This whole experience has been inspiring. Not only the informative lectures and seminars provided by the Washington Center, or the fieldwork placements I was given, or even the opportunity to chant and cheer along with every speech. Even my faculty leader (luckily from MA!) was a great asset, educating us on the process, encouraging stimulating free debate and most of all, ensuring this experience could be all it was meant to be.
For me though, the best party was meeting students from all over the nation, most which I believe are our nations’ future leaders. A man I became close with from California gave me validation that any background can be any party supporter; it’s about the values and ideas, not the parties or the leaders. A young man from Connecticut I met through the program showed me that even through the tumultuous childhood his father’s military service put his family through, he is still wanting to follow his father’s great path to defend this great nation. Three girls I became close with, one from California, one from New York (originally Ghana), and one from Texas, have shown me the willingness to learn, have the diverse knowledge of opinions and the ability to humbly lead still exists in young women! These people were the most inspiring of all for me. Young people, although our future seems downtrodden with our present state, still believe in themselves and this beautiful country. As Condoleezza Rice boldly said in her moving speech: “It’s does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going”.
Im sitting in my hotel room staring at a pile of bags.. I can’t believe this is it. These two weeks came and went.
Sunday, as I said, I was invited to volunteer at the “Two Step, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll” GOP party. The four women running it threw a great party, complete with the Commodores and Josh Abbott Band performing, free Cuban cigars being rolled and plenty of interesting influential people to get to know. It was invigorating to see that even at events where people let their hair down and dance to the music, people of all backgrounds could talk in casual manner of their beliefs. I met many lobbyists and politicians and got to understand how everyone stands and why they want to vote republican, Romney supporter or not.
The next few days consisted of long shifts and late nights working with the Committee on Arrangements. I met and talked business with Steve Baldwin, swam and talked politics with Iowa delegates, and Although another volunteer position, our networking and our passes (and friends’ passes) were able to get us direct access to the forum to see the speeches! I was blessed to see speakers like Rand Paul, John McCain, Condoleezza Rice, Susana Martinez, Paul Ryan, Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney himself, speak to an overwhelming crowd, managing always to get them up on their feet and cheering for this wonderful nation and the hopes we have for it. This is what America needs; this kind of hope and change that will actually be instilled in the future!
I’ll start off by saying, for now, we are okay! We do have emergency plans and the weather forecasts say it won’t be as catastrophic as we think, however, we are all still very nervous.
But like the title insinuates, although Isaac has postponed the first day of events, the committees, delegates, crews and security have swept into this town like a hurricane. The area is in a large perimeter, only permeable with the correct credentials and bags checked, even just to walk the streets! Events are every where and some people still have to go to their fieldwork although tomorrow’s events have been convened. It is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. I will be working long late shifts with the Committee on Arrangements, which is a Republican Party official committee solely in charge of running the convention. I’m still unsure what my exact job is, because of all the chaos, but I guess I will find out when I get there my first day!
A little ray of silver lining in this cloud of chaos: tonight, I am working at an event called “Two Step, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll”. It is a party of sorts honoring the US Republican Leadership, with many Republican Representatives from Congress attending! Texas senator John Cornyn is the keynote speaker and all kinds of Award winning artists like the Commodores and the Josh Abbott Band are performing! I am excited to be a part of this event and am more excited to get to know these delegates!
I’ll try to take a few pictures at the event, but like everything else here, it is top secret until it is nationally aired so for now, no promises (trust me, I was dying to post the pictures of the Forum stage I took earlier this week!)
Yesterday, this experience became real. Of course, I do not mean to say the four days preceding were fake or nonexistent; I mean that yesterday’s events put the reality of this experience into light. Getting our fieldwork assignments and touring the Tampa Bay Times Forum were the excitement sparks of the days to follow. Seeing the Forum, the primary location of the convention and the location of the nominee Mitt Romney’s speech, was surreal. The stage was just as the New York Times described it would be: a stage set to feel as if a living room, conveying warmth and comfort through the dark wood and the “picture framed” screens that will display Romney giving his speech. My fieldwork will be working with the Committee on Arrangements for the convention, meaning I will have the chance to be in the Forum, hopefully feeling that ‘warmth’ from not only Romney’s speech, but from the surrounding delegates and fellow Republicans.
This moment of light-shedding on the reality of a situation is metaphoric and foreshadowing, in a way, to the upcoming election. Thus far, the campaign has been a year of candidates getting out and speaking to the country’s constituents, parties relinquishing war on each other, and the media following every move of every candidate up for election on both federal and congressional level. Now, the conventions are taking place in the upcoming two weeks; the RNC is the official acceptance of Romney’s candidacy, so the conventions being finally here is the light-shedding moment of the reality that the campaigns are coming to an end and the election is just around the corner.
The theme for today has really been why conventions are even important. Our required book, “The Road to the White House“, opens up by discussing the history of nomination processes and conventions. The conventions’ purposes changed as political parties formed and factionalized and composed themselves. The conventions, in a rough-overall summary, have gone from gathering place for nomination of a candidate for president, to a showcase for the accepted candidate representing the party. It went from a first step to a near-final step.
So now, the biggest question revolving around presidential conventions is of their vitality to their campaigns today. Are they even still important? Our in-resident journalist for the program, Aaron Brown (yes, former CNN anchor, face-of-9/11 Aaron Brown), would argue that they are irrelevant. Today, during his lecture to us, he voiced that he feels conventions have lost their luster and purpose. In his opinion, the showcase of a candidate isn’t as important to American people because not only can it be pretentious, but because of the amount of coverage and other options on t.v. (he actually cited one of my favorite – “In the Kitchen with Emeril”), the conventions are not watched. He also argued that their current purpose is mainly to gain support of teetering voter, in which Brown claims are too few and far between for the money spent on conventions.
Partly this is true: to some extent, these conventions are like “pep rallies” to show support for the candidates and gain votes of the undecideds. However, they’re not completely pointless. Our senior advisor, Congressman Mickey Edwards, said that although this is a place for Romney to show his competence against Obama as a better alternative, it is a “pep rally” in more of a collectivist way. 2012, him and Dr. Meena Bose of Hofstra University pointed out, is the year of a “better America”. It’s less specific to candidate and certain policies and more specific to the betterment of the whole country. Their platforms cover broad ranges of issues, rather than spotlight their options on one or a few. The conventions are important to bring parties together, not because of a candidate, but because of our federal government and nation as a whole.
Today’s insights make me excited and hopeful for not only the convention, but what the conventions’ futures bring for the future of politics, which I think is less ‘pretentious’ and more grassroots… better priorities by putting the nation and it’s ability first.
Walking around the city of Tampa, I was slightly concerned. A city similar in structure to Boston, complete with tall skyscraper businesses, museums on every corner and tons of mom and pop restaurants, one would expect it to be bustling, especially with the events about to unfold next week. But it was the exact opposite: completely desolate. Businesses are closed down, construction crews all over, street blockades on every corner. It makes sense; we need to prepare, even though the convention is a week away!
Secret Service has to screen all surrounding businesses and perimeter the area to ensure security. Even we had to be pre-screened as interns. However, despite the desolation, I’ve never felt more like a celebrity. Restaurants are giving us discounts for participating in the convention; I’ve met more FL government officials than I can dream of meeting any old day in MA; we even already had a formal reception in a closed down museum, just for our arrival here! It’s truly been an experience, already.
The TWC has their training plans in line; we are required to do a lot of academic work to prepare for the convention, as well as the fieldwork placement. I’ve already learned so much today, and it’s only part 1 of orientation! The required book I love already, so much that I feel everyone should read it. Its called “The Road To The White House” by Stephen J. Wayne. I included a link at the bottom. It really details a lot into what to expect these coming months with this campaign and election period, and it’s really pertinent to my work here and what I am going to expect to be addressed.
We learned new skills I thought I’d never learn today, as well. For example, we had to learn to appropriately and efficiently conduct interviews with media. Media! Like CNN, the New York Times and FOX news! Imagine, sitting in an auditorium, thinking you’re merely being prepped on how to present yourself in a conduct that well represents the company and your school, and they just spring on you that there’s a strong likelihood (apparently a 90% chance) you will be approached and interviewed by national media. If you’re like me, your jaw will drop to your knees. The skills I will learn and what I hope to take away from this is unreal.
It blows my mind that in a week, I’ll be heading to FL to prepare for the Republican National Convention. To be honest, I could not believe the opportunity was real when I was nominated by my college. My experience with the RNC is simply seeing bits and pieces on CNN and reading about highlights later in the New York Times. But through this program, I’ll be wrapped up in all the action! I’ll be sitting alongside the 4,000+ delegates from all over the country; I’ll be with press corps second in size only to the 2012 Summer Olympics (Alright, so I spent a lot of time in glory on the official website http://www.gopconvention2012.com/).
So, by the request of a couple professors, and the fact that I want to remember this for the rest of my life, I have created this blog to talk (and post pictures) about all that happens there!
I’ll be preparing to leave the next week (I have a lot of reading assignments, actually!), but I’ll be posting as soon as I get down to FL. Until then…