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After five straight 12- to 15-hour days of roaming the city in search of stories and images that defined the 2016 Republican National Convention, we’re feeling a little nostalgic that the excitement has now officially come to an end.
Clevelanders of every stripe joined forces to roll out the red carpet for thousands of conventioneers and media from around the globe, and the reviews of the city posted in social media channels, uttered by television personalities, and published in respected newspapers have been almost universally positive. Yes, there was the constant sound of people shouting rebukes and admonitions into electronic megaphones on East 4th Street and in Public Square, but somehow that faded into the background; the overall vibe in the streets of Cleveland was one of friendliness and camaraderie. We must have heard the phrase “thank you for your service” uttered 5,000 times to the hundreds of law enforcement officers who were a constant presence, doing a masterful job keeping the peace.
The weather this week was remarkable as well, albeit a little hot and humid at times. Yesterday was the first weekday that the city turned on the splash pad in Public Square to help cool people off. It was a quintessential American scene in the square, with little children running through the arcs of water as demonstrators exercised their free speech rights and vocalized their desire for some sort of policy or social change in this country. There were several supportive people on the outskirts of it all, and we saw members of the National Lawyers Guild on bicycles, and Destination Cleveland volunteers offering directions and answering questions. We ran into Upper School World Languages Department Chair Sarah Schwab and her son Jonah, who were helping to keep people hydrated by passing out water bottles on behalf of Gateway Church Downtown, where Sarah’s husband, Chris, is lead pastor.
Before the convention session opened around 7 p.m., we spent a little time exploring downtown and the of inside Quicken Loans Arena, and hanging out in Freedom Plaza, where entire state delegations dressed in snappy red, white, and blue outfits were enjoying food, drink, and music in the Cleveland sunshine. We ventured into the Facebook pop-up social media cafe in the plaza, and there we came across a fun mini Oval Office setup where people could pose behind a tiny President’s desk and post their pictures to Instagram. We also went back up to Media Row and discovered several sponsors plying tired journalists with free iced coffee and tea, scones, and ice cream.
On the final day of the RNC, the people-watching was great. Some of the well-known faces we saw in our travels included Dr. Ben Carson, former RNC chair Michael Steele, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, perennial candidate and performance artist Vermin Supreme, Nigel Farage of Brexit fame, and journalists John King, Kate Shaw, Hugh Hewitt, Craig Melvin, Nicolle Wallace, Jose Diaz-Balart, Howard Fineman, and David Gergen.
HB’s Senior Associate Head of School and Upper School Director Sue Sadler was downtown along with Director of Counseling Lisa Lurie to take in some pre-convention programming yesterday as well. They were invited to attend Pathways to Power at the Blue Point Grill, a forum on women in politics sponsored by The Atlantic magazine. Featured speakers included U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ohio State Rep. Sarah LaTourette, and Erin Loos Cutraro, CEO of She Should Run. Sue reports that the program was interesting and energizing, and she was happy to see HB alumna Annie Ames ’12 in attendance.
We made a quick stop before the convention at Cleveland’s historic Gray’s Armory, where the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County had set up shop for the week and was hosting a series of pre- and post-convention bashes featuring great acts including Jim Brickman and Marshall Tucker Band. We spent a little time chatting there with Linda Crabbe Healey ’80 and her daughter Chase ’11. We also connected with Katie McCann ’16, who is volunteering with the party this summer and has been understandably busy this week. We weren’t able to make it back to the Armory last night for the post-convention celebration, but we heard that the surprise musical guests were country music duo Big & Rich.
The official convention proceedings have been well-documented in media channels the world over, so we won’t go into detail about the content of the speeches that led up to and included Donald Trump’s acceptance of the Republican party’s presidential nomination. The production value of the whole affair was amazing, with glittering gold staging and cool lighting splashed all over the hall. There were scores of dancing delegates on the convention floor, and numerous classic rocking musical interludes by the convention house band led by G.E. Smith. When the balloons and confetti started falling, everyone — including the assembled reporters — whipped out their phones to take selfies amid the sparkling spectacle. It really was a cool sight to see, and we can report that the balloons are much bigger and prettier in person than they look on TV. Lots of people picked them up as souvenirs. We also saw state delegation members autograph the markers that designated their states’ sections and carry them off for posterity.
As some of the civic-minded Clevelanders involved in bringing this historic convention to our city held court on restaurant patios and toasted each other after midnight on a job well done, t-shirt vendors packed up their wares, work crews began to disassemble the temporary network television soundstages, and political pundits made their way back to their hotels. What a week this has been.
Well done, Cleveland.
Thank you for following along with us as we went behind the scenes at the #RNCinCLE for HBlog this week. We’re continuing to compile information and Hathaway Brown perspectives related to the convention and we’d love to share your story in the next issue of HB magazine, which will be distributed to the school community in September. Next week, we’re going to spend time with Middle School History Chair and Director of Summer Programs Jason Habig as he leads a special election-themed camp for middle schoolers. You can read about their adventures in the magazine too.
Hathaway Brown is a non-partisan organization, and as such does not endorse any particular political party or candidate.