As the Democratic National Convention (DNC) draws to a
close, I hope you’ve been paying as much attention to geographic references
during the event as I have. Just as the primaries saw states jockey for position
in the national spotlight, there seem to be as many expressions of local pride
as calls for unity at this year’s DNC. Here’s a review of some of my favorites.
Ted Kennedy Tribute
Monday night featured a video tribute to veteran Senator Ted
Kennedy. Central to the piece were images of Senator Kennedy aboard a sailboat,
presumably in Hyannisport where he lives in my home state of Massachusetts. Kennedy and his family gushed
over his love for the ocean, where he is “at peace” and shares special memories
with generations of his famous family. I think the National Geographic
Education Foundation made an excellent choice by presenting the Senator with a
framed photograph of a sailboat in Hyannisport when he was named a “Geography
Legislator of the Year” earlier this summer!
Michelle Obama: The
Girl from Chicago ‘s
Michelle Obama made several mentions of her childhood in a
“working-class” family on Chicago’s
The references to the Chicago neighborhood were as much descriptively
autobiographical as they were meant to counter accusations that she and husband
Barak are part of the privileged elite; ivy-league graduate celebrities “out of
touch” with average Americans.
Barak Obama: The Boy
Similarly, the DNC has highlighted footage of Obama watching
the proceedings from Kansas City, KS, and Billings, MT. The selection of these two
locations is no accident; it’s meant to portray Barak as a “down-home boy” from
“heartland.” Several political analysts have noted that Barak emphasizes his Kansas roots, while barely mentioning the time he spent
in Hawai’i as
a child. When the Senator traveled to
the island state with his family earlier in the summer, some tried to
characterize him as “exotic.”
Joe Biden: Pennsylvania Roots
Joe Biden was chosen as Obama’s Vice-Presidential running
mate for a number of reasons, most notably his impressive experience with
foreign and economic policy. Add to the mix his ties to the perennial battleground
state of Pennsylvania,
and you have one heavy-hitting nominee. While Biden currently serves as Senator
for the state of Delaware, he is proud of his Pennsylvania heritage and made several references to his
upbringing in Scranton,
PA, during his speech at the convention last night. Like Obama, Biden has
tried to align himself with working-class, “ordinary Americans.”
Convention Location: Denver, CO
Even the location of the convention in Denver, CO, is
not without geographic significance. One of the more traditionally conservative
states in the nation, the Democrats are hoping to win over voters (especially
Hispanics) in Colorado and other areas near John McCain’s home state of Arizona.
Tonight Obama will give his acceptance speech from Mile High Stadium. Obama said
that he chose the location on the home turf of the Denver Broncos so that all his
supporters could attend. Perhaps the
move will help dispel the jeers of one conservative commentator who asserted
the Democrats think they are a “Mile High” above everyone else in Denver.
Any more interesting locational shout-outs from the convention
I may have missed? Let me know and I’ll be glad to add them to the list!
Of course, there’s still one more night of action left. I’m
betting Obama will mention his childhood in
Kansas and his work restoring homes–and dreams–in inner city Chicago after graduating from law school. Hawai’i? That’s anybody’s
guess…but you can be sure someone in the
audience will be cheering no matter which familiar place name he chooses to
throw out. Represent people!
Sarah for My
Photo of Ted Kennedy, son Patrick Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton in Martha’s Vineyard, MA (Aug. 1997). Courtesy AP.