Rev. Daughtry, what’s the spirit in your heart as you go forward with this 2016 convention?
It is a momentous occasion for this convention to be in Philadelphia, which is the birthplace of our democracy. As a fifth-generation pastor from long line of activists, to get this position is the fulfillment of many of their hopes and dreams. My mind goes back to [civil rights activist] Fannie Lou Hamer, who in 1964 was not allowed to be seated by the Democratic Party. We have come such a long way as a party. We fought our way and built this party that has become a big tent. We understand that diversity is not our problem, it is our promise. … We are able to be in one family together even though we don’t agree on everything.
When you think about this one family, take me back to Sunday and the ecumenical prayer service at the convention center?
We started having interfaith gatherings in 2008, and it is really an acknowledgement of the role that people of faith play in the Democratic Party. There are millions of us in the Democratic Party, and sometimes people say the party is not welcoming people of faith. But the fact of the matter is that there are millions of people of faith across the country who are Democrats. The interfaith service was a chance for us to come together and celebrate our commonality.
It is a great way to come together and invoke the spirit of God. We had Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs — an array of faiths who came together. … It was a wonderful, blessed occasion. What was special was that we had children from various faiths reading from their own holy text about the notion of community and how we live together and grow together.
Now that was a great moment, but your main job is to keep the political trains running on time. What is your job as convention CEO?
My overall job is the planning and execution of our party’s convention. It takes about 18 months to put the convention together, and I have a great team who are experts in their field. It is like building a little city. We have 95 hotels, 400 buses. We have laid miles and miles of cable. There are 110,000 balloons. And all of these things were built inside the Wells Fargo Center to create our convention home. Now we are in execution mode. We are no longer planning.
Talk about your faith in this. Did you have your private walks and prayer moment like you did in 2008 ?
I went to the hall last night. It was about 12:30 a.m., and I walked onto the podium and from one end to the next, and I sat in the seats and walked in the delegates spaces, and I went backstage. My goal really was to asked God’s blessings on what would happen there.
And I thanked God for the opportunity to be able to serve in this way. I thought about the ancestors like Ms. Hamer, Rosa Parks and many others who sacrificed so much so that I would have this opportunity.
Every convention starts with an opening prayer and closes with a benediction. How important are these prayers in a time like this? And were you part of the planning process in regards to those who would pray ?
We have a wonderful array of people who pray at the beginning and end of each session. The list was developed with close consultation with Secretary Clinton. She has ministers who she is very close to, and she wanted to make sure that her pastor would also be praying. The opening prayer today will be offered by Rev. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Georgia. She was on our platform committee. We have a lot of African American women at the helm because we have earned the right to be at the leadership table and to see history unfold.