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Friday, August 29, 2008

 1:03 AM 

Delegate Diary: Time to go to work

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Stan Davis
I am writing this final entry just a few minutes after getting back to my hotel room after watching Senator Barack Obama give the speech of his life. I came to Denver thinking that I had a good grasp on the importance of what I would see here and the impact that it would have on me and the country. I now think that I underestimated the impact it would have on me and most likely on the country as well.

As I sat on the floor of Invesco Field before Sen. Obama's speech, I kept reminding myself to take it all in and appreciate the fact that I was so fortunate to be where I was at that moment. I also realized that it was very likely that my grandchildren would be reading about what I was about to see in their history books years from now.

I have been thinking a lot about how Barack's nomination alone will change what many young people perceive as the limits of what they can achieve in life. I have been thinking a lot about what his election would mean to children in America who now may think that certain professions or accomplishments are reserved for "other people." I have been thinking a lot about the impact that the election of Barack Obama as pesident of the United States will have on the lives of people across Africa and other struggling societies around the world. I have thought a lot about the fact that an entire village of Africans took AIDS tests that they had previously refused because Barack and Michelle Obama traveled to their village and set the example by taking the tests themselves. This is an example that gives you an idea of the impact that a President Obama could have not just at home, but across the globe.

Well, all of that thinking that I had done did not prepare me for what I saw tonight would mean to me. I know it meant the same to others as well, because I saw the tears in the eyes and on the cheeks of people all around me. For me personally, the fact that Barack Obama just accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party represents many things. It represents an acceptance by mainstream society that has not been achieved in the country's history for people who don't look "like the president on the dollar bill," to borrow a phrase. It also represents hope for the future that we really are moving toward a society that judges people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. It represents hope that my daughters will not have to live in a society where they are treated differently than their friends just because they may look different than their friends.

There is no question that we have a long way to go. If you don't believe me, just wait to see what types of code word laden attacks will be coming Obama's way for the remainder of this campaign. Obama is arrogant? It used to be described as uppity. Obama is out of touch with "working class Americans"? You mean like the ones he turned down the big bucks to advocate for on the streets of Chicago? Those working class Americans? Obama is an elitist? I think we can agree that both members of the United States Senate who are running for president of the United States can fairly be described as members of the elite class.

I can't really do much of an analysis of the speech at this point. It kind of washed over me as it was happening in real time. As I alternated between watching the big screen in the stadium and remembering that I was actually there and could watch the man with my own eyes a couple hundred feet in front of me. It was a surreal experience. I do remember being at first nervous, and then excited, that Obama was being stern, aggressive and critical of John McCain. Because he did it with his usual grace, I think that he can get away with going on the attack a bit. Before tonight, I did not think that he had that luxury for fear of being perceived as too scary to some Americans. Tonight he did it expertly.

The energy throughout the crown was electric. At one point I looked at the big screen when they had an overhead view of the full stadium with the floor covered with people as well. It was an awesome sight. You also have to realize that many of those people stood in line for up to five hours to get into the arena. I got to the arena at about 1 p.m. and then sat there until the speech started seven hours later. There was a level of engagement and sincere commitment to Obama and the country that you could feel as the speech went on and Barack got better and better.

At the end of the speech, I watched an African-American woman from Milwaukee who was in the row in front of me just start to shake her head and weep. She stood there for several minutes like she was the only one in the stadium. The NPR reporter who had interviewed me earlier was still standing next to me and we both noticed her at the same time. To my surprise, he did not point his camera at her to capture what must be considered a money shot in his business. He left her to have that private moment for herself while standing among 75,000 other people. I tried to talk to her after the speech was over and she just couldn't. She was overcome by the situation.

As people left the stadium after the speech, I really did not want to go. I wanted to stay there until they turned off the lights and forced me to leave. Even when most of the people were gone, the energy was still there. The awareness that I had just been part of history was becoming more real. Milton Bond and I just kept looking at each other and shaking our heads. Crying people were still walking by every once in a while. A text message from Patrick G. and the group that watched the speech at Jill's house briefly snapped me out of it long enough to respond and then call and talk to Patrick.

Our second congressional district delegation of myself, Francis Huntley Cooper, Mary Lang Sollinger, Roberta Gassman and Celia Jackson (I'm not sure where Bryan was at the time) had a series of little huddles and I said to each of them that this is where the real work begins. The goal of the campaign was not to get Barack nominated. The goal was to elect him president. This week has been a celebration. The time to celebrate ends when we leave Denver. It's time to go to work.

YES WE CAN!

-- Davis is a government relations partner at Axley Brynelson LLP.

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