Years ago, Annalisa Stravato‘s parents brought her to the United States when she was 4 years old, and they always said they’d go back someday. It even became the family joke about making sure there was a ticket to return to Italy.
Flash forward to 2016. The Wilton resident’s most recent airline ticket was the one she used to fly to Cleveland, to serve as a Connecticut Delegate to the Republican National Convention.
“It’s been an outstanding experience. It’s really humbling. As the daughter of an immigrant, and myself becoming a United States citizen about six years ago, to be able to experience this is very personal to me,” she says, adding that her dad “is just beside himself” about her being at the convention.
“He’s a New Yorker, as Donald is. And to have his daughter there…you know, we all want to please our parents,” she laughs, acknowledging how emotional her accomplishment is. Not only is she one of Connecticut’s 28 delegates, but Stravato is also the vice chair of the state’s Republican Party.
At the Quicken Arena, which is hosting the RNC, the Connecticut delegation has prime seats, right up in front of the stage on the left side. They’ve also got additional star power from Ridgefield in the person of State Rep. John Frey, (R-111) who was selected as one of only three Sergeant-at-Arms for the entire convention. That job carries the responsibility of maintaining order at the convention.
Since Monday’s start of the convention, Stravato has met former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani; New Jersey governor, Chris Christie; former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski; Fox News personality Jesse Watters; and many others. “That and meeting people from other states—we met the chairman from Maine, from Delaware, from Rhode Island.”
The most exciting thing so far for Stravato was the moment candidate Trump came out onto the stage on Monday evening to introduce his wife, Melania. “It was just amazing. She is an articulate, beautiful, elegant woman. To see her there, and to hear her speak. And I relate to her, our stories are very similar: she just became a naturalized citizen as I have, and the love she has for this country, it brought a tear to my eyes.”
Something else Stravato says was interesting was the way the challenge to the rules vote on the first day of the convention was portrayed by the news media. “Of course the media turned it into, ‘Chaos Breaking Out on the Floor!’ It really was not. It’s just amazing, I watched it when I got back to the hotel and I couldn’t believe it. It was completely different than what we had just experienced.”
Also a highlight, and very moving? Watching Donald Trump, Jr. stand with his siblings to add the New York delegates to the roll call and put their father over the top to name him as the party’s nominee.
“It showed the unity and the greatness of that family. I know he will bring that to America and it’s one of the reasons he is doing as well as he has done. The people of the United States can relate to him—we all have the same wants and aspirations for our children, and he’s accomplished it,” she says.
But even the quieter moments, of walking on the convention floor have been incredible, she says. “The grandness of the room, everything in red, white and blue; the American flag on the stage, it’s a very humbling experience.”
An experience, she says that is a dream come true for her father. “My dad wanted to come to the States, better himself for a bit, and go back home. He realized this was the place to raise his daughters, to have my sister and me have the opportunities that we’ve had. That there was nothing that would hold us back except ourselves.”
No matter what happens, says Stravato, to be a witness to history is a once in a lifetime opportunity. “The Republican Party will forever be changed. We have reached a milestone, and I’m not sure which way we’re going to go, but we’re definitely going to pivot and to be part of that whole change is definitely exciting.”
video: Derek Phelps, Facebook