DNC Journal Entry: Day Nine

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

I will never forget yesterday. I had the opportunity to be on stage with about ten other people with disabilities for the gavel in, the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, and Senator Harkin’s remarks to the audience about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in honor of its 26th anniversary. Senator Harkin has a Deaf brother and always has been a prominent advocate for the disability community. It is too bad that he is not in the Senate anymore! He even taught the audience how to sign “America” and pointed out how fitting that sign is, describing how “we all are brought together and no one is left out in this circle of life that is America”. He went on to talk about how that is the America that Hillary Clinton and all of us want, where it does not matter whether or not one is disabled and everyone is still “respected, valued, and treated with dignity”.

It was very inspiring to stand on the stage at that time, watch thousands of people listen to Harkin about how important it is for our party to value people with disabilities, and see many in the audience applauding in agreement. I am very proud to belong to a party that strongly advocates for disability rights. I knew some other people who were on stage with me from our previous work for the Disability Action for Hillary. One individual even recognized me from Deaf People for Hillary Facebook page! After last night, I am sure all of us are more certain than ever that we are in the right party.

The people who made that ADA celebration happen and arranged for me to be on the stage gave me a floor pass, so I could be on stage during that moment. Afterwards, they told me I could stay on the floor for the rest of evening. I was free to walk around and sit wherever I want. I learned that individuals from Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia state delegations need sign language interpreters, so I assume they are Deaf delegates. I do not know much more though and plan to find out. It will be fantastic to meet and talk with Deaf delegates about their experiences later!

Last night’s speech line-up was terrific and featured people like Elizabeth Banks, Donna Brazile, Cecile Richards, Eric Holder Jr., Madeleine Albright, Meryl Streep, and Lena Dunham. The most emotional part of the night was when Mothers of the Movement came on stage and spoke about how important it is for us to elect Hillary. One mother said Hillary is not afraid to say black lives matter and another said she did not ask to be here or to have her child killed. It was also powerful when all Democratic Congresswomen took the stage and one by one, gave reasons why they are with Hillary. Of course, I cannot forget Bill Clinton. He delivered an eloquent, long speech about Hillary and started it with “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl”. Bill shared personal stories and emphasized how she is “the best darn change-maker” that he has ever known. At one point, he commented on how she has never been satisfied with the status quo and always wants to move forward. His speech was very effective in laying out Hillary’s dedication to public service.

I was there on the floor earlier when the roll call took place and Bernie Sanders moved to suspend the procedural rules and select Hillary as the Democratic nominee. She became the first female nominee of any major party in the United States. That is going down in history books. When it happened, I just stood there and had to take a moment to allow it to sink in. After 240 years of men winning major party nominations and holding the most powerful office in our country, we finally have a female nominee. It is time for us to take another step forward and make her the first female president this November!

Just before the convention was closed for the night, they showed a portrait of every single president of the United States. All 44 of them are males and showing all of their portraits took a while. It forced everyone in the audience to really think how we have never had any female president before. All the male presidents then were put together in a mosaic before it was cracked like a glass ceiling to show a live video of Hillary from New York. That sent chills up my spine. Hillary looked like a badass boss when she showed up. I simply love how she acted entitled to win this nomination after all these years, just like men did when they won theirs.

I will tell my children stories about this day and how I was there when Hillary made history! Some feel like she should not focus so much on this historic moment, but I think dedicating a portion of this night to its historic significance is worthwhile, especially as the rest of the night already was about highlighting other parts of Hillary like her commitment to public service.IMG_2506

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Eight

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar last week and am doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Eight

On the first day of the convention, I took a subway to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and attended the disability council meeting. Among the speakers at the meeting were people with whom I worked on Hillary’s campaign this year and got to know more from Disability Action for Hillary group. I had to see and talk with them before the meeting, as I only knew some of them through emails and finally met them in person for the first time yesterday. I might have only met them a day ago, but it does not feel that way. Because of the work we did together and the goal of electing Hillary as the next president that we share, they kind of feel like my Hillary family and I was super excited to connect with my beloved Hillary people.

One wonderful individual I know is blind and we never had any problem communicating through emails. We both are here for the convention and wanted to meet in person. Since I am Deaf and she is blind, I did have doubts about whether or not we would be able to communicate effectively in person yet I also knew we would find a way. With the use of technology, we ended up being able to communicate directly using Siri and an app that translates from text to speech. Technology is amazing, indeed. If it were not for our association with Disability Action for Hillary, we probably would never have attempted and found a way to chat in person. Campaigns certainly do bring people together! After hearing several powerful speeches, I left and headed over to the Wells Fargo Center for my 3 pm shift with other Gallaudet students and faculty members who are also assigned to the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC).

It was surreal to be inside the Wells Fargo Center when the DNC officially kicked off last night. As a political junkie, I could not get over the fact that I was actually here during this historic moment. With all the important speeches and protests taking place last night, it was like the epitome of American politics. I had the chance to see several speakers on the floor and I do not think I will ever forget that moment!

I have never ever met and seen so many prominent politicians and famous individuals in one day, as I did last night while screening attendees’ credentials and making sure they were in the right place. The first important people I met were Patrick Kennedy and his wife, Amy. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is his uncle. Patrick and Amy were quite friendly. Patrick mentioned how he remembers Gallaudet University very well from his time as a U.S. Congressman and commented about it fondly. I also spoke with Benjamin Jealous, a former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president, and Betty McCollum, a Congresswoman representing Minnesota. It turns out that she is friends with Bobbi Cordano, the new President of Gallaudet University. Sometimes we forget how small the world can be, even for hearing politicians and that many important politicians do have connections with Deaf people.

DNC Journal Entry: Day Five

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Five

This morning, we had the opportunity to tour the Wells Fargo Center where the Democratic National Convention (DNC) will take place, which gave me a better idea of where I will be doing my fieldwork placement. My fieldwork placement is with the DNC Committee in the Wells Fargo Center. I will get more information about my duties during the training tomorrow evening. I start on Monday and my shifts will be from 5pm to 11pm-1am. What time I finish will vary every night.

My two primary goals during the convention are to make connections with people involved with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, especially in the disability area, and meet people in the Maryland state delegation. I also want to attend at least one caucus meeting, such as the one for women. I am curious to see what a caucus meeting is like.

As I am currently doing Deaf People for Hillary capstone project, I will benefit from making connections in Hillary’s campaign. It may help with what I plan to do for my project this fall. I already know a Hillary delegate, who is heavily involved with the disability community, and we plan to meet sometime during the convention. I will go from there and see who else I can meet and make connections with for future endeavors.

Regarding my second goal, I would love to be part of Maryland state delegation someday. I have been much more involved with politics on the national level, but I think if I really want to pursue a career in politics, it is important for me to meet and get to know people from my state. There are numerous ways in how I can work with my state for changes.

I will contact several Maryland delegates through social media and see what is the best way to meet with them. If I happen to see Maryland delegates at the convention, I plan to approach them and introduce myself. The Maryland state delegation’s official hotel is the Hilton Inn at Penn, so I may stop by at their hotel and see with whom I may be able to talk to. Without a doubt, next week will be an exciting one, filled with opportunities to meet new people and witness herstory in the making!

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See a white podium in the background? This is where Hillary Clinton will be nominated as the first female presidential candidate of a major party in the United States!

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Six

Day Six

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I attended an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Last Thursday, I went to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Volunteer Kickoff party at Penn’s Landing. I do not think I have ever seen so many American flags at one event before! I loved how patriotic the party was. They gave out a lot of free food, beers, and things for volunteers. There were even mini decorative American flags for us to bring home! I ended up bumping into the same woman I met a day earlier at the Hillary Clinton campaign office where some of us made official signs for the DNC. That woman loved our Deaf-related signs and asked if she could post pictures of us on her Facebook. It turns out that she is also a volunteer for the convention! Again, it is a small world. Perhaps, both Hillary and Deaf worlds are small!

As I had some free time today before my DNC training in the evening, I took the opportunity to go to different Political Fest exhibits around the city. Philadelphia is hosting numerous events during the DNC like Political Fest. It is a series of political-related events & exhibits in different parts of Philadelphia. With my credentials, I have free access to all Political Fest attractions. In one location near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, I saw the actual last “safe car” that John Fitzgerald Kennedy rode in only a few hours before he was fatally shot. I also saw a replica of the fuselage in Air Force One.

There was also a huge campaign button collection shop in the Political Fest and I loved seeing vintage campaign buttons of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro’s campaign. Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential nominee of a major party in the United States and I felt like it was fitting for me to see her buttons right before the first female is nominated for president by a major party. We cannot forget the strong women who blazed the trail for Hillary.

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Four

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Four

Even though we briefly covered immigration earlier, we did not get to examine the topic in-depth until today. Philippe Weisz, who is an attorney from HIAS Pennsylvania, a non-profit agency that offers legal services for immigrants, explained that immigration has been a controversial issue for decades, but there has been no federal immigration reform in a while. He also presented charts that show how notoriously high crime rates are in Central America’s Northern Triangle, which consists of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many people in the Northern Triangle sought asylum in the United States because of how dangerous it is in their homelands.

In order to address the immigration issue, I strongly believe that the United States should also look into problems in the Northern Triangle and try to deal with them. We can pass immigration reforms and encounter the immigration issue inside our country, but in order to fix the entire problem, we need to look at the bigger picture. How can we address immigration completely without looking at its origins? There is a reason why people left their countries and if it is resolved, immigration may become less of a problem later.

Our next presenter, Jon Scott, ended up touching on immigration during his lecture about macroeconomics. Regardless of how controversial immigration may be, it can be good for our economy. Scott argued that immigrants usually do the work that Americans would not do in the first place anyway and it is shown that immigrants do not lower Americans’ wages or hurt them in general. They actually can help raise Americans’ wages. Immigrants with limited English take the lowest skilled jobs from Americans with better English skills and these Americans with enough English skills have the opportunity to move up the ladder. If it were not for these immigrants, these Americans would be stuck doing the lowest skilled jobs just because there is nobody else who can do them. However, immigrants give Americans who are qualified the opportunity to move up and earn higher wages.

Scott also mentioned how many of our start-up businesses are established by our immigrants and we clearly benefit from start-up businesses. Based on these facts, it seems like immigrants do help our country. It would not make sense to bar immigrants completely and lose opportunities that they give Americans. We cannot forget that immigrants founded the American government and they are part of our roots. Our government was established on immigrants’ values, such as working hard, so allowing immigrants with regulations only would retain these values in our country.

Aside from immigration, we also discussed polarization in the United States with Matt Levendusky, a professor from Penn State. The Republican National Convention (RNC) is taking place this week and except for Ted Cruz, a good number of prominent Republican politicians are endorsing Trump now even if they clearly dislike him. Their endorsements may seem surprising. No matter how much they might have loathed Trump, they ultimately chose him over Hillary. For the sake of not allowing Hillary become the next president, they are supporting Trump, regardless of how unqualified they probably know he is. I find this truly fascinating. It is a bit sad that the issue of polarization has gone so far that politicians now only endorse a candidate just to stop another candidate from winning without even doing minimal qualification screenings of their own candidate. In the RNC, people are so focused on bashing Hillary and chanting, “lock her up” that they have not truly looked into their own candidate.

 

 

DNC Journal Entry: Day Three

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Three

We started our morning by having an ABC television reporter, Matt O’Donnell, talk with us about the relationship between media and the 2016 election. He believes that many Americans seem angry today mainly because of the echo chamber effect. The echo chamber effect refers to situations when people think a certain way after hearing about a certain view so many times. Being exposed to political news all the time, which is mostly negative, results in most Americans becoming frustrated with politics.

O’Donnell goes on to discuss how while news outlets have the responsibility of informing the public about what is going on in the world, they cannot bore the audience. In order not to lose news viewers, they have to find the balance between informing and entertaining them. O’Donnell compared the difference between social media and the news by using the washing machine analogy. He said unlike social media, the news is like washing clothes in a washing machine because you are guaranteed to get clean clothes after putting them in a washing machine, like you are guaranteed to receive reliable information from the news. While I do agree with him that the news may be more reliable than social media, I do not think the news is always clean due to their biases.

O’Donnell calls the Internet the today’s version of the Wild West. This parallels with what Obama said recently when he criticized the media for not holding candidates accountable. With the Internet, presidential candidates manage to receive plenty coverage even when they present plans that cannot work and make promises that they cannot keep. The Internet may have influenced the news outlets to stoop to its level and broadcast candidates’ unrealistic platforms. I understand why Obama complained about this and I have to agree with him on this one.                   However, influence of the Internet is not all bad. O’Donnell did acknowledge that social media encourages more participation and removes some shells that the news outlets used to have in the past. I certainly think so, as social media gives people more power over the news. People had fewer opportunities to share their opinions and criticize the news before the existence of social media, so it did give us more power. Right before O’Donnell wrapped up his speech, he mentioned that today was the first time he had someone interpret for him in American Sign Language (ASL). How cool!

Next, we heard from Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Seth Williams, who talked about the importance of being involved with making changes. He is the first African-American District Attorney in Pennsylvania, so he has quite a history of breaking down barriers. Williams emphasized how one cannot continue complaining if one is not willing to be part of the solution and it is simply important to try. He said when people compliment him, they do not mention how many times he failed. The point is that it does not matter how often you fail when you try, as it will eventually lead to succeeding. This goes for any minority group or individual who is facing some struggles.

The next speaker, Nichola Gutgold, spoke about the history of female presidential candidates and what they went through. Even though the earliest women who ran for president knew they might not have any chance of winning, they had to try in order to pave a path for Hillary Clinton and other future female politicians. No change can happen if people do not try, so again, the most important thing is to put in some effort and change will eventually take place. Hillary’s loss in 2008 is a good example. After losing the 2008 primary election to President Obama, Hillary did not break the glass ceiling completely and still faced barriers, yet she did not give up. Instead, she went on to become the Secretary of State and experienced more barriers around the world where some countries refused to recognize her as a female diplomat and treated her as an honorary man. That did not stop Hillary from fighting for women’s rights worldwide though. Hillary ultimately reached where she is right now as the current Democratic nominee because she did not give up in 2008 and continued to try making changes. This is an invaluable lesson to remember.

We continued this discussion during our small group meeting in the afternoon and applied it to other minority groups like Latinos and immigrants. No matter how often we fail in making changes that we want, we must continue fighting and that will make a difference in the end. Taking this lesson of the day to our hearts, a few of us went to a Hillary campaign office to make official Democratic National Convention signs. We attempted to increase the visibility of Deaf people in these signs. We may have a long way to go when it comes to Deaf awareness, but we may as well start somewhere. Look for these signs on television next week!

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DNC Journal Entry: Day Two

Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy! 

Day Two

This morning, three professors from different universities, each with various expertise and backgrounds, talked about finance, trade, and foreign policy factors in the 2016 election. These topics may not be as exciting or discussed as much as others during the election, but it can still be worthwhile to learn about them. First, Robin Kolodny focused on campaign finance, briefed us about its history, and highlighted current campaign finance issues in this election. After we learned more about campaign finance, Alexandra Guisinger talked with us about the general American opinion on trade. Right before stopping for lunch, Ronald Granieri described the role of foreign policy in past elections and compared current candidates’ takes on foreign policy.

One thing related to campaign finance that I learned today is how candidates of major political parties can receive public funding for their campaigns. Public funding consists of two parts – primary matching funds and general election funding. If you have filled out a federal income tax form before, you probably remember a box that you can voluntarily check to give three dollars of your taxes to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Public funding is completely made up of this tax money, thanks to people who checked that box on their tax forms. Candidates can receive public funding for their campaigns as long as they agree to not raise more than a certain amount of money.

Candidates in the past used this public funding, but no candidate did in 2012 because it seemed like winning the election required using more money than the public funding rules allowed. In fact, candidates are not allowed to coordinate with their political party about spending if they use public funds. Giving up that teamwork may be a bad strategy, so some candidates opt out of general funding completely. Primaries can impact candidates financially, depending on how long they last. Hillary Clinton could not get any general funding until after Bernie Sanders dropped out. The longer he stayed in the race, the longer her campaign had to operate without general funding no matter how obvious it was that she clinched the nomination.

There are also complications involved with following campaign finance, as it is difficult to track where all campaign money comes from and goes to. For instance, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can transfer the money that her supporters donated her to the national party in order to help with the presidential election or any other important federal election. There is no limit for how much money can be transferred between certain candidates/local committees and national parties, so money you donated to a certain Congressperson may end up being used to help fund a presidential candidate’s campaign.

Moving on to trade, it turns out that the U.S. policy on free trade does not correlate with public opinion. While our policy strongly encourages free trade, Americans generally do not support it. It may be because Americans do not know much about trade. Approximately 60% of Americans think China is our top trade partner, but it is actually Canada. If more Americans are aware of this, they may have a more positive view of free trade and less protectionist demands.

Politicians do not often discuss trade in depth, as it is a complicated matter. When it comes to trade, there is no one right answer and one wrong answer. Whether or not free trade is good may depend on where you live. Free trade helps some areas tremendously, but others take hard hits from it. Even so, it is not always crystal clear if free trade helps or hurts your town. It can be both in some cases. For instance, people assume free trade only hurt some cities in Ohio, such as Toledo, yet it is not completely true. While free trade might hurt some parts of these towns, it also helped others. These towns are known for exporting many products and free trade only enhanced their exporting business. There is a reason why Sanders, who is against any free trade agreement, did not win Ohio. At first glance, it may seem like free trade hurt these Ohio towns, but it is more complicated than that. The media tends to focus on negative consequences of free trade agreements, such as how they hurt some towns like Detroit, more than it focuses on their benefits and how they helped certain towns.

How foreign policy is used in elections is indeed fascinating. It certainly has changed over the time. Before the Cold War, American presidential candidates could ignore foreign policy during their campaigns, but this has not been possible since the United States attained its superpower status. I found it interesting how some presidents managed to navigate their way to win the election without having much foreign policy experience. For Bill Clinton, he did it by focusing on the economy. Remember his famous saying, “It’s the economy stupid”? By shifting the problem from foreign policy to the economy, his lack of foreign policy experience did not matter. His vice-president, Al Gore, did not have much experience either. Since the economy was shown as the problem, people did not care about how little foreign policy experience they had.

The 2016 election is different for Republicans, especially in the area of foreign policy. Republicans used to own the foreign policy issue during the Cold War era, but now with Donald Trump being their party nominee, it will be difficult for them to maintain their good foreign policy reputation. It does not get any better that Trump’s opponent, Clinton, was the nation’s top diplomat and has abundant experience in foreign policy. Former Republican candidates struggled to criticize Trump’s lack of seriousness about foreign policy in primaries, as they did not want to end up looking like dorks and help Trump win the fun guy title. As for Clinton, she has to defend her Secretary of State record and still keep her distance from other things like foreign policy conflicts during Obama’s second term. She does not want to seem too affiliated with Obama’s administration and Department of State in the second term, as she was not in charge of it at that time. Obama still can be a good asset for her campaign this fall, so she cannot distance herself too much in general and has to find a balance. We will see more about how both candidates deal with foreign policy when it gets closer to the general election!