Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Democratic National Convention in 2008 still has Denver planners a mile high

The sun is just beginning to glint off the silver sides of Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, where exactly four years ago today (back when it was known as Invesco Field at Mile High), Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. And both the stadium and the city shone bright that night.

It was a historic moment for many reasons. Exactly 45 years before Obama's speech -- on August 28, 1963 -- Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech.

But when then-Denver City Council president Elbra Wedgeworth decided to campaign to bring the Democratic National Convention to Denver in 2008, she had no idea that convention would nominate the first African-American candidate for president. She'd seen Obama speak at the 2004 convention in Boston, and remembers thinking, "Man, who is this dude?" She never thought he'd run for president -- but then, it wasn't until 2006 that she decided to make a push for Denver to become the site of the 2008 convention. And then, not only did she get up at the podium, but she got to see Obama walk across the stage at Mile High, in the heart of the city where she'd been born and raised. "As a black woman in America, I never thought I'd witness that," she says.

While the Republicans weather Hurricane Isaac in Tampa, the Dems are starting to pack for their own convention, where former Denver mayor/current governor John Hickenlooper will be speaking. "I wish Charlotte well," Wedgeworth says. "It was a very unique experience. I know how hard it was. There were many sleepless nights."

But the convention was worth it. "It was one of my greatest accomplishments as a public official," says Wedgeworth, who was at Denver Health by the time the city was awarded the convention, but still poured her heart -- and endless hours -- into it. "It was our time and our turn.... Now Denver is known as an international, urban city. Everyone looked at Denver as a different city."

Including many of the people who live here.

Fine more memories of the 2008 Democratic National Convention here tomorrow -- and post your own below.

Read more in "There and Barack again: The journey to and from Mile High."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun