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In what is arguably the most anticipated event of the summer, more than 50,000 Democrats will converge on Denver’s Pepsi Center Aug. 25-28 for the Democratic National Convention. While this gathering will be glutted with the who’s who of polit

In what is arguably the most anticipated event of the summer, more than 50,000 Democrats will converge on Denver’s Pepsi Center Aug. 25-28 for the Democratic National Convention.

While this gathering will be glutted with the who’s who of politics, business and even Hollywood, the undisputed star of the show will be Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrat’s presumptive nominee for president.

“This is an inspiring, engaging celebration of Barack Obama and his vision for America,” said Damon Jones, spokesman for the Democratic National Convention Committee.

And for a majority of the convention’s 4,439 delegates, it will be the chance to show their ultimate support for the senator—casting their votes to elect him the Democratic Party’s official presidential nominee.

“I wanted to be intimately involved in this campaign,” said Jeff Hart, an at-large delegate from Denver and Obama supporter.

“Obama’s the only candidate that can bring our country together— Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Blacks and whites, rich and poor, urban and rural—to heal the country and heal the world,” he said.

But first, the candidate and the Democratic Party will have to heal the breach opened up during the primaries. Supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have called for her name to be on the ballot, and some supporters have even said they will protest if proper recognition isn’t given to the New York senator during the convention.

“There’s a special effort behind Clinton supporters to bring us all together to defeat McCain, and that’s going to be an ongoing process because you have some individuals who supported Clinton and don’t want to come over,” said at-large delegate James Tucker of Colorado Springs.

Obama and Clinton have been negotiating ways to give voice to her millions of supporters while furthering the convention’s ultimate goal, but it would demand the cooperation of her devotees.

"I hope that 100 percent of her delegates will honor the joint decision of Clinton and Obama,” Hart said. “I believe that Sen. Clinton and Obama understand that the most important thing to come out of this convention is 100 percent unity behind Sen. Obama.”

That theme of unity has been incorporated into all aspects of the convention.

For example, on Aug. 24, the convention will kick off with the first ever interfaith service, which, Jones said, “reflects our desire to bring a number of people under our big tent in the spirit of unity.”

The nightly themes also reflect Obama’s mantras of unity and change.

“Millions of Americans are facing tough challenges every day, (and) they know we can’t afford four more years of the same old divisive politics that are light on policy specifics, and ways to help people and heavy on cynicism and negativity,” said Convention Co-Chair and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius about the themes in a statement.

“From Monday through Thursday, our convention program will highlight the people of this country who want positive change and who believe Barack Obama is the leader who will listen to their concerns and get our country moving in the right direction again.”

To demonstrate that willingness to listen, the DNC hosted listening forums in the months leading up to the convention, which allowed average citizens to contribute to the party’s platform.

“This lays out what the party stands for, its vision and its plan of action,” Jones said. “And this year, there was a real effort to make sure voices from all across America are heard.”

Jones continued, "We’ve been committed to making it more open than it has ever been and to make the local community feel a part of the convention. And that’s what influenced our decision to move the last day’s program to INVESCO Field at Mile High, which will allow more than 75,000 citizens to stand shoulder-to-shoulder behind Sen. Obama.”

That event has created “an awful lot of excitement” in Denver, Hart said. Already, some 60,000 Coloradans have submitted requests for tickets.

Beyond that event, however, people are excited about the convention in general. Residents and businesses have been sprucing up their properties, and bartenders and waitresses at downtown establishments are preparing to offer their best service to the flood of guests.

And there seems to be a renewed interest in the Democratic Party and Sen. Obama as well, Hart added. Hundreds of new volunteers have come forward for the Obama Campaign for Change like those who gathered at his house over the weekend, and a monthly Denver Democratic Party forum was filled to the rafters.

“For all those people who say they don’t know who Sen. Obama is, after this convention, they’ll know exactly who he is and what he stands for,” Hart predicted.

Colorado is a swing state, its politics juxtaposed between conservative cities like Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and the Denver suburbs, and liberal college towns like Boulder and Fort Collins and metropolitan Denver. The state can also boast to electing President Bill Clinton in 1992 and later electing President George W. Bush in 2000.

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers

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Photo by Associated Press/Alex Brandon

Copyright 2008 NNPA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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