Did I see famous people? Oh yeah! MSNBC put on a show! They had live broadcasts outdoors. Inside, they had “meet and greets” with various hosts. I met Chuck Todd. Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Will Geist walked by me for a live outdoor shoot. Walking around the TW Arena, I got to meet Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, New York Senator Chuck Schumer and I shook hands with Michael Dukakis. I kept running into CBS’ Bob Schieffer and Former RNC Chair Michael Steele. I went through security at the same time as Jesse Jackson.
Dennis Kucinich was interviewed by radio row and there was a beautiful woman standing close by. She drew a lot of attention. Then I realized it was Elizabeth Kucinich. I did not recognize her at first because she cut her hair. I met her and her husband at a LULAC dinner years ago. I told her I regretted to hear that her husband had effectively been gerrymandered out of his district and I heard he was retiring. “Oh no. He’s not leaving,” she told me. Then we had our picture taken together.
Another odd moment: I saw MSNBC’s Lawrence O'Donnell walking up the aisle and just a little bit ahead of him was Minnesota Senator Al Franken.
Protests and demonstrations have changed a great deal over the decades. For example, I did not see any anti-war protesters. This is a far cry from the 1960’s when many people were outraged by the unilateral military intervention in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. There was a pro-peace gathering in Charlotte seemingly more interested in coordinating colors than inspiring outrage. Whatever works, I thought. There were religious protesters condemning Democrats for their pro-choice, pro-gay marriage planks in their platform. But they were few and obviously on the fringe of even their own movement. Most people ignored them and a few actually argued with them, thereby encouraging the protesters to dig in their heels. Then there was another group. About 100 protesters from the Occupy movement were in Charlotte protesting the too-cozy alliance between Wall Street and Washington. Thursday night, I understand they approached the Time Warner Arena, did not get very far and staged a sit-in. Reports said the protesters were more vocal than on the other nights but the police showed restraint and nothing happened.
Friday was a travel day. Back home to Largo. Since the convention, some have asked me if I never wanted to leave. I wanted to come home. You cannot keep that pace indefinitely. But the excitement was not over. I was waiting for the shuttle bus to take me to the airport. Other Florida delegates started to gather. Of course, we talked about the convention. I took the opportunity to pick some brains. But every county seems to have a set of unique challenges. The shuttle arrived and we boarded. A woman using a cane sat next to me and we talked. She was from California. Her name was Sonia Fernandez. I thought I recognized her. It turns out she was on stage that final night with other veterans recovering from injuries. I could not keep quiet. I announced to everyone on the bus that she was one of the veterans that was onstage the previous night. Everyone applauded and shouts of “Thank You” filled the air. Sonia blushed and tears came to her eyes. I asked if she was comfortable talking about her injury. She said she was. Sonia had jumped from a helicopter. Another marine incorrectly timed his jump and landed on top of her shattering her pelvis, shattering her right knee and breaking a wrist.
I asked about her convention experience. She was a California delegate. She was sitting at a delegate breakfast meeting when a hand touched her shoulder. She turned to see who was touching her and looked up at Vice President Joe Biden. Biden spoke to the California delegation at that breakfast meeting but not before talking to her and asking if she was okay and if she needed anything. While she was onstage, she said all the veterans cried as the convention arena filled with cheers and signs saying “Thank You”. She told me that backstage, Senator John Kerry and Biden spoke to each of them.
Sonia also works with Governor Jerry Brown on the Laborers – Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. The government of California is financially debt ridden. Consequently, Sonia told me, Brown has left Sacramento only three or four times this year due to the costs. When a Governor travels, he has a security entourage and Brown feels that State cannot afford him traveling. Compare that to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger never lived in the Governor’s mansion in Sacramento. He always stayed at the local Hilton hotel with his security entourage incurring a cost of $300,000.00 taxpayer money per year. Fiscal conservative? You be the judge.
We got to the airport and we said goodbye. You could still feel excitement in the air. At airport bars and restaurants, the conversation was all politics and one could hear the occasional “Fired Up. Ready to Go.”
The convention was a surreal experience. It was like Vegas for people who love politics. But we are not done yet. The work continues registering voters, encouraging people to vote by mail and electing Democrats up and down the ballot. Are you with me?