While most Georgetown students were crowded around their televisions to watch Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) historic acceptance speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention, one Hoya was actually a part of the cheering crowd of thousands at Invesco Field in Denver. Francis Gieringer (COL ’11), an Oregon resident, served as a page at the convention and got a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the political processes of the Democratic Party.

Why did you apply to be a page?

It was the third summer that I interned with the Democratic Party of Oregon. During winter break, I swung by the headquarters and the executive director asked me how I would like to go to the convention and I said I would love to. Their part is trying to get their pages who helped over the summer to help during the convention. After an interview process, I received a call in front of the World War II Memorial that said I had gotten the position, and I was ecstatic.

What did your duties as a page entail?

Whatever the delegates ask you to do within reason. We’d get up every morning at 6 a.m. and make sure that everything was ready for the delegate breakfast. Our most important job in the morning was making sure that all the correct credentials were there, which arrived with an armed guard. We made sure that all the delegates and alternates were set to go and that all their questions were answered. Another part of our job was making sure we had the correct number of seats and that we kept wandering groups of people away from our seats (which actually wasn’t that hard because Oregon had horrible seats). We’d coordinate switching out delegates and alternates so they’d get some time on the floor.

Voting is slightly complicated, and it changed midway through the convention. We made sure everyone had voted and then entered the votes in the computer and checked them with the secretary’s office. Then, we go through delegate roll call, which is a time for states to express their individuality and give little speeches. When it got to New Mexico’s roll call, they ceded the floor to Illinois, who ceded the floor to New York, when Hillary Clinton moved to nominate by acclamation and give Obama the nomination by majority vote. It wasn’t her decision, but there had been some tension between some very die-hard Clinton delegates and Obama delegates. They were really trying to bring back party unity, so they decided against roll call, which would bring up contention. Mostly, it was symbolic in that it tried to affirm party unity.

Are you a longtime Obama supporter?

I was actually a Clinton supporter during the primary, but I am now a strong Obama supporter. It was a very hard decision for me to make – I was torn. I wholeheartedly support Obama, and I think he’ll make an excellent president. He has the right priorities to get the nation back on track. His nomination speech – I was very impressed. It was an excellent speech. He hit it out of the park.

Did you have the opportunity to meet any famous politicians?

I got to meet a lot of famous Oregon politicians. I actually ran into Madeleine Albright – she was one of the few to walk through the crowd to get out of the center. I asked her why she was missing the first day of class and she said, “I know, but when we get back, if you need a pass, you can come see me.” The ABC [News] box wasn’t too far away, so every day we got to see Charlie Gibson. A lot of politicians gave their speeches and then disappeared behind the curtains. You run into a lot of people in the hallway, but it is after the fact that you realize who they are.

Did any aspect of the convention surprise you?

The convention itself is very full of surprises. The watchword of the day is fluid because things are always changing. What surprised me most was how really emotional people were – that this was really a cornerstone of American democracy. It is interesting to see that at play. What also surprised me was the participation we had. In 2004, 400 people were running for delegate positions. In 2008, there were 1,800. We had a huge increase in participation.

Can you describe the energy of the convention?

Almost enthusiasm beyond measure. People are excited to be there. At the end of Obama’s speech, it was really the highlight. It was not just politics or rhetoric; it was something that people really believe in. It was very emotional. The awesomeness of being there, with 70 to 80,000 people coming in to see Obama’s acceptance speech. The energy was everywhere – it’s hard to describe. The feeling of excitement was palpable.

What did you do in your downtime, if you had any?

Sleep. You don’t get any sleep. You’re up at 6 a.m., convention business gets out at 9 a.m. and there’s usually a reception that goes till 12 or 1 p.m., and then it takes an hour to get back to your hotel, if you’re lucky. A lot of the best stuff was at the conventions.

What was your favorite reception?

y favorite was the Whistle Stop Reception, sponsored by Union Pacific. They brought two lines of vintage railcars, complete with sleeping, dining and smoking cars, to hold the reception. You could get your picture at the back of the car in the classic presidential pose.

Do you hope to attend the next DNC?

Well, four years from now it might be nice to try to run for a delegate position. It might be fun now that I’ve been behind the scenes to run as a delegate or go as an alternate. It was definitely an experience worth repeating.

Do you feel that young people are more involved in this election than in past elections?

I think a lot of people are more involved. There was a 17-year-old delegate there. And looking at people who ran for delegate positions in Oregon, there were a lot more young people. Not just necessarily because of Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton brought in a lot of people also. These two fantastic candidates brought out the spirit of change, and it was really very nice to see.

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