Rossford resident Sharon Belkofer was center stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Her role was anything but routine — she was given the task, in essence, of introducing President Barack Obama to the assembled delegates.
Officially she introduced a video about the president, but she delivered the last live words, saying, “This is our president.”
Belkofer was asked to speak because she has come to know the president following the death of her son, Lt. Col. Thomas Belkofer, who was killed in 2010 when his Army convoy came under attack in Afghanistan.
An aide for the president called her on Friday and said, “I have a big favor to ask,” she related.
“My response was, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ but he said ‘We love your story and they think it is perfect for the convention.’ So here I am.”
Belkofer added, “It is such an honor and such a privilege. It is just awesome.”
At the convention, after a simple introduction, Belkofer strolled across the stage waving, stepped to the microphone and started her talk. “Hello Ohio. You’re all probably wondering who the heck is this sweet little old lady?”
This morning she told the Sentinel-Tribune, “Once I walked out and said ‘Hello Ohio’ and heard the response, I felt like, wow this is just like being amongst a group of friends and family. It was warm and it was awesome.”
Earlier in the day Belkofer said staff members helped her revise her thoughts for the speech she prepared.
“I had help in putting my thoughts together. I think they helped me to make it beneficial and make it achieve the purpose,” she said of the revised speech.
That speech shared her story with the delegates and America of how she first met Obama at a military base. After the president heard she and others who had lost family in the war were on hand he wanted to meet them.
“As he (the president) was hugging me, I cried all over his suit. Tom would have been so embarrassed,” she said recalling her son.
“It must have been OK,” she said, explaining when Obama was in Ohio a year later, she was told he wanted to see her.
After her speech late Wednesday night, during the video before the president took the stage, Belkofer said she was taken to meet Obama and she received “my fourth presidential hug.”
Adding, “He thanked me and said I did a great job. He was magnanimous. It was wonderful.”
The speech shared how Belkofer used the inspiration of both her son and the president to spur her to “take a leap of faith” and run for the Rossford Board of Education last year and to push through despite back problems and other issues during the campaign.
“I was so inspired. Maybe this sweet old lady could still make a difference,” she told the delegates.
“Well, guess what – I won my election. I won big,” she related to a big ovation from those assembled.
“The president even sent me a handwritten note of congratulations. That’s who he is – no matter how busy, he’s never forgotten this little old lady in Ohio who has always had his back,” she said.
Prior to the speech she said of Obama, “He is the warmest, kindest and sincere person. He makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room and the most important person.”
When asked about the difficulty of talking about her son to a national audience, Belkofer said. “When I do things like this, the circumstance inspires me and it is not as emotional as you might think.”
Referencing her son she added, “He gives me the energy to be able to do these things. These kinds of things I don’t have a problem with, it is in the quiet times that I get emotional.”