June 13, 2008
I am running.
That’s not a political announcement. Tomorrow, I’ll run a half marathon. I’ve been training pretty seriously. I’ve run a bunch. I’ve lost more than 15 pounds. I’ve actually lost more poundage than my original goal, which I consider an exquisite overachievement.
I also chaired the Texas Democratic Convention last weekend. No half marathon training program should fail to include standing in hard-sole dress shoes for many, many hours in a row, a mere week before running over 13 miles at once. Several times, I looked down expecting to see bloody stumps. And, when talking about my legs, “stumps” is the appropriately descriptive term. Lots of people wonder how I even run on the things.
This will be my third half marathon this year. I ran one just for fun in early January, doing well enough to challenge myself to run a second one a few weeks later. I was convinced I could run it within a certain time. Senseless overachievement. I barely missed the arbitrary goal, causing me to lose my mind and search for another half marathon to run.
So here I go. I candidly admit this is nuts.
But I suppose that deep down in my psyche, I’m running a race against the aging process. And I intend to win. Wistful overachievement.
As I said, Texas Democrats convened at the Austin Convention Center last weekend for our bi-annual sendoff into the General Election campaign. Chelsea Clinton, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and many other Texas Democrats addressed the delegates.
It was a great, gratifying weekend. For all the talk about division and bad feeling from the Presidential primaries, Democrats came out of it energetic, strong, and unified.
And maybe there’s something about adversity that brings people together.
Take Saturday morning, when we tried to pick up Senator Clinton’s inspiring endorsement speech off the Internet and show it on the big screens so the delegates could watch it.
Just as she walked to the podium at the National Building Museum in Washington, she appeared in our convention hall. I was just beginning to feel amazed by the wonders of technology and democracy. Then we lost the connection.
Our audience moaned. But the break in coverage came after the delegates heard Senator Clinton speak eloquently about the importance of unity, and make clear that she endorses Senator Obama.
So the technical difficulties did bring us together, I think. So did the very long nights. Various rules and procedural issues kept us meeting until past midnight on Friday and Saturday (or is that Saturday and Sunday?). I was fine, of course, but I felt bad for all of those delegates who aren’t used to the Capitol on any May night in an odd-numbered year, or Austin City Council meetings year-round.
The good news, of course, is that none of the proceedings resulted in any major differences or fabled “floor fights” that reporters love and parties don’t. The complexities and technicalities were just, you know, complex and technical.
The most dramatic incident, I guess, was the voice from the ceiling that told us a fire alarm had gone off and said we all needed, with some urgency, to get a breath of fresh air.
More than 6,000 of us filed out of the building onto the sidewalk. I was beginning to wonder how long we’d be cooling our heels when an officer came out and told us we could head back in. It was uneventful enough that I no longer think of it as an evacuation – more like one of the world’s easiest team-building exercises, or a mammoth game of Hokey Pokey.
Our false alarm, of course, almost underscores the terrible seriousness of the fire that swept through the Governor’s Mansion on Sunday morning. It’s a beautiful building, an Austin jewel, and a vital part of Texas’ heritage. No matter how tough or partisan politics got, the stately Mansion, like the Capitol across the street, was something everyone could agree on.
It’s imperative that authorities catch and prosecute whoever’s responsible for this tragedy. Beyond that, Texans must come together to restore this lovely, important building. This isn’t about politics or elections. It’s about Texas.