When Peggy Rogers left her home in Starkville to attend the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, it marked her fourth consecutive national convention.
Beginning with the 2004 convention in Boston, the recently retired educator has served as a member of Mississippi’s Democratic Party delegation at every convention since.
Conventions are, of course, partisan affairs. But for Rogers, a black woman, each of the conventions touch deep personal and emotional chords. She was in Denver in 2008 to witness Barack Obama become the first black nominee of a major party.
As stirring as that moment was, this year’s convention resonated even more powerfully, she said.
“You know there are always a lot of issues in our country,” she said. “A lot of those issues are about race and a lot of those issues are about women. I was there when Barack Obama made his first convention speech in 2004. I was there in Denver when he was nominated and now, I was there in his last convention as president.
“But when Hillary Clinton said the words, ‘I accept the nomination,’ that’s when it really hit me that we had just nominated the first woman president of the United States. It just sent chills through my body and into my heart.”
Rogers retired in June from her position as assistant superintendent for the Lowndes County School District, ending her 40-year career in education.
Her teaching background in social studies made Philadelphia an especially appealing venue for the convention.
“As a teacher, especially as a history teacher, it was just so interesting to be in Philadelphia because of its history,” said Rogers, a life-long Starkville resident. “Our days were pretty crowded, but when we did get downtown in the afternoons, I did a lot of walking around. I really enjoyed seeing the architecture downtown.
“I’ve been all over the country and outside the country, but I had never been to Philadelphia. So I really, really enjoyed it. I wish I would have had more time to explore.”
Even before arriving in Philadelphia, she said she had a brush with some history of a more recent vintage.
“On the flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia, I was on the same row with Jason Carter, who is the grandson of Jimmy Carter,” she said. “We talked the whole flight, and I was so impressed with him. He talked about his grandfather and about the Jimmy Carter Museum and invited me to visit the museum. That was pretty cool.”
After serving as delegate in four conventions over 16 years, Rogers said she is reminded of how precious the right to vote is, something she observed in her own parents’ story.
“My mother lived to be 97 and my dad lived to be 99,” she said. “I never remember a single time that they didn’t vote, even when they were getting up there in age. So that was instilled in me at an early age. My parents had to fight for that right to vote, so the one thing I say, no matter what your politics are, is vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a say.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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