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Brief: National Democratic Convention: An Inspiring Experience

— I would like to share with the community some of my reflections on the recent Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C. at which delegates nominated President Barack Obama for re-election.

The Mt. Vernon and Lee areas were well represented. Ginny Peters and I were elected national delegates from our area along with Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin. Del. Mark Sickles spent most of the week in Charlotte along with Chris Ambrose and Ronald England from Lorton. I ran into Peter Appel and Robert Nealon, and John Arundel who was covering it as a reporter all week long from Belle Haven along with Robert Powers from Waynewood. Several Northern Virginians addressed the convention including a Vietnam veteran from Great Falls and a brewery owner from Alexandria.

The schedule was exhausting. Each day, we attended a 7:30 a.m. breakfast for speeches, our marching orders and most importantly, our credentials — the pass that allowed us to clear security and get onto the convention floor.

The breakfasts featured some nationally prominent speakers. We heard from Jesse Jackson, Sr.; President Obama’s Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Donna Brazile and Terry McAuliffe. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, former Governor Tim Kaine and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly also spoke to us.

Virginia had prime seats on the floor itself located behind only Illinois and Colorado. However, that meant that to get good seats within our delegation, I had to camp out in the Arena starting around 2 p.m. every day to save my seat and then sit there until the speeches were over around 11 p.m. or later. We ran on about five hours of sleep every day with about three hours of free time during the day due to the logistics of travel. Our hotel was 15 minutes away by car.

On Monday, we had policy workshops, caucus meetings and receptions. On Tuesday, the full convention sessions began. One of my first tasks was to actually vote to nominate President Barack Obama which we did by a paper ballot circulated throughout our 135-member delegation right at the beginning. We also adopted the party platform .

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine addressed the convention on Tuesday. He ticked off President Obama’s accomplishments and talked about how Democrats in Virginia focus on results over partisanship. The highlight of the evening was First Lady Michelle Obama who focused on how deeply President Obama feels for issues and changing people’s lives. It was a truly moving speech.

Wednesday’s highlight was former President Bill Clinton. He delivered a 45-minute dissection of recent criticisms of President Obama’s performance and the Romney-Ryan proposals, a speech that was simply stunning. My West Potomac High School U.S. government teacher, Eugene Levy, always told us “simplicity is elegance.” I think Bill Clinton was channeling him. My favorite quote was his view of the message of the recent Republican National Convention: “We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

On Thursday, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was brain injured from a shooting, walked on stage without assistance and led the Pledge of Allegiance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building. Next, we were treated to performances by Mary J. Blige, James Taylor and The Foo Fighters before Vice President Joe Biden highlighted the sharp contrast between President Obama and Governor Romney, especially the rescue of the auto industry and neutralizing Osama Bin Laden.

On the final night, President Obama delivered a stirring call to action. He defended health insurance for all and underscored his defense of a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions and an individual’s right to marry any person they love. He highlighted his effort to create economic opportunity by spreading tax burdens more equitably and investing in education, children, infrastructure and enacting fair immigration policies. He noted our reduced reliance on foreign oil during his term through increased fuel efficiency and encouraging cleaner fuels. He reminded us that our troops were out of Iraq, scheduled to leave Afghanistan and he looks forward to investing these funds at home instead of abroad.

Being an official part of something that I had experienced on television as a kid was personally significant for me. It was an honor to be part of an exciting, inspiring historic and uniquely American process. There are now only 60 days before the Nov. 6 election. No matter who wins, I hope this election brings a conclusion to some of the policy disputes that have gridlocked Washington, D.C.

Congress has been gridlocked for too long.