In Depth: Democratic Convention CEO Rev. Leah Daughtry

by Virginia Coyne

What to expect when Democrats convene in Philadelphia on July 25.

Rev. Leah Daughtry is CEO of Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Philadelphia July 25-28, 2016.

Rev. Leah Daughtry is CEO of Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Philadelphia July 25-28, 2016.

Washington Life: Hillary Clinton is your party’s presumptive nominee. What is it like, as a woman, to be leading the convention where the first female will accept the nomination for President of the United States?
Rev. Leah Daughtry: It’s hard to believe that just eight years ago in Denver, Colorado, our party nominated the first African-American president of the United States. It was a true privilege to serve as CEO for the historic 2008 convention, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to, once again, have a front row seat as history is made. On Election Night in 2008, after Barack Obama had been declared the next president of the United States, my oldest nephew texted me, saying, “now, Auntie Leah, I believe I can do anything.” It took the election of an African American as president for my brilliant, talented nephew to believe that all doors were open to him. This cycle, I think about all the little girls – and boys – who will have a larger idea of what’s possible for their lives as a result of the election of Hillary Clinton.

WL: What do you believe other highlights of the convention will be? Will there be any special guests?
LD: I have been involved in our party’s conventions for over two decades now, and each time has been unforgettable in its own unique way. From hearing actor Christopher Reeve speak at the 1996 Chicago convention, to witnessing a young State Sen. Obama find his political launching pad in Boston in 2004, you can always count on those magical moments to capture who we are as a people and inspire the whole party ahead of the general election. The choices for speaking roles at this year’s convention have not been finalized, but we anticipate a who’s who in the Democratic Party leadership to take center stage and address the nation.

WL: What role will Bernie Sanders and his supporters have at the convention?
LD: The Democratic National Convention Committee has a strong partnership with both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. And while we are in the midst of ongoing conversations to determine the roles that each organization will play at the convention, our shared goals are very clear: work hand-in-hand with the candidates to make sure our party, the big-tent party, has a seamless nominating process for president and vice president. We also are actively working together to draft and ultimately adopt a party platform representative of Democrats from all walks of life, all religions, all races and all economic strata. Both Clinton and Sanders supporters are already playing an integral role in that process.

WL: How concerned are you about possible protests and chaos in Philadelphia, especially in light of violence at the Nevada Democratic convention in May?
LD: Conventions play a special role in our electoral process – they are designed to be an uninterrupted opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to articulate their values and vision for the future of our nation. As someone who has been involved in our party’s conventions since 1992 and who considers herself an activist for justice and equality, I plan on making sure that safe spaces for fellow Democrats who wish to express their views and opinions are not in short supply in Philadelphia.

This interview first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Washington Life.

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