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Appalachian Voices North Carolina Campaign Coordinator Sandra Diaz engages people outside the convention center on the organization's campaigns to save mountains and waters from the life cycle of coal. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Voices

Originally published: 2012-09-06 19:27:25
Last modified: 2012-09-06 20:28:04

Locals disappointed to miss president’s DNC speech

by Anna Oakes

Dozens of Democratic Party supporters in Watauga County received a disappointing phone call this week as they learned they would not be able to attend President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Charlotte Thursday.

Obama was scheduled to accept his party’s nomination for president at the 73,000-seat Bank of America Stadium late Thursday evening, but Democratic National Convention officials switched the venue to the 20,200-seat Time Warner Cable because of the possibility of thunderstorms.

Thousands who had received “community credentials” to attend the speech were informed they would no longer be admitted.

“I was disappointed of course, but I certainly understand,” said Lia Poteet, president of the College Democrats at Appalachian State University. Poteet had planned to caravan to Charlotte on Thursday along with other students who received credentials.

Andy Ball, a Boone Town Council member and delegate at the convention, said he expected about 50 people from Watauga County to attend the president’s speech, and some had already traveled to Charlotte to participate in other convention festivities.

“No doubt it’s a disappointment,” Ball said. “Folks put some effort into this.”

To receive a community credential, applicants agreed to contribute several hours volunteering for the Obama campaign, he said.

But there’s good news, he added. On Thursday, the Obama campaign announced that all community credential-holders would be admitted to a future appearance by the president in Charlotte some time in the next couple of months.

Poteet said she “absolutely” planned to take advantage of the offer.

“I’ve been to a few of the campaign events over the years,” she said. “It’s always a great opportunity to hear very, very intelligent and passionate speakers.”

In the meantime, Poteet said she planned to attend a viewing party of Obama’s speech at the Boone campaign field office at 130 N. Depot St.

Speaking from Time Warner Cable Arena, where he arrived hours ahead of time for Thursday evening’s events, Ball said he has spoken with a number of people he wanted to meeting, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Boone got name-checked by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz at Thursday’s breakfast meeting of North Carolina delegates, where Wasserman Schultz said she loved the state and sometimes thought about relocating to Boone.

“She mentioned us by name, so we appreciated that,” Ball said.

Ball secured a seat on the fourth row from the state where the president would be speaking Thursday.

“I could not imagine that I would have this opportunity. This is amazing. The experience itself is so rich and so powerful,” he said.

Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson, who was also a delegate at the convention, said the week’s events had energized everyone to go back home a work a little bit harder on the campaign. She was especially moved by former President Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday.

“Clinton’s speech last night was absolutely incredible,” she said. “I think he made it so much plainer to the American people. He answered a lot of things that the Republicans had said.”

Blowing Rock resident and former state legislator Cullie Tarleton, who is running for state House, attended DNC events earlier in the week.

“We were just there soaking up the atmosphere,” he said. “It was a meeting of Democratic loyalists, and obviously everybody is excited.”

Also at the convention was Boone-based environmental organization Appalachian Voices, which attended “to focus the nation’s attention on the devastating impacts of coal on the region’s environment and communities, and to call for a swift transition to clean, sustainable energy sources in Appalachia and the U.S.,” according to a statement.

“We went down there to talk to everyone we could,” said Sandra Diaz, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “Our main focus is ending mountaintop removal coal. The DNC was being powered by that kind of energy. “We felt like a lot of folks don’t know what is happening.”
“We had a lot of people who signed up to receive information,” she said.