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Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
The ‘LoDo’ on Scott Gration

Chance meeting leads to political connection

By Leigh E. Rich

DENVER—Whoever said nice guys finish last certainly wasn’t from Savannah.

I might not be a native of Savannah, but three years in the “Hostess City of the South” has rubbed off on me—so much so that I can’t help but lend a hand to lost or confused convention-goers at every turn. One man’s Northern nosiness is, after all, another’s Southern hospitality.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I was born and raised in Denver, the site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and, unlike most of the 15,000 other journalists and 4,000 delegates attending, I know where I am going. I grew up in LoDo, the “fro yo,” “ho cho,” “NatGeo” hip name for Denver’s lower downtown.

As I left the Pepsi Center on Monday night after Michelle Obama’s speech, I noticed a couple in need of direction. It didn’t matter that the two of them already had flagged down a local police officer and paramedic working the convention. My busybody self—and good intentions—gracefully broke into the conversation. If only I had a drink in hand when I did it, I would have sworn I was on Bay Street.

The husband and his wife, although invigorated by Obama’s speech, were tired from a day of travel, having just flown in from New Jersey. What’s more, the shuttle bus from their hotel—about a mile away—took an hour to reach the Pepsi Center. On the way, the bus was even involved in a minor fender bender.

The New Jerseyans weren’t up for a second go-round, so I offered to walk them to their hotel. We chatted about the first night of the convention, as U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy roused the crowd with promises of health care for all and the would-be first lady endeared herself to America.

Were the speeches too long, they asked me, once I revealed I was covering the convention as a freelance journalist for the Savannah Morning News. I said that from a journalistic perspective, some of the early stumps were a bit lackluster and didn’t quite hold the attention of the delegates. However from an academic perspective, I teased, my students at Armstrong Atlantic State University would probably say the same about me.

For an invigorating speech, the wife told me to wait until Thursday. I thought she was merely referring to Obama accepting the Democratic nomination.

Rounding the corner onto the 16th Street Mall, the husband, a retired major general, spoke of his work helping communities in developing nations to build infrastructure for safe drinking water. We talked about his time in the armed forces and how he would be at the Veterans and Military Families Caucus the next day. He also conceded that prior to Barack Obama’s candidacy, he was a Republican.

I pointed out landmarks of Denver as well as restaurants, in case they were hungry, and we skirted around a horse-drawn carriage making its way down the city’s pedestrian mall.

We shook hands as I left them near the entrance to their hotel, realizing a bit too late that I had just escorted retired Gen. Scott Gration—one of Barack Obama’s policy advisers—and his wife through my old stomping grounds. 

Rich, L. E. (2008, August 26). Chance meeting leads to political connection. Savannah Morning News,

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