Baca: Reflection on the 2016 Democratic National Convention
Author: Polly Baca - August 10, 2016 - Updated: August 9, 2016
The 2016 Democratic National Convention was the most exciting, inspiring, spiritual convention that I have ever attended — and I have attended every DNC Convention since 1964. Exciting because every notable Democratic leader in the country was there either on stage or in the hall. Inspiring because it highlighted a Muslim American family who shared their pain about the loss of their son and demonstrated how we should all handle our pain as Americans. Spiritual because of the energy in the hall reflected in the signs — “Love trumps Hate” — in the songs — “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love” — and in Hillary Clinton’s speech as she advocated for more love and kindness, and policies that help middle and low-income Americans.
It was uplifting to hear the leaders of our country talk about how we work together to address our problems. It was emotional to see the mothers of children who were gunned down talk of addressing the problems of gun violence without hate. It was powerful to listen to military leaders call for peaceful solutions to our country’s needs.
The transformation of the national Democratic Party over the past 50 years was evident in the composition of both the leaders on stage and the delegates in the hall. The delegates to the first convention that I attended, in 1964, were primarily white males. About one-third were white women. There were only a couple of African-American delegates, one of whom was Colorado state Sen. George Brown. The only Latino and Asian American delegates were from the islands: Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam. The big issue at the 1964 DNC was the challenge by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to include blacks who had been prevented from participating in the Mississippi delegate selection process.
This year, sitting in the Colorado delegation, I marveled at the diversity of the delegates throughout the convention hall. There were a significant number of delegates from every ethnic and racial group as well as the LGBTQ community. In addition, half of the delegates were women. I’m proud that our Colorado delegation had a Hispanic gay man as our chair, Rick Palacio; an Asian American woman as the Bernie Sanders delegation co-chair, Joann Fujioka; and an African-American man as the Hillary Clinton delegation co-chair, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. Wow, what a difference from 1964.
On the first day of the convention, the work of both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns was evident in the relative ease adopting the reports of the Rules, Credentials and Platform committees. That was topped off by the heartfelt speech of first lady Michelle Obama. On the second day of the convention, at the end of the roll call vote, it was inspiring to see Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders move to suspend the rules and nominate his rival for president of the United States. Then former President Bill Clinton warmed the hearts of us all with his recollection of life with Hillary.
On the third day you had to be in the hall early, before the fire marshal or Secret Service shut down access. The reward for being early was an amazing evening filled with uplifting, inspiring, motivational speeches, first by Vice President Joe Biden, followed by Hillary’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and clinched by President Barack Obama.
Finally, on the fourth night, it was time for the historic acceptance by a woman of a major political party’s nomination for president of the United States. Hillary Clinton topped off the evening with an enthusiastic charge to us all in this critical election year. She outlined the challenges facing our country and our world and her solutions for addressing these challenges.
What an amazing gift I have had during my lifetime. I have always regretted that I was not able to attend the 1960 Convention that nominated the first Roman Catholic for president, John F. Kennedy. However, I will always be grateful that I was able to attend the 2008 DNC Convention that nominated the first African-American for president, Barack Obama, and now the historic nomination of the first woman for president, Hillary Clinton, at the 2016 Democratic National Presidential Nominating Convention.
What an amazing journey!