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UMM student revels in convention chaos, excitement

By Ted Fiskevold

For the Sun Tribune

DENVER -- Chanting "Yes - we - can - Yes - we - can !" and waving his "Obama-Biden" sign with the rest of the Minnesota delegation, University of Minnesota, Morris senior Douglas Williams listened to the Roll Call of the states and anxiously awaited the outcome on Wednesday, the final day of the Democratic National Convention, before it moved from the Pepsi Center in Denver to nearby INVESCO Field.

A cross-section of Minnesota DFL's diverse delegation was standing in front of the delegation sign and podium knowing it would soon be their turn to cast ballots that would ultimately result in the historic presidential nomination of Senator Barack Obama.

The smiling yet sometimes very intense Political Science Major absorbed every bit of the scene around him as well as the inside political baseball that could still be seen, heard and followed, even over the general pandemonium caused by youthful and seasoned party faithful. He watched and admired DFL leaders like Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybeck, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, State Senator Mee Moua, CD Chair J.P. MaLoney, DNC member and former DFL State Chair Rick Stafford, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Executive Director Melanie Benjamin and others with respect and awe.

Factor in all the delegates with their cell phones, blackberries and digital cameras and include the thousands of fire marshals, security and event staff and the chaos and excitement intensifies.

The Minnesota delegation cast their ballots for both candidates, with eight delegates for Hillary Clinton and the remaining 78 delegates casting their votes for Obama.

It was only after Obama won the roll call and his nomination was a certainty that Williams was willing to turn part of his attention towards another media interview. After the music, the "We will win!" chanting, the dancing and the rest of the heartwarming and emotional demonstration that followed, Williams left the still noisy convention hall and climbed up the stairs to the hallway for the short interview.

"In every state and every corner of this nation we are going to light the spark for a progressive future of America," the excited young student proclaimed.

Williams was born in Norfolk, Virg. His father was a shipyard machinist and his mother was an attendant at Wendy's. Williams attended Virginia Beach High School and moved to Minnesota when his father got a job transfer. "I am a second semester senior now, "he said. "I chose U of M Morris because it is the number one liberal arts college in the country; I had to go there, man."

His father is now a Grand Lodge Representative for the international Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers and his mother is an insurance adjuster.

In 2004, Williams went to his caucus in Circle Pines and ultimately became a delegate to the congressional district and state conventions for Senator John Kerry. In 2006, while still living in Circle Pines, He was a delegate at the state convention for State Senator Steve Kelley.

Williams' first impression when he arrived in Denver: "I was happy to be here--honored that people trusted me...and I loved all the people mingling and bouncing ideas off each other..."

Williams loved his late grandmother. "She only had an eighth grade education, but she changed the life of my father and me forever," he said. "She fought for equal rights and integration in our public schools and facilities. I was 12 when she died."

The highlight of the convention so far: "The endorsement of Barack Obama," he beamed.

"I'm very excited to see the celebration tomorrow! It's the culmination of everything my grandma, my father and I have worked for!"