DENVER Utah delegate Kathleen Snyder wants to celebrate the anniversary of the death of her son Army Capt. Brian Freeman in a special way: watching the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on that day.
She told her story, and her hopes, at a panel discussion Monday sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America in Denver.
"I will honor my son's memory as a delegate by casting my vote for Sen. Obama," she told the panel to cheers.
She said her son was a 1999 graduate of West Point, had served his full-time military obligation, and was half the way through his individual ready reserve commitment. He was activated and sent to Iraq.
"He opposed the war" before his activation, she said. "But he had made a commitment to the country by attending West Point," and went willingly when activated. "He did a damn good job."
She said, "Jan. 20, 2009 will be the second anniversary of my son's death. And the only way I can make any sense of his death is to make sure Sen. Obama is our next president. I want an end to this war and he is our best chance."
DENVER A TREE IN DENVER GROWS FOR UTAH: The city of Denver is making a lasting tribute to the Utah Delegation to the Democratic National Convention. It planted a tree in its honor, as well as other trees around the city honoring other delegations.
The Utah tree is on the corner of 15th and California streets, not far from the city's convention center. The tree is on a sunny corner that indeed could use more shade on hot summer days.
DENVER UNCLE SAM IS WATCHING: Utah delegate Millicent Lewis is never alone at the Democratic convention. Uncle Sam is always on her shoulder, a least a puppet of him.
Lewis is an artist and made the puppet. Earlier this year, she made another similar one that she used while campaigning for Barack Obama in Elko, Nev. "His head was made out of resin, and it was too heavy," she said. The new one is lighter and helps keep the Democrat from leaning too far, um, to the right under its weight.
Earlier in Elko, Lewis said Obama saw her and her Uncle Sam doll and "walked right up to me and complimented me on my work." She has a photo of herself, Uncle Sam, Obama and some other volunteers taken in Elko.
DENVER PHONE HOME: Jerry Fenn, Utah President of Qwest, told Utah delegates how much has changed in telecommunications since 1908 the last time Denver hosted a Democratic convention and nominated William Jennings Bryan.
"In 1908, 12 special telephone lines were installed for the convention," he said. If a delegate or official received a phone call or a message, pages were sent to find and bring them to the phone. A few extra telegraph lines also allowed "a select few" newspapers to file stories quickly from the convention.
Now, Fenn said Qwest installed additional lines and equipment to allow the current convention to handle transmission of 50 billion bytes of information a second from convention sites.
"That could transfer all the printed information in the Library of Congress in about an hour," he said, as Qwest was hosting a breakfast for the delegation on Monday.
On Thursday night, the convention plans to ask all delegates to call or text friends back home to urge them to vote for Barak Obama. Can the system handle 75,000 people calling from a football stadium at the same time?
"No problem," Fenn said.
DENVER Several Utah delegates enjoyed the first-ever interfaith service officially sponsored by a convention and saw rabbis, Catholic priests, Protestant pastors, Islamic Imams, Native American spiritual leaders and others share the spotlight.
"It was neat really to see how much we are alike," said state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Cottonwood Heights. "When I go to church, I am taught to live a Christ-like life, to serve others and to lift all boats. I found others are teaching the same thing."
Erika George, an alternate delegate who teaches constitutional law at the University of Utah, said, "I had some hesitancy having it as part of the official program" and what it may mean about the separation of church and state.
But she said she found she loved it. "It showed people of all faiths coming together." Even a pro-life pastor talked about why he opposes abortion, and was shown respect. "I learned a lot about what we need to do to include people of faith." The party even formed, for the first time, a faith caucus to discuss such issues during the convention.
DENVER Assorted observations from the first day that delegates were in town for the Democratic National Convention:
• The local chapter of Planned Parenthood were passing out pink buttons at the Warwick Hotel along with a single condom which said on the cover "Protect Yourself from John McCain."
• Randy Newman, well-known composer for movies (like "Toy Story") and TV, was spotted going with some officials with the Democratic National Committee into the restaurant at the Warwick Hotel or at least it looked like Newman, a few Utah delegates and press agreed.
It would make sense for Newman to be in town, however. He appeared Sunday night in a special concert aimed at raising money and awareness for New Orleans, which still suffering from the devestation of Hurricane Katrina, which struck in 2005.
• Under the title of "things you may not want see," Utah delegates like to travel casually, many arriving at the delegation's assigned hotel, the Warwick, in downtown Denver wearing shorts and bare legs that normally, especially for legislators, are not seen on Capitol Hill.
DENVER Delegates travel to conventions for the politics and speeches, but there are other perks. There is also significant downtime, which means they are all looking for things to do when devouring the words of dozens of speakers or debating the proposed platform.
• Utah delegates are housed at The Warwick Hotel, which is conveniently located in downtown Denver relatively near convention arenas and popular shopping and tourist areas. It costs delegates about $200 per room per night.
In somewhat of a rarity, they do not need to share with any other state's delegation. Most states share with at least one or two other states, and many are scattered far outside of the downtown.
Being a small delegation has its perks, in this case. Utah shares only with some Democratic National Committee staff, notably its finance staff. Utah's delegation fits nicely, spacewise, with them.
• Upon arrival, delegates found gifts delivered to their rooms, compliments of some welcoming Colorado companies. Some were a bit more unusual than others.
Gift bags included a tiny canister of oxygen (peppermint scented), probably intended more for folks from states other than Utah that may not be accustomed to Denver's mile-high altitude. Instructions say to inhale three to five breaths for a boost.
That boost could help delegates build up strength to dig into other treats provided to them, including a small stick of buffalo meat and a variety of chips and salsa for their in-room fiesta. There was also trail mix, cookies and chocolates.
And on Sunday night, the hotel delivered two complimentary bottles of "aromatic sparkling wine" to each room which should help with any of those fiestas.
• TRAVEL MUSIC: Utah delegate Kurt Bestor is a well-known singer/songwriter, who also wrote such things as the theme to "Monday Night Football." He didn't exactly travel light to Denver.
"I brought a keyboard," he said. "I have to do some work while I am here. I have a deadline coming up."
Noting that there is a lot of downtime at the convention (sessions start at 3 p.m. each day), "boredom sometimes helps the creative process."
He also noted that artists and musicians actually have plenty of caucuses and other meetings during the convention.
"If I wanted to, I could spend all my time at them," he said quickly adding he plans to do the more traditional political events that most delegates do.
DENVER The Utah delegation to the Democratic National Convention wasted little time in getting into the flow of the political convention that brought upwards of 25,000 people to this town:
• Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah party, says unfortunately the local party did not get as many tickets to Sen. Barak Obama's Thursday night presidential nomination acceptance speech as was hoped.
"We asked for 350, hoped for maybe 50," said Taylor, noting that the Campaign For Change (an organization in battleground states Utah isn't one of those) was in charge of doling out the tickets and wasn't looking fondly at GOP-dominated Utah.
"We think we can get 130 and take care of the Democrats we know are here hoping to get in" to the speech at INVESCO Field at Mile High. "We certainly couldn't get as many tickets as we wanted, and maybe 50 or 60 Democrats, many of them Utah legislators and friends, we had to turn down."
• State Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, has officially named the "delegation whip" for the week.
"I think that is like being the floor cheerleader, although I don't have any cheers made up yet," he said. McCoy said he is given a list of all speakers in the Pepsi Center (home of the NBA's Denver Nuggets), what they are going to talk about and encourage Utah delegates to clap and cheer at the appropriate times.