Students experience history at RNC and DNC

September 6, 2012

This year 40 Hoyas attended the national political conventions — 20 attending the Republican showcase, and 20 the Democrats’. Whether participating as volunteers, spectators, or delegates, these students were given a chance to become a part of history.

Organized by the School of Continuing Studies, the trips to the RNC and the DNC give students the unique opportunity to experience the glamour and excitement of a national political convention.

Attending the conventions transcended partisan lines for the Georgetown students who attended. “This experience helped them better understand what they’re studying and learning about in the program and also follow what interests them,” said Associate Dean James Parenti.

According to the Georgetown College Democrats President, Joseph Vandegriff (COL ‘14), each student paid $1000 for the trip, which included “credentials, some meals, transportation to and from the event, and housing.” The SCS could not pay the cost for students “because they can’t contribute to any partisan political activity, even if it’s balanced,” said Vandegriff.

Vandegriff attended the College Democrats National Convention, held before the DNC, but he recognized the special significance of attending the larger party-wide convention in Charlotte, N.C. “The great thing about Georgetown is that you can meet people from all over, but definitely at the DNC you can meet fellow Democrats who are as passionate as you are … It’s just a cool opportunity to be part of history.”

Therese Kilbane Myers (COL ‘15), also expressed excitement in being part of this historic moment in American politics. “For me, I was elected as a delegate from the 10th  congressional district so I’m going to represent Ohio,” Myers said. “I’m really excited because I’m 19 so this is my first presidential election [to vote in], and I was lucky enough to have been at the 1996 convention and the 2008 convention.”

Myers is also participating in several caucuses at the DNC. “The Ethnic Council is one of the ones that I have participated in previously,” she said. “I’m also in the Women’s Caucus and the Young Democrats Caucus.”

Although he was not part of the SCS group attending the convention, Jonathan Hopkins (MSFS ‘12), a student in the Masters School of Foreign Service and first in his class at West Point, is working at the DNC as a tracker for Tammy Duckworth, a speaker at the DNC and the Democratic nominee for Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District.

For Hopkins, working at the DNC and for Duckworth takes a personal tone because he worked for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through his connections to the military.  “If you have to deploy somewhere or change duty stations and you’re married to somebody but it doesn’t count for the federal government so it won’t pay for it.” Hopkins said, “That’s not what our country is about.”

Students attending the RNC also had the chance to participate in a historic moment in American politics. “It was phenomenal,”  said Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), President of the Georgetown College Republicans, who attended the RNC. “I thought that the entire thing was very moving and inspirational, but it also got everyone inspired for the upcoming election, and I think it got everyone ready and pumped.”

Most Americans are familiar with the glitz of the televised speeches each evening, but Cleary says the real policy work happens during the day.

“There are Bloomberg and Politico and other nonpartisan groups that sponsor the events so a lot of the big name speakers will be sitting on panels about policy early that day,” Cleary said. “During the day, it’s all policy and where the Republican Party is going and how the policy is going to change, and at night it’s a lot of rhetoric.”

Although the rhetoric between the two parties has been heated throughout the election, students from both parties recognized the unique feeling of being in that convention stadium with thousands of other people.

“The whole point was being in the room and feeling the vibe and hearing them speak live and especially seeing the reaction of the crowd,” said Cleary. “When you’re sitting in a crowd that huge and it just completely erupts when someone like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan says one of their key lines about the American Dream or opportunity, you just get goosebumps.”

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“When you’re sitting in a crowd that huge and it just completely erupts when someone like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan says one of their key lines about the American Dream or opportunity, you just get goosebumps.”

I, for one, would get a little nauseous.