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This news story first appeared on September 7, 2012. For more information click here.

Mustangs Jump into DNC Politics

By Katelyn Gough, SMU Daily Campus; September 7, 2012

The Democratic Party took its turn in the political spotlight at this week’s national convention. And once again, members of the SMU community were right in the middle of it.“This is the major leagues,” communication studies professor Rita Kirk said.

Kirk accompanied research partner professor Dan Schill and several undergrad students to Charlotte this week as a part of Hilltop on the Hill, a program for students interested in careers in politics. The students — interning with the same CNN programs as those at the Republican National Convention last week had the opportunity to see what Kirk calls a “rally of the faithful.” 

Kirk says students witnessed firsthand the Democratic volley to last week’s Republican convention. “How do they rally the delegates, what messages do they send them back with?” Kirk said. “This is really the kickoff of the fall campaign.” 

According to the Romney campaign, the Obama administration has a lot to prove after four years. For a real change, Romney called for Americans to elect a real leader. But Obama supporters said that a desire for “change” shouldn’t take priority over the “American Dream.” 

“We all understand that freedom isn’t free. What Romney and Ryan don’t understand is that neither is opportunity,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said Tuesday. “We have to invest in it.” Castro emphasized the necessity of “a country where everybody pays their fair share” and is offered equal opportunity—especially when it comes to education. 

First Lady Michelle Obama also echoed those sentiments Tuesday night. She focused on Americans valuing “everyone’s contribution” and treating “everyone with respect.” “When you work hard and walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances,” she says.

 SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says conventions are critical during the election cycle. “The campaigns and parties are very careful to figure out what [their] message is going to be,” Jillson said. “It’s an opportunity to speak to that part of the country that’s paying attention and try to establish your claims, your arguments.” The Democratic Party made its message clear, defining America’s need for a unified country that will “invest” today for the sake of lasting prosperity in the future. 

Former President Bill Clinton did not shy away from evaluating Obama’s impact over the last four years Wednesday night. He knows it could be a long road to prosperity. “For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come out stronger than we went in,” Clinton said. “And we will again as long as we do it together.” 

Obama accepted his party’s nomination in his own address Thursday night. The week’s focus on earning what one receives through dedication and hard work resonated with many in the SMU community. SMU College Democrats President Michael Wilburn hopes the convention will inspire university students to explore their political interests.

 “They’re good messages,” Wilburn said. “We [should] keep the opportunities the same for everybody.” Sophomore Sarah Mowery hopes to bring some of those messages back to SMU after interning at the convention. “It’s just been really interesting and educational to see how these people work and how they handle themselves,” Mowery said. “This week has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s absolutely surreal.”

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