Clowning Around in Denver: My DNC Wrap-Up

When Barack Obama finished his historic speech, I stood looking up, staring at the fireworks, and crying as thousands of people stood around me cheering. I had spent the last four hours cheering, singing, dancing and yelling. I was surprised to learn that hope could lead to tears, that joy could be so quiet, that a week of activity could leave me so still.

I came to the 2008 Democratic National Convention not knowing what to expect out of the final night’s big event. I was unsure whether Sen. Obama could meet the high standards of the occasion. I thought that his speech would have to harness fire and send fireworks. While Obama certainly showed his fire, the speech was more measured than I expected. In some ways, it was more presidential. When I could finally speak after its conclusion, I turned to Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Jack Sanders and said, “We have to go home and do this.”

Song and Dance
Let there be no doubt that a political convention is simply political theater on a live stage. I’ve always loved pep rallies and politics, and the only thing the convention was missing was a marching band.

Still, the music was great. The North Carolina delegation developed a reputation for our dancing and cheering. We frequently had visitors from other delegations who just wanted to sit with us for a while and have some fun. Among so many vivid memories of the convention, one stands out for she sheer ridiculous joy of the moment. At Invesco Field, as Stevie Wonder played “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” we formed a Soul Train line on the floor of the convention. We were on both sides of a heavily trafficked aisle, and anyone who wanted to come through had to dance the whole way down. The media loved it – alternately capturing images and participating themselves.

Fame vs. Future (part 1)
I had told my mother and grandmother that they’d see me on TV, so I knew I had to go to some lengths to make it happen. Throughout the convention, I wore a big, floppy felt Uncle Sam hat and a clown nose. I’m sure my picture was taken at least a hundred times. A documentarian took my picture with an old Polaroid camera. A Japenese television crew interviewed me; I told them we’d had enough clowning around.

The costume also got me in trouble. I had an altercation with security on the convention floor during Tuesday night’s proceedings. The teleprompter is at the back of the convention floor, so that the speakers look across the delegates and read their speech. Well, I walked by with my hat on and being about 8 feet tall, it blocked the teleprompter and stopped the speaker (I think it was Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey). Security grabbed my hat and pushed me out of the way - which is really no way to treat a clown.

Thursday night my costume paid off. Ty Harrell and I had just launched out of our seats to cheer for Pam Cash-Roper, who had come from Pittsboro, NC to speak to the huge crowd and television audience. I knew I’d landed on the tube because my cell phone got inundated with text messages from people around the country who had seen me. The hat had been a giveaway in the crowd scene.

Someone told me I also made the Daily Show when John Oliver joined our section in cheering “OBAMA! OBAMA!” Except he was saying “OSAMA! OSAMA!”

Fame vs. Future (part 2)
Later that night at the North Carolina delegation’s final party, I had to ask myself if I had just traded a political future for a few minutes of fame. It seems just about everyone in our delegation came to know the clown, and my reputation was a caricature.

Everyone wanted me to keep my hat on for the party (the nose wasn’t that easy to wear). I obliged and we continued party with abandon.

But a few comments people made to me threw me for a loop. Several state legislators told me they’d been looking at my vlogs. A congressman called me by name. Jerry Meek paid me a very nice compliment (that wasn’t even related to the fact that our mutual interview ended up on the BBC). All of these were related to my work on BlueNC. (One lesson: More people look at this site than you may realize.)

Mutual Interviews
I had a blast with my mutual interview project, but I really didn’t know what people would think of it. I’m still afraid that the interviews are a little bit too much Graig. Especially if anyone bothered to watch all of them all the way through. But, I enjoyed every single one and I think the participants did too. I love what you learn about people by hearing what questions they ask.

If I were to continue doing mutual interviews or make recommendations to someone else who wanted to use the style, there are a few things I’d recommend. First, I sure learned a lot of novice lessons about lighting, sound quality and other technical aspects. More importantly, I think it would be good to ask people to keep their answers to a minute or two, because the interviews kept getting longer and longer. It would also be interesting to set up pairs of people for a mutual interview. Finally, I think a good final question to ask would be “What do you want people to discuss on the blog after they watch this interview?” That might spur more discussion on the blog.

My only other regret is that I didn’t get to interview a few more people. From our own delegation, I didn’t get to interview Mike Nelson, Phillip Gilfus, or any of the powerful African-American women who were with us. From outside the delegation, I wanted to interview Will Burns, Josiah Pertz, Elvis Mitchell, and a whole list of others. I guess they’ll have to settle for props here.

Grand Proposals
Finally, Barack Obama had some great proposals on Thursday night. But in my mind all of his proposals were trumped by two others. At the North Carolina delegation’s final party, two different couples got engaged. What’s even better is that both couples were gay. Congratulations guys!

Comments

Great job

I just watched The Daily Show clip with you! And I loved our Soul Train line at Invesco...look me up on Facebook, I've uploaded all the pictures I (and my better half) took.

I was tempted to write a wrap-up blog of my DNCC week, with my "dessert" of the DNC meeting on Friday. But I think you and Betsy have said everything there is to say. It was a week that made you really think and feel about why you are a Democrat and what that means to you, at least it did for me. And it helped create a crystal clear message about what the Democrats are for and what the Republicans are against.

Y'all did a great job doing this for BlueNC. I was excited about the interviews I got to do with WUNC and NBC-17 Raleigh (I'd link both of those, but I don't need the ego boost!). Anything we can do to spread the Gospel (Good News!) message of the Democratic National Convention is a help for the national campaign and for Democrats across the country.

...and you can interview me anytime! :)

Phillip Hunter Gilfus,
Member(NC),Democratic National Committee

We'll be in touch!

It was great to spend some time with you. Your honesty and forthright nature are of significant value to our party. We need more people like you in politics!

I'll take you up on that interview offer at a later date.

If you get the chance, I think we'd love to hear what was said at the DNC meeting Friday. And how were you received as a new member?

Saw you on the daily show as well

I told you that clowning around would get you on the Daily Show!

You were right.

I thought of your comment as soon as my friend sent me the link.

Congrats again on your big day. November 4 will be even bigger!