Stories from the DNC

Ah, the DNC. We all know the big stories, of course. Michelle Obama’s beyond inspirational speech, the big divisions in the party, Bill Clinton being entranced by balloons, the Khan family's heroism and that while Boyz 2 Men are definitely aging, Paul Simon still sounds exactly like he did when he first started singing. But the view is a bit different when you're volunteering. Here are some of my mini-stories/observations:

  • The day before we were to start, we were told that we couldn't bring any backpacks (not even the drawstring ones). Knowing that I didn't want to carry around a purse all night, and knowing that I needed snacks and a water bottle with me at all times, I went in full pursuit of a fanny pack. I went into about ten stores, and each time, got pretty funny looks. "Just so you know, I'm volunteering for the DNC," I would sheepishly say. That usually got me a more positive nod. Finally, an old co-worker and friend responded to my Facebook plea, and we met up for drinks! It just goes to show that fanny packs really do bring people together. However, it didn't exactly bring L and I together (he was pretty horrified!).
Good thing he already agreed to marry me, right?!

Good thing he already agreed to marry me, right?!

  • Volunteers are incredibly hard working and passionate. I haven’t volunteered that much in the past, and I was so impressed and honored to be part of such diligent, responsible people who were all working for free. Even though there were some organizational glitches, it was such a cool experience! It definitely makes me want to volunteer more in the future.
  • I did a morning social media shift on Monday and covered what had been going on in Philly on Sunday. There were so many amazing photographers and videographers out in the field! Some of their photos really showcased how much people were getting into the spirit. Philly has been on fire (not literally, although the heat is brutal), between all of the donkeys to find around town, PoliticalFest trivia, all of the #DNCDeals, and the general spirit of this city. It makes me proud to be a Philadelphian!
My "official" badge, which could actually be anyone's!

My "official" badge, which could actually be anyone's!

  • Getting into the coveted Wells Fargo Center (where the DNC was held) was no easy task. First, we had to get our official badges (they changed every day). Then, we had to follow this sea of people in yellow shirts throughout the crowd, and get our posts. 
Good thing yellow wasn't a popular color for the delegates.

Good thing yellow wasn't a popular color for the delegates.

  • I was an Access Control Volunteer for the Wells Fargo Center (where the convention is actually held), and that means what you’d expect – that my job was to control people’s access. My job, along with my volunteer all-star friend E and our new friend R, was to guard the production podium, aka the band. We let in maybe 8 people throughout our 8-hour shift.
We tried for about 5 minutes to get a serious picture.

We tried for about 5 minutes to get a serious picture.

  • The very cool part about this was that we got to walk on the podium before everything started! So I stood at the exact same (well, almost exact same) spot that Michelle Obama stood, just 8 hours apart! It was very, very cool nonetheless. Our favorite security guy, Chuck, led us on that tour, and even told us that the lead band member was on American Idol. So for the entire first night, we were behind the stage.
On stage! Too bad it hasn't really started yet!

On stage! Too bad it hasn't really started yet!

I'm so excited that I'm sort of near where the speakers will be!

I'm so excited that I'm sort of near where the speakers will be!

  • Spoiler alert: people don’t love it when you control their access. Throw in the fact that I wasn’t given that much specific information about where people could go, and I wasn’t initially a favorite amongst the delegates. Our shirts said, “Ask Me” on the back, so, as one might expect, we were asked questions that we had no idea how to answer. We had to glean information from other volunteers, passers-by, and by taking long reconnaissance walks. By the end of the night, we could at least tell people where to get water and where most of their passes would allow them to go. That definitely earned us some brownie points!
  • I was so excited for the political celebrities I would see, except for I wasn't exactly sure who was famous. I kept texting pictures to L, my political aficionado, asking if someone actually was famous (as if he could tell from a picture of someone's ear!). However, there was one person I had no doubt about - Jerry Springer! I saw him three times within two days. Apparently he's very political now, and even has a podcast. Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
I feel like he hasn't aged a bit.

I feel like he hasn't aged a bit.

  • I didn't take many pictures of this, but there were a lot more protesters than the TV production showed. Especially during the first two days of the convention, there was a distinct group of delegates who were still very vocal and adamant about Bernie Sanders. 
  • I was really proud of the DNC for having an all-gender restroom! Since it was the closest one to our gate, I ended up using it, and felt completely comfortable. I hope that more venues end up adapting this practice.
So cool!

So cool!

  • As volunteers, we were provided dinner each night, which was so nice, especially since the food lines were very long. The catch was, of course, that we had to stand in line with our vouchers at a food truck outside. The first night, as soon as we got into line, we got caught in heavy, heavy rain. A few kind volunteers offered to let us huddle under their umbrellas, and we laughed as the rain literally soaked us anyways. It was one of those moments that I will remember as my favorite - strangers coming together in solidarity and laughing through it. A charming side affect of the rain? My green fanny pack started leaking green water onto my yellow shirt. Oops.
My hair is completely soaked!

My hair is completely soaked!

  • I not only made friends with strangers, but I also ran into a friend from college! I know through social media that several of my friends were at the convention, but it was such a treat to run into a former Oxy classmate! (Occidental College, for those of you who don't know - you know, that place that President Obama attended for a few years!)
Go Oxy!

Go Oxy!

  • Since the DNC was admittedly a bit disorganized for the delegates, you truly saw the best and the worst of people. We had people thanking us profusely for volunteering, and people yelling at us for not knowing where the elevator was in the same moment. I tried to just keep in mind that my job was to try to help people as much as I could, but I didn't feel super helpful most of the time.
  • I snuck into the room to get a picture of Cory Booker for L. I think he's so inspiring. One of my favorite lines: "Our nation was not founded because we all looked alike, or prayed alike, or descended from the same family tree. But our founders, in their genius, in this, the oldest constitutional democracy, put forth on this earth the idea that we are all created equal; that we all have inalienable rights."
Can you see him?

Can you see him?

  • Michelle Obama just blew me away. Granted, I snuck into a part of the convention where I couldn't actually see her (a rash decision that haunts me to this day), but I could feel her presence and see the crowd's reactions. I can't even cite one single line from her speech because I felt like everything was so important - but I certainly hope she runs for president some day! 
She's just beyond the podium...

She's just beyond the podium...

  • When Michelle was speaking (I like to think we are on a first name basis), I noticed all the signs people were holding up that said "Michelle". For a second, I literally marveled at the fact that people had all brought the same sign. Then, I wised up. This was actually a job for people - to pass out signs at the appropriate times and collect the old signs. A bit of TV magic, if you will. 
  • The second day, we were guarding a "special guest" section. While we were offered a much better view of the stage, we now had to deal with entire families, some who had one badge and some who had other badges. It was a mixed bag. Some people were very kind, and others literally rushed through anyways, despite our attempts to make sure they had the right security.
  • The actual nomination was just about the coolest thing ever! I had never actually watched one before. The states were asked about their votes, and the way they answered, so joyfully, telling everyone about how amazing their states were, made me so proud to be an American. I loved literally seeing democracy at work right before my eyes. At the end, Bernie Sanders officially said that Hillary Clinton should be the official nominee, and the entire room said "Aye!" I felt so proud to be a woman in the room. Knowing that a major party has elected a woman to be president is so empowering!
Of course, they handed out the "H" signs. I wonder if they had some bernie signs stashed away just in case?

Of course, they handed out the "H" signs. I wonder if they had some bernie signs stashed away just in case?

  • As soon as Bill Clinton came on, I felt like it was story time for all of the adults in the room. He's so charming, you can't help but be mesmerized by him. 
Bill Clinton wore a very nice pantsuit for his speech.

Bill Clinton wore a very nice pantsuit for his speech.

  • Meryl Streep was so powerful, saying that women who are first have to have grace and grit. I loved it!
I love her energy!

I love her energy!

  • The next day, I volunteered for an amazing organization called Pop Up Play. The "Day of Play" as they called it was hosted by different play organizations in the city. It was for the kids in summer camps, as well as delegates and their families. I think my favorite part was watching the kids play in the water on such a hot, hot day.
  • All in all, the DNC was a lovely experience. I was quite tired by the end of the week, but it was well worth it. I would love to hear about any experiences you've had with either volunteering or conventions!