Shandra Jackson will never forget casting a vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention four years ago.
She said she knows she played just a tiny role in helping Obama win the nomination -- and become the first black president -- but now the 38-year-old Arlington paralegal is heading back to the national convention to do it again.
"In 2008, I wanted to make sure we got the right person in office," said Jackson, a single mother mentioned in one of Obama's speeches as an example of the many people who need affordable healthcare. "I think 2012 is even more critical, to get him back in the office to finish the job he started.
"It's about expressing my support to him and letting him know that we all are going to do everything we can to keep him in office."
Jackson, who gained national attention in 2009 when she was chosen for a train ride with the Obama family before his inauguration ceremony, is among the North Texas delegates and alternates heading to this week's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
She and others say they will experience a different convention this time, one that lacks the division seen four years ago after a bitter primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
But they expect a hard-fought presidential race.
"I think this will be a tough fight," said Marvin Sutton, 50, an Arlington delegate and an air traffic controller. "It took us more than four years to get the country where it was, and it's going to take more than four yeas to turn it around.
"In order for the president to be able to keep turning things around, he needs another four years."
This will be the first national convention for Celia Morgan, 27, of Arlington, who is a single mother, a shift supervisor at a coffee shop and a college student.
Morgan has been involved in politics since she was 18, working at a polling place, helping register voters with the Rock the Vote campaign, even serving as a precinct chair and election judge.
"This year, things changed drastically for me, with the emergence of a conservative group that scared me into action," she said. "I believe greatly in what the president has accomplished with the auto industry, with Pell Grants, with healthcare. I was a first-time recipient of Pell Grants last year, and it was a burden off my struggle to succeed to have help getting an education.
"As a mother, a daughter and a granddaughter, I'm grateful for the Affordable Care Act and what it means for the personal health struggles in my family."
Her biggest motivation for getting involved in politics, though, is marriage equality and women's rights.
"I don't believe that anyone should dictate a person's life decisions, even if we don't necessarily agree with them," she said. "It's our job to unify as Americans and people from all walks of life, to achieve greater successes and happiness together. Defining human life, or marriage, is simply not something I feel belongs in a political agenda."
Alejandro Hukill, 31, of Fort Worth wants to be a good representative of both the younger vote and Hispanics as he attends his first national convention.
"Personally, I am looking forward to hanging out with Obama," joked Hukill, who works on campaigns for state Rep. Lon Burnam and state Sen. Wendy Davis, both D-Fort Worth.
"In all seriousness, though, I do feel like it will be a great experience to actually be in the same room as the president while he's giving a speech," Hukill said. "I think it is extremely important to show our solidarity and support for the president. I also hope the convention helps motivate people to" vote in November.
Ready to go
Michael Brown said he feels he needs to be at this year's convention.
"I feel like our nation is at a crossroads where one side diminishes science ... and history," said Brown, 41, a federal civil-rights analyst in Fort Worth who has attended two other Democratic national conventions. "It is my duty as an American and a father to work to give my daughter the best chance to have a better life than I have led."
At the convention, he said, he hopes to hear a desire "to fight the obstructionists in Congress, a promise to only compromise if the GOP is willing to honestly work together with Democrats."
Sutton, the Arlington air traffic controller, said he looks forward to finding a united party at the convention.
"This time, we will create a united front in support of the president," he said. "I think we'll have more camaraderie and we'll walk out of the convention fired up."
For Jackson, this convention will be different in many ways.
In 2007, she was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, but doctors decided to monitor it rather than operate. As a single mother, she worried about her son's future if something happened to her. And she worried about her healthcare costs.
Inspired by Obama's presidential bid in 2008, she became politically active to try to make the world a better place for her son, now 14 -- no matter what happened to her.
In 2009, doctors gave Jackson good news: They could no longer find the aneurysm.
She still undergoes tests every two years to make sure it hasn't come back, but Jackson said "everything is good."
Now she's ready to do her part in helping Obama get re-elected.
"Without the [nation's healthcare program], I would have a pre-existing condition and probably wouldn't be able to get coverage," Jackson said. "We have the right leader in there to fulfill the promises, get the economy back on track and make sure Obamacare isn't overturned."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
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