Election 2008: History in the Making

How can you make a moment in history last? By being there to experience it! It was a dream of mine to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC) ever since the first year I voted for president. Watching the candidates on television and listening to the speeches, I always wondered what it would be like to be there in person.

As the primary season developed and the two major contenders in the Democratic Party emerged, the 2008 election was poised to be the most significant ever to take place in the United States. Regardless of who won the nomination, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the result would be revolutionary. Of all the conventions to attend, this one in Denver, Colorado, was the one. Getting there as a delegate, however, requires luck and lots of years devoted to working within the party. I didn’t have that, but I did manage to get a press pass.

Once in Denver, making it to Invesco Field, aka Mile High Stadium, where Obama planned to deliver his acceptance speech, presented another challenge. Heightened security, a mile-long hike across the freeway, blisters on my feet, and masses of people made getting there difficult. As I trudged along, I have to confess that I began to wonder if this would all be worth it.

As it turned out, it definitely was! As I entered the stadium, Stevie Wonder had just taken the stage. I made a beeline to the CNN stage (where the media was seated), and there was Anderson Cooper, in all his precious premature grayness.

Al Gore spoke first; my favorite line came when he compared a John McCain administration to President Bush's saying, “I believe in recycling, but this is ridiculous”.

The massiveness of the stadium, filled almost to capacity, was impressive. The mood was calm but energized with anticipation.

As the evening progressed, the anticipation grew. Finally, it was time for Obama, and what first struck me was the hush that overtook this stadium filled with 84,000 people. A short film about Obama, his family and his history began, and you could hear a pin drop. When he finally appeared, the place erupted. The speech started off slowly but when he began to list the crimes against the common man, and woman, over the last eight years under George W. Bush, and ended with a firm “Enough!” I knew it was on.

The speech rocked on all levels, from his attacks on McCain’s elitism to his clearly delineated list of goals should he be elected—a tax break for 95 percent of the working class was a particular favorite. But as it progressed, I caught myself literally sitting on the edge of my seat. Throughout the speech, I fought back the tears. Watching Obama from my vantage point, he looked vulnerable, I actually said a little prayer to protect him. Watching him on the big screens, listening to his masterful message and contemplating the significance of what was happening, that an African American man was actually accepting the nomination for president of the United States, left me shaky and a little breathless. I even noticed that the men seated next to me, jaded reporters, had tears in their eyes!

The blisters on my feet have healed, but my memories remain vivid. When it works, the democratic process truly is a joy to behold.

-Valerie Menard