DNC's Oldest Delegate's Life Spans Early Days Of Suffrage To Historic Nomination | WBEZ
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DNC's Oldest Delegate's Life Spans Early Days Of Suffrage To Historic Nomination

Earlier this week, on the first day of this Democratic National Convention, Ruby Gilliam of Ohio — along with Clarissa Rodriguez of Texas — took to the stage, and led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The two women are the oldest and youngest delegates at the DNC.

"It's almost like a dream come true," Gilliam tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

"When they called me though and told me though that I was doing the Pledge of Allegiance and there was nobody at home I thought, I'm gonna burst, I'm gonna burst," she recalls.

Gilliam is 93-and-a-half years old — and a Democrat, of course.

"All my life, I'm a born one," she says.

This is Gilliam's eighth convention. Her first one was in 1988, when Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis was chosen as the Democratic nominee.

Dukakis later lost to then incumbent Vice President George H. W. Bush.

While Gilliam says most conventions are pretty much all the same, this one — with its historic presidential nomination of Hillary Clinton — is special.

And one she's been waiting for, for a while.

"I suppose all my life, you know?" she says. "My dad would run for an office, and my mother couldn't even vote for him."

Gilliam was born in 1922 — just two years after women won the right to vote in the U.S. (Centenarian Geraldine "Jerry" Emmett, who is serving as an honorary delegate from Arizona, was born in 1914.)

Gilliam says she offered a few words of wisdom to the much younger — at 17 years old — Rodriguez.

"I told her, I said you know, you are the future of the Democratic party and I am the past, and when I, when I get up there, I'm going to be watching over all of you and knowing that you are carrying on the Democratic Party as I would like you for you to do," Gilliam says.

But, Ruby Gilliam says, she's not going anywhere just yet.

"I'm gonna be here for 2020 also," she says. "And beyond!"

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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