Dem, GOP conventions are about us citizens, too

In June when Barack Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, the nation and the world took note. Never before had an African American won a major party's presidential nomination. This week, Sen. Obama gets to accept that nomination Thursday at the Democrats' convention in Denver. It will be a noteworthy event then, too.

To do so, Sen. Obama had to beat a formidable opponent who wrote her own chapter in history with her presidential run. Sen. Hillary Clinton will be acknowledged at the convention for her hard-fought campaign and as the first female to seriously contend for the nomination.

All this sets the stage for exciting political theater. It's not likely to draw the viewership of the Beijing Olympics, but it will be a political junkie's dream – and get the attention of a lot of other folks as well.

We're delighted to have a local youth who'll give us his insider's view. David McKee, 15, is the son of Carol and Stephen McKee. The Waxhaw teen is part of the Junior Statesmen of America and will be among youngsters nationwide serving as teen correspondents for their local newspapers. We'll share dispatches from David on these pages and on our blog, “The Daily Views.” David will also be part of the Observer's video coverage online with reporter Tonya Jameson at www.charlotteobserver.com/politics.

David, who is home-schooled, took part in the local League of Women Voters' Civics 101 class earlier in the year. That's where we lined him up to be our young eyes and ears at the convention. He's also set to attend the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., next week.

Both conventions are already being dubbed the Olympics of American politics, playing off the attention given to the sports Olympics that ended Sunday. That's a bit of hyperbole, but drama and excitement do exist – especially in the Democrats' quarters.

An unpopular president, an unpopular war and bedeviling economic woes have given Democrats real hope of regaining the White House in November. In Sen. Obama of Illinois, they also have a charismatic speaker whose agenda of change and hope has resonated with significant numbers of people.

As the Democrats' convention gets under way today, the spotlight shifts squarely onto politics and America's future. As citizens, it benefits us to pay attention.