8 Asians

Editor’s Note: This is a three part series chronicling John’s visit to the Democratic National Convention. Read Day 1 and Day 2 here.

After two full days of making the most of each day, I had planned on the same for the third and final day of the DNC.

Thursday morning, I had planned on attending a talk I had RSVP’d to at 8:30 am in the morning on The American Dream: Communities of Color & the 2012 Election, but given my past two late nights, there was just no way I was going to be able to make it.

This time around, I decided to park where I did on Tuesday, not too far from the YMCA across from the highway overpass, and found a quicker way to make it to the convention center. Having some free time, I first wanted to try to get tickets to The Daily Show. I wound up walking up several blocks past the Epicenter to get the 7th Street and talk to a security personnel who blocked the theater (as the theater was within the security zone) that The Daily Show was being taped at. On my way there, I met a San Diego, Californian-based volunteer who was also interested in trying to see the taping.

The security guy mentioned that the two previous days, those who had pre-registered had arrived around 2:00 pm to wait in line – and even those people who had registered were not guaranteed and some were turned away. He said our best bet was to maybe come around 3:30 pm or later to see maybe if there were any standby tickets. But given the fact that there was going to be limited seating at the Time Warner arena for Obama’s acceptance speech tonight – I wasn’t really going to risk not getting into the arena.

From the theater, I made my way to the EpiCentre to see what was going on around the MSNBC broadcast area as well as hospitality suite, not too far off the side of the outside broadcasting stage.

There really was no line for the hospitality area, where I quickly got a fun photo taken:

I quickly took a photo of this printed out photo with my smartphone to post on Facebook, and shortly afterwards, people were commenting and asking why I was on TV! LOL.

You could also get free coffee, ice coffee and cappuccinos, etc… I also got an MSNBC button made with my first name on it. As I had exited, I saw a sign of the various different MSNBC personalities who would be around to meet or sign books. Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball on MSNBC, was doing a book signing at I think around noon, and there was a line that was forming already – and it was already getting close to 11AM.

I needed to get my media credentials, so I headed to the Convention Center, went through security, went to the media office to get my press credential, exited the Convention Center then headed back to the MSNBC area a few blocks North to see if there was still room in the line. On my way there, I bumped into Grace (the blogger from BlogHer) and her colleague and mentioned I may or may not make the daily briefing – depending if I could get into the MSNBC line for Chris Matthews.

There wasn’t any room left – I met later a man I would get to know as “JK,” an ethnic Chinese Singaporean immigrant in his late 40s or early 50s who was I think the last in line. So I turned around and went back to the Convention Center!

On my way back, there was a teenage boy and girl and their Mom walking infront of me, and all of a sudden, I heard a “woah!” from the teenagers. I knew they had spotted someone, since the other day on the street, I had heard or seen a quick ruckus before when someone was having their photo taken with the rapper MC Hammer. I whipped out my camera and immediately took a photo as soon as I saw Al Sharpton, and my photo turned out really well!

I got back to the Convention Center and attended the briefing. The briefing was somewhat interesting and informative, but not that well attended from what I recalled. The most important point was to get to the Arena early, as it was likely to get crowded very early and there may not be enough space for everyone.

I did thank the team for approving my media credentials for 8Asians, and made my way to the Microsoft sponsored Specialty Lounge, where I grabbed another complimentary boxed lunch and bottled drink.

Figuring I had some time between now and later this evening, after charging my phone and catching up on email, I decided to go back yet again to the EpiCentre and see what other activities and events were going on. When I returned, I spot “JK” again – in another line – this time to meet MSNBC host Alex Wagner. JK was able to get a signed book by Chris Matthews, but since he was running late, he wasn’t able to get a photo with him.

While we were waiting in line, I got to know “JK” better. As I had mentioned previously, he was an ethnic Chinese Singaporean who immigrated from Singapore at the age of 14 and had three children (if I recalled correctly), with one close to college age. He drove up from Orlando the evening before – making the long drive to Charlotte, and making it in time to watch the taping of Morning Joe at 6am at the EpiCentre.

He seemed to be quite the new and political junkie and had also gone to the Republican National Convention (RNC) the week before in Tampa, Florida. He mentioned that there, he felt like an outsider – with some convention attendees telling him to go back where he came from. He felt insulted. He chose to become an American and had to take a test. He spent about a day-and-a-half around the Convention area, and then later returned home.

The meet and greet with Alex Wagner was coming to a close as we approached 2:00 pm. I was foiled again – the MSNBC staff had cut off the meet and greet as the line was too long and Wagner had to get going. The staff did give us some raffle tickets for those of us who might be interested in dropping by later around 5:00 pm to try to attend the MSNBC viewing party at the EpiCentre. But for me, I had a press pass, so I was going to be able to make it in.

Since JK had not really eaten yet and we had connected, he offered to treat me to a late lunch / early dinner. I had planned on eating early, since I didn’t want to ripped off by Time Warner Arena stadium food anyways, but I really didn’t need to be treated to a meal. But JK insisted.

We walked around briefly in the EpiCentre, and came Strike City Bowling, a combination upscale sports bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. We took a look at the menu and ordered some nachos, ribs and BBQ and some side orders – which turned out to be quite a bit of food that we couldn’t really finish.

We talked politics and got to know each other a little better, and before we left, exchanged email info. While we ate, there were rain showers that we could see from the television sets in the restaurant tuned into MSNBC. But by the time we had finished, the showers had stopped.

As I had mentioned, JK didn’t have a pass for the Time Warner Arena, so he was going to stick around the EpiCentre and see if he could make it inside the MSNBC viewing party. We departed ways and I made my way to the Arena.

In the unassigned press room, I met Caroline Fan, a blogger for AAA Fund (one of two Asian Americans blog that attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention) who, after the Convention, became the Field Director for America Votes Nevada. We discussed her activism and she recalled that we’d possibly met before and at the very least, had cross-linked to each other’s blogs.

At a later time in the day, before the big speeches were being made in the evening, there was a big ruckus of people crowding around a few people. I soon found out what all the commotion was about – both Jesse Jackson and former Massachusetts governor and former 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.

As the evening approached, the temporary 20-minute media passes had not arrived. The volunteers were unsure if we were going to be able to get onto the convention floor. Everyone was warned to get to the convention center early – since Obama’s speech was going to be held inside, there were a lot of people who would be turned away. Finally, the media volunteers said they would not be giving any floor access to the floor. I was a little disappointed, but also had realized that I probably would not have been on the floor during “prime time.”

I wound up going to the desk area where I had left my laptop and backpack and around 5:00 pm or so, I got a temporary media pass. I wanted to try to see if former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was going to make an appearance for the Pledge of Allegiance, as was much rumored (she didn’t – but would show up later in the evening). It was kind of hard to get to the floor and seemed like the “unassigned” media was being diverted to the more elevated section to the side of the convention floor. I did wind up seeing Marc Anthony sing the national anthem as well as seeing Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank take the podium.

After I had gotten back, I had heard someone I had met before come back between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm or so and stating that they weren’t letting any more media people in the media section on the second floor – it was all filled up. I was really concerned, since I did not want to be stuck in the media room.

I quick headed up to the second floor, and told the security person, before him or her having to ask, that a colleague of mine had saved a seat (which was, of course, untrue – since I was at the DNC by myself for 8Asians). The place was crowded, but I quickly moved up and up the stairs until I found a free seat. Unfortunately, when I got there – the view was kind of crappy, with a speaker in the way of the video monitor. Eventually, within 20 or 30 minutes, a group of folks in the next row down or two vacated a bunch of seats, and I swooped into one of them and had a much better, unobstructed view.

So for the rest of the evening, I remained in my seat to see all the different speakers – including actress Scarlett Johansson, who discussed her time growing up and her family needing public assistance and also encouraging the almost 50% of Americans who can vote, who don’t vote. Caroline Kennedy had spoken about her initial support for Obama back in 2007 – 2008 and her continued support for him in 2012.

I thought one of the most entertaining and energetic speeches given which really revved up the convention audience was former Governor Jennifer Granholm, who really help bring down the house attacking Republicans.

Actress Eva Longoria also spoke. I know she had attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention, since my friend had attended the convention then and had a photo taken with her.

Former Governor of Florida and former Senatorial candidate, and a Republican (or formerly one) Charlie Crist, spoke to the Democratic convention. He discussed how he didn’t leave the Republican Party, it left him. He mentioned that former Republican Governor of Florida Jeb Bush noted also that former President Reagan would be too moderate, too reasonable for today’s GOP. From what I recall, Crist he wasn’t the most dynamic or exciting speaker – but he did give an interesting perspective on the intransient Republican Party today.

When former 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee and Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry was coming up to speak, I thought he might be kind of a bore – he’s not necessarily the most exciting speaker and can be quite verbose. However, I thought Kerry’s speech attacking Romney on foreign policy was spot on and was quite impressed with his speech. And Kerry got quite the response when he questioned, “Ask Osama Bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago?”

I really thought Kerry was especially good on attacking Romney on Afghanistan, “You know it isn’t — it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to say that Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position. He — he was against — he was against setting a date for withdrawal. Then he said it was right. And then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was tragic to leave Iraq. And then he said it was fine. He said we should have intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to run away from the reporters who were asking questions. Then he said, the intervention was too aggressive. And then he said the world was a better place because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it, before you were against it. Mr. Romney — Mr. Romney — Mr. Romney, here’s a little advice; before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you’d better finish the debate with yourself.”

The Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, made some remarks and introduced her husband, Vice President Joe Biden.

I thought Vice President Biden spoke deeply from his heart and about his working experience with President Obama for almost 40 minutes and talked often about Obama’s spine of steel, and how Obama’s decisions were always made with what was best in mind, not necessarily what was best politically (well, I am not sure any politician truly works and thinks that way, but I think this is the political reality and cynicism we live in today)

After a long evening of speeches, President Obama finally came to the stage, to formerly accept the Democratic nomination for his re-election and address the country on why he should be re-elected and serve four more years.

Personally, I thought that Obama did a good job of outlining his goals that he wanted to focus on for his next four years in areas such as manufacturing, energy, and education. However, I thought that Obama should have explained how he was going to achieve those goals. Later, I think many critics agreed with my assessment. But it’s not like the Republicans did much of that at their convention either. I also thought, like almost everyone including both Democrats and Republicans, that former President Bill Clinton was the best and most effective speaker at the convention and made a really compelling case for re-electing President Obama and countering Republican arguments.

By the end of Obama’s speech, it was probably around 11:00 to 11:30 pm. I went down to the press room after the speech was over, rested a little bit and also charged my phone and gathered my belongings. As I was checking Facebook, I had seen Gene Kim checked into the Google viewing party and had already posted photos of him with The Daily Show correspondents John Oliver and Asiv Mandi. I definitely wanted to try to see if could crash that party, since I was hoping to see anybody from The Daily Show during the convention – which I was surprised I hadn’t – considering I had seen almost everybody else.

I had passed the Google venue the morning before, but got a little lost. But finally made it there probably after 15 or 20 minutes after leaving the convention center. I asked security once I got there and they said press was not allowed – i.e. invitation only (I wasn’t exactly dressed for a party anyways). I decided to drop by the EpiCentre and the MSNBC booth again to see if I could find my new friend “JK” as well as see what was going on there.

When I arrived about 15 minutes later or so, there were still a ton of people at the EpiCentre, and this was probably almost 12:30 am.

I was kind of surprised that MSNBC host Chris Matthews was still there since it was so late, but I forgot that he would also be broadcasting for the West Coast as well. I’m not sure who his guests were at the time I arrived, but his next set of guests were three women, actresses Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera and MSNBC Political Contributor Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, discussing immigration reform and the Dream Act.

After the guests and Chris Matthews finished their segment and Matthews signed off the air, the guests posed with a bunch of different folks on the stage. As Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera were exiting the area, there were tons of fans trying to take photos of them and with them, and I could really understand why one might need body guards and need protection as the throng of people tried to crowd around them.

As people started leaving, I did happen to see other MSNBC media hosts and commentators in the back behind the fencing, including Lawrence O’Donnell  of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. I had heard someone asking O’Donnell if he was looking for any writers, and O’Donnell said no – this was a tough business and just to keep at it and keep writing.

Outside the fenced off area, I did spot someone talking with David Corn, chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones (the guy who helped leak and promote the Romney’s 47% percent video) and frequent MSNBC guest on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Corn was easy going as others as well as myself asked for a photo with him.

By the time I left the EpiCentre, it was probably at least 1:00 AM. I had about a 20 minute walk back to my car. By the time I got back to my motel, it was probably 2:00 AM or so.

After taking a shower, packing and changing my clothes, it was more like 3:00 AM. I lied down on my bed with my shirt and jeans and laid down to rest, but didn’t totally want to go to sleep since I needed to return my car rental and catch my flight by 7:50 AM. I did manage to not totally fall asleep, and wound up getting up around 5:30 AM, refilling my car, and returning the car to Enterprise around 6:15 AM. When I returned my car, I asked if there were a lot of people who had already returned their cars. The Enterprise employee stated that within the first 30 minutes that they were opened, 70 cars had already returned (about 10% of what they had estimated for that Friday – with 700 cars looking to be returned).

So I made it on time to check-in for my flight and return back to San Francisco, vis-a-vis San Diego. Being exhausted easily helped me fall asleep on the plane.

Final Thoughts

After experiencing the 2012 Democratic National Convention, I definitely have a much better appreciation of the amount of time, effort, energy, logistics and deadline pressure the press has to go through during the convention. My goals in attending the convention was to experience the event and see what it was all about, as well as blog when I could, about the various Asian American related events that were going on and hopefully I’ve captured that.

Now, I’m not saying that these political conventions (of either party) is where a lot of real news is happening. But it is quite an event with a who’s who’s of politicians, candidates, involved party delegates and members, and of course, donors and random celebrities, congregate.

If and when I go to another political convention, it would be very interesting to see it from a delegate’s perspective – to see how the experience is different. Additionally, I heard afterwards that there were a lot of parties prior to the official convention starting on the Tuesday – where many people flew in to be at the event over the weekend.

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