Ruth Rudy will add another button this week to a hat already crowded with names — from George McGovern to Barack Obama.
Every four years, the former state representative, and longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, travels the country to attend her party’s national convention.
Rudy’s been at it since 1972, and she has the hat to prove it — adorned with buttons supporting Democratic presidential candidates from McGovern to Obama, and all those in between.
So it’s no surprise that Rudy will be in Charlotte, N.C., when the 2012 Democratic National Convention kicks off today.
“I’m still enthusiastic, even though I’ve gone to all of these,” she said. “You’d think I’d say, ‘ho-hum,’ but I’m still looking forward to it.”
It’s a tradition that began while Rudy, 73, was enrolled at Penn State, and before she was a delegate.
After that, Rudy’s political career began. She served for 13 years as a state representative, and attended nine more conventions, all as a delegate or superdelegate.
She remembers being on the convention floor during the contentious primary between President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
While Carter had the majority of the delegates, Kennedy refused to step aside, lobbying for his cause until the very end, Rudy recalled.
“Sitting on the floor with all those people, every time Kennedy’s name was mentioned, they would yell,” she said. “It was a very interesting — a very divided convention.”
Rudy realizes unity won’t be a issue this year, with Obama instead using the event to rally support for his re-election campaign.
“I think this is going to be a very clear-cut convention,” she said. “It’s about getting (voters) revved up to get them out on election day. The main thing is to keep them interested and keep them speaking.”
New voices are entering those discussions more than ever, according to Rudy, as droves of young people are getting involved.
“They have the enthusiasm,” she said. “They have the energy that it takes to present their candidate to the rest of the world. It’s going to be up to them when somebody like me slowly fades from the scene.
“I thought that would have been a lot longer ago,” she said with a laugh.
For now, Ruth is looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting with the state’s caucus and hearing Obama speak.
“The days are pretty hectic,” she said. “But you get caught up in all the pomp and circumstance. Especially the last night of the convention. It’s something like the Olympics (closing ceremony).”
It’s something Rudy says everyone should experience at least once.
“I think it would be wonderful if everyone had this opportunity, regardless of party affiliation,” she said. “I’m sure they’d never regret it.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter@Carrollreporter.