Monday, September 3, 2012

An Historic Moment - 2004 Republican National Convention

In 2004 my daughter was entering her senior year of high school, and interested in politics. She had an exciting junior year since the New Hampshire primary was underway.  Many young people in New Hampshire every four years find themselves in the swirl of excitement with visiting candidates, news media and local events.  She was at the right age, at the right time to find all this very alluring and intriguing.  When she found out that she could attend the National party conventions with the Junior Statesmen she jumped on the chance to see politics at a much higher level.

When she found out that she had been accepted to be a delegate with the Junior Statesmen at both party conventions, she was ecstatic!  However, family finances being what they were, we told her she had to make a choice.  The Democratic Convention in 2004 was being held in Boston, and the Republican Convention in New York City.  Both were within driving distance (thank goodness for me!).  She had no political affiliation to either side, so the decision came down to location.  She finally decided that New York would be the more exotic locale and she chose to attend that one.  This is a very important point when you are a teenager.

Madison Square Garden 2004

It was fun to see the convention through the eyes of a teenager.  Of course, the political platform of the candidates were not as important as the excitement around the entire convention.  Media stars, collecting buttons, and getting INTO the actual convention were the most important things to her that week.  The Junior Statesmen attended outside events from neighborhood level meetings, meeting the mayor of New York, the Governor and even going to the United Nations.  But getting inside the security line of Madison Square Garden was not included except for tours and day events.

However, the kids soon learned that schmoozing is a big part of politics.  She was the only kid there from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts while there were about a dozen kids each from bigger states like California.  The imbalance was in her favor.  She was invited to the delegates breakfasts of all four of those New England States, and attended for New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At each she received a goodie bag full of cool stuff, but the most important were the passes to get INSIDE Madison Square garden.  Now she suddenly had four passes to share (two from each state for the week) and she was the most popular kid!  Her passes were for the nosebleed section in the rafters, but they were still inside.

Pins, pins, and more pins!

She also learned that schmoozing got her places, like her elevator talks in the extremely crowded elevators at her hotel right across the street from Madison Square Garden.  She met delegates in the elevators from most of the states in the union, and each one offered her passes, buttons, business cards, and even scholarship applications and other goodies.  She schmoozed her way into the CNN cafĂ©.  She schmoozed her way into passing out brochures to delegates on the floor of the hall (better than sitting in the rafters).  She collected pins from all types of delegates, protestors, media companies, and other folks through trading, swapping and just asking – “I love your pin, how do I get one of those?”

The CNN Cafe (media only) across
from the Madison Square Garden

 She even schmoozed her way into sitting on the second level of Madison Square Garden on the last night.  Unknown to her she was sitting in the booth right next to the candidate’s family.  Since the candidate was George Bush, this meant that his parents (ex-president Bush and his wife) and the Bush daughters were sitting there.  A secret service agent stood behind her during the entire night, but did not question her pass.  My daughter was a bit nervous, but instead of sneaking out at the end of the night she tried the ultimate schmooze- chatting up the secret service!  She actually said to him “That’s a great pin.  How can I get one of those?” and pointed to his secret service pin on his lapel.  He said that it was a special pin for guarding the first family.  She knew that there would be no pin trading with this guy.  However, after the famous balloon drop,  as she was leaving Madison Square Garden he tapped her on the shoulder and handed her the pin right off his lapel!  It is now the most prized pin in her collection.

Over this week in New York my daughter learned a lot about history, politics, political protesting and the political media circuses surrounding events like the national party conventions.  She also learned that the delegates attending were more than happy to chat up young people, share ideas (as well as pins!) and encourage them to continue their interest in politics.  I’m sure she will never forget her time in Madison Square Garden in 2004.  She entered college planning to major in international relations, but soon changed that to public relations.  With all the schmoozing skills she perfected in New York, it was a perfect choice for her!

Junior Statesmen of America

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. That's a pretty awesome story. I think it would be neat to attend a convention but I'm not a "people person" so I'd never be able to achieve what your daughter did!

  2. I really enjoyed this post - what a great adventure! Your daughter has learned skills that will take her far.