A First-Hand Account from the DNC in Philadelphia

DAN treasurer Barbara Odegaard volunteered at her third Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month. Here is her account of what volunteering at a Convention entails:

It was such an honor to have been selected by the Philadelphia Host Committee to participate as a volunteer for the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). I was part of an army of 10,000 volunteers needed to prepare the city and the convention hall to handle the influx of visitors and convention participants.  

“What support do volunteers provide?” you might ask? Volunteers are the host city’s ambassadors, charged with showcasing the best of the city and helping to ensure a successful Convention.  Volunteers are critical in providing a positive experience for guests and local residents. Below, Barbara and another volunteer pose for a photo with Acting DNC chair Donna Brazile.

Volunteer categories include the following:

  • Volunteer Leaders or team captains who manage groups of volunteers
  • Administrative and Office support volunteers
  • Hospitality and Hotel volunteers
  • Operations, Logistics and Delivery Support volunteers
  • Press and Communications volunteers
  • Social Media volunteers
  • Technology and IT volunteers

This is the third convention I have participated in and it has been a phenomenal experience, each different from the last. This year I was assigned to the Technology and IT team and I got to work on the convention floor to help install and wire 50 mikes and podiums, one for each state delegation. A representative from each state announced their vote from the podium that I wired.  I was a bit intimidated at first because this was the first time that I have worked on the technology team. Imagine my fear that the representative from my home state of Virginia would step up to the mike and not be heard loud and clear.  That was definitely not going to happen on my watch and once I got the hang of it I learned a lot and had a blast!

As this was my third consecutive Convention many of us volunteers have kept in touch since 2008. It’s been fun meeting people from all over the world who are enthusiastic, and vocal participants in the political process. Each convention has been enlightening. My favorite was 2008 because I got to see the political process in action and of course this was the year that Senator Barack Obama was selected as the Democratic Party nominee, a history-making event.  

At each Convention, during the first gathering of all volunteers they always ask where each volunteer is from and for the last three conventions Norway has been the furthest a volunteer has traveled from. At the Denver convention, a NPR radio host mentioned that there was a female volunteer coming from Norway but she couldn’t remember my name but it sounded something like “Oh Dear God”. So that became my nickname at the 2008 convention. Convention volunteering is hard work and long hours but it has been a ton of fun. I hope that my experience has piqued your interest and that you will consider volunteer opportunities in 2020!