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Excited and ready to rock, the three winners of CNN's contest to attend the Democratic National Convention hit the ground at full speed. Veteran iReporters Omekongo Dibinga and Melissa Fazli and newcomer Willie Harris documented almost every step of the way. If you don't believe us, just look at all the iReports they sent!
We kicked off with introductions and a taste test at the CNN Grill, an existing restaurant that CNN took over to host politicians and tastemakers during the convention. From spotting Sen. John Kerry and journalist Tom Brokaw, to spending a few minutes with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, the iReporters were awestruck from the start.
When night fell, the iReporters headed to Time Warner Cable Arena for the big night of speeches. Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's speech on education inspired Harris, who wants to be a teacher some day. And Michelle Obama "knocked her speech out of the park," said Dibinga. "Talking about success meaning helping people not just making a lot of money and closing the door behind you, that was excellent," he said.
When an iReporter shows up in a suit paired with a red iReport shirt underneath, you know it's going to be a good day! Four local iReporters and two iReporters in town for the convention joined us for an iReport meet-up. CNN director of photography Mark Hill and on-air promotions producer Danya Levine came by to give the iReporters some tips on photography and interviewing. Read some of their expert tips here.
Former President Bill Clinton tore down the house during his keynote speech, according to the iReporters. Fazli felt Clinton "totally rocked the arena" and commented on the long standing ovation he received as he took the stage. Dibinga appreciated that Clinton was the first politician he had heard acknowledge that "we're better off than four years ago."
When Obama joined Clinton on stage, it was a dream come true for Fazli, who volunteers for Obama's campaign. "I was emotional about it because I've been talking about this man for four years on iReport and to finally see him in person with my own eyes was just amazing to me," she said.
Some veteran iReporters shared a "heartfelt moment" as they met face-to-face for the first time, reminisced Fazli. Dibinga, Fazli and Egberto Willies have known each other through iReport for almost four years. Meanwhile, newcomer Harris took to the streets asking people what they hoped to hear at Obama's speech that night. His poignant questions revealed job creation, health care and education as the biggest topics convention goers wanted addressed.
Worrying that we wouldn't get in to see Obama's speech, we headed to the Arena five hours early. The speech had been scheduled for a larger stadium until fears of severe weather forced a change of venue. We were sitting high up in the rafters, but we snagged seats for the entire group! The energy inside the arena grew and grew until President Obama took the stage.
Harris may only be 23, but he called the experience of being at the DNC the "single-most exciting thing that has happened in [his] life," he said. "Being part of the speeches, hanging out with CNN staff and everyone was so nice. It was just a great experience. I'm just at a loss of words."
Dibinga felt "unexpectedly inspired" as the convention wrapped up. "I'm really inspired to go back and do my part in really helping build a better country where there's less of me and more of we," he said. Fazli was also moved to do more, but in a political sense. "It was history in the making. It was a big pep rally. Getting all fired up like that has inspired me to get more involved with the Obama campaign," she said.
You can look back at all the best iReports from the three contest winners, as well as stories from other iReporters and CNN employees, through our DNC 2012 Open Story. And, if you're curious about iReport's experience at the RNC in Tampa, read about it here. While we take a breather after the conventions, stay tuned for information on the presidential debates coming this October.
Very nice coverage all!
Congrats once again. You guys did good...for sure.
very good my compliments to all of you
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