Reports from the Democratic National Convention

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Reports from the Democratic National Convention

Final thoughts: Still figuring things out

July 29, 2016 

As I prepared to leave the Democratic National Convention site today, I could not help but wish I had more time to spend here. I wished the convention lasted longer. I wished that I could spend more time with my roommates, who would be heading back to Ohio and California. I wished that I had more time to enjoy the presence of so many spectacular, intelligent people.

My roommates and I made a pact to become pen pals. We are going to send each other letters at least three times a year. Besides that, I plan to visit my new friends who attend school in Pennsylvania. I met people who will become politicians, lawyers, judges, and maybe even a president. I met people who will change the world, and I met people who have changed me.

This seminar has helped me to realize that my ability to change the world lies in my own hands. I am an education major, and I need to know the way the world works and what is happening within it, because all these things will impact my students. I need to push myself to explore new opportunities, in order to show my students that they can be explorers, too. And I need to make connections in order to create a better world for my students to live in and learn in. 

I believe in myself a lot more after this summer. I realize that I am capable of making my dreams come true. I have a lot of ideas about how to improve education, but I’d rather make the change myself, just as Hillary Clinton has done for children and families. I want to start my own school or educational center one day — a place that focuses on mentoring students to pursue their passions while promoting peace and becoming change-makers in their local communities.

An unforgettable day

July 28, 2016

I was so excited to see Hillary Clinton speak tonight that I had a hard time motivating myself to work as hard as I have been the past few days. It has been great working at Fox News, but I just wanted to be sure that I was able to score a seat!

At about 8 p.m. I hurried in to the arena. After snapping a few photos on the mezzanine level,

I waited in line and finally found a seat in the General Press Seating area.

I sat and listened to so many amazing speakers! I heard families speak about the loss of their loved ones, police officers and military men alike. I listened to pop star Katy Perry preach about why she was planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. I heard Chloe Grace Moretz speak about being a millennial and voting for the first time this fall.

Finally, I listened as Chelsea Clinton talked about her mother in a way no one else could. She focused on the warm moments and I began to see a new Hillary Clinton — a candidate who lives her life giving every ounce of love to her family and friends.

Once Hillary finally came out to speak, I heard the compassion in her voice. For the first time, I realized that Hillary Clinton may be a lot like me in her ambition to change the world. She has given so much of herself to other people — she actually HAS changed the world. After tonight, I can honestly say I’m with her and I am proud of it. 

Meeting ‘the talent’

July 27, 2016 

When I first started working at Fox News, our boss instructed us interns never to approach “the talent.” For the first few days of the Democratic National Convention, I worked really hard to make sure that I never took pictures or posted anything on social media. Soon, however, it became very difficult not to share the amazing things I’ve been experiencing.

Today I saw Geraldo Riviera, one of my mom’s favorite TV hosts. I thought maybe, just this once, I could ask for a picture. My mother’s birthday is coming up, and it would have been the best birthday gift. Unfortunately, I was never able to grab that photo. I am still kicking myself.

Then my boss asked me to take a golf cart and pick a guest up from the security tent. As I was arriving, someone started screaming, “CAN YOU PICK JESSE JACKSON UP? He was waiting, got frustrated and walked away!” Although I wasn’t supposed to give anybody a ride without permission, I turned the cart around and stopped Rev. Jackson and his assistant. They thanked me so many times, and Rev. Jackson even shook my hand! I was so excited that I could help him! 

After I dropped him off, I headed back to the security perimeter, where (luckily) my guest had not yet arrived. When she got there, she introduced herself and spoke to me very kindly. As she was hopping in, several people approached and asked for rides, but I had to turn them down. Once they left, I explained to my guest that I really wasn’t allowed. Only on special occasions would I disobey, like today when I gave the Rev. Jesse Jackson a ride.

To my surprise, she replied, “Oh, that’s my daddy!” She was Santita Jackson, Rev. Jackson’s daughter. She started asking me questions and we held a conversation about education and our goals in life. Once we reached the studio, she asked me for my business card and gave me her phone number and email. She said that my enthusiasm inspired her, and she wanted to connect me to some very wonderful people she knows who work as superintendents in public schools across the country. What a day!

Celebrity sightings and protestors

July 25, 2016 Cal U student Kirra Lent stands beside a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton.

I love the energy of working in the media! Everyone is always moving, and new people are constantly meandering in and out of the area. I’ve seen so many random celebrities, such as Jerry Springer and “The Bachelor,” Chris Soules, here at the Democratic National Convention.

On a more disheartening note, I left work around 7 p.m. and began to walk back alone to the public transportation area within the secure perimeter. Protestors supporting Bernie Sanders lined a rickety fence near the exit. They screamed and shouted at me, angry with me for even seeming to have any part in the election of Hillary Clinton.

When a few of them saw my credential and realized I was with Fox News, the screaming grew worse and the protestors became angrier. I was scared — scared of people who were just like me, in that we both wanted Bernie Sanders to be the nominee. However, they failed to recognize the true meaning of Sanders’ campaign: unity, peace and love.

Food, music and politics

July 23, 2016 Cal U student Kirra Lent stands in front of a Pennsylvania Media Party sign.

All of us entered work super early in order to continue to prepare for the chaos of the next five days at the Democratic National Convention. Around 1 p.m., Secret Service shut down the perimeter and operating stadium in order to secure it. It was nice getting to leave a bit earlier than usual, since we have such long shifts!

Today our boss gave all of us tickets to attend the convention’s Media Party at the Philadelphia Phillies’ stadium near the Wells Fargo Center! As soon as we entered the park, we heard music playing and there was free food everywhere! Local restaurants set up booths around the stadium, and we picked up at least one of everything.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey both attended the event, and it was cool to see these people in a regular setting.

News center

July 22, 2016 The stage of the Democratic National Convention before the audience arrives.

I started off my day by touring the Wells Fargo Center with my classmates from The Washington Center. It is crazy to see how much still needs to be done — the convention is almost here! There are boxes lined up against walls, furniture sitting haphazardly in hallways, and volunteers and employees driving around on golf carts everywhere you look.

After the tour, all of the students working with Fox News headed to the tent where the station is headquartered throughout the convention. Immediately, we were thrown into helping prepare for the first wave of contributors, news anchors and employees who would be arriving from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. We emptied garbage cans, stocked the snack tables and placed fans in all of the main news anchors’ private rooms.

Throughout the tent, tables are set up for each designated show. Every table has a computer at each seat, with a television set for each two computers. We pushed in all the chairs and changed the channel on all the TVs to Fox News.

When the bus arrived, the camera crew stood at the entrance and clapped and cheered. Another intern and I were stationed helped to guide people to their seats. I was near the tables for the Fox News website, Fox Radio, Fox Latino, and Fox and Friends.

My day was so exciting and interactive! I loved meeting so many new people and helping everything run smoothly. I was even able to stand in for the anchors in order to help determine the proper camera angles during the shows.

Exploring the issues

July 21, 2016

The discussions today revolved around issues of immigration, financial literacy and political polarization. Phillip Weisz, a managing attorney from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania, spoke about the factors that encourage people from Latin America to enter the country illegally.

He spoke of two young sisters whose parents had moved to the United States legally in order to provide money for their family back home. After gang members threatened the sisters’ lives, the girls fled across the border and were detained at a facility in Texas.

Weisz described how these types of cases are handled, and the function of detainment facilities. It was extremely interesting to listen to this perspective, as I know very little about illegal immigration except the aspects that involve education in America.

We also heard from Dr. Jonathan Scott, a professor from Temple University, who spoke about financial policy and his views of the presidential candidates’ strategies for helping with financial policy issues.

Last we heard from Dr. Matt Levendusky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies partisan polarization. His lecture echoed that of Dr. Alan Abramowitz, who spoke at Cal U during the 2015-2016 school year. Levendusky answered a lot of questions about the history of polarization in America.

Today, I received my field placement! It felt like Christmas to finally be able to receive the packet that told me when our orientation was, what times I would be working, and the types of credentials I would be given. After receiving credentials, the eight students placed with Fox News met to discuss logistics for orientation later that evening.

Life in the public eye

July 20, 2016 Cal U student Kirra Lent stands in front of the Liberty Bell.

We began the day with a brief speech by Matt O’Donnell, an anchor from Philadelphia ABC Channel 6 Action News, who spoke about what it is like to cover the conventions.

Seth Williams, the district attorney for the City of Philadelphia, spoke about the struggles he faces as a public figure. He described having to juggle his duties as a public officer and and his life as an African-American in the wake of the aggression between police officers and black citizens.

We heard last from Dr. Nichola Gutgold, from Penn State-Lehigh Valley, who discussed the struggles that women historically have faced when running for president. She mentioned Elizabeth Dole’s campaign in 2000 and other females who helped to pave the way for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

After the academic seminar and group discussions with our faculty, my roommate and a few other girls decided to explore the city a bit! We headed toward Center City, where we visited the Liberty Bell and spotted several statues of donkeys, the Democratic Party’s symbol, including the one representing Pennsylvania.

We were also proud of ourselves for being able to navigate the SEPTA subway lines in order to arrive back at our apartments to watch the RNC together in the common area.

Three professors — and a blue tongue

July 19, 2016

Today we heard from three professors about campaign finance reform, public opinion and trade, and the relevance of foreign policy to the election.

Dr. Robin Kolodny, a professor at Temple University, discussed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Dr. Alexandra Guisinger, also a professor at Temple, talked about how people’s opinions are extremely malleable on issues that involve trade. In our small group discussions later in the day, this was one of the issues that helped us all comprehend the “Trump surge” in rural areas.

Dr. Ron Granieri, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about the role of foreign policy issues in American political campaigns. We discussed how foreign policy, terrorism and other potential threats have become issues that truly could decide the outcome of the election. We should be on the lookout for an October surprise!

Later in the evening, Temple hosted a dinner for the students in The Washington Center program. They had candies made in and around the Philadelphia area on the dessert table, along with cupcakes shaped like American flags. I made the mistake of taking a cupcake with blue icing — and it turned my mouth, tongue and teeth blue for the whole evening! 

Preparing to witness history

July 18, 2016 A polygonal statue of Benjamin Franklin's head

Today we spent the morning listening to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell welcome us to the city. He told us all about Philadelphia’s fight to host the Democratic National Convention, and how its award for being the “Friendliest City in America” (thanks to an anonymous cab driver and an undercover reporter) allowed Philadelphia to beat out San Francisco for the honor of hosting the DNC.

Later, we heard from the chief executive officer of the Democratic Convention, the Rev. Leah Daughtry. She talked about the need to ensure that the Democratic Party continues to welcome people from all walks of life. Her words took on a different tone as she strove to explain that her faith drives her to ensure that all humans have their basic needs met, are included in society and are safe. It was encouraging to hear someone who found a way to connect her spiritual beliefs with the modern world.

Both speakers talked about the history that will be happening in Philadelphia next week. Gov. Rendell talked about the DNC’s slogan, “Let’s Make History Again,” and how it tied Philadelphia, the site of the Continental Congress in 1775-1776, with the significance of nominating the first female presidential nominee of either major party.

Rev. Daughtry told a story about how her nephew texted her after Barack Obama won the presidency and said for the first time he felt as if anything was possible. Soon little girls, too, will grow up in a world where they no longer need to hide their ambition out of fear of being “unladylike.” It makes me so inspired and excited to walk into the Wells Fargo Center and think about all the people who had suffered and sacrificed for so long to enable me to have the opportunity to partake in the convention. I will never stop being thankful.

On the streets of Philadelphia

July 17, 2016

A statue of a donkey, painted blue with the words

Today I arrived at Temple University for The Washington Center seminar after a six-hour drive with my mom, dad and little sister. We spent most of the ride talking and listening to songs from the ’70s and ’80s. It was truly enjoyable to spend some time with my family before leaving for two weeks to study and intern at the Democratic National Convention!

My roommates are from California, Ohio and Massachusetts. We all have different perspectives on politics and specific political issues, which has led to some very interesting conversations about truth, unity and the importance of listening to alternative ideas.

After orientation, we decided to head out into Philadelphia. We visited the Philadelphia Observation Deck, where we discovered one of the 57 donkeys — symbols of the Democratic Party — hidden around Philadelphia. There is a donkey for each state, as well as a few specialty donkeys! We decided to hold a contest to see who can take a picture of the most donkeys before the end of our two-week visit.

On our way home we started to converse about Donald Trump’s nomination and what has allowed him to rise up in the Republican Party. While some of us expressed more liberal views, others tended to gravitate toward more moderate positions. Still, we maintained a civil and respectful tone.

This caused our driver, an African-American man who described his experiences growing up during segregation, to commend us for restoring his faith that youth truly care and wish to help create a better America. It was a moment I was proud to be a part of. 

Preparing for Philadelphia

July 13, 2016

This week is already so busy and it has only just begun. I found out a few weeks ago that I will be interning with Fox News during my time at the Democratic National Convention, so I have been reading up on the different news anchors that I might end up bumping into while I’m there!

Packing has probably been the worst part. Currently, most of my clothes and belongings are thrown in places that tend to elicit a bit of frustration from my mom (rightly so!). However, deciding what to wear while present during a historic moment can be a bit of a daunting task!

To ensure that I make the best of my experience, I made business cards to help maintain connections that I establish. This Wednesday, I am going to buy snacks for my trip and some new khaki pants in compliance with the dress code at Fox. (I will be wearing a polo with the media source’s logo.)

I put together a binder specifically for the DNC and coursework I will be completing during The Washington Center’s political seminar. I keep rereading the syllabus for the program out of excitement!

Still, there is so much I need to do in order to prepare for my trip to Philadelphia. My parents and I will be leaving Greensburg on Sunday morning and I will be busy preparing every minute up until then.

Convention Details

July 25-28
Philadelphia, Pa.

Democratic National Convention logo.