Work the Democratic Convention (as Tom Did in 1968!)

July 1, 2024

Beginning on August 19, Chicago will host the 2024 Democratic National Convention. Democrats from across the country will swoop into Chicago for the party’s four-day nominating convention, the third in Chicago since 1968.

It is estimated that 50,000 visitors (including 5,000 delegates) and 15,000 members of the media will be in attendance.

To help with the influx of people, the Democratic National Committee is looking for 12,000 volunteers in the Chicagoland area. Half that number have already applied. All skills and all ages from 16 and up are needed. Most of the volunteers will be used to greet delegates at airports, to check people into the convention itself, or as drivers.

The first step toward becoming a volunteer is to complete the online application. Application questions include everything from whether you speak another language to whether you have a driver’s license to what size T-shirt you wear.

Volunteers must pass a background check required by the U.S. Secret Service. Once you have been cleared to volunteer, you will be granted access to sign up for available shifts later this summer.

Volunteers will then complete a training session and get connected to their volunteer leaders. The time commitment for volunteers will vary depending on the needs of each volunteer role. Approved volunteers can sign up for multiple shifts.

We encourage you to be a part of this historic event.

And a fun fact: Chicago disability attorney Tom Nash worked as a limo driver during the August 1968 convention.

He got his driver’s license in May of that year and was driving delegates from Butler Aviation near Midway Airport to the convention site, Chicago’s International Amphitheatre at 42nd and Halsted in Bridgeport near the old Chicago Stockyards.

Tom has never forgotten this experience. It had a great influence on his life, and this year’s convention may be one for the ages again.

“I was a 16-year-old just having finished my sophomore year at Brother Rice,” Tom remembers. “I could barely see above the steering wheel.”

“With campaign credentials that allowed me straight into the Sheraton Blackstone hotel rooms of Platform Committee Chair Hale Boggs of Louisiana, I saw firsthand the infamous clash below between antiwar protesters and the Chicago Police.”

“Dropping my delegates off in the midst of the war protest chaos at Balbo and Michigan, I’ll admit to giving a toot of my horn for Chicago’s finest to get the strange people to stop pounding on the hood of my limo. My Christian Brothers of Ireland education mandated a short haircut that stood in stark contrast to those strange hippies, yippies and protesters.”

“While a lot of the focus was on the Vietnam War and those protesting it, the issues swirling around U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia were confusing for me.”

“What WAS clear to me, though, was the justice in the cause of the Southern Christian Leadership Poor People’s Campaign. Martin Luther King, Jr., due to his leadership for civil rights, had been assassinated in April 1968. Having watched him explain civil rights on TV when I was 14 and 15 years old, I trusted him greatly.

“So when the Rev. Ralph Abernathy took over that leadership and led covered wagons north on Michigan Avenue toward Balbo and Michigan, where the delegates were staying at the Conrad Hilton and Blackstone hotels, I learned a vital lesson: Participate in our democracy.”