When Democrats renominate President Barack Obama this week in Charlotte, 2008 Sequoyah High graduate Josh Altman will be on the convention floor as one of the youngest members of this year's Georgia delegation.
"It's my future that's at stake with this election and with the policies that are going to come out of it," said Altman, who turned 22 on Friday.
One of five delegates elected to represent the 6th Congressional District, which includes Cherokee, Cobb and North Fulton, Altman thought he'd become a Republican.
Growing up in Cherokee, a county that has supported the Republican candidate for president in every election since at least 1992, "it's just the way things were," he said.
The 1992 election is as far as the Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration Office can go back, elections supervisor Janet Munda said. Anything prior to that has to come from the Cherokee County Probate Court, which was unavailable for comment.
Altman's political leanings began to shift during his last two years of high school. Two things happened, he said.
His father, a Green Beret, was deployed to Iraq for a year. Altman was a junior at Sequoyah at the time. For the first time, public policy began to affect him in a personal way.
"It led me to think much more critically," he said. "It didn't have to do necessarily with opposition or support for the war itself, but in general, how is politics affecting my life and the lives of people around me. That's when my love of politics and government and my passion for activism really took off."
The second thing happened during Altman's senior year when he accepted an invitation from Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) to attend a breakfast in Forsyth County.
A speaker at the breakfast "got up and started talking about how we must defend this country from the liberal enemy," he said. "I said to myself what is he talking about. Economic collapse. Climate change. Poverty. Those are our enemies. It's ridiculous to me that we're fighting this ideological war and not fighting a war against the issues that matter in people's lives."
He calls the breakfast his "watershed moment." Since that day, he's been a Democrat.
After Sequoyah, he went to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. There, he was an active member of the College Democrats and served as the group's president.
And when an email soliciting applicants for Georgia's Democratic National Convention delegation came across the party's listserv, Altman jumped at the opportunity and submitted an application.
"I knew that the decisions that we're making right now are going to affect my generation," he said. "It was my best chance yet to be the voice for Georgia's future, the future leaders of this state, the future families of this state."
He was elected in April, one of three men and two women from the 6th Congressional District. Video of his speech to fellow Democrats can be found on YouTube.
"I had my family, my father who came back from Iraq unscathed," he said. "My friends were there. People who had been with me growing up in Canton and Cherokee County were there with me. It was a thrill that I could make them proud."
Altman, who graduated from George Washington this year with an economics degree, is in the process of moving to Jacksonville, FL, where he will teach high school math as a Teach for America corps member. The program places top college graduates in classrooms, usually in low income areas, for two years.
"As much as it kills me that I have to leave my beloved Georgia for a little while," he said, "I'm excited to do some good work and hopefully impacting some students' lives in a positive way."
For now, Altman is focused on the Democratic National Convention, which starts today in North Carolina. As a delegate, he said he is looking forward to the traditional roll call of states, the ceremonial nomination of that party's nominee for president.
While a recent Gallup poll shows the president is in a close re-election bid against Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney, Altman said Obama is the clear choice.
"This is a man who wants to create—finally—true equality of opportunity in this country and implement the public policy that will allow that to come to fruition," he said. "There's still work to be done. No president is perfect, but I think he's still a leader for the time."