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SAMOHI Student Infiltrates DNC:

With ticket scandals and nearly impossible admission, the Hannah Montana concert could have been deemed the most exclusive event of 2008 — that is, until the Democratic National Convention came along. As a sixteen-year-old student from Santa Monica High School, I have found that gaining access to the events of August 25 – 28 is an arduous game based on luck, connections, and networking skills, but is most rewarding.

I had signed up to attend the Convention with a student-run organization, the Junior Statesmen of America. Upon arrival, this group’s leaders informed me that although in prior years gaining access to the convention floor had always been feasible, there were no credentials they could give their students this year; the Secret Service and the Democratic Convention Committee were tightening up on security to the extent that even some governors were not able to attend. I had to acquire credentials on my own somehow.

On Monday, the first day of the Convention, I contacted all the assemblypersons, delegates, and other connections to credentials I knew. It seemed as though nobody had a ticket to spare. I then commuted to Downtown Denver’s Sheraton hotel in hopes of finding a way into the California state delegation breakfast without a ticket. To my luck, Hong Kong Magazine reporters with press passes were able to bring me along into the breakfast with them so I could be among some of our nation’s most active Democrats. I witnessed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speak with ultimate conviction that Senator Barack Obama is the ideal candidate “if you care about seniors, if you care about children, if you care about issues that relate to economic fairness.” In addition, I met a delegate for the 30th Congressional district (which includes Santa Monica), Robert Vanderet, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa told me that he thought this election is most important for his constituents because they “are looking for a change in the White House and a change in America’s direction.”

Although I left the breakfast with no credentials in hand, I departed with more developed networking skills, personal contact information of delegates, and even a few souvenirs. I was later contacted with an uplifting message by a colleague from Santa Monica: an unreserved credential had been found for me to use that night.

As I drew closer to the Pepsi Center, the venue for the Convention, a buzz of excitement from the atmosphere around me made me more and more ecstatic. However, some security fears could not be dismissed by the presence of the police and bomb squads on every corner and the one-block-long line for the security check point. The city and Democratic Party were taking extensive measures to ensure that the event was secure.

Once inside, however, the ambiance of the anticipation for the speeches was incredible. Michelle Obama’s speech was the key address of the evening and with her relatable anecdotes and family-oriented values, I was part of a crowd brought to tears by her words and her hope for a changed America. The presence of her two daughters at the end made the delegates around me laugh and awe at the likeness between the Obamas and the Kennedys. The deafening cheers of the crowd confirmed her address to have been an astonishing beginning to a historical week.

Though I had to be persistent to attend Monday night’s Convention, I am proud that in this new era politics can be accessible to younger generations. The remaining Convention events are expected to be ground-breaking, especially Barack Obama’s nomination address on Thursday evening, and I hope that I and other teenage leaders are able to participate in this wave of change.

Adriana Wong is a junior at Santa Monica High School and can be contacted at [email protected]

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