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University DNC attendees speak of excitement, unity

With the ongoing divide between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters being continually overplayed by the media, University psychology professor Milt Hakel and graduate student Justin Zollars weren’t sure what to expect after being selected as political delegates for the Democratic National Convention.

But throughout the four days the two BGSU natives cheered and chanted for their respective candidates, both men realized a sense of unity had surpassed any negative feelings still lingering between the Democratic power-houses and their supporters.

‘The cooperation between Clinton and Obama [delegates] is critical to the victory of this election,’ Clinton delegate Zollars said. ‘I never met any Hillary Clinton delegates [at the convention] who weren’t on board for Barack Obama.’

And in an effort to sway any lingering Clinton supporters, the senator herself put an end to the roll call vote on Wednesday night. When the call came to New York, Clinton asked the convention to give Obama the nomination, making him the first African American presidential candidate from any major political party.

‘People were standing in the crowd with tears in their eyes,’ Zollars said. ‘Her speech was phenomenal.’

U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich from Ohio also brought the crowd of 4,239 delegates and 200,000 visitors to their feet on Tuesday morning after delivering a wake-up call to America.

Although not focused on in the media, both Zollars and Hakel said Kucinich’s message was one that will stick with them long after the convention is through.

‘It was not just the Ohio delegation, but everyone in the hall that responded,’ Obama delegate Hakel said. ‘The place was really jumping.’

And while the two delegates from the University said the excitement and enthusiasm contained within Denver’s Pepsi Center was contagious, both Zollars and Hakel feel that being chosen as delegates will be one of the most memorable moments of their lives.

‘I’ve watched [the convention] on TV for the last 45 years, and to be a part of something this huge is delightful,’ Hakel said. ‘The electricity in the center is so much stronger than you can imagine while watching it on TV.’

Although anyone can become a delegate, the process invloves several, complex steps.

Zollars and Hakel were required to fill out a ‘Declaration of Candidacy’ form for the Ohio Democratic Party online by Jan. 1, 2008. While Hakel submitted records that would make him an Obama delegate, Zollars filled out paperwork asking to represent Clinton.

Only two days later, voters attending a pre-primary caucus decided which potential delegates would be allowed to attend the convention, Zollars said. After giving speeches, handing out business cards or talking to others about the ideals they saw in their candidates, Zollars and Hakel were choosen to make up the 162 delegates from the state of Ohio.

‘I was thrilled and just really excited when I found out that I was going to be at the convention where we were going to nominate the first African-American president,’ Zollars said. ‘I’ve been able to make a lot of friends and contacts around Ohio during my time in Denver.’

And though Hakel and Zollars left behind the newly found friends they found at the Pepsi Center last night, both of them will bring home the hope and excitement that carried them through the convention.

‘Here on the ground, there is nothing but cooperation among everyone, which is so inspiring,’ Hakel said. ‘It is so important for Democrats to come together and also important that we reach out to Republicans and Independents because from there, support for Obama’s ticket will only continue to grow.’

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