And so I choose…

From the start, I knew that I would be part of history; that no matter what happened, for years to come this convention in Philadelphia would be talked about as a seminal moment in our nation’s history.  I brought home souvenirs for my boys and for my someday grandchildren and theirs as well.  I want them to do reports at school and bring in artifacts and tell their friends and teachers, “MY mother did this–she was there and she fought for me.”  I want them to read about it in their history books and to know that the world that they have inherited is a better place because I went to Philadelphia and I tried.  And I wasn’t alone.  For four days in a sweltering Philadelphia summer in 2016, 1,893 delegates elected to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders, entered the lion’s den of Democratic politics and fought for a better world and a better future.  And when it was over, we were exhausted, disappointed, angry, and sickened by a system so corrupt that it could not even acknowledge that it had been caught but instead demanded a lock-step unity that a scant few of us could embrace.  The history books will focus on the politics and the fight, but they will never be able to capture the fullness of my journey and what I experienced. It was so much more than political.  I want my children and grandchildren and theirs to know the truth of my experience in Philadelphia…

And so I choose to remember the love.

Ours is a movement driven by love, love for the planet, love for our fellow man, love for each other.  We embraced and celebrated truth, justice, mercy, and love, and we came together to push for a world that could live or might live closer to those ideals.   We are a nation that fetishizes youth, but it was the wisdom of a 74 year-old Senator with a thick Brooklyn accent who lead a campaign larger than all of us that was predicated on one simple command:  Love one another.

And so I choose to remember the love.

That love started poking into my consciousness with the first GoFundMe donations.  Motivated to make their voices heard and their votes count, people GAVE ME MONEY to help me get to Philadelphia.  It is easy to give money to a cause, it is much harder to receive it.  How can I not be humbled and nourished  and overwhelmed by comments like these:  

     “Make us proud!”

     “Don’t have much–but Bern, baby Bern!!!” (This, with a $5.00 donation–one that               brought tears to my eyes.)

     “Please go and vote for Bernie on my behalf.”

     “I thank you for your dedication and compassion to the human condition and the Bernie      Sanders people revolution. You were there for us that had to watch on the sidelines. You      are so appreciated.”

Friends gave, but so did total strangers motivated only by the hope that my vote would be their voice. The folks at Adopt-A-Bernie-Delegate validated and promoted this effort and I have no idea which of my contributions were a result of their effort, but strangers–fellow Berniecrats–gave.  Imagine clicking on Michigan and scrolling down to find ME and somehow deciding to send me money.  I am both grateful and gobsmacked that there are such generous people on this planet.  Feeling like Sally Field…they chose me.

And so I choose to remember the love.

(This is the thank you video sent out by the wonderful folks at Adopt A Bernie Delegate–I send my thanks to them!)

I knew just a few of my fellow Michigan delegates before arriving in Philadelphia.  More of us had conversed through posts on our private Facebook pages and Slack groups, but meeting them face to face felt less like a first encounter and more like a family reunion. There were hugs and pep talks and a camaraderie achieved only through ordeal by fire.  We took care of each other in the intense heat on the streets, as well as in the Wells Fargo Center.  We processed our emotions and plotted our plans, and in each other we found strength. These Michiganders will be coming home to continue the fight.  Some will continue as activists and some are already running for office.  Each of us will make a way in the new progressive organizations that are springing up out of Bernie’s campaign and in the Democratic Party.  The world already is a better place, for each of these beautiful souls is fighting for it to be so.  I am blessed to be in their company.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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With just a few of my Bernie delegate family. Love them all.

The streets of Philadelphia were filled with protesters and activists, with signs, speeches and songs.  The Olympics in Rio are on tv as I type, and I now can imagine what it feels like to be an Olympian, for walking through the streets of Philadelphia, that’s how the delegates were treated. People cheered for us and thanked us, and urged us to vote for them for Bernie.  They cleared the path as we walked through and celebrated the job we had been elected to do.  It was intoxicating, uplifting and healing.  And more than anything, it was hopeful.   The media covered the activists as if they were on the brink of burning down the city–and the media undoubtedly hoped that they were. NOTHING could be further from the truth.

And so I choose to remember the love.

The heat was unbearable, especially on the first day, and it was on that day that the buses ran late and many of us ended up waiting outside at midday waiting for transportation from the Philadelphia Convention Center to the Wells Fargo Center.  The next day, Bruce, my new friend and fellow delegate, and I decided to skip the buses and take the subway instead.  We were celebrated as we walked past the protests in front of City Hall, and when we asked directions to the subway we were engulfed in a kind of group hug that escorted us to the subway steps.  The subway was cooler than the street and we were grateful to sit down.  Thus began the most magical subway ride of my life.  We sat with Bernie supporters, two friends who had traveled from Illinois and Indiana to take part in the moment.  They were thrilled to be sitting next to actual delegates and told us how much our votes for Bernie meant to them.  Through us, their voices would be heard and they encouraged us to stay strong.  At that point, none of us realized that our votes had actually been cast that morning at breakfast, and we all still held out a glimmer of hope that the “vote” that evening would be in Bernie’s, in our, favor.  They were excited and proud and hopeful.  “Please vote for us: vote for Bernie!”  At the second to last stop anyone who wasn’t credentialed had to leave the subway.  As we stood to let our seatmates exit, both women hugged me and Bruce.  Imagine–total strangers, now friends, hugging on the subway.  Only a movement based on love can create that kind of moment.  Bruce likes to tell how the 2 young ladies with Clinton credentials stood in front of us during the ride and never so much as smiled.  When the seats became available next to us, these young ladies chose instead to remain standing.  Their loss. As the Bernie protesters left the train and the delegates behind on it, they started chanting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” in the subway station.  We pulled away to face the roll call with the chants of the subway Berners echoing in our hearts.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bruce and me

The convention was a no-holds barred star-studded spectacular, but the glamour still failed to impress.  It was such a display of excess and privilege that I literally felt sick by the final day.  There was, however, one exception, one politician who stole my heart:  Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, Michigan. The first time I saw her was on the first day at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  I walked right up to her like a schoolgirl with a Tiger Beat crush, to tell her that my heart was broken by what had been done to her city, and to tell her that there were people all over Michigan who cared and wanted to help and would stand with her and her city for the long haul.  I regretted not taking a picture, but when I saw her again late night back at the hotel, I got not only a picture but a hug. This is a beautiful woman, a true warrior and inspiration.  A hero.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Mayor Karen Weaver of Flint, MI and me.

The moment of the actual convention that will stay with me long after the balloons have popped, was Bernie’s brother casting his vote.  I was sitting just below and to the left of the Delegates Abroad group.  I cried at the time and I cry every time see the video.  To have been so close to such love, grace, and humility…

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Larry Sanders from the Michigan Delegation–I still cry.

One of my favorite people on the planet is Joey Wilson of the Wayne-Westland for Bernie group.  He embraced this movement with a passion and wide-eyed wonder matched by few.  And he went to Philadelphia.  And he adopted me.  I felt like I was Joey’s personal delegate, and his enthusiasm and support brought me joy and kept me grounded on those hot and difficult days.  We had exchanged phone numbers and were able to keep in touch–me on the inside and him on the outside–throughout the week.  And he was on the outside in the brutal heat, protesting and participating in every march and rally.  I don’t know how he did it day after day, but when Bill and I caught up with him on Wednesday, he was as joyful and excited to be out in the midst of the protests as he had been back at the Westland Bowl the week before.  We joined him for a bit and he tried to get me up on the stage to speak as other delegates had been doing. There really wasn’t time but oh!–how his enthusiasm nourished me and gave me a shot of strength to go back to the face another night.  Joey asked me if the protesters were making a difference, if the delegates knew they were out there sending support and strength–YES!!!! And it made all the difference.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bill and I caught up with Joey at one of the protests.

And then there’s Bill.  As honored as I was to be elected, as passionate as I feel about Bernie’s campaign, as excited as I was to go to the convention, I still was anxious, very anxious, about going.  I wanted Bill to come with me to share the experience, but also because I knew that he would take care of me–and so he did.  He made sure I got where I needed to be, had the information I needed to have, and he took care of me when I got back to the hotel.  There was no way I could have anticipated the physical and emotional toll this convention would take on me.  The outrage and anger we felt at the Wikileaks revelations, the unbelievable arrogance of the DNC and Clinton campaign putting on this extravaganza and demanding “unity” when all we felt was disgust, days that went from 7 a.m. to well after midnight, and the heat, my God, the heat–left me wrecked.  Walking miles and then sitting for hours cramped in too-small stadium seats left my knees, ankles and feet swollen beyond recognition, and I came back to the hotel near tears and exhausted to find that Bill had a bath drawn and waiting for me.  He rubbed my feet and made sure I was hydrated and fed, and he held me when I cried.  He drove us there and back 10 hours each way, and on the day after we got home, he put me to bed for a day of recovery.  I know that I could have made it without him, but I am so grateful that I didn’t have to.

And so I choose to remember the love.

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Bill and me at the opening reception on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This movement isn’t over; in fact, it has just begun.  This convention is just a moment on the journey and make no mistake, it was a difficult moment.  Reams of paper, miles of film, and endless lines of code will dissect this 2016 Democratic National Convention for years to come, but none of them will capture the honesty and humility, the warmth and wonder of what it was like to participate as a delegate.  I want my children and grandchildren and theirs to know that their mother fought for them, for their future.  But I also want them to know that the fight wasn’t just about anger and disappointment and deceit.  It was so much bigger than that, so much more…

And so I choose to remember the love.  

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