A Week in Political Heaven


Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series chronicling the experiences of NMU students attending the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Next week’s paper will feature the second part of the series.

Jason Morgan never dreamed he would attend the Democratic National Convention, much less stand next to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as a roll call vote was conducted for an historic presidential nomination.

The sophomore political science major attended the DNC as an alternate delegate for Hillary Clinton; he was one of the youngest delegates at the entire convention.

In addition to Morgan, four other students attended the convention — three of them as media interns.

Anke Hildebrandt, Lauren Mattioli and Katie Cox served as media interns at the DNC with NBC News, Bloomberg News and TIME Magazine, respectively. This week Neil Passinault, Keith Voorheis, and Darren Widder will serve as interns with NBC News, TIME Magazine and Bloomberg News for the Republican Convention. In addition to the media interns, senior political science major Danielle Stein also went to the convention.


Morgan said he considers himself lucky to have ever been selected to represent Michigan and Hillary Clinton as a delegate.

“Usually, the people who are selected to be delegates are long-time party members who have been involved their whole lives,” he said. “When I was at the meeting to be selected as a delegate, I looked around and realized I was the youngest one in the room.”

Morgan’s young age is not the only thing that sets him apart from his fellow delegates. Unlike many of the other delegates who have been involved in politics for decades, Morgan said he only became involved in politics, outside of debating with high school teachers, in the last two years.

“Last year, when I was a freshman, was the first time I really got involved. I didn’t even know I wanted to go into politics before last year.”

As a delegate, and former intern for Clinton, it only seems natural that the two most exciting moments of the convention for Morgan were Clinton’s speech and the roll call vote for delegates.

“It was unbelievable,” he said of Clinton’s Tuesday night convention speech. “You don’t know what to expect from those speeches. Hers was so great because it was very persuasive in getting her supporters to support Barack Obama. At least I felt persuaded afterwards.”

Another highlight for Morgan was getting his picture on the front page of the Detroit Free Press. Morgan said he knew the Free Press was writing a story about him going to the convention but wasn’t told how prominent the story was going to be.

“It was a surprise to me,” he said. I thought they were just going to have a little blurb. I was at the airport (going to Denver), and I got a call from my grandma asking me if I had seen the paper. I asked her if they had a picture of me, and she said, ‘A picture of you? They have a whole front page of you.'”


Hildebrandt went to the convention as an intern for NBC News. Unlike the other interns who went to Denver, she had to be at the convention a week before it started. She said when she got to Denver she learned she would be working as an aide for the live broadcast of Meet the Press on Sunday, Aug. 24.

She was assigned the duty of assisting Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in getting ready for her interview on Meet the Press.

Hildebrandt had nothing but positive things to say about Pelosi.

“She’s so busy. That woman is amazing for the amount of things she can handle at one time,” Hildebrandt said. “She came in on a conference call and was rushing around, yet she was still ready to go right on time for Meet the Press.”

Hildebrandt said the most rewarding part of her internship was meeting the NBC staff and getting to see first-hand the work that goes into a broadcast.

“I met a lot of people with NBC,” she said. “Getting that little bit of an inside to see how all these shows are run, and the intense amount of work that goes into getting a live broadcast like that out to the world was the biggest highlight.”

One thing Hildebrandt said surprised her was the number of media people involved with coverage of an event like the Democratic Convention.

“The amount of media that was at the convention was mind boggling. We were told that 50,000 people came into Denver for the event and 15,000 of them were media,” she said. “I walked out of the Pepsi Center the first day, and there were no parking lots left because they were all covered in huge media tents.”


Stein was originally scheduled to work on the floor with the Democratic National Committee. When her internship with the committee fell through, she said political science professor David Haynes told her she should still go on the trip to experience the convention.

Stein said one of the first things she noticed in Denver was the amount of security forces that were used to keep order during the event.

“The one big thing we all talked about was how much police protection there was for everything,” she said. “You would walk down the street, and there would be vans with police standing on the outside of them with shields and riot gear on.”

Even though Stein didn’t have an internship at the convention, she still got to participate in many of the events, including the Michigan Delegates’ Breakfasts and Obama’s speech at Invesco Field.

At the breakfasts Stein said she got to meet many influential politicians including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

“Schweitzer came into the Michigan Delegates Breakfast one day and gave a speech about the exploration of the West and how no one ever did anything while sitting on their ass,” Stein said. “That night we saw him giving a speech at the Pepsi Center, and everyone began talking about how he might be an up-and-comer in the (Democratic) Party”.


Mattioli spent her time at the convention as an intern with the Washington D.C. outlet of Bloomberg News. She said her internship was an intense experience for her.

“It was baptism by fire, instant immersion in everything Bloomberg,” she said about her tasks.

Mattioli’s duties included covering a rally of Hillary Brothers, tracking blogs, getting supplies and attending meetings. One of her more interesting stories involved transporting long-time TIME magazine editor Norman Pearlstine to the convention.

“As we were coming back from the hotel, all the transportation is cut off six blocks from the convention center, and you have to walk. He was like, ‘That is quite a walk.’ And he hadn’t had anything to eat, so we went and got a buffalo burger to eat,” she said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

She also said she had the privilege of running into many politicians, and even a celebrity.

Among them were Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Massachusetts Sen. Barney Frank and actress Ashley Judd.

“I saw Ashley Judd buying mini-donuts so that justified all my junk food purchases, because if Ashley Judd can buy mini-donuts then I can get some junk food too.”

Mattioli also said that the experience made her realize what life after graduation will be like for students preparing to go into the media field.

“I think a lot of the people who went are kind of hot-shots at Northern, but when you go out into the corporate media world we were nobodies. No one knows who you are or what you’ve done,” Mattioli said. “It was a good preview for what life will be like after graduation.”


The final NMU student to attend the convention was senior media production and new technologies and speech communication double-major Katie Cox.

She was one of three interns working with TIME magazine during the convention.

She said that most of her duties involved running errands and gathering materials for TIME as well as also organizing office materials.

“Wednesday night, TIME Magazine prepares their final issue so I printed out all the pages and hung them on a board so that (TIME political editor) Michael Duffy could go over and switch the pages around and reorder things.”

The thing that stood out most to her was the level of energy among all the participants in the convention.

“The whole crowd, whether you were at the Pepsi Center or at Invesco Field on Thursday, were so fired up,” Cox said. “I lost my voice for two days after we were at Obama’s speech on Thursday.”

Even the long lines at security checks didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm, she said.

“Everybody seemed really excited to be there,” Cox said. “We stood in line for 45 minutes, and even then no one was complaining or whining.

“The most rewarding thing was being there to watch Obama’s speech. It is something that will stay with me forever; something I will be able to tell my kids about.”