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Originally published in the summer 2008 Kennedy School Bulletin
Just a year out of the Kennedy School, Melanie Roe MPP 2007 is responsible for ensuring the most closely watched presidential convention in history comes off without a hitch.
As the director of hall management for the Democratic National convention in Denver, Roe is planning an event that will bring more than 50,000 people to the city for four days in August, including party delegates, the media, political activists, VIPs, and volunteers — all key players in the big event.
“I’m responsible for everything, from making sure all speeches are simultaneously given in sign language to the logistics behind every meal served in the convention hall, Roe says. “There are an infinite number of details to consider when putting on an event as large and important as this.”
Modern conventions have been more of a coronation ceremony for the nominee who was chosen months beforehand, allowing the party more of an opportunity to showcase its choice and its agenda for the general election. The much longer than anticipated nomination process for the Democrats has made this convention especially important and harder to plan. Until Obama finally clinched the nomination in June, Roe and her staff were planning for a convention with two candidates for the nomination, which made the process all the more difficult and politically charged. As a subsidiary of the National Democratic Party, the convention must be neutral in all aspects if a nominee has not yet been chosen.
"Even with the long nomination process, this is an historic election because you’ve had an African American and a woman as viable candidates for the presidency for the first time."
For Roe, the 2008 election is an opportunity to exorcise the demons from 2004, when she spent the last eight months of the campaign at U.S. Senator and Democratic party presidential nominee John Kerry’s side.
“It was a painful loss,” she says. “I’m hoping this time things will turn out differently, and a flawless convention is a big part of that, especially this year.”
Roe stands above the Denver convention hall where Democrats met in August to announce their candidate.