TAMPA, Fla. - Fiery speeches, world-class music, top-rate technology, raucous cheers - and about 20 million viewers to take it all in. What a "grand old party" it was indeed. Luckily enough, I had a front-row seat for all of the excitement.
Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of working with Time Warner Cable at the Republican National Convention. An owner of dozens of affiliates nationwide, Time Warner sent six broadcast teams from across the country to Tampa, providing their viewers with a unique, local angle on national politics. As part of each of those teams, I helped bring the convention to viewers from Texas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Florida. Now, as the dust of the RNC settles in Tampa, I am ready to bring the convention - and that local angle - to everyone back home in Central PA.
Throughout the convention, I provided logistical support at Time Warner's stand-up camera position. This brought some very exciting responsibilities my way, including my primary responsibility, escorting interviewees to and from our evening political shows. Most notably, I escorted Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former RNC Chair Jim Nicholson to our shows. But beyond this exciting opportunity, my job also provided me another notable privilege: floor access to nearly every RNC speech. From behind our camera, I watched as GOP stars like Gov. Chris Christie, Mrs. Ann Romney, VP Nominee Paul Ryan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney took to the stage under thundering applause and deafening cheers, tantamount to the roar that emanates from Beaver Stadium on a Saturday evening.
Much to my surprise, I even watched an America icon, Clint Eastwood, address the crowd. "We built that," cried nearly ever speaker, in a mocking reference to a now-infamous line by President Obama. "We own this country," declared Clint Eastwood. Indeed, by the time the last of the balloons and confetti had fallen to the ground, I had witnessed a meticulously designed political production - complete with music, lights, massive LED screens, and all the components of a modern concert - unfold before my eyes.
Yet this was not the most exciting part of my convention experience.
Due in part to our affiliation with Tampa Bay News 9 (one of the most popular news outlets in the Tampa area), the RNC assigned Time Warner a prime stand-up camera position-directly between FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN. So, as each evening unfolded, I watched in unedited, real time reactions of pundits and newsmen like Lawrence O'Donnell, Bret Baier, Wolf Blitzer, Neil Cavuto, and others. I was so close, in fact, that I could hear some rather angry conversations between these news anchors and their colleagues (apparently, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper don't always get along so well).
My proximity to these large news organizations also gave me access to their television guests. Throughout the week, I shook hands with people like Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell, Rand Paul, Piers Morgan, Jon Voight, Pa.'s own Rick Santorum, and countless others. Many of these people - whom I had watched and studied for years - even gave me a hearty pat on the back and a friendly 'hello' each time I saw them. At one point, I even got caught in a rather awkward, tense discussion between Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Rick Santorum and Jon Voight.
All in all, the convention quickly became a completely unforgettable experience for me. Not only had I witnessed a piece of history, but I was able to meet and network with many of the leaders of our great nation. Perhaps even more importantly, however, I gained one final, vital insight: in this country, the impossible does happen, and it can happen to anyone. One after the other, speakers took the stage at the RNC who had overcome overwhelming odds to have risen to their current place of prominence. Does this mean that my son or daughter will become an astronaut or an NFL quarterback? No, probably not. But it does mean that, even in the midst of today's trying economy, the possibility of success for any kid - black, white, poor, rich, urban, or rural (maybe even an enthusiastic youngster from Reedsville) - still lives on today.
Jesse Crosson, a 2009 graduate of Indian Valley High School, is a student at Hofstra Univeristy, located on Long Island in Hempstead, N.Y.