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Columbia Missourian

Missouri delegates reflect on Democratic National Convention

August 27, 2008 | 12:49 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - Sam Hodge walked up to former President Jimmy Carter and introduced himself.

"My grandfather in 1976 was a delegate for you," he said. Carter and Hodge then had their picture taken together.


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Hodge is one of five members of the Missouri delegation representing the 9th Congressional District at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week.

Rubbing shoulders with politicians is only part of what Hodge has been doing over the past two days.

"There are meetings all across Denver for Democrats with different interests," he said in a phone interview. So far he has attended meetings about civil rights, health care, the environment and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Denise Gilmore, another delegate for the 9th District, holds a schedule just as full as Hodge's. She attends meetings during the day, goes to hear the speeches in the evening and then checks out the parties at night.

Both Hodge and Gilmore are delegates pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton, and both cited Clinton's speech last night as one of the week's highlights so far.

"It was incredible," Gilmore said of the speech. "It was the exact reason I came. I feel like the party is more unified than it has been." She spoke in a phone interview.

Both Hodge and Gilmore think Clinton said what was needed to unify the party behind Barack Obama.

"Hillary Clinton came out today poised, eloquent, articulate, excited and energetic," Hodge said. "She made the case for Barack Obama. There were several moments where I was emotionally moved. She was a powerful force."

One part of Clinton's speech that moved Hodge was her reference to Harriet Tubman, a woman described by Clinton as "a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her life to bring slaves to freedom along the underground railroad."

Quoting Tubman over the roar of the standing crowd, Clinton urged those fighting for freedom and equality across the nation to defy the odds and never give up:

"If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they're shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going."

"The convention hall just blew up," Hodge said.

When Hodge walked into the convention center early in the week, it was quiet and calm - unlike last night - and he took a moment to reflect on where he was.

"I knew I was a part of something bigger than I thought," he said. "It hit me like a ton of bricks."

After two nights of speeches, the convention has met all of Gilmore's expectations.

"It's lived up to the heights," she said. "You go in here and you can just sense history being made."