Stapleton resident Jason Crow received a call on Wednesday, August 29 asking if he would like to speak at the Democratic National Convention the following Thursday. His speech would be just prior to the president of the United States giving his acceptance speech and televised on every major television network. He thought, until he got his plane ticket and a personal speech writer, he was somehow being punked.
Jason is a lawyer in Denver. He served in the Army Rangers and the 82nd Airborne. He did tours of duty in Iraq during the initial invasion and, more recently, in Afghanistan.
Jon Meredith: Tell me about your 36 hours in the spotlight?
Jason Crow: My wife and I flew down on Wednesday, the day before I was to speak. We arrived at the airport and we were greeted by Democratic staffers who took us directly to the convention where we witnessed President Clinton give his speech. We then were invited to the Colorado delegation party, which was exciting and fun but not too much fun because my wife is pregnant with our second child.
JM: How were you chosen to speak?
Crow: I did some work on the campaign in 2008. I’ve done some surrogate work for them since the beginning of this year, a few speaking engagements in Colorado and an interview for Politico. They really started vetting me around six weeks ago when a campaign media staffer called me up and just started asking questions. She said “talk to me about don’t ask, don’t tell.” I told her exactly what I think, which is there is a moral component to it and a national security component and how the military is really the “standard bearer” of the American values. She then said, “Great, thanks a lot” and I thought to myself, “What the heck just happened?”
A week prior to the convention she called back and asked what I was doing the following week and if I could be available to speak at the DNC on the night the president accepts the nomination. All that she said the speech needed to be about was my support of the president and veterans’ issues.
JM: How long did they tell you to make the speech?
Crow: That was a problem. They didn’t tell me there was a word limit until I wrote the first draft. I wrote this great 900-word speech and received a call from the campaign speech writer who said, “What a great job, but we have to cut it down to 260 words.” We went back and forth over the weekend and I got it down to 266 words and told the speech writer, “This is a great speech and I don’t think it can be trimmed any further.” He said, “It is great, you just have to take out six words.”
JM: What were your emotions like on the day of the speech?
Crow: The DNC had to make some severe cuts to the schedule that night because they moved from the football stadium to the arena. Earth, Wind and Fire couldn’t play due to equipment issues. All day I thought I would be cut out of the program. We got a call saying I had been moved up two hours so I had to race down to the convention to make sure I got through security in time. We got backstage and there were VIPs everywhere, congressmen and senators running around and Secret Service omnipresent. I ended up having to change in Jim Messina’s office. I then had to sit in the ready room right before I went on stage, 50 feet from where James Taylor was playing and in the same room with me were John Lewis, Barney Frank and John Kerry. The actual speech is hard for me to remember.
JM: Why did you join the Rangers?
Crow: My parents were not in a position to help me pay for college so I joined ROTC and worked 20 or 30 hours a week. I thought it was a great leadership opportunity. I requested infantry, airborne and rangers training. I finished all three prior to Christmas 2002 and after a few weeks leave, I reported to my unit at the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg. As soon as I reported, my commander stated that there was a platoon of 50 paratroopers out in formation right then, that those troops would be under my command, that we are going to war in three months and the troops needed to be ready.
JM: Did any of your experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan lead you to say what you did at the DNC?
Crow: Being in the military and the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, three combat deployments in all, changed me in many ways—my world view, the way I view people, and the interactions between societies. I saw the best of people and the worst of people. In combat you really see that. Coming out of that experience I actually think people are generally good. People choose good over bad. I saw that in the Iraqi people and the Afghans. We have a tendency to demonize people or to look at other cultures in abstract ways. There are ideologues and bad people out there, but, for the most part, people are good. They want to be treated with respect and dignity, provide for their family and have opportunity. It was a big moment for me when I realized that the people in these countries really want the same things we want here, that they really are not that different than we are.
The video of Jason Crow speaking at the DNC can be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX3rC1OuoE8.