2008-08-28 / Front Page

The Democratic National Convention

Convention wrap up Islander blogs as elected delegate
By Deb Ruggiero


Editor's note: Deb Ruggiero is the first Jamestowner in recent memory to be elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She will be sharing her views of the convention this week.

THANK YOU to you for electing me as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Thank you for sending me to Denver to watch history unfold as the first African American Senator Barack Obama is put on the Democratic ticket for president of the United States. He’ll be a voice at the table for so many. Yes, I am disappointed that my candidate, Hillary Clinton, did not win the nomination, but I am proud of Hillary’s graciousness and her unwavering ability to unite the party. I saw her speak several times at events outside the convention and there were moments when you knew from her voice and her eyes this was not easy for her. She had put so much into this campaign over the last 18 months. Her work is not done; the future is still being written for all of us.
 The message at the Democratic National Convention was one of HOPE, FAMILY, and CHANGE. If you heard the compelling speeches from Michelle Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Senator Jack Reed, Senator Joe Biden, former Vice President Al Gore, and Presidential nominee Barack Obama you heard the resounding message of providing a better life for our children. In the words of Michelle Obama, “my blessing is one that came because of those who worked so hard before me.”
 In the end there are no blue states or red states just the United States of American. We are all American patriots — those who know that our leaders must be honest, hard working, and more concerned with public interest than self-interest. We need leaders who help us understand each other, not drive us apart. We need leaders who know that conserving more is better than wasting more.  John F. Kennedy’s words still ring true: “the energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
God Bless you, your family, our community and our great country.

Convention wrap up:

It was 45 years ago Thursday that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech to thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. It was a seminal moment in our nation’s history. Now, the  Democratic nominee for president of the United States has been decided “not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.”
Barack Obama stormed the stage at Invesco Field with passion in his voice and fire in his belly. He was poised to show the 80,000 people packed into the stadium and the millions watching on television that he is ready to lead this country.  He brought down the house with his message of hope and opportunity. Barack Obama called for change we can all believe in.  He outlined his vision to redirect the course of this country’s economy, the war on Iraq and our dependence on foreign oil.  “Eight years ago we were at peace and in prosperity.  Things were different.  We cannot afford to have the same policies for the next four years. John McCain has voted with George Bush 90% of the time. What does it say about your judgment if you think George Bush has been right 90% of the time?  On November 4th we must say eight is enough.”
Throughout the day and evening artists took to the recording artists took to the stage in between the political speeches. Sheryl Crow sang about change, Michael McDonald sang “American the Beautiful,” and Stevie Wonder got everyone dancing with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”  As I looked around the football stadium it seemed more like a rock concert than a political convention. I must admit it was fun!
The five hours went by quickly. The music, the singing, the dancing, and oh yes, the speeches. Nobel Peace Prize winner and vice president Al Gore got a rousing ovation and spoke about renewable energy and reminded everyone of opportunity for change, but it’s not guaranteed. We must seize it. I know about close elections.”
In 1960 President John Kennedy moved his acceptance speech to  the L.A. Coliseum when he delivered his “New Frontier” speech.  The Kennedy family anointed Barack Obama as the heir to JFK.  Congressman Patrick Kennedy was with the Rhode Island delegation during Barrack Obama’s speech yelling, “You tell them Barrack.”
Technology has changed politics. To give you an example, during the Thursday night event we were asked to text a message of support for Barrack Obama to DNC 62262.  Over 30,000 people in that stadium took out their cell phones, blackberry, phone and sent a text message!  That’s a third of the people at the stadium.
I am one of several hundred people blogging.  But there are over 120 credentialed bloggers for the news media  that’s up from only 35 bloggers in 2004. You may remember (I only read about it) the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago when soldiers in tanks patrolled down Michigan Avenue.  TV news reporters who shot the footage put it on a plane for the next day’s 6 p.m. news!
The past four days at the DNC have been remarkable, a once in a lifetime opportunity, a “mile high” experience of epic proportion. History was written this week for generations to come.

Thursday's notes:

It was a historic moment of epic proportion. The Democratic party is the first party in history to place an African American as its nominee for president of the United States. The crowd erupted with thunderous applause and flashing cameras as the Senator Barack Obama joined vice presidential candidate Joe Biden on stage. The energy and emotion at the Pepsi Center in Denver was mile high.
The afternoon began with an historic roll call when Senator Hillary Clinton emerged to the front of the New York delegation and announced to the convention, “I would like to suspend the rules and affirm the nomination of Senator Barack Obama by unanimous proclamation.” In well orchestrated dramatic fashion, Hillary Clinton united the Democratic party behind the Democratic nominee for president. It had to have been a difficult moment in her career, but she showed class, poise and heart.
The Rhode Island delegation shouted with pride, “Jack, Jack, Jack,” when Senator Jack Reed was introduced to the stage. His message about family and national defense was well delivered and well received. He spoke of his trip with Senator Obama in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Our men and women in the military know a leader when they see one. Barack Obama will be a strong commander in chief.” (Senator Reed spoke to the R.I. delegation at breakfast and he told us that when he traveled with Barack Obama he was impressed with the genuine respect and rapport the troops had for Barack Obama.)
Singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge took to the stage for a fabulous acoustic version of “God Bless America” segueing into “The Times Are A Changing” and “Born In the USA” and then ending with “God Bless America.” She brought down the house.
But the real rock star of the night was Bill Clinton. He is truly the master at taking simple ideas and phrases and delivering with such impact. “We have to do two things: rebuild the American Dream and restore American leadership. Barack Obama is the man for the job.” He made reference to the current president taking a budget surplus and making it into an historic budget deficit and spending billions on an unnecessary war over the past seven years instead of rebuilding this country. “People have always been impressed by our power of example and not by the example of our power.”
Senator Joe Biden’s personal story of resilience and determination serves as a beacon of hope for everyone. The tragic loss of his wife and daughter only galvanized his determination to raise his two sons and be a father and a senator. By now everyone knows how he takes the 250-mile round trip home to Delaware to be with his family after a day in Washington, D.C. It was so wonderful to see his elderly mother nodding with great pride and tears in her eyes as he recalled his childhood.
It is a message of family, hope, and change. It is about how each and every one of us as Americans have the right to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s the American Dream for everyone — men, women, black, white, gay, straight, young, old. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that denies people the right to equal protection under the law. However, it is the work of political leaders to ensure everyone gets a fair chance at the American Dream. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The true test is not in making sure that those with much have more, but that those with so little have enough.”

Tonight Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field will be star studded with some big names from the music industry. We'll see singer Stevie Wonder, Dave Mathews, Black Eyed Peas and Sheryl Crow. Jennifer Hudson from American Idol fame will sing the national anthem. We'll hear from DNC chairman Howard Dean and former Vice President Al Gore. All will serve as warm up acts to what promises to be an inspiring message of hope from the Democratic nominee for president of the United Sates, Senator Barack Obama. "Change we all can believe in."

Wednesday's notes:

You could feel the electricity in the room Tuesday night.  The crowd erupted into thunderous applause for Hillary Rodham Clinton. It went on for a solid four minutes while the band played “An American Girl.”  The crowd chanted “Hillary, Hillary.” Her message was well delivered, perhaps one of her best speeches, heartfelt with passion, tenacity and conviction.  “This is a fight for the future and a fight we must win together.”  She succeeded in uniting the delegates on this convention floor, and hopefully Democrats across the country.  Hillary told us, “I need you to work as hard for Barack Obama as you did for me because on January 20th we need Barack Obama and Joe Biden.” 

She added, “No way, no how, no McCain.”
Hilllary quoted Harriet Tubman saying, “If you see the torches, keep going. If you hear the shouting, keep going. Never stop.  We have to keep going and elect a new president to fulfill the lives of our children.”

The convention hall was rocking. Hillary delivered a unifying and inspiring speech that propelled every delegate to their feet.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was sitting in front of me with Sandra and daughter, Molly.  He is a big supporter of Hillary and was leading the cheers.  Afterward, he turned to say his voice was hoarse.
Earlier in the day, Hillary was one of the headlines (along with Michelle Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) at the Emily’s List event.  She told a standing room only group of women and men, “It’s not just politics. It’s personal. You have no idea where the path will lead you when you start running.  And your work puts more cracks in that glass ceiling and one day it will be completely shattered.”
Emily’s List (which stands for “early money is like yeast” it helps raise the dough) supports progressive women running for political office.   Michelle Obama, like all of the speakers at this sold event, thanked founder Ellen Malcolm for helping women across the country get into state and federal office.  A stunning tribute was made to Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones who passed away last week.
In other DNC news, the parties after the convention are mile high!  Last night the Democratic Mayors of America hosted a fabulous party at a Denver loft overlooking the mile high city. Each room featured "food from the city.”  There was steak and cheese from Philadelphia, shrimp and chowder from Boston, crab and avocado from San Francisco.  Providence Mayor David Ciccilline is the chair of the DMA and the signature food from Providence was the veal ragout from Old Canteen on Federal Hill.  The food and drink is nonstop with hosted breakfasts, lunches, and after convention parties.  Thankfully, we’re walking several miles from 16th Avenue to the Pepsi Center to work this off.  
This afternoon, Hillary Clinton is meeting with her pledged delegates.  Tonight is also the roll call.  There's speculation that there will be a motion on the convention floor to  move the New York  delegation to the front of the roll call.  She will most likely release her delegates then in dramatic fashion.   It's clear from her speech that she wants pledged delegates to support Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  

Tonight will be a long night on the floor.  The Rhode Island Delegation will be there early for U.S. Senator Jack Reed's speech at 6:45 p.m. central time (8:45 p.m. Eastern time).  The theme tonight is national security.  Senator Reed will precede former President Bill Clinton and Senator Joe Biden.  This will be another electrifying night at the DNC here in Denver.

Tuesday's notes:

Women, family, unity. The Democratic Convention started Moday with daily events that celebrated the 88th anniversary of women’s right to vote to the emotional speech of an ailing Senator Ted Kennedy. His mere presence on stage, enduring what had to be a difficult cross country trip, brought down the house. As tears filled my eyes I couldn’t help think this could be his very last Democratic Convention. Senator Kennedy promises to return to the US Senate in January and continue his nearly three decade fight so “every American will have decent, quality healthcare as a fundamental right.”
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of president John F. Kennedy, said it best. “If you are no longer being denied a job because of your race or gender, or have healthcare for your children, or get Medicaid, then you can thank Uncle Teddy. He is your Senator.”
Michelle Obama delivered a passionate, but very real speech sharing the dreams of her father and the hopes of her husband. She showed that a woman can be strong, smart, a mother, a wife, and a star in her own right as a social activist and a lawyer. I was impressed with her words, cadence, delivery. She is powerful.
I did get nine text messages, several voice mails, and many emails when CNN showed me on TV smiling and nodding as Michelle Obama spoke. Senator Teresa Paiva Weed asked me to remind you that she was sitting next to me and Myrth York was to my right. I will say the Rhode Island delegation is in the upper right section (nose bleed section) of the convention hall. Rhode Island was a strong state for Hillary perhaps that is why we are sitting behind American Samoa, Virgin Islands, and District of Columbia!
The day began when Myrth, Lt. Governor Roberts and I went to an event at the Denver Performing Arts Center. “Unconventional Women” was a panel discussion featuring Swanee Hunt (who has a foundation that invests in getting more women in politics) interviewing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I was fortunate to meet Nancy Pelosi last month when Liz and Michael Perik hosted her at their home in Jamestown. She is a pip of a woman. She’s very small, but very articulate and determined; it must be her Italian heritage (“testa dura”).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at this event about how women don’t realize the power and experience they already have when it comes to politics: “experience as a homemaker, mother, activist, organizer, business person juggling expenses. Unleash women power at home, in politics, in academia, and in business. It’s important that women see working moms in Congress. Women need to help other women.”
The most galvanizing story was House Speaker Pelosi recalling sitting on a chair at a meeting in Congress and her chair seemed so crowded. She could feel Susan B. Anthony, Cady Stanton, Bella Abzug, and so many suffragettes over the past hundred years who fought for the right for women to have equality and the right to vote. Pelosi could hear them say, “Finally we have a seat at the table.” Let’s keep the dream alive for our daughters. Let’s make this the year that we vote for hope and not because of fear.

Monday's notes

The Democratic National Convention officially got underway today at 3 p.m. when the gavel was sounded.  Lots of preparation for the 50,000 delegates, media, and political junkies.  Since the Gold Rush in the 1850s Denver has been a destination and the DNC is hoping there’s gold in them there hills with this presidential ticket.  Unification of the party is important. Today’s highlighted speakers include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the headline will be Michelle Obama and her “One Nation” speech about her husband.  There will also be a very special and fitting tribute to ailing Senator Ted Kennedy tonight. Congressman Kennedy was resting for the event and didn’t attend the all delegate event last night at the Convention .

National Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean spoke last night at the Convention Center. It was the only scheduled event at the Convention Center (the DNC will be at the Pepsi Center).  All delegates attended the event honoring the Katrina relief efforts. There was plenty of jambalya, shrimp, beans and rice. The jazz music and Randy Newman appearance on stage were all great.  Dean spoke about an “America that would have responded to Katrina and the people and not a president who did a fly by”.

Other DNC news, Florida and Michigan will be seated and delegates will be casting a full vote.  There were concerns that this would be a brokered convention (where no candidate arrives with a majority of delegates), but Hillary Clintonis relinquishing her delegates and the vote will be united behind Barack Obama.  Rhode Island is a Hillary state, but we are united for Obama. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt knowing she could have been the first woman nominee for president.  Tuesday will be her big day when Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Michelle Obama speak at the Sheraton Denver. Emily’s List is hosting and it’s billed as a “Unity Event.”  I will be attending wearing my Hillary shirt that she signed when she was in Rhode Island campaigning for president. I’ve been told it’s the hottest ticket to get in town and is sold out.  More to come… it’s so much fun!


First impression
Wow! Denver is mile high with media and Democratic delegates!
While waiting for my connection in Philly to Denver I met delegates from Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey — they are young, old, black, white. For some, this is old hat and for others it’s their first.
Twenty-year-old Steve Lucas is an elected delegate from Pittsburgh, Pa. 

Deb Ruggiero

This is his first convention.  After all, four years ago he wasn’t even old enough to vote!  As we chatted, I mentioned how I happened to hear Barack Obama’s electrifying speech in 2004 at the Democratic Convention in Boston.  Teresa Heinz, Senator John Kerry’s wife, was the headliner and this young senator from Illinois was first on the dais. It was Obama’s breakthrough speech.  He mesmerized the crowd with great command, speaking with passion, hope, and such eloquence at the DNC in 2004. I remember thinking: this guy will be president one day (who knew it could happen just 4 years later).
The buzz about this convention is that it’s refreshing how many delegates are so young. This 18- to 24-year-old group is devoted to Obama. Not only will he be the first African American to be nominated by a major political party, but also he announced his running mate by text message!
Technology has changed politics. Look at the speed of information in the last eight years.  In 2000, the Republicans held their convention in Philly and the site was owned by Comcast so that was the first convention wired for Internet. Bloggers began then what is pretty routine now, like me blogging from the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
A few words on vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden: he’s solid.  He’s an inside-the-beltway guy whose experience in foreign policy will shore up any perceived weaknesses in Barack Obama. He’s also got the elder, white guy thing going which may appeal to some voters.  Someone from Pennsylvania reminded me he’s often called their third senator. That’s a good thing considering Pennsylvania is a battleground state.
So, the first event Sunday night will be an all delegate celebration recognizing Hurricane Katrina relief organizations at the Colorado Convention Center. Some from the Rhode Island Delegation are here already (I saw Mayor David Ciccilline in the hotel lobby), but others will arrive tomorrow. There’s so much more to come.

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