The first night had two large overarching themes: women's rights, and President Obama's accomplishments. A multitude of women spoke not only about abortion and being pro-choice, but also about equal pay for equal labor. However, the dominating pattern was the constant praise of President Obama, and the effectiveness of his policies. Obama's ability to save the auto industry and create jobs for twenty-nine consecutive months was a focal point in why he deserved to be re-elected. In addition, Obamacare and benefits for veterans were mentioned repeatedly by speakers. Last but not least, diversity was constantly stressed. I lost count of the number of times I heard the line, "you should be able to defend the country you love, regardless of who you love." Overall, a very strong performance by the Democrats -- they were consistent in their backing of Obama, and unlike the Republicans, they gave examples of concrete policies that have actually made a difference.
One of the emotional high points was a tribute video to the late senator Ted Kennedy. The video showed Kennedy striving for equality for gays and women. The movie also featured Romney supporting pro-choice and Kennedy calling Romney "multi-choice." The film acknowledged Kennedy's integrity and his journey to always strive for further equality.
The early highlight of the convention was an ardent speech given by Ohio governor Ted Strickland. He commended Obama for his saving of the auto industry even when his decision to bail it out was met with adversity. He showered Obama with praise for his ability to create jobs for twenty-nine straight months. He utilized every positive he could for Obama, and then used the negative of that point against Romney. For the last thirty seconds Strickland made out Obama to be the paradigm of responsibility and Romney the epitome of corruption and greed. His final blow was saying, "Obama saved the auto industry, Romney saved on taxes." The audience roared with every blow dealt to the Republican candidate and Strickland just picked up momentum as he passed the baton to the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
The always outspoken Emanuel was uncharacteristically reserved. He avoided any explosion of anger or obscenities and spoke emotionally on Obama's successful foreign policy. He was eager at the concept of bringing American troops home, so that the government can focus on rebuilding America. However, the speech was surprisingly dull for the mayor. The audience expected more from the often ecstatic politician, but instead received a cooler and more focused Emanuel. His quiescence sustained the steady support of President Obama and in that vein he succeeded.
Lilly Ledbetter then delivered an emotionally gripping speech in which she described how she had worked through twenty years of labor before demanding equal pay for her equal work. She credited Obama in striving for equal rights among men and women, and claimed that without President Obama, women would still work in a completely uneven playing field.
However, no speech prepared me for the explosion of liberal pride that resonated from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Initially, the governor established the lack of progress achieved by Mitt Romney during his time as governor. However, the speech quickly took a righteous turn in which Patrick demanded that liberals "grow a backbone" and stand up for Democratic policies that will change the country for the better. The governor did what no Democrat thus far has accomplished -- fight back. I saw a fed up governor whose degradation reached a boiling point as a result of the lies emanating from the Republican National Convention. Patrick decided that liberals should start to stand up for themselves, and stand up and support Obama with absolute enthusiasm. The governor was my favorite speaker, simply as a result of the loyal fire he lit in all Democrats, inside the arena and out.
After a rather pointless speech by governor Martin O'Malley in which he stressed how America should move forward not backward, Julian Castro stole the show. A smile that brightened every corner of the stadium beamed across his face as he described the American dream that came true for him. He asserted that investing today will bring prosperity tomorrow. Furthermore, as any good businessman knows, the economy will bloom from education. Castro drove home the importance of a strong education to provide equal opportunity. The intelligence and potential is in everyone, people just don't have the access to the quality education to get opportunities. He poured so much emotion and heart into his love for America, and everyone in the stadium recognized his sincerity. However, his tone turned surprisingly harsh as with pain in his voice he described how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wish to dismantle the middle class. What truly solidified his speech as extraordinary was his ability to constantly relate to Barack Obama in terms of the middle class and working hard. Both the president and the mayor came from working class families, they both experienced student loans, and debt at times. However, most importantly of all, they have both lived the American dream.
The crowd peaked when First Lady Michelle Obama walked onto the stage. Throughout the entire speech Michelle was emotional, heartfelt and loving for her family. Unlike Ann Romney she confirmed that the center of speech was her role as a mother. Not only did Michelle Obama deliver a better speech than Ann and show more composure, but she has actually experienced middle class student loans and debt in contrast to Ann Romney only being able to imagine the concept. However, Michelle's best line of the night was, "being the president doesn't build character, it reveals it. Barack has never shied away from an issue just because it was hard, and there was no known solution. He has stood up for all Americans, so Americans stand up for him." She affirmed that Obama fights for the middle class and he now needs their support. At times she appeared close to tears, and her emotion reverberated around the stadium as every line drew spontaneous applause. Finally, she did what all other speakers did; she listed off Obama's impressive set of accomplishments during his first presidential term. She concluded the list by saying, "my husband believes a woman can make her own choice about her body," a line that stuck with the woman's power theme throughout the night.
The fabulous speech ended an incredible night that will really set the platform for the rest of the convention. Obama's party stressed his credentials and his ability to get things done. In the future, the Democratic Party will need to choose an issue to really attack in a day like Obamacare, or the economy and the bailouts. Perhaps the most breathtaking part of the spectacle was not simply the speakers' passion and praise for President Obama, but the consistency of the speakers in their message of why Obama must be re-elected. The Republicans mentioned very little of Mitt at the convention, and the only mentions had nothing to do with his past accomplishments -- solely because he hasn't accomplished anything except a health care system that, as Texas mayor Castro stated, Romney said "yes" to and then said "no." The night was exciting and I felt incredibly proud to be a liberal, not just as a result of the stupidity of the Republican Party, but because of the brilliance, wit and grace of the Democratic Party. I look forward to the second night with the speaker who possesses the reputation for the most excitement, Bill Clinton.
-- Malcom Fox
Follow all of Malcom's convention reports: from his own blog.