Neil Deegan attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver through The Washington Center’s Campaign 2008 seminar series. Today, he's the managing principal at Rittenhouse Political Partners in Philadelphia.
By 2008, I had already caught the political bug. However, being at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, which was itself an historic moment, proved an important moment for my future. Thanks to The Washington Center’s Conventions Seminar, I got an experience I could not otherwise have gotten.
Prior to the Convention
My career in politics began thanks to Dr. Robin Kolodny, who accepted me into her 2006 campaign politics course at Temple University, which merges coursework with experiential learning in the form of an internship. During the course, I interned on the re-election campaign of then-Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA), my member of Congress. The campaign offered me a part-time position as a fundraiser following her victory while I finished my degree. It was Dr. Kolodny who encouraged me, wisely, to take it.
And, it was Dr. Kolodny who recommended I participate in TWC’s 2008 Convention seminar in Denver. Now the chair of the political science department at Temple University, she remains my mentor and friend, and I’ve made it a rule to do as she says.
I was wrapping up my college career as the summer of 2008 approached. Though I had some experience with experiential learning through an elections campaign course at Temple, though nothing was at the level I would experience in Denver.
At the Convention
The 2008 Democratic Convention was exhilarating. It was a heady time, and the streets of Denver were alive with excitement. I arrived the week before the convention began to participate in the TWC program, which gave me a chance to experience the city as it prepared for the convention.
TWC made certain the experience we had on the ground was robust. During the day, we heard from interesting speakers discussing issues ranging from security around the convention, to a review of the election season to date and the party platform. We had the opportunity to dive into the history and politics of political conventions during small group sessions, toured the convention site in the days before the convention was gaveled into session, visited local attractions, and attended pre-convention activities.
That gave us the chance to get a head start — and get the lay of the land — before the full complement of convention-goers arrived. For me, it led to running around from six in the morning until midnight (or later if you want to attend a caucus session or post-convention event) every day.
During the convention week, I was placed as an intern with the Pennsylvania delegation, where my responsibilities mostly involved doing whatever needed doing, and helping with the distribution of credentials - itself a complex endeavor. At night, we’d often serve as ambassadors of sorts, helping to direct delegates to buses transporting them around the city, particularly to and from the convention arena and evening events. Often, we’d have the chance to attend those after parties, too!
And, because I had arena credentials through my seminar work assignment, I even had the chance to witness some of the convention and caucus sessions, including then-Senator Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the TWC 2008 convention seminar for many reasons. Both in the cohort and in my work, I had the chance to meet folks that I still work or stay in touch with today. I had the chance to learn more about the role of conventions in our political process in a way that you simply cannot in a classroom or lecture hall. It was an invaluable experience that helped me to begin to grow as a professional very early in my career.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the TWC 2008 convention seminar for many reasons. It was an invaluable experience that helped me to begin to grow as a professional very early in my career.Neil Deegan
After the Convention
After the convention, I continued my work for Congresswoman Schwartz’s campaign, as a fundraiser, finance director, and ultimately, became political director and senior finance advisor for her primary campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2014. I was appointed to serve as a page at the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte and subsequently had the opportunity to experience the 2016 Convention in a totally different way, because it was here in my hometown of Philadelphia.
I now serve as the managing principal at Rittenhouse Political Partners, a leading fundraising consultancy based in Philadelphia. We work with candidates and organizations at the local, state and federal levels to help them achieve their goals.
The convention seminar was an opportunity to have a front seat to history, and gave me the opportunity to engage with politics in a way I hadn’t before. I got a sense of how conventions work, which isn’t something that is taught even in a university-level political science curriculum. It was a practical application of politics that has to be lived.
The entirety of my career in politics is interconnected, which is the case for most folks in this line of work. My participation in the 2008 TWC convention seminar helped to jumpstart it. Those two weeks had a real and meaningful impact on me and my future.
The experience was all thanks to a commitment in my future expressed by Dr. Kolodny, Temple, TWC, the DNC, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). If you are someone who has even a passing interest in working in politics, particularly in Pennsylvania, the opportunity to go to the convention and engage in the TWC program will help.
Neil Deegan attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver through The Washington Center’s Campaign 2008 seminar series. He is a 2008 graduate of Temple University with a degree in political science. He is the managing principal at Rittenhouse Political Partners in Philadelphia.
Campaign 2020: National Conventions Seminars
Experience national politics up close. The Washington Center's Campaign Seminars take you behind the scenes of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.