Postcard from Charlotte, Thursday: Greater than the sum of the parts, which were pretty great to start with

By Stephanie Vardavas of Portland, Oregon. Stephanie is a political activist, attorney, mediator, and arbitrator. Here's yesterday's "Postcard from Charlotte".

Thursday at the Democratic National Convention was a day that started with some great news, maintained a high level of quality all day long, then went out on a major high.

The first great news actually came on Wednesday morning: the Thursday sessions were going to take place indoors at the Time Warner Cable Center, not outdoors at Bank of America Stadium as previously planned. This was huge for a number of reasons. First, the weather in Charlotte: it had been raining at least part of the day every day since we arrived, and more rain was predicted for Thursday. As it turns out, it did pour rain during the late afternoon/early evening on Thursday. I went in at 8:30 am, while it was still dry, but I saw soaking wet delegates arriving for a couple of hours later in the day. The President could have been sheltered from the rain, but not the delegates, and not the people in the stands, who had general admission tickets and who would have wanted to arrive early and stake out good seats. Second, for security reasons: it would have been much more logistically challenging to protect the President and Vice President in an open-air building, and without exception the Secret Service agents I talked to ranged from relief to near-giddiness about the cancellation of the move to B of A Stadium.

So on Thursday morning I was back at my post behind the video board, mostly chatting with Secret Service agents and monitoring the relatively light flow of technicians, photographers, and production people moving around behind the screen. So imagine, for a moment, what a great surprise it was for me to hear the iconic first few notes of "Carolina in My Mind" and realize that James Taylor was rehearsing on the stage. I closed my eyes briefly and let the loveliness wash over me. When I opened my eyes I noticed that every technician, photographer, video producer, gaffer, and agent around me was smiling, just going about their business while enjoying the music. One of the photographers saw me shooting blank video just to capture the audio, and offered to take my phone down to the photographers' bay at the rear of the stage and shoot some actual video, to which I quickly agreed. It was almost the end of my shift, and when my replacement arrived, I carried my phone down to the photographers' bay myself, shot some images and video of my own, and found that I couldn't stop smiling. When I get them uploaded I will come back and post links.

During my afternoon break I returned to the floor, where I saw that the members of the Oregon delegation had mastered the art of exploiting their excellent seating position to get themselves on television and on the big video board! Because we had the front row of a lengthy section of seats just two steps up from the main floor (in basketball terms, the front row of the 100 level, at midcourt), the TV cameras couldn't resist our lively, diverse, and appealing delegates. It was fun to see people I knew popping up on the video board with amazing frequency. If you've been watching on TV, chances are you've seen someone you know too.

I returned to another backstage post during the early evening after begging my husband to save me a seat for the later speeches. I was afraid that the fire marshal would close the floor and I would not be able to get down there, but I really wanted to sit with Oregon to watch. Luckily it all worked out and by 7:40 I was seated safely with the Oregon delegation. No bottled water for me! I did not want to leave my seat for any reason till it was all over.

I was so glad I got in when I did, because if I had not, I might have missed Jennifer Granholm's speech, and I would not have wanted to miss that for the world.

Friday morning I heard commentators asking if this was the "Clint Eastwood moment of the DNC" and I can only wonder what those people are smoking. This was an amazing speech, tightly focused, packed with facts, and, yes, full of emotion. I'm only sorry Governor Granholm was born in Canada, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. To be in the hall for that speech was one of the most potent emotional experiences I have ever had in politics, as was Congressman Emanuel Cleaver's passionate speech on Wednesday.

I'll never forget either of them.

Joe Biden gave a great speech and so did President Obama. As befits a sitting President still working to fix some terrible problems, it did not soar to the rhetorical heights of 2008 (or for that matter 2004), but it was a wonderful, frank, righteous speech by a man who, as Joe Biden reminds us, has a spine of steel. I didn't need a reminder of why I wanted to vote for him, but for those who did need one, he could not have done better.

After the speech the Podium Security team gathered on the stage for team and group photos, then went out for a drink. After one drink and a little food I returned to the hotel, exhausted, and for the third night in a row fell asleep with the TV and at least one lamp still on. It was a great experience.

Am I better off than I was four years ago? Hell, I'm better off than I was four DAYS ago!

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