It was with great excitement that I stepped onto the floor at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC for the first day of the Democratic National Convention. As I looked around the vast arena, I was proud and humbled to be a member of our state delegation, representing my district, the residents of Queens and Democrats nationwide who were unable to attend the convention. Over the next several days of speeches, discussions and celebrations, I was uplifted and inspired.
On the first day of the convention, Monday, Sept. 3, I met with the other representatives of the delegation at our opening reception and attended a luncheon in Charlotte’s downtown area which is paradoxically named “Uptown.” It was a whirlwind of activities, and I had the chance to mingle with fellow delegates including Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Joe Crowley and my colleagues in the council, including Karen Koslowitz, Julissa Ferreras, Ruben Wills, Daniel Dromm, and Mark Weprin.
Tuesday was the convention’s first full day and was kicked off with Sen. Schumer’s fiery speech about the importance of re-electing President Obama at the delegation breakfast. Tuesday’s highlight was when the entire convention was moved by the First Lady’s passion and love for her husband and for her family. What struck me most was when she said that she “saw firsthand that being president does not change who you are, it reveals who you are.” She reminded us of the resolve of President Obama’s character and how he faced an extraordinary challenge upon taking office and rose to the occasion to lead the American people.
I had the pleasure of hearing the first lady speak again on Wednesday afternoon to a group of about 1000 lesbian and gay leaders and delegates. She spoke about the president’s accomplishments including allowing gay men and women to serve in the military by repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. She also reaffirmed the president’s support for marriage equality. He believes that every American should be able to marry the person he or she loves.
That night I eagerly awaited former President Bill Clinton’s address, which proved to be simply amazing. Like no other speaker at the convention, he deconstructed the Republican position with specifics, substance and the utmost clarity.
He countered the Republican myth that our country is in decline and showed how President Obama and Democratic administrations have a better history of job creation over the last 50 years. He emphasized that President Obama saved an economy on the brink of depression by helping to create 4.6 million private sector jobs since taking office. While noting that we must make more progress moving forward, Mr. Clinton was funny and uplifting, and he reminded us why we fell in love with the Clintons in the first place.
Charlotte is a great American city but the heat and humidity were oppressive — the only respite coming in the form of torrential rain. On the convention’s final day, just hours before the president’s address, I had to make a mad dash to the convention center, narrowly avoiding a monsoon-like downpour. That night, however, the president gave a rousing speech and captivated a raucous crowd of 20,000 people.
He reiterated the theme we heard throughout the convention: The American spirit binds us, and when we are united, there is no limit to what we can accomplish together. The importance of organized labor unions and the security they bring to working families are emblematic of this American ideal. Secure jobs, good wages and workers’ rights are threads of the fabric that holds our middle class together. These things help ensure that more Americans are able to walk through the door of opportunity and then turn and help give others the chance to succeed.
Part of that fabric is the ongoing need to support our veterans and returning soldiers by offering health benefits and quality education and job opportunities.
Furthermore, as the President stressed, Medicare and Social Security must be protected so that Americans know they can retire with dignity.
His vision is one of hope with an unfailing belief in the power of the American people. I share that belief in our people.
That night I shared a cab back to the hotel after President Obama’s speech with Councilwoman Ferreras and Obama campaign organizer and Sunnyside resident Tony Smolenski. Though tired, we were fired up and ready to go back to work to re-elect the president.
‰n fact, the three of us are sponsoring a bus trip from the 26th District to Pennsylvania on Sept. 29 in order to support the campaign. Additionally, I will be hosting a watch party for the first presidential debate on Oct. 3.
Our country is headed in the right direction, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting President Obama. Let’s give him four more years to finish the job he started.
Jimmy Van Bramer is New York City Councilman for the 26th District in western Queens and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.