by Sruthi Palaniappan
Captivated is the best word I use to describe my time at the Democratic National Convention last month.
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.
On my first day in Philadelphia, I volunteered my time with Save the Children Action Network as a Student Ambassador and interacted with visitors to inform them about the organization, the issues we focus on and how they can get involved in our work. I expressed why I believe early childhood education is essential to a child’s success later in life and about the importance of implementing programs to help moms and babies around the world who die from simple causes that we can easily prevent.
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, Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine, Senator Cory Booker, Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, and many others.
Each speaker spoke about what our country stands for and our core 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 and open our hearts, 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 of the most memorable moments during my time at the convention was when I was selected by the Iowa delegation as a roll call speaker.
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 country and hope that I have inspired many others to do the same.
The power of young people is insurmountable. Each of us has the capability to be a catalyst for change and shape the course of our country. We are not only the future leaders of tomorrow but the leaders of today. We must insert ourselves into the political discourse and demand to be heard because these decisions will affect our future.
As we move on to the general election and beyond, it’s critical that we continue to fight for the issues that are most important to us and ensure that every child is given the opportunity to not only survive but thrive.