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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

 10:35 AM 

Delegate Diary: 'Now that's a first day!'

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Sachin Chheda
Delegate diary
Now that's a first day! I woke up with high expectations Monday, saying to myself, "this is going to be a great day." I wanted the full convention experience. And I'm happy to report that it was.

I started out at the delegation breakfast, where we go over logistics for the day and as, you'd expect, hear some speeches. There's a lot of speeches at these things. A. Lot. Of. Speeches. Yesterday (I'm writing this Tuesday morning) was a perfect start -- my good friend Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America came to remind us about the stakes for women, health and freedom in this election, and we were treated to a traditional Wisconsin rally speech from Sen. Russ Feingold. Russ especially reminded us what the Republican budget means for our family's priorities of education, health care, and employment. He pointed out that he's worked with Paul Ryan and likes Paul Ryan. They are both graduates of Janesville Craig. But what Paul Ryan is proposing, and the patently dishonest campaign he and Mitt Romney are running -- Russ reminded us we need to work hard, every day, to re-elect President Obama, and elect Tammy Baldwin and Rob Zerban too.

Then, I was off to the convention hall for the first time. I started the day in the Asian American caucus, where we heard from campaign officials, national leaders like Donna Brazile and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and many, many elected officials and candidates for office. There was a great discussion of the changing demographics of our great nation, and a special acknowledgement of the Hmong community in Wisconsin.

From there, I explored CarolinaFest with a number of other delegates, and purchased my first bit of convention swag - a t-shirt from my colleagues in the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party - the host county for this convention. Maybe someday Milwaukee County could host...? The Fest was great, with a blend of National Convention delegates and locals just enjoying the day. There were booths from vendors selling t-shirts, jewelry, and buttons, and restaurants with local food. But there were also lots of civic engagement opportunities, from learning about how Charlotte's urban education system was innovating to more options to get healthy, local produce into central city kitchens and schools.

And of course, music. The highlight of the Fest for me was a performance by Janelle Monáe.

After a very quick lunch, I was off to join Rebuilding Together, Craftsman, Heroes at Home and Ty Pennington for a service project. These great organizations built the first half of a modular home in Tampa last week, and we're building the second half here in Charlotte. The two halves will be joined together (I think today) and then put on a foundation here in Charlotte. A disabled veteran will end up living in this home, and will be able to move in later this month or early in October. We owe a great deal to our veterans, and they need and deserve access to services and health care and benefits.

It's a great cause, and reminds us that we have a lot more in common as Americans than we have separating us. We may disagree on economic policy, health care policy, foreign policy -- but our families face the same challenges and deserve an honest discussion of the issues. That said, I am also reminded that community service simply isn't enough to, on its own, help all those in need. We need a strong government safety net as well -- something we used to have a pretty decent bipartisan consensus on.

After a shower to wash off the paint and a fantastic barbeque dinner, it was time to head for parties. Seeing Allen Stone, who opened the Start Up Rock On show hosted by three start-up companies, was a real treat. He was followed by The Roots, who tore the roof off. Best show I've seen in a long time.

Today, another delegation breakfast, a couple of more meetings and events, and then we start the Convention for real on the floor of the Arena.

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