A St. Catharine College employee had the chance to rub elbows with like-minded people last week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Amy Bland, administrative assistant for the office of advancement at SCC, punched her ticket to the DNC with one of the Kentucky delegates selected by Governor Steve Beshear.
Bland attended the convention with good friend and Kentucky Young Democrat President Liz Fossett.
While they saw a variety of celebrities and political figures, she didn’t get to spend any time with President Barack Obama.
“Unfortunately, I had zero one-on-one time with the POTUS [President of the United States],” she said. “Although, we did experience what it was like to see traffic (buses, cars, pedestrians) rerouted and blocked when the FLOTUS [First Lady of the United States] came to town (last) Tuesday night.
Bland said she had received a credential to see the president speak last Thursday night, though she later found out the event had been moved inside of Time Warner Arena due to a chance of bad weather.
It rained all week, she said, so she understood the decision. At the same time, however, she was disappointed.
“Would I have been willing to sit in the rain, with only a poncho to protect me, for hours on end? Yeah, probably,” she said. “But it would have made a lot of people miserable, even unable, to do so had the weather been ugly.”
The most disappointing part? Not a drop of rain fell on Thursday, she said.
The best part of the experience, she said, was the diverse - yet like-minded - crowd.
“When you looked around, whether you were on the sidewalk, at a party, or visiting the convention center, you saw people of all ethnicities, different religions, young, old, disabled, LGBT, veterans,” she said. “The categories of people present was diverse. Yet, it was inspiring to know that we were all there for the same reason. We were strangers, but partners at the same time.”
Bland said she joked that when looking around, the scene mimicked a Girl Scouts cookies box, in that the mix of race, gender and overall diversity was choreographed.
She added that if other state delegations are like Kentucky, a certain percentage of delegates must belong to minority groups.
Last Thursday, she attended a watch party for everyone from Kentucky.
“It was so moving to listen to our vice president and president speak to the hearts of so many,” she said. “I’m even more confident that they will continue to fight for me, for the middle class, for equal rights for all and for our growing economy.”
Former Kentucky Young Democrats President Terry McBrayer was there, she said, and shared some wisdom.
“He shared lots of great advice with us, including the importance of never assuming someone already knows what you’re talking about when you’re talking about it,” she said. “In politics, so many people speak for the good or the bad of one piece of legislature or another. But so often it goes over people’s heads because they’re just not aware of what you’re talking about.”
McBrayer’s message, she said, was to share the facts with people, to make them aware without embarrassing them.
Bland ran into other celebrities and political figures, as well.
She said she bought tickets to see former President Bill Clinton and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas musical group. They later found out Kentuckian Ashley Judd and actor Adrian Grenier would also be there.
“It was so amazing,” she said. “President Clinton is arguably the greatest President of the 20th century. And Ashley Judd? She is an amazing role model for women in Kentucky and all over the world. She’s a self-proclaimed feminist who stands up for the rights of women everywhere.”
Not to mention, she bleeds Kentucky Wildcat blue, Bland said.
She and her group also ran into Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, who stopped to take pictures with them. At a party hosted by the Democratic Governors Association, they were greeted by actor Jeff Bridges.
Then, at a welcome party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, she nearly brushed shoulders - literally - with Nick Cannon (singer Mariah Carey’s husband).
“After taking several stalker-esque pictures of him from afar, he actually walked right past us, and was mere inches away before I realized it,” she said.
It wasn’t all politics and celebrities, though.
Last Wednesday, the Kentucky delegation and their guests took a bus to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where they “suited up, got strapped in tight and took three invigorating laps at 165 mph.”
“While I’m not a NASCAR fan, I can definitely see now why so many people find it so exciting,” she said.
She also attended Carolina Fest, which is a local festival that celebrated Labor Day and the DNC.
“It was quite crowded, with just a few more people than I’ve ever seen at Ham Days,” she said.
The food, she said, was also superb.
She highly recommended The King’s Kitchen, which serves up a unique business idea.
According to the restaurant’s website, she said, 100 percent of their profits go to feed the poor in Charlotte, the region and the world. The business also partners with local ministries to provide jobs for Charlotte residents in search of a fresh start.
“Might I add, it was some of the best food, made with fresh, local ingredients, and the most gracious service I’ve ever received,” she said.
Overall, Bland said she felt honored to be a part of the national event with a group of young, like-minded citizens.
“I can’t say if I would ever run for office, but I can’t say that I won’t, either,” she said. “I’ve always had a desire to serve others, and as a volunteer for many different organizations, I always feel blessed to have the ability to do so.”
Bland is the president of the Marion County Young Democrats and said the group is always looking for new members. She is a Marion County resident.