Samuel Robinson, a delegate to the D.C. Statehood Convention from Ward 5, usually takes the formal approach. A food stamp administrator who often wears dark suits, Robinson strides solemnly to the front of the convention hall, adjusts his necktie and after a dramatic pause, begins, "My fellow delegates . . . . "
Robert Love from Ward 1 is more blunt. Dressed in blue jeans and lumberjack shirt, Love, a psychologist, rises from his seat in the midst of often raucous debate, interjecting, "Can't we eli So she ran, and won.
"I had no idea what was involved," she said recently. "I consider myself the 'newest comer.' But I'm good at conceptualizing. The conceptualization must come first before the constitution is translated into legalese or constitutional language."
All told, 29 of the 45 delegates are present or retired federal or District government employes. Thirteen are teachers, counselors or administrators in city schools and universities. In addition, delegates hold advanced university degrees in such subjects as psychology, astronomy and higher education. Few have only a high school diploma.
There are none of the major businessmen or lobbyists who have been key players in constitutional conventions in other states. Also in constrast to most other such gatherings, there are only four professional politicians: city council members Hilda H. Mason (Statehood-At-Large), Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At-Large) and David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), and at-large school board member Barbara Lett Simmons.
On the outer edges of the convention are two other contrasting delegates: Absalom Jordan Jr. from Ward 8, executive director of the city's Unemployment Compensation Board, and Kenneth Rothschild, a cab driver from Ward 2.
Jordan, 40, a veteran of confrontation politics, has been an ally of ex-city council member Douglas E. Moore and former school superintendent Barbara A. Sizemore, a controversial educator who contended that the city's school system was culturally tilted against blacks.
Heavy-set, intense and sometimes acerbic, Jordan has become an informal floor whip for Convention President Cassell, marshaling delegates for votes and scolding opponents who try to limit Cassell's authority.
"We need a strong executive," Jordan said in an interview, "but not to stifle dissent"--a contention leveled by some critics. "We're under a 90-day constraint to write the constitution , and we have to move efficiently . . . . If you diffuse the power base, there will be endless debate, and we'll never get the job done."
Rothschild, 37, a housing activist, self-described homosexual and advocate of 1960s-style "participatory democracy," takes the opposite view. He talks of "shared responsibility" and the need to "flatten out the hierarchy of power." He has been nicknamed a "one-man Woodstock caucus" by some at the convention.
He acknowledges his isolation. "On a bell curve, I'm on one of the far extremes," he says. " . . . I'm trying to raise different views and perspectives . . . . I'm used to being an outsider."