Locals express excitement, disappointment over Democratic National Convention moves
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY - Rowan County Democrats shared mixed emotions Wednesday about the national convention in Charlotte.
Some were disappointed to learn they couldn't watch President Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination tonight, even though they had tickets. The speech was moved to a smaller indoor venue to avoid possible storms.
But excitement still buzzed around the Democratic National Convention, especially for those waiting on the floor to see Bill Clinton speak that night.
Veleria Levy, chair of the Rowan County Democratic Party, said the energy at the convention has been "10 times more than what I expected."
"When you are at these conventions, you are with people and you're sharing stories, you're sharing experiences," Levy said. "It's the camaraderie."
She said she was surprised by how excited she was by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's speech.
First lady Michelle Obama brought her to tears, Levy said, by talking about how she and her husband have gone through the same struggles as other American families have.
"We need a president that can say, ' I have done this. I have had loans. I had to take second jobs. My mom was a single parent, and look what she did. My mom was on the system,'" Levy said. "These are things we need to hear as Americans right now, because we are struggling."
Levy said she and George El-Khouri, another delegate who lives in Salisbury, have been attending different caucus meetings so they can report more information back to local Democrats.
"We're not just here to party, we're here to learn and to share our experiences and bring back to Rowan County our best practices of what we learned," Levy said.
She said she's sad for people with community credentials who were expecting to go to Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night. Many volunteered at least nine hours in order to earn their seats in the audience.
The speech has been moved from the outdoor Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Cable Arena, where the rest of the convention's official business has taken place. The Democratic party cited weather concerns.
Emma Labovitz said that after finding out she couldn't go, she had the task of calling other ticketholders to break the news.
"Obviously, I'm upset," she said. "Not only is it a historical event, but Obama's one of the people I look up to. I was excited to take part in a special day not only for me but for the country."
But Labovitz, a junior at Salisbury High School, said she understands the safety concerns that prompted the move.
"I'd rather sit at home and watch the speech than for somebody else... to get struck by lightning," she said.
Salisbury resident Ollie Mae Carroll said she has a harder time understanding because the weather forecasts aren't that bad.
"Look at today, look how beautiful it is," she said. "But I guess they had to do what they had to do."
Carroll said she and other local Democrats are disappointed, but they will be gathering tonight to watch the speech on television.
That way, Labovitz added, they will still get to celebrate the president's nomination together.
Elizabeth Smith, a former state legislator, said she had planned to go to the speech with her granddaughter.
"An hour ago, when I went over to do some stuff at the party headquarters, they were all so sad," Smith said. "Not to mention all work that's gone on, not just here but everywhere else."
But disappointed Democrats have some positive things to look forward to, she said.
People with community credentials were told that they will be getting an emailed invitation to a live conference call with the president. They should also hold onto their tickets for the next time Obama comes to North Carolina, party leaders said.
Local people also have filled a variety of volunteer positions at the convention.
Karen South Carpenter said she was tasked with greeting delegates and VIPs as they arrived in Charlotte on Sunday and Tuesday.
"It was so much fun," she said. "I was made for that. I just smile and be happy and cheerful. It was a wonderful experience."
This is the fourth convention that Carpenter has attended, even though she never actually made it inside for this one.
In 1988, she went to both the Republican and Democratic conventions for her work as national news secretary for the Washington Post. Then, she attended the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego, Calif.
Carpenter, who once worked as a secretary in the Reagan White House, said some of her Republican friends don't understand why she's volunteering for a Democratic event."I tell them if the Republicans had their convention in Charlotte, I would volunteer for them, too," she said. "It's an exciting kind of thing and an opportunity to be part of the political process."
Unfortunately, Carpenter won't get to complete her second assignment - checking tickets for Obama's speech at Bank of America Stadium. She said she's disappointed that she's going to miss some "amazing moments."
Pete Prunkl, of Salisbury, helped format and proofread convention speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said he helped convert them from Teleprompter scripts to readable documents.
"It was extremely exciting," Prunkl said. "The level of devotion and excitement, it was just incredible. There's just great enthusiasm for the President."
He said he was blown away by how different the speeches sounded later on.
"When you read some of this, it sounds like the same old stuff you've heard before," Prunkl said. "But when you see people and hear them deliver it, it's just like night and day."
Michael Bitzer, political science professor at Catawba College, is working at the convention as a political analyst for WCNC-TV.
On Wednesday night, 15 Catawba music students performed as part of the gospel choir accompanying American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez.
On Thursday night, 2006 graduate and current Catawba Young Artist in Residence Dennis Reed will appear with his music and dance ensemble, Inspire the Fire.
Some Livingstone students also are participating in the convention. Anna Kay Edwards and Anthony Scott, both junior biology majors, joined a bus full of students in Charlotte on Wednesday.
Scott said the college selected students to go based on their grades.
"I was honored," he said. "The information I received was very informative. It pretty much let me know the future of my family and younger generations."
Wednesday's events included discussions of student loans and the job market for graduates
The students attended a youth voting panel led by Kal Penn, America Ferrera and Alfre Woodard. Edwards said they also heard Chelsea Clinton speak and saw Jessica Alba walk by.
"I'm actually from Jamaica," Edwards said. "Coming here, and actually seeing these people face to face, is an honor for me."Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.