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The political conventions are over. In Tampa Bay and Charlotte the weather made things more difficult, causing the Republicans to cancel the first day of their gathering and the Democrats to move President Obama’s acceptance speech indoors because of the threat of serious weather.
There were some familiar names from this area at the conventions.
Kristine Gabor of Upper Township, Keith Davis of Linwood, Mike Donohue of South Dennis and John Amodeo of Margate were among those at the Republican National Convention.
Among those at the Democratic Convention were Cory Booker of Newark, Brendan T. Byrne of Roseland, James Florio of Metuchen, Robert Menendez of North Bergen, a guy named Wyatt Earp of Toms River and Bobby Barr of Ocean City.
Bobby Barr? The same Bobby Barr who has undying loyalty to Duke basketball and Kansas City Chiefs football? The Bobby Barr who always gets the best seat at the Dixie Howell Memorial Gymnasium?
Yep, that’s the guy, hanging out with governors, senators and mayors.
“It was an excellent experience,” Barr said. “You could say it was a political junkie’s dream. My friend, Al Genz, came with me and drove the van. He isn’t very involved in politics but he really liked it, too.”
Barr graduated from Ocean City High School in 1999 and from Richard Stockton College in 2004. He does a lot of work with state Sen. Jeff Van Drew and was encouraged to apply as an Obama delegate. He ended up being the only one representing Cape May County.
Because of the presence of the President of the United States, the Vice President, a former President and the First Lady all in the same town at once, security was really tight in Charlotte.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Barr said. “We were lucky because we got Secret Service clearance for our van. We were in the same parking lot as President Clinton and Michelle Obama.”
The reason Barr needed clearance for his van is that he has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair and the buses used to transport delegates were not wheelchair accessible.
That wheelchair has never held Barr back.
“I was raised and treated just like anybody else,” he explained. “My parents told me I could do anything that doesn’t require me to get out of the chair. My teachers, my friends – everybody treats me the same. My situation does not limit me.”
Barr arrived in Charlotte on Saturday, though the actual convention did not begin until Tuesday. There was a welcome reception in a historic mansion, caucus meetings and lots of food.
“All you had to do was get to North Carolina and pay for your hotel,” he said. “They fed you from the time you arrived until the time you left.”
The New Jersey delegation was housed in the same hotel as the New Hampshire delegation. “Because of that,” Barr said, “everybody who was even thinking about running for president in 2016 came to our hotel and talked to us. New Hampshire holds the first primary and they all wanted to get a feel for their chances.”
Barr was eating dinner with New Jersey Sen. James Whelan when Donna Brazile, former chairwoman of the Democratic Party, sat down. So did Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and Connecticut governor Dan Malloy.
In addition to his work for Van Drew, Barr is currently on the Ocean City Utility Advisory Commission, the Board of Directors of the Ocean City Exchange Club and has become municipal leader of the Ocean City Democratic Party.
“This convention was an amazing experience,” Barr said. “For me, getting to see President Obama and President Clinton speak in person was a great thrill. I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in politics, or just interested in the country, whether a Democrat or a Republican, to look into becoming a delegate to a political convention. It is so much more than just the cheering in the arena and balloons dropping.
“It’s hard to imagine that an ordinary guy like me, who started watching the conventions on TV when I was 10 years old, would actually get to be at one.”
It worked out just the way his parents planned it.
Words of Wisdom: “With almost no time to decide, (your loved ones) gave the entire country an incalculable gift. They saved the Capitol from attack. They saved God knows how many lives. They saved the terrorists from claiming the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government. They allowed us to survive as a country that could fight terror and still maintain liberty and still welcome people from all over the world, from every religion and race and culture, as long as they shared our values, because ordinary people, given no time at all to decide, did the right thing. ”
(President Bill Clinton, in Shanksville, Pa. on the 10th anniversary of 9/11)