It finally dawned on me as I was getting into the plane for my red-eye flight into Charlotte: I'm actually doing this. Over 400 Democrats cast their votes at the April DNC convention in Oakland for delegates that would represent them at the DNC Convention in Charlotte, and I was one of them.
I arrived mid-day on Monday, bleary-eyed but ready to rally. Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes along the way. Lesson 1: Google Map the hotels. While two of the hotels belonging to the California delegation were within vicinity of the Arena and Convention Center, in an attempt to save costs we were put up in a hotel 20 miles from downtown. The DNC underestimated the number of shuttles that would be needed, and by the time my group of other Young Dem delegates and I made it to downtown, we had waited for an hour and were completely rained out in a freak storm that appears to happen every day here. Nevertheless, we attempted to make lemon out of lemonade.
We started the morning of our full day at the California delegation breakfast, sitting with my fellow elected delegates from the North Bay - Paul Cohen, Blake Hooper, Jessica Jackson, Jan O'Brien, Patricia Ravitz and Andy Hyman. Kamala Harris could not have been more heartfelt, bringing talk for the rest of the day of when she'll run for ... Governor? Senator? ... President? 2016 or ...? In any matter, everone agreed that CA has a lot to be proud of in its newest AG.
After breakfast, I found my way through security check points to a reception honoring Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) at the Levine Museum for the New South. It was fun catching up with our own state Senator Mark Leno along with progressive Jewish leaders from throughout the country. After hearing from our party chair and Senator Bill Nelson of FL, fellow Bay Area delegate Max Perrey and I attended a training on how and why progressive Democrats should understand and relate to military service members and their families put on by the Truman Project.
Then it was off to the convention. I was "voluntold" to serve as a whip, which I found out was a glorified name for a greeter / directions-provider / swag-handing-out beacon of hope for the overwhelmed delegates from all 50 states and even outside the country. Because California had such a smooth-running operation herding 600+ cats (err, delegates), we became outsourced to help other states. I ran into my old friend and fellow Young Elected Officials Network member David Shapiro from the Arizona State Senate as a result of one such trip uphill to deliver "We love Michelle" signs. The zany orange vest I had to wear in this capacity netted me one radio interview, though for the most part I was out of the sight of cameras.
As everyone who got a chance to catch convention speeches on the TV or online got to see, Tuesday was nothing short of an amazing line up of inspiring, compassionate leaders. Keynote Speaker Julian Castro of Texas brought us all to our feet numerous times with his call to reignite the American middle class through opportunity, education and investment. First Lady Michelle Obama though was the most inspirational as she brought tears to my eyes and those around us as she told both her and Barack's story and translated those values to how he has acted since being sworn in almost four years ago.
The night ended for me around 2 a.m. with a combined young progressives party co-hosted by the New Leaders Council, Truman Institute, Young Elected Officials Network, and other organizations. While packed like sardines in a small, elongated bar, it was difficult to hear keynote speaker Chris Kelly, I got a chance to catch up with a number of old friends I have made from North Carolina, DC, Missoula, Montana, and everywhere in between through common struggles to make the country more progressives - and get drinks with new ones.
A bonus for the day was possibly making it onto a Saturday Night Live cameo when a leisurely stroll through the Arena and a glimpse of Samantha Bee led to a snap decision to rush in, along with dozens of others, culminating in a giant group hug. The point being? Sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time. And at a place as grand, as overwhelming, and as exhilarating as the DNC Convention, there are plenty of opportunities for that.
Now it's time to log off, button the cuff of my shirt, and head back out for Day 3!
Max Perrey, a contributer to the Marin Patch, contributed to this report.