Communication Studies, National Conventions 2012

In fall 2012, SMU students are attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a political communication studies program in Meadows School of the Arts. They are attending with Professor Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and Dan Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, who are conducting “Dial Test” research for CNN.

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Talking with history

An update from Lauren at the Democratic National Convention:

A few nights ago, I was allowed the privilege to hear first lady Michelle Obama’s history-making convention speech. From where I stood in the CNN press box, I was able to clearly hear the powerful words she spoke about the value of family and hard work.

As a young African-American woman, I was touched by how warmly she was received by the enthusiastic delegates who packed the arena. No matter one’s political beliefs, the strength and grace that emanated from her onstage was inspiring, and I felt so proud of her. As I watched, I couldn’t help but reflect on the road that led her to this point and how the women I met on my flight to Charlotte paved the way for Mrs. Obama and myself to be where we are today.

On my way to Charlotte, I sat beside a woman named Rose Marie Jones-Wade. As I settled into my seat, it became very obvious that Mrs. Jones-Wade was an Obama supporter – she wore her bright orange Barack Obama T-shirt proudly and was not ashamed to declare her support. As the plane taxied down the runway, we struck up a conversation.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that Mrs. Jones-Wade was not simply a faithful supporter of the President; she had had a huge hand in creating the world that would not only accept, but love, our first African-American President.

As we spoke, Mrs. Jones-Wade shared her amazing stories about her involvement in politics. Her list of political accomplishments was long – she has attended every Democratic National Convention since 1960 and been heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. I was touched when, as we talked about President Obama, she became emotional. “Seeing him up there,” she said, “makes the pain and suffering that they all went through worth it. That was the dream.”

Mrs. Jones-Wade and I talked the duration of the flight, and as the plane landed, I was disappointed to leave. I wish we could have talked forever. I had just spoken with history. She provided a window into a world that I had only read about in history books – a world of pain, suffering and struggle to be recognized.

As the plane pulled into the gate, I thanked her. I wasn’t just thanking her for her companionship on the flight, but rather I was thanking her for her struggle. I was thanking her for her willingness to stand up and speak up for herself and for future generations whom she believed deserved better. Michelle Obama and I are members of the future generations that Mrs. Jones-Wade and many others fought and died to offer us. As we said goodbye and deplaned, I had an overwhelming feeling that we were walking into the next chapter of history – one that would be written at the Democratic National Convention over the next week and coming months.

So, from the bottom of my heart to Mrs. Jones-Wade and other advocates, thank you for your courage and willingness to fight for me and stand up for what was right.

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