Sharron Brown-Willis didn't get to attend Barack Obama's historic nomination as the presidential candidate for Democratic Party in 2008, but she was thrilled to settle for attending the second time around.
Brown-Willis, a Newton County resident, attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., as an at-large delegate from Georgia, and came back impassioned for the party and women's rights.
"It was amazing...it was definitely a life-changing experience meeting people from all walks of life, with different religions and beliefs and everybody coming together for one purpose," Brown-Willis said. "I grew up with parents who were involved in the civil rights movement, and I used to hear stories and read about people who came together for one purpose and passion: to obtain a goal much greater than themselves. That will affect our whole world, country and nation.
"I never really experienced something like that until this weekend and my life will never be the same. I know I'm more passionate now," she said.
Brown-Willis, whose own family is a melting pot of cultures, including African-American and Apache Indian, was brought to tears by the unity she saw at this year's convention.
"A couple from Germany sat next to me...and we held our hands together and cried together. For us to do that, is something we never could have done many, many years ago," Brown-Willis said. "For us to be there holding each other hands, and this lady is shedding tears, and I am, and we're hugging each other and we're there for the same reason and we just want to see change."
The convention was a whirlwind of activities, including Democratic caucus meetings, conferences, the convention speeches and pro-life rallies and protests. Brown-Willis said she got an average of two hours of sleep a day, but it was worth it.
"In all of that, I found a new passion. I am a Democrat and proud to be one but I also just love people, and I learned so much about wanting to empower women about what their choices are before they make their decision (in the election), because the GOP poses some things that would rob women of their choices," Brown-Willis said.
Besides her strengthened passion for women's rights, Brown-Willis also enjoyed spending time with her fellow Georgia delegates and listening to U.S. Rep John Lewis, who recalled his own struggles during the civil rights movement.
While she was in Charlotte - along with a few other locals who drove up for President Obama's speech and Sheriff Ezell Brown and his deputies who were on convention duty - 142 Democrats turned out for a local viewing party.
Local Chairwoman Sarah Todd said members were moved by First Lady Michelle Obama's reintroducing the nation to the man she loves, mesmerized by former President Bill Clinton's support of Obama and condemnation of Republican policies and re-energized by the president's overview of all that he has accomplished. However, it was the story of everyday Americans that touched them most.
"We listened as former lifelong Republican, Doug Sterner, an Ohio firefighter, talked about how today's Republican Party has left him and all working people out in the cold. We were moved to tears after hearing mom Stacey Lihn explain how Obamacare saved her not quite 2-year-old daughter's life by removing the lifetime cap on healthcare costs. Her daughter Zoe is awaiting her third open heart surgery. We listened over and over again to everyday Americans tell us in no uncertain terms what four more years will mean for moving this country forward and how a Romney presidency will take us back to what got us in trouble in the first place," Todd said in an email. We were, as we always are, proud to be Democrats."