The latest entry from my brother’s convention blog.
* * *
Since American presidential elections are often described as horse races, it seems appropriate to say, “And they’re off!”
The Convention was gaveled open today at 3:00 Mountain Time. Given that it didn’t adjourn until 9:00, you might wonder what fills all that time. The answer explains why the television coverage keeps shrinking. The clear focus is primetime in the East… thus the marquee content from 7:00 – 9:00 Denver time. Before the real show comes on, there’s some business (report of the platform committee, appointment of convention officers), some entertainment (from live musical artists to political videos) and lots of speeches by various folks ranging from some state’s attorney general to not so randomly selected average American. One memorable moment though came when Senator Tom Harkin opened his speech in sign language with the sign language interpreter providing the voice translation. Another came from a teacher who evacuated New Orleans during both Katrina and Rita and has since returned to help rebuild. A piece of 2×4 from her rebuilding efforts and signed by Barack Obama proudly sits on her coffee table. Still, I bet even C-SPAN is wondering if “gavel to gavel” coverage is such a good idea!
Wonk spotting has already become passé. After the xth Senator (Weyden, Stabenow, Cantwell, Casey), the nth media personality (Jeff Greenfield, Wolf Blitzer, James Carvel, Dan Rather…. hmmm, what’s he doing here?), and the xth other random politicos (Barney Frank, Ed Rendell, Jimmy Carter)… well, it is a political convention! As for real celebs… frankly being the pop culture moron that I am I probably wouldn’t recognize many of them anyway, but I did notice that Angela Bassett was sitting two rows in front of me.
Before all the proceedings started inside the hall, I was at a lunch at which Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois said something interesting. Noting that Senator Obama’s key note address from 2004 helped launch him on this “improbably journey”, Durbin said that he heard the speech in the hall but didn’t realize the impact that it had until after he’d left the hall. Interestingly, I remember having the same experience. I too was in the hall in ’04 and while it struck me as a good speech, it didn’t register as the amazing piece of oratory that it was quickly considered by so many. Stuck by the crescendo of reaction, I watched the speech again over the web on a convention site that had a camera fixed on the podium at all times. While this time I saw some of the magic I had missed, it was about a month later when I was at a function where the CNN feed of the same speech was shown. This feed was a totally different experience. It included cuts of audience reaction interspersed into Obama’s presentation, it captured the “dance” between speaker and audience in a way that highlighted the power of both the content and the delivery. It really was quite amazing!
Which brings me to tonight’s primetime ticket. Having Ted Kennedy muster the stamina and courage to appear amidst his battle with cancer was clearly an emotional high point in the hall. After Caroline’s terrific introduction, the moment Teddy walked out was powerful. The lion in winter. After that, I’m not sure why primetime was wasted on Claire McCaskill, but from where I sat Michelle Obama’s speech was amazing. A powerful story of living your values, the values of family, community and commitment. And next to her husband, I though her delivery was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time and conveyed strength, warmth and sincerity. I’ll be very interested to see how it played outside the hall.
After walking out of the Pepsi Center tonight, I looked up and the lights of Invesco field – where Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night – all of the lights were pointing straight up forming a huge and dramatic beacon far up into the sky. It was immediately a striking reminder of the two beams of light that so beautifully and sadly marked the World Trade Center towers soon after their horrible fall. It reminded me anew of the wounds that have not healed and how the real path forward, one of in keeping with America’s finest values, has yet to begin. But it was with these emotions in mind, and clearly in the context of this amazing movement to restore America, that as I continued to marvel at the light I saw in it as well a beacon of hope.