CHARLOTTE, NC— The opportunity to become delegates to a political party's convention is a dream for some Americans, especially if they were born and raised in another country. Delegates cast votes for their state or territory and officially nominate the party’s choice for president.
Linh Hoang is a Vietnamese-American living in Fairfax, Virginia. He is a delegate from the 11th Congressional District of Virginia. He swims to focus his thoughts before representing his state at the Democratic National Convention.
"My family lived through wars for many generations," he said. "Starting with my grandfather fighting against the French Colonists and then my father fought along [side] American soldiers against communism. That's what really drives my passion."
Suchada Langley, originally from Thailand, packed for a week to come to the convention, but prepared for this day for years. "I think the country is more divided than ever before," she said. "I think both parties are fighting each other much more than even back in 2000 when it got me into politics. And I think it's sad."
Langley is a cancer survivor who favors the president’s health care plan. Huong is openly gay. His party stands for policies supporting same sex marriage. Both live in Virginia - a battleground state - where he says Asian votes could make the difference.
Langley and Hoang join 6,000 other delegates in Charlotte. A little more than 2 percent are Asian. Eight percent are gay or transgender. Here, party leaders ignite the delegates, the campaign’s soldiers.
"We are ready! We are fired up and ready to go!" said Langley.
"A lot of people from all backgrounds, races and generations coming together. For me, that is truly an American experience," says Hoang.
Amazingly, Langley and Hoang say they won't run for delegate in four years. They say they want to give up their spots to others, to offer more diversity within the Virginia delegation.
Political science professor John Sides says he isn’t surprised.
"Especially on the Democratic side, there is a real push to diversify the pool of delegates using quotas for women and minorities, and in some ways to democratize the process more," he explained.
Back on the convention floor, each state announces its delegation’s vote, culminating in the nomination of President Barack Obama for a second term.
After the convention, the delegates share their excitement with voters back home, hoping to tip the balance in favor of the president.