Captivated is the best word I would use to describe my time at the Democratic National Convention. As an 18-year-old national delegate from Iowa, I did not know what to expect coming into my first convention, but I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience. Throughout the course of the convention, I was given the unique opportunity to witness the political process first-hand. Each day was a journey in which I had the marvelous opportunity to interact with other delegates, convention attendees, and elected officials.
Every morning, we started our day with the Iowa delegation breakfast and had the privilege to hear from a phenomenal array of speakers including Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Cory Booker, Governor O’Malley, Julian and Joaquin Castro, Governor Vilsack, and many others. The delegation breakfast was a great time for me to build relationships and friendships with fellow Iowans and learn about their perspectives and interests. Throughout the week, I also attended various caucuses and meetings to learn about issues impacting different communities and what is being done to tackle them.
Most of the action took place in the evenings at the Wells Fargo Arena, where we heard from remarkable speakers such as President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and many others.
Each individual spoke about what our country stands for and our values. They highlighted the promise of our great nation and what we can accomplish when we work together in solidarity. It was an uplifting and optimistic vision for our country that galvanized the audience. The most important thing I took away from the speeches is the importance of empathy. When we open our minds, open our hearts, and listen, we allow ourselves to speak with each other and not at each other. We allow ourselves to focus on the matters that unite us.
One speaker in particular, Khizir Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, gave an astounding speech that left me clinging to his every word. He condemned the hateful, disparaging, and ignorant remarks made by the GOP nominee, and showed that discrimination of any kind is contrary to the principles our country was built on. We must acknowledge and respect the sacrifices made by the Gold Star family and not denounce or degrade Captain Khan’s commendable actions and service to our country. His religious affiliation and racial background have had no effect on the content of his character. He is a true hero and we must show gratitude toward his family.
While there were many memorable moments during my time at the convention, I was most proud when I had the opportunity to represent our state as a speaker during roll call. It was an incredible feeling to amplify my voice on national television and play a role in the historic nomination process of the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party. It was also empowering to display that young people can make a profound impact when they take initiative and become engaged in the political process. I am proud to have raised my voice on behalf of young people around the nation and hope that I have inspired many others to do the same.
As we move on to the general election and beyond, it is critical that we remain cognizant of how the decisions we make will shape the entire course of our country. It is in our jurisdiction to ensure that we continue on the path towards a more fair and just society that will provide a better life for all Americans. Let us not allow partisan politics to divide us, but use our core values as human beings to unite us.
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• Sruthi Palaniappan is a recent graduate of Linn-Mar High School and an incoming freshman at Harvard College where she is planning to major in government with a secondary in global health and health policy.