Pat Cannady has discovered something: being a delegate from John McCain's home state of Arizona has its advantages. "Everyone wants to talk to us! They say, 'We hear you have a chance of going blue!'" Maybe that's how she ended up watching the emotional speeches of Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama in prime seats, two rows away from Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden.
High above Cannady, in the absolute last row of the Pepsi Center, Erin Cheuvront was making friends of her own. A graduate student studying Political Management at Suffolk University in Boston, Cheuvront was impressed with the caring attitude of everyone she encountered. "There wasn't a seat to be had, but as packed as we all were I couldn't believe how cooperative and friendly everyone was. Everyone was helping everyone, it was such a great experience "
Viewed from two completely different vantage points, the graduate student from Boston and the retiree from Tucson had the same reaction to the highlights of the Convention's first full night; it was overwhelmingly emotional. "When Ted came out everyone around me was crying, honestly nobody really expected him to make a speech." said Cannady. Chuevront concurred: "Hey, we were all choked up, and fired up! People around me were hootin' and hollerin'!" Cannady spoke of the reception given to the wife of the Democratic candidate: "When Michelle spoke you could hear a pin drop." Again Cheuvront agreed. "I can't believe how quiet it was when Michelle was up there, all those talkative people suddenly went completely silent. The whole place was riveted."
Neither Cannady or Cheuvront had much downtime on the first full day of the Democratic National Convention. Delegate Cannady attended a meeting of the Senior Caucus, one of 200 seniors discussing social security and healthcare, issues of high importance to seniors. And drama unfolded while Cannady was at the 'Unconventional Women' meeting, when a speech being given by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was interrupted by demonstrators with a peace group known as the Pink Ladies.
While Cannady attended meetings, graduate student Cheuvront worked behind the scenes, acting as a troubleshooter at various locations all over the convention site. As one of a cadre of 'super volunteers' she checked identification outside the caucuses, assisted disabled delegates arriving at the Pepsi Center, and was finally assigned a position behind the podium of the main stage, mingling with speakers including Caroline Kennedy.
With overwhelming media coverage being devoted to the 'disgruntled Hillary supporters' storyline, you'd think one or both women would have had seen or heard something at their very different locales. But again they gave similar accounts: both came up empty handed. Since Cheuvront's classes often focus on media coverage of politics, the graduate student was keenly looking for verification of media accounts. She spotted a few people with Hillary stickers, part of the Texas contigent " who were all enthusiastic about Obama." And she made sure she spoke with two volunteers sporting 'Hillary Supporters for Obama' buttons; they too were happy and excited. When she learned other volunteers had similar experiences, Cheuvront came to the conclusion that "the press wants to make a stink about Hillary supporters being unhappy, but honestly we just don't see it materializing." Cannady concurred; she saw nothing organized, and never encountered any individual expressions of anger, hostility or even disappointment. "And," she added emphatically, "when Ted and Michelle were on stage, I really don't think anyone was thinking of anything, or anyone, else."
It seems that unity among Democrats is so strong that even college loyalties aren't getting in the way. Cheuvront, a proud and devoted alum of Washington State University, was surprised to hear Michelle Obama's brother introduce himself as the basketball coach for Pac 10 rival Oregon State. "You'd think I'd start booing, but no! I hate the Beavers but there I was, standing up and cheering!"
Now that's what you call unity.