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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Democratic Convention Recap: Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ann-Marie Luciano Bio

Like every other morning this week, Thursday started with a Maryland delegation breakfast. Thursday's breakfast meeting featured a speech from Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and his brother, Doug Ulman, head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and also a member of Obama's health care task force. He talked about the importance of universal access to affordable health care to foster early detection and supportive treatment programs We also heard from Robert Sussman, who is a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress and also works on Obama campaign with respect to energy and environmental issues. Sussman distinguished McCain's short-term proposals on energy (drilling) with Obama's long-term view in American finding renewable sources of energy (wind and solar) to help achieve energy independence. Certainly energy and environmental issues have merged to be one and the same in this election year.

We then heard from Congressman Elijah Cummings, who gave another impassioned and energetic speech. I cried throughout his entire speech and I wasn't alone in doing so. Congressman Cummings shouted about how this campaign and this week is not about Barack Obama or any of us – it is about our children and our grandchildren. With a strong voice, he pleaded with us to remember that our work has just begun – that we need to take the energy from this week and go home and work our hearts out for Obama. When our great-grandchildren ask their parents what we did to help elect the first African-American President, what will we say, he asked?

After the breakfast delegation meeting we got our credentials and prepared to head to Invesco field. There was a lot of confusion that morning given the security and transportation issues involved in having 80,000 people attend the convention. I hopped on the 1pm delegate shuttle bus to Invesco field. I sat next to a woman who is an Obama delegate from Louisiana. She was on the phone with her family telling them to drive up to her home in Baton Rouge until she could get back after the convention. Considering that the Gulf states are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina from three years ago, it's such a sad twist of fate that the same people are being faced with yet another tragedy. It will be interesting to see how FEMA and the Bush Administration responds this time around.

About an hour later we finally arrived at Invesco field. I hopped off the bus and waited in line for about 45 minutes before I could get through security. As a delegate, I was directed to head through a different entrance than the rest of the non-delegate credentialed visitors in attendance. I was shocked that the entrance was through an area on the floor of Invesco that looked like a loading dock entrance for trucks. There were volunteers huddled in the hallway listening to their instructions for the evening. I took a video of me entering because I felt like it was an historic moment.

I then entered Invesco and was instantly amazed by its size, especially compared to the Pepsi Center. At 2:45 p.m. Invesco was largely empty, mostly populated by media and delegates. I asked the police officers where the Maryland delegation was seated and proceeded to walk around the entire floor of the convention to go to the Maryland section, which was on the far right of the field if you were facing the stage. The Maryland delegation was seated in front of all of the outdoor media studios, such as CNN, CBS, MSNBC, ABC. Immediately I saw Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer and Katie Couric. Katie Couric was in the process of interviewing Michelle Obama. I of course went up to the studio and took a couple of pictures.

After I got my bearings I took an aisle seat and began to look around in awe, trying to soak in as much of the atmosphere as possible. Throughout that night I attempted to grasp on to every single moment – each word uttered, each set of eyes welling with tears, each delegate's unique way of wearing their support for Obama on their clothes. I tried to burn every image, sound and smell into my memory. Despite all of the pictures and video I took and all of the texting and phone calls, I still felt as though nothing could capture the experience. Neither words nor images could capture the emotion and energy felt in Invesco that day.

In preparation for Obama's big speech, we heard from many big celebrities that night (Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, order to get the crowd amped up (as if we needed it). By far, the biggest thrill for me was hearing from Black Eyes Peas and John Legend perform the "Yes We Can" song that they created months before as a free music video. You can watch the original music video here and check out their live performance at Invesco here.

I truly believe that this song energized many young people enough to get them to register to vote and come out in support of Obama on election day. I told that to when I was lucky enough to meet him at the Pepsi Center one day when I was walking down the hall.

Although Governor Richardson and Vice President Gore's speech were powerful, I really found that the individual stories of regular voters were the most compelling and touching. Barney Smith was bar far the funniest – his one-liner about McCain caring more about "Smith Barney than Barney Smith" caught the crowd on fire.

Given the grandiosity of the atmosphere we were in, when Barack Obama finally came out on stage it felt like a magical moment. I felt so honored and privileged to experience this historical moment in person. I of course cried, as did many in the audience from all walks of life. I thought the speech hit every point Obama needed to make – introducing himself to the American people, showing why McCain was wrong and he was right, demonstrating his patriotism and explaining how he would change things if he were President. It was simply magnificent. The fireworks and confetti were the perfect ending to a perfect week.

After the convention I headed to Sullivan's Steakhouse for Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson's party for the Maryland delegation. Most of us went on and on about how Obama had lived up to the expectations for his speech. We eagerly anticipated who McCain's VP choice would be the next morning. The rumors were already flying that the Republicans may have to postpone or cancel their convention due to the approaching hurricane

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