Pete Grieve, a second-year (sophomore) at University of Chicago majoring in political science, attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-28.
Grieve last attended SCDS as a sixth-grader in 2008-9 and then moved to Washington, D.C., with his family. The Grieve family will be returning to the school this year; brother Jack will be a junior and sister Meg will be a sophomore.
Q: Did you go with anyone else?
A I went with a group of students from the University of Chicago. They offer for eight (UChicago students) to go to Philly and eight (UChicago students) to go to Cleveland. In Philadelphia, there were eight of us working on internships. Four of us (myself included) were at Politico, two were with Fusion (part of Univision), one was (at) Snapchat, and one was with David Axelrod (President Barack Obama’s senior advisor in 2008).
Q: What is Politico?
A: It is a political media outlet that started in Washington, D.C., in 2007. At the convention, they had an event space called the Politico Hub. It was open from 8:30-11 p.m. It was a really cool space.
They turned these empty places into offices, where people could plug in their computers and do work or have refreshments during the convention.
It became sort of a party at night, with food and alcoholic beverages and even live music.
Q: What was your job?
A: To do whatever they needed us to do. We restocked Politico’s swag (pins and sunglasses). We moved around chairs and magazines to make sure that everything was in place.
It was mostly open to the public, but there were a few performances and speakers that were private events.
Alicia Keys performed for Politico one night while I was working the front desk and checking (people in), since it was a private event.
Ashley Biden (daughter of Vice President Joe Biden) came and wasn’t on the list. But someone said, “With the last name ‘Biden,’ she doesn’t need to be on the list!”
I also held the elevator for various important speakers, including Jerry Brown and (mayor of New York) Bill de Blasio.
It was amazing (to see) these political figures, even if I (was) not actively speaking to them or hearing them.
Q: What was the overall mood of the event?
A: Some of the University of Chicago staff went to both the Democratic and Republican conventions, so they got to experience both.
If you went to the Republican convention, you’d think that America’s in one of the worst shapes it’s ever been in.
But at the Democratic Convention, the tone was very optimistic.
I think (Democrats were) trying to send the message that with a Democrat in the White House, things are fine. There were some times where they said that there were problems and things that need to be improved upon.
I’d say the overall message was “America is strong and will only get stronger.”
Q: Which speakers did you hear?
A: On Monday and Tuesday I didn’t get there until 10 p.m. So I heard the big speakers: Bernie Sanders, Michelle and Obama, Hillary Clinton, Khizr Khan, Corey Booker, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine.
I loved Khan’s (speech). He’s the father of a Muslim U.S. army soldier who was killed in combat.
He spoke against Donald Trump and quoted the Constitution, basically saying that Trump has no knowledge of what’s written in it.
I (also) heard the mothers of African Americans who had been killed by the police; I think they are called the “Mothers of the Movement.”
I saw Reverend William Barber on Tuesday night, which was in my opinion one of the best speeches.
Barber is an incredible public speaker. His message was sermonic. He was one of the lesser-known speakers, who engaged the audience and captured the full attention of the entire arena.
Doug Elmets was (also) really interesting. He’s a Republican from Sacramento who’s a Clinton supporter. He worked in the Reagan presidency, and he said that Donald Trump isn’t a Reagan Republican.
The crowd’s reaction was also very interesting. When he introduced himself it was mixed, but when he said that Trump is no Reagan Republican, it was overwhelmingly positive.
(In addition) I heard the families of fallen police officers speak. There was a moment of silence for the fallen police officers, and during that moment there were people in the arena who were yelling, “Black Lives Matter!”
(And) I heard Katy Perry perform.
Q: Were there any protests near the event?
A: There were a lot of protests, the majority of them being (by) Bernie supporters. We were told to stay away from protests and not participate in them.
At times, roads were closed. Most of (the protests) were in downtown.
I didn’t see anyone get arrested, even though the news only showed people getting arrested.
Q: What was your favorite part?
A: The highlight was seeing the President speak. It almost felt like I’d seen him before, since most of my friends had, and yet I had never actually heard him in person.
In 2008, I went to a rally at American University (where Obama was speaking), and it ended when I was the fifth person in line.
(This time) I was on the floor for (Obama’s speech). I thought he gave a great speech and (made) a great case for Hillary Clinton.
I was so close I could see the teleprompter. It was fun to watch him read the words and see how he adapted to the crowds.
Q: Was there anything you disliked about the convention?
A: It was really hard to get from downtown to the arena. I guess Uber had a monopoly on transportation. The Uber Tent was so busy.
You’d have to wait, and at night the line to get a pass to get into the parking lot could take 30 minutes. After the first night, we gave up and just took the train.
We had to budget a lot of time to get there and back.
Q: How different was it for you to actually be at the convention as opposed to seeing it on TV or on your computer?
A: I could hear the crowd in a way that I couldn’t hear it on TV. There was a certain number of Sanders supporters that were anti-Clinton, and they were yelling things during the convention. (However) I was far away, so I couldn’t see facial expressions of speakers.
I was on the floor for most of the convention. (But) I went up to the nosebleed (area) for a bit, and it’s a completely different experience. You can see the crowd, but you feel isolated from the experience since you can’t see the speakers at all.
On Thursday night they tried to kick out all the people who were on the floor but not delegates or the press. So there was a bit of sneaking around that we had to do.
A few of us disguised ourselves that we were in the press. I wore all black and brought a camera; I think that helped out a little so we weren’t kicked out.
But (for) the Clinton speech Thursday, there was no amount of sneaking around that we could do.
I was with a friend, and we went up to the floor where the VIP boxes were. We tried to talk to people at the front door, but they didn’t let us in. (Then) my friend had the guts to walk into the side door while it was open.
Inside, everyone was wearing suits (and) the women were in nice clothes, but I was wearing jeans.
He went to get a glass of water, and then he told me, “We are in the Clinton Friends and Family box.”
That’s where we were when we listened to Hillary Clinton’s speech!
(Actually) there were lots of kids in the box. We weren’t that out of place except (for) our clothing.
Q: What was your schedule like?
A: I didn’t really sleep. At Politico we worked seven-hour shifts.
The first day we worked until 9 (p.m.) and then got (to the Convention) by about 10 (p.m.).
Wednesday and Thursday we worked 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The earliest we would leave (the Convention) would be 1 a.m. Sometimes we would even get back (to the hotel) by as late as 2-3 (a.m.)
We woke up by about 5:45 (a.m.) to get to work, so most nights I got three or four hours of sleep.
Q: Tell me a bit about the attire there.
A: People were wearing crazy hats, bright colors, buttons everywhere, costumes. People went all out for it in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Q: Would you attend the convention again in 2020?
A: I wouldn’t think twice; of course I’d go back. I think it would also be cool to see the Republican Convention.
—By Chardonnay Needler