First Lady Michelle Obama was once again the star of the Democratic National Convention this week with her delivery of an electrifying speech that wowed a convention audience, which was still divided between Hillary Clinton and independent Bernie Sanders on Monday.
In a speech punctuated with repeated applause and cheers, the first lady sought to convince a hostile audience (in the arena) and the millions watching by television and Internet, to unite behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the person that must lead America to its next level—instead of her opponent Republican Donald Trump.
“I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters, a president who truly believes in the vision that our founders put forth all those years ago: That we are all created equal, each a beloved part of the great American story,” she said. She sought to describe the difference between Clinton and Trump, known for his name-calling and vitriolic expressions of prejudices. “And when crisis hits, we don’t turn against each other. No, we listen to each other. We lean on each other, because we are always stronger together.
“And I am here tonight because I know that that is the kind of president that Hillary Clinton will be. And that’s why, in this election, ‘I’m with her’,” she said to applause as she quoted the popular motto on the thousands of placards, t-shirts and political paraphernalia in the room.
She alluded to Clinton’s well-known affinity for public policies that improve the lives of children; praised her choice of former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as vice president; compared her to the people who lined up to give blood for the victims of the Orlando terrorist attack; and credited her as a woman presidential candidate for “putting those cracks in that highest and hardest glass ceiling until she finally breaks through, lifting all of us along with her.”
Michelle Obama then dropped the portion of the speech that drew the most vigorous applause of the night: “That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, Black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters (and all our sons and daughters) now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States.”
Without using Trump’s name in the entire speech, Obama successfully made the contrast—even with his campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again,” she said, “because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth.”
The passion and authority of her voice, plus her widely respected reputation, silenced sporadic protesters and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ delegates who had interrupted all other speakers Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, including their favored candidate with chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
The faces of many Sanders delegates were streaked with tears as he also endorsed Clinton. He also insisted that they must not allow Donald Trump to be elected.
“We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger, not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans and veterans and divides us up,” Sanders said. “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that, based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.”
The endorsements of Hillary Clinton that launched the weeklong convention on Monday came as Democratic activists struggled to keep the peace and convince delegates to unite behind her. Many were angered by news that broke only days before the convention, revealing that staffers at the DNC had engaged in email conversations that apparently undermined the Sanders campaign when the DNC was supposed to have been impartial. The revelation came from Wikileaks.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz was forced to resign behind the issue. And her voice was silenced during the convention. Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is presiding as chair over the convention after it was called into order by DNC Secretary Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Longtime Democratic Activist Donna Brazile was to become interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, replacing Shultz.
At a meeting of the Democratic Black Caucus early in the day on Monday, Brazile profusely apologized to Sanders supporters for the e-mails—then issued a written apology the same day.
Whether the apologies will be enough remains to be seen. Many prospective voters are already disaffected. Some have vowed not to even vote in the Nov. 8 election charging unfairness in the system.
At a meeting of Unity 16, a coalition of Black-led organizations that met during the convention, dozens of leaders sought answers to the possible backlash of non-voters. Daniel C. Bradley, Black Youth Vote national coordinator, says he is having to work hard to change minds as he organizes young people.
He said the key is to explain the significance and strategy behind the act of voting. “And so we’ve been asking people what kind of American do you really want?”
Blockbuster speakers were lined up, including former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, President Barack Obama and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine on Wednesday and culminating with the acceptance speech by Hillary Clinton at the end of the convention on Thursday night.
With a regular election record of at least 90% Black support for the Democratic Party, the leaders are apparently taking nothing for granted. First Lady Michelle Obama, who also rendered a spellbinding speech in the 2012 convention for the re-election of her husband was clear this week on what the election of Hillary Clinton will take: “In this election, we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired, or frustrated, or cynical,” she said. “Hear me. Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago: We need to knock on every door.
We need to get out every vote. We need to pour every last ounce of our passion and our strength and our love for this country into electing Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America. Let’s get to work.”