Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Why Madeleine Albright likes Charlotte

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When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped by Charlotte last week, I got a chance for a one-on-one interview, which you can read at The Washington Post. But while I mentioned her “Read My Pins” exhibit — due at the Mint Museum in June through the September Democratic convention — and hit on subjects that ranged from her lifelong interest in foreign policy to her friendship with current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I found that Albright also had a lot to say about Charlotte.

Albright wore a new pin — a crown representing the Queen City — as she made the rounds to city officials and convention fundraisers, and began planning for convention visits from foreign leaders and diplomats through her National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that promotes democracy. They will be happy to get out of the New York-Washington orbit, she said.

The “very good Democrat” was cheerful about her visit, reminding me she made her entry into national politics raising money for Sen. Edmund Muskie. She said she had been meeting with the Charlotte mayor, Chamber of Commerce and others. Foreign visitors sometimes think of America as Washington and New York, “maybe San Francisco,” she said, adding that they appreciate seeing what’s called the “real America,” maybe dispelling misconceptions about the South in the process.

Charlotte, Albright said, “seems very friendly, which, if you live in Washington, you know is at a premium.”

While some residents are tiring of the city’s single-minded focus on the September convention, Albright was impressed. She isn't an expert on the South, she said, but "what I’ve seen, I find very encouraging in terms of being a picture of the new South, being proud of history but also looking forward, seeing the importance of diversity and culture.”

Albright talked about the “very good cooperative spirit” between the host committee, the DNC staff, the chamber and other businesses. She praised “the desire to show some of the unique aspects of Charlotte” and to help the whole city participate in the convention. “Enthusiasm and excitement is going to build and I think it will be great.”

Other recent convention developments:

* The convention committee has issued a request for proposal for a transportation services vendor, responsible for developing a transportation plan and services to shuttle the 6,000 delegates and thousands of other officials from their hotels to the convention. The deadline for bids is Feb. 24, with small companies urged to partner with other firms. The proposal is at the DNCC website.

* You may have seen a re-launched Charlotte in 2012 logo that incorporates the city skyline and a blizzard of words with a positive message: "Charlotte is a beautiful, clean city…” You get the idea. The host committee is working with two local creative agencies, WrayWard and k2forma, in developing banners and signs, as well as brochures, pamphlets and electronic outreach tools.

* The Charlotte Chamber, along with the Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council, recently announced an effort to maximize the potential of minority- and women-owned businesses by pairing them with corporate sponsors. The Democratic convention has already helped some in the first class of Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative (CMEDI) participants. Kendall Taylor, CEO of Metro Transportation Services, told me his company learned a lot from its partnership with Novant Health. He said his company will be providing courier service for the DNC.

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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