DeGette’s daughter cuts political teeth as DNC intern

By Stephanie Clary
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The offspring of many powerful figures — present and past — played a visible role at the Democratic National Convention.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children spoke at Invesco on Aug. 28, the anniversary of their father’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech. Sen. Barack Obama’s daughters joined their mother, Michelle, on the Pepsi Center stage Aug. 25. Luke Russert, son of late NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, could be found on the convention floor working as a correspondent for his father’s network.

The fame of Colorado’s 1st District congresswoman, Diana DeGette, is limited chiefly to her home state. But her daughter, Raphaela Lipinsky DeGette, also has made a contribution, as a DNCC summer intern.

Lipinsky DeGette, 18, applied to be an intern as soon as she found out the party would be coming to her hometown, and her summer-long stint began in June.

“I don’t know if you can ever feel prepared,” she said of the actual convention week. But, in retrospect, she realizes she was ready.

Not that she was immune to the “wow” factor.

The prospect of a whirlwind week hit her on the day before the DNC, when Lipinsky DeGette noticed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was walking behind her.

“I held the door for him … I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is actually happening,’” said the Brown University sophomore. “You’ve been working so hard, and (star sightings) are not something you really take into account.”

Lipinsky DeGette spent her summer in Denver focusing on online communications in the public affairs department of the DNCC.

Prior to the convention, she worked about 30 hours a week, monitoring DNC-related news on blogs, working within social networking sites such as Facebook and creating video content for the convention Web site, DemConvention.com.

But, during the convention, Lipinksy DeGette’s duties became more physical as she focused on capturing footage at the Pepsi Center.

“I did a lot of video,” she said. A lot of “running around with a hand-held camera getting people’s reactions.”

She said the small size of her department allowed for some freedom in the work she created.

“We were a very close group,” she said. “I was able to do a lot of interesting projects.”

She said one of her favorite pieces was filmed on the first day of the convention when she spoke to those working in the arena.

“They were just normal folks at the convention who were just so excited and happy to be there,” she said.

But her favorite moment of the entire four-day event was when Sen. Hillary Clinton popped up on the floor of the Pepsi Center during the Aug. 27 roll-call vote.

It was Lipinsky DeGette’s first time on the floor. Before that, she’d been working primarily near the bloggers in the Nuggets practice court area.

“Standing on the floor, surrounded by delegates … the excitement just kept mounting and mounting” as the roll-call vote went through each state delegation, she said. “When Hillary ceded the nomination to Obama, everyone just went wild.”

“I wasn’t expecting everyone to be so universally happy about it. Just the energy was so indescribable,” she said.

Lipinsky DeGette said she can’t remember any lulls in the convention week’s constant energy.

But when asked to recall her favorite speech, the answer came easily.

“I have to say my mother’s, because it was so exciting to see her up there,” she said.

Denver’s Democratic congresswoman spoke early on the final day of the convention at Invesco Field, and her speech focused on health care issues.

Lipinsky DeGette, who is studying community health at Brown, said an interest in health-related issues is something she and her mom share.

“I’m really interested in doing international public health,” she said. “I’ve wanted to go into medicine since I was really young. It’s really fun for me to have my mom really involved in these issues.”

Lipinsky DeGette believes her experience with the communications and new media side of the DNC should help her with both her short- and long-term goals.

“New media is extremely helpful in raising awareness in public health,” she said. “I’m on the board of the Brown Democrats. We also use a lot of new media to get people involved on campus.”

Now that she’s back in Rhode Island attending school, she said everyone has been wanting to hear about her summer experience.

“It makes me very popular,” she said. “It’s just an amazing experience everyone wants to get in on.”

With the convention over, Lipinsky DeGette feels energized for the election and is planning to participate in at least one campaign stop with her fellow Brown Democrats.

“We’re actually going up to New Hampshire, which is the only competitive state in the area,” she said.

She added that being in a blue state like Rhode Island doesn’t give them too many opportunities to be persuasive locally, but “We’re trying to do anything we can.”