CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As they prepared to head home Friday, Sept. 7, Whatcom County's delegates to the Democratic National Convention summed up their post-convention excitement with one idea: Forward.
The message was echoed throughout the week by speakers emphatically supporting President Barack Obama's campaign slogan, which urges the country to turn not to the past, but to progress to the future and leave no one behind, said Jeremy Mohn, co-chair for Whatcom County Young Democrats and delegate for the second congressional district.
"This party, which by the way just adopted same-sex marriage into the national platform, wants to help everybody, wants to see everybody succeed," Mohn said.
For Mohn, one of more than 500 LGBT delegates, the convention's unanimous vote to include support for same-sex marriage in the national DNC platform was a huge moment.
"I was overwhelmed. This party has always been tolerant of the LGBT community, but it was like the party had always been saying, 'Not yet, not yet, not yet,' and then they finally said, 'Yet. It's time,'" Mohn said.
The convention left him with a sense of hope not only for the future of the LGBT community but also for the economy.
"Jobs are coming. I believe this president when he says he wants to invest in infrastructure, which is very important to Whatcom County," Mohn said.
In his acceptance speech Thursday, Obama said he wants to reward companies that open new plants and create new jobs in the U.S., help double exports, and create 1 million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. Among the industries he wants to support are renewable energy, like wind and solar, but he also made a call to support clean coal and development of the natural gas industry, all with an eye toward cutting oil imports in half by 2020.
Teresa Taylor-Oliver, a registered Lummi tribal member and delegate for the first congressional district, said the most important part of the convention for her was getting the opportunity to network and share ideas for future policies with other delegates.
"I was asked to share a position paper at the Native American caucus at the state convention that addressed changes we hope to see on the national level," Taylor-Oliver said. "I've made enough contacts to hopefully help make some of those changes happen in the future."
Now that the hand-shaking and networking is done - Taylor-Oliver was excited she got to meet the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mohn got to personally tell Michelle Obama he'd be campaigning hard for her husband - the next moves for the Whatcom County delegates are to continue registering people to vote and conducting door-to-door campaigns, particularly for local elections.
Taylor-Oliver said she was revved up by Obama campaign manager Joe Messina's speech, which urged attendees to help friends and relatives register to vote by using the Obama-sponsored site gottaregister.com.
"I'm here to support Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but I feel like all elections, local, state, tribal, they're all important," Taylor-Oliver said. "We've got to support people that support our issues, register people to vote, and get boots on the ground, or like they said at the Native American caucus, moccasins on the ground."
Lauren Hatch, second congressional district delegate and co-chair of Whatcom County Young Democrats, said over the next few weeks she will be putting all her energy into local races, like those of Matt Krogh and Natalie McClendon, both running to represent the 42nd legislative district. In particular, the Young Democrats will help register students to vote in Whatcom County.
"It's always a challenge to get college students to register here because they see their time in Bellingham as temporary," Hatch said. "But four years is a long time - that can be a couple terms for certain positions. The politicians we're electing really make a difference in young people's lives every day."
Reach SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2264.