys of fireworks boomed out, sealing the candidate's words, we all felt that inkling confirmed, that something great and new and necessary had happened that night.

Already today I've heard of one reporter who traveled from Denver directly to the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and compared the transition to "going from a wedding to a funeral." I'm glad I was at the wedding, and hope for the sake of this country and the world that the honeymoon lasts all the way until November.

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