CHARLOTTE — The host state of the 2012 Democratic National Convention was on display this week, along with its 157 delegates.
With prime real estate inside Time Warner Cable Arena—North Carolina delegates were seated stage left in the front of the arena floor, where they could not be missed. Members were some of the more vocal at the convention and represented the Greatest Generation through to the Millenial Generation.
The delegation had roughly the same number of delegates under 35 years old as it did delegates over 65 years old—40 people each. This equates to roughly 50 percent of the delegation being represented by both of these demographics.
At the upper end of in terms of age is 91-year-old Charles Johnson of Rocky Mount, N.C.
“This is the seventh convention I’ve been to—the first one was 1988,” Johnson said. “This, by far, is the best one that we’ve ever had. I’m a little bit biased, of course, because it’s here in North Carolina where we’re just a little bit more friendly.”
The former environmental health worker retired only a year ago, having entered that line of work at 50 years old. Johnson, who served in World War II, was nearly as spry and equally as passionate as his younger counterparts. Proudly sporting a WWII Veterans ball cap and a salmon pink blazer, Johnson swayed back and forth and clapped his hands over his head while singing along with the delegation to “Born in the USA” at the start of the evening.
In stark constast, 19-year-old delegate Vibhav Kollu, is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kollu, a Concord resident, was elected as a delegate at his district convention. He said he is leaving the convention not only ecstatic that he had this experience at such a young age but also fired up about the election and the Democratic Party.
Kollu said his favorite moments of the convention were the remarks made by former President Bill Clinton and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as well as the Foo Fighters performance. In the next few months, he will be working for the Obama campaign to engage South Asian and East Asian college students, a demographic he said is often politically-minded but not necessarily active.
“I really like how Obama has stepped out for young people—whether on issues that directly affect us, like increasing access to Pell Grants, or in the social aspect,” he said. “He has stuck up for our views and with our generation, especially when it came to marriage equality.”
And despite their different backgrounds, the delegates worked well together throughout the convention, said Everett Ward, a 53-year-old delegate from Raleigh. The camaraderie and resulting brainstorms helped give the delegation strength as the height of election season—the bulk of their workload—approaches.
The Blue Devil Democrat
Many students may have encountered senior Elena Botella on campus in different settings: a classmate, former Duke Democrats president, former columnist for The Chronicle. But, at the DNC, Botella was known as a Democratic delegate for the state of North Carolina.
Botella is president of the College Democrats of North Carolina, an auxiliary of the North Carolina Democratic Party and a part of College Democrats of America. She was elected by the state Democratic convention to serve as a delegate at the national convention in her hometown of Charlotte.
As a learning experience, Botella said her time at the convention, though without much sleep, was incredibly worthwhile. A typical day for the delegates included: 8:00 a.m. breakfast, 10:00 a.m. press conferences and 12:00 p.m. caucus and council meetings before the evening speaker sessions. Botella attended both the Hispanic and Youth council meetings.
“I was looking to come into this knowing a lot of the other delegates, but it has been enormously exciting to meet people from all over the state and the country,” she said. “A core function of the convention is for people to come together, share best practices, and learn strategies [for promoting the party]. It was a lot of fun doing that.”