Kathy Hegstrom displayed her Democratic Party convention paraphernalia and made a confession about her recent trip to Los Angeles.
"I brought two extra suitcases, much to my husband's chagrin, because he ended up carrying them," the Brainerd High School social studies teacher said.
In the suitcases were campaign buttons, hats, signs -- even a convention Barbie doll, complete with credentials around her neck.
While all of the convention hoopla and toys were fun, it was the people who made the event memorable, the 50-year-old president of Brainerd United Educators said.
"The fun part was being around other people who care, being around other people who are involved," she said.
The Minnesota delegation, alone, she said, was a diverse and interesting group. She was told Minnesota had the highest percentage of delegates under age 25.
"It's a great experience. It's a unifying effort," she said. "You learn a lot. You visit with other people. I think you become committed to the whole process."
Politics is anything but a dirty word to Hegstrom who has been involved in the DFL Party since she was about 20.
"It's the vehicle through which you can be heard," she said of politics.
The 2000 Democratic convention was her second convention. She attended the 1984 convention that saw Minnesota's Walter Mondale and then-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro named to the national ticket.
She's the only Crow Wing County resident to have served as a delegate since 1984 and she said longtime Democrats couldn't recall when a county person might have attended a convention before 1984.
She encourages political involvement -- in any party -- in her BHS American government and world issues class. Realizing that no one can be well versed in all of the issues, she suggests that would-be politicos specialize.
"Get kids to find an issue or a topic you really care about," Hegstrom said.
Vice President Al Gore's acceptance speech was the highlight of the convention for her. She termed his performance that night as "very inspiring." Hegstrom expects Gore to win but noted that Democratic officials emphasized to the delegates that there was a lot of work to be done if they were going to win in November.
"The primary message was 'This is going to be a close election,'" she said.
Hegstrom saw her share of celebrities at the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- Warren Beatty, James Woods and Jay Leno. But she also was well aware of the serious work that went on by those who wrote the party's platform.
"There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scene," she said.
While some of her acquaintances think she can get a bit fanatical about politics, Hegstrom is mystified by those people who don't even bother to vote.
"When I think of what this country has gone through to give us the right to vote it still amazes me that they (the non-voters) wouldn't exercise that right," she said.
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