Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Political Conventions: Been There, Done That!

I was getting pretty nostalgic yesterday afternoon as I tuned in to some of the Republican National Convention on C-Span.  

Has it really been twelve years since I attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles?  Wow, I guess it has!

It's moments like these that I sometimes need to pinch myself and realize that I have lived a pretty amazing life.  

How many average citizens really get a front row seat to history like I have on so many occasions?  I have my career in journalism to thank for that...and so many mentors who encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring time after time.  (And my Mom, of course, who always taught me, "If you don't ask, you don't get."  And the Lord.)

During the summer of 2000, I had just graduated from college and started my first sort of "real job," but I already had plans to freelance for Reuters Wire service at the DNC, and I somehow convinced my boss before accepting to give me the two weeks off...two weeks that would be one of the most exciting of my life. Two weeks that would remind me what career trajectory I was truly interested in following.  Two weeks that would open doors for me many times over in the future.

Come down memory lane with me, won't you?

First of all, why the Democratic National Convention, you might ask?  Well remember, I was attending as a member of the media, so I didn't get all wrapped up in which party it long as it was a party I got to go to!  And let's face it, spending two weeks in LA (where I'd never been) sounded like more fun than where ever the Republicans were going to be.  And I was pretty sure the Dems would put on a better least with better entertainers!

And really, doesn't this photo just say everything?  "Uncle Fester for President!"

Political conventions are full of interesting characters...both on and off stage...and I enjoyed mixing with all of them!

However, there were days when we couldn't get into the Staples Center because of protesters (at least by certain walking routes).  Today was not one of those days.

One of the coolest perks of the job were these babies that got passed out each morning.

The highly coveted "floor pass" allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to, anytime I wanted to, so I tried to arrive at Reuters early each day in order to make sure I got one!

My mission most days was to make my way from the editor at our Reuters home base at the back of the convention center, through the crowds of delegates, up to stage left where my photographer Vince was taking photos of all the action.  

When his data card was full, it was my job to run it back to our little media room, so the pictures could be edited, uploaded, and purchased by other media outlets and used on their websites or in the next day's newspapers.  I'd imagine they've got a better system these days, but I hope not as it gave lowly "field producers" like me such an amazing opportunity to be in the middle of all the action.

When we weren't on duty, like during the downtime of the day, we mingled with "celebs" where in the Staples Center and visited with colleagues from other media outlets.  Here I am with Gov. Jesse Ventura.  Seriously, his fist was as big as my head, and he was smoking a stogie right there in the convention center.  Yikes!

One night, I was standing to the right of the stage just sort of taking it all in, and realized that I was standing right next to Sarah Jessica Parker.  I didn't realize it at first.  She was just wearing a tank top, nothing fancy, taking pictures of the speaker with a disposable camera.  Pretty funny, huh?

More thrilling for me by far, was meeting and taking photos with some legends of journalism, such as Helen Thomas who I'd seen a few times at the White House when I interned in DC previously, but hadn't met until LA.  She has been covering the WH so long that the president takes her question, no matter what, out of respect.

Here I am with my super good buddy J.T. who was a friend and mentor to me when I worked at Tribune Broadcasting in DC.  J.T. is a California boy though, so it was a happy reunion running into him at a party one evening.

A word about the glasses and the jacket.  I have never needed prescription glasses in my life, but I thought it would be fun to be someone else style-wise while in LA.  That's where I bought this suit too...and I still own it...and love it although I haven't quite found the right occasion to wear it to here in Pennsylvania...and I never did in Columbus, Ohio either for that matter! :)  Guess that's when I knew for sure that I needed to move back to DC!

Another thing we did during down time at the Convention is we traded pins.  This person had an awesome collection.  Mine was less impressive, but I was pretty proud of the "cheese head" pin that I got from a Wisconsin delegate.

We also interviewed people.

This guy wouldn't say a word.

But this delegate from Hawaii was pretty sweet...a darling woman.

One night before the Convention began, I caught a Dodger's game with my friend Lauren and our mentor Dr. Dansker.  

Dr. D. has been helping students get jobs with media outlets for these conventions (and inaugurations) for many, many years.  

He has been to every convention for how long, I don't know.  But he showed us the ropes and reminded us that at Conventions, we just fly by the seat of our pants and things tend to work out, because "That's the way we do it!"  

He's a wonderful man, and I have enjoyed running into him over the years, while living in DC.  Like many of my mentors in journalism, he believes in "passing it on" and always encouraged us to do the same.

Another day, I met my friend Nick at the CBS studios.  I would have loved to attend a taping of "The Price is Right" (life-long dream here!) but it was on hiatus, so instead we went to a live taping of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.  That guy is a real piece of work.  (Bill, not Nick...well Nick too! ;)

Well, there's much more to tell, like how the Secret Service works, and how political conventions are an amazing display of wealth, but the one thing that has stuck with me long after the event was how high the energy was in the room and how emotional some people got because of it.  I remember looking over and seeing this girl sobbing as someone spoke.

At the time, I just didn't get it.  I was sort of like "get it together girl!"  It's just politics.

However, as I was watching Ann Romney's speech on DVR earlier today, I too got emotional.  Of course, it helps that I'm on a steady stream of pregnancy hormones, and that over the last twelve years a lot about me has evolved.  

I'm a mother now (almost four times over!)  I'm married to a man that I love, and I'm in a "real marriage not a fairy tale one" (as Ann pointed out!)  Whatever the reason, Ann Romney's description of what it's like to be a woman, a mother, a wife, etc. really touched me.  I felt it was very unifying.  

And her expressions of the love that we all have for each other and for our country and our desire to help each other were a message that you rarely hear expressed so sincerely in a political forum, and I really connected with it.

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Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lane with me today.

I mostly wanted to record this for my children, so they can get a glimpse of my life before becoming their mother.  

Although I've had so many exciting times, bringing my children into this world and being their mother is still the biggest thrill I've ever known!  I'm pretty sure every Mother would agree with that statement.

And if I had it to do all over again, I'd still give up the excitement of political conventions for one beautiful lifetime with my family.



  1. You have had some great experiences! It was fun to look at your pictures. I just watched Ann Romney's speech and got a little emotional. It is an exciting time for the USA. She is a wonderful woman.

  2. Ahh..those things we did BC - before children. Looks like it was an
    exciting event to attend! But you are right, motherhood is by far the
    more exciting of them all.

    {Discus is acting weird! Just so you know if there aren't a lot of comments.} I can only reply to comments already here even though I am logged in.

  3. Let's blame it on pregnancy hormones together, because I found myself crying during her speech too. :)

  4. oh stop you're making me so jealous!! I dream of attending a convention someday -- it looks so exciting! Sounds like you had some wonderful experiences :)