Vote ’96: Conventional Colors

by Sharone Brown 

There were no mistakes this time as the City of Chicago put on its happy face to host the Democratic National Convention. It was the first convention held in Chicago since the embarrassing 1968 convention, which is still etched in the minds of many Chicagoans. While Mayor Richard J. Daley watched in shame, the riots destroyed future hopes of hosting another convention – until this year.

This time, the city was all aglow to greet the Democratic Party. Many roads were newly paved, abandoned buildings in neighborhoods on the West, South and East sides were restored and the tuckpointing crews worked overtime to ensure a display of a great city.

All the hoopla proved beneficial as the Democratic National Convention was launched without a hitch. But as an African American woman and a recent college graduate, my concerns were less about the renovations of Chicago and more about the Nov. 5 election and how the Democratic and Republican agendas would affect my family and me.

Any reservations that I held concerning the Democratic agenda were laid to rest when I attended the convention on Aug. 27. I was overjoyed to experience the convention because it allotted me the opportunity to witness what voting and the political process is all about; bringing people of all races, religions and ages together to participate in a system that works – sometimes.

The first big speaker that I saw was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson criticized President Bill Clinton for signing the so-called Welfare Reform Bill. Jackson said the law, which will cut off welfare benefits after two years, will jeopardize the stability and well-being of millions of children Black and white. I wondered how could President Clinton have the children’s best interests at heart. But then Jackson advocated for the president’s reelection. “We must get Bill Clinton reelected, then we can work on revising the welfare bill,” Jackson said. “There will be no opportunity for discussion on how the bill can be improved if we do not give President Clinton a second chance to serve.”

Jackson eased my concerns and he stressed how crucial it was to vote in this election. But the highlight of the evening was the speech from the First lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was greeted by the delegates with a standing ovation and a grateful Illinois camp that was pleased to see the First Lady back home.

The First Lady was humorous, warm and serious. She spoke to issue that concern me: crime education and child care.

“We need to make it easier for today’s working parents who are raising children and cannot afford to take a day off if their child is sick,” she said. This should not be a worry for today’s parents.

“If a worker loses his job, he should still receive health care for himself and his family until he finds work in a few months.”

Clinton targeted the education system which allows children to pass grades without being able to function as literate people. “My husband will propose a bill that will ensure that all children will be able to read by the age of eight,” she said. The first lady was received by a standing ovation

As a voter, I was impressed with the convention. The experience left me more determined, committed and dedicated to the task of influencing others to vote. Voting should not be an issue worth debating; it should be as necessary as eating, sleeping and breathing. The Democratic National Convention is just one aspect of the voting process and I will cherish the event – along with my vote on Nov. 5 – forever.

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