Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, NC. During my week at the DNC, I interfaced, mixed and mingled with some of the most well-known movers and shakers of the political world.
This was my first on the ground experience at a political nominating convention. I learned very quickly about three critical rules of the road:
- Never leave your business cards at home;
- Find a friend that knows where all the best parties are and stick to them like white on rice;
- And most importantly, don’t leave your umbrella at home.
My first night was all about staying dry and finding the right parties. Though I grew up in the Charlotte area, I can’t remember seeing that much steady rainfall in a 24 hour period of time. Regardless, there were plenty of ponchos and tents around to me from getting soaked.
Though I did risk getting wet to join the crowd behind MSNBC host Chris Matthews who was broadcasting live from the great outdoors in Charlotte.
On the first night of the convention, I didn’t get to see the First Lady’s speech to the convention in person, the parties kept me plenty busy. I stopped by the Planned Parenthood Party and another party at the North Carolina Music Factory where I got to see Grammy-award winning musician Common perform for a raucous crowd of convention goers.
On Wednesday, the second night of the convention, I was fortunate to secure a ticket for the Convention Hall to hear former President Bill Clinton deliver the keynote address for the Democrats. President Clinton, as expected, delivered in a big way and I was on the floor – about 30 yards from the stage – to hear from our 42th President.
Earlier on Wednesday night, I ran into my Qorvis MSLGROUP colleague, John Reid. John, though a lifelong Republican, decided to take in the festivities with the Democrats for the week. We even managed to convince another convention goer to grab a picture of us on site to show that we were playing nice.
And then, of course, there was the main event on Thursday night. Initially, I was dismayed when the powers that be moved the President’s acceptance speech from the spacious Bank of America Stadium (capacity: approximately 74,000 people) to the still very impressive, but much smaller Time Warner Cable Arena (capacity: approximately 20,000 people). I started out the night as one of the 54,000 or so displaced folks who were out of luck to see our President speak. But I managed to reach out to some friends in high places who were fortunately able to get me into the arena for the big speech.
President Obama brought down the house and I was there to see it. It’s hard to be in that room, in that setting, without becoming overcome with awe and pride. The President’s speech was capped off by the traditional confetti drop and another round of must-attend parties that I was lucky enough to get a ticket for. The Vice President threw a party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the President’s former Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a reception a local nightclub.
So as you can see, I was right in the thick of things for the hottest political ticket of the year. It was a once in a lifetime (or at least once every four years) experience that I will never forget.
By Joel Payne