Blogs > HNN > Democratic Convention Day 1: August 25, 2008

Aug 28, 2008 2:21 am


Democratic Convention Day 1: August 25, 2008



PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION COVERAGE

DAY 1 SCHEDULE:

Day 1 Schedule

    Monday, August 25: One Nation

    Barack Obama's story is an American story that reflects a life of struggle, opportunity and responsibility like those faced by Americans everyday. The opening night of the Convention will highlight Barack's life story, his commitment to change, and the voices of Americans who are calling for a new direction for this country.

    Monday's headline prime-time speaker was Michelle Obama.

    Other Monday night speakers include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Barack Obama's sister Maya Soetero-Ng and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's older brother; Jerry Kellman, mentor and long-time friend of Barack Obama; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton; Tom Balanoff, President of Illinois SEIU; Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America; NEA President Reg Weaver; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; State Comptroller Dan Hynes; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Monday night also featured a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and a speech by the senator. - DemConvention.com

HISTORIANS' COMMENTS

Historians' Comments

  • PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer: Historical Perspective A panel of historians, including NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith, offers a historical perspective on this week's Democratic event. - Mp3, RealAudio
  • Gil Troy: DNC Day 1: Celebrating the American Dream - HNN, 8-26-08
  • Michael Beschloss; Richard Norton Smith, scholar in residence at George Mason University; and Peniel Joseph, professor of history and African-American studies at Brandeis University:“Historians Reflect on the Democratic Party’s Fractious Evolution” - PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Well, it's almost as if -- imagine the two parties swapping identities. First of all, this is the oldest political party in the world. It was for 100 years the party of Jefferson and Jackson, the party that said the best government is the least government. That began to change dramatically with William Jennings Bryan 100 years ago, here in Denver, who brought the populist strain, who became a champion of the dispossessed. And then, of course, Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s, transforming the role of government in the economy, and critically bringing African-Americans into this party after being part of the party of Lincoln....
    I mean, the last 40 years, frankly, since Richard Nixon's election in 1968, broadly speaking, have been a period, a conservative period in American politics. We've had two Democratic presidents, both southerners, relatively speaking conservatives. This has also been a party torn apart more than once regarding American foreign policy. You know, there's the Woodrow Wilson messianic quality -- America, in effect, preaching to the world -- and then, of course, Vietnam, which tore this party apart, brought us George McGovern and a host of reforms, which, in many ways, lead to the diversity that we see in this hall tonight....
    Well, that's fascinating, because this party looks much more diverse than it might have 40 years ago. Ideologically, I think you could make a very strong case that it's far less. And by the same token, the same thing applies to the Republican Party. For years there were people in this country who said,"We need a liberal party and a conservative party." Well, guess what? You've got it. And it has led to all sorts of unintended consequences. So I think there is a much less degree of ideological diversity in this hall, which, as Michael says, leads to sort of head-scratching about the intensity of the Clinton-Obama fight. - PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: He was, and especially in the way that Richard just mentioned, because Roosevelt was liberal in all sorts of ways, but he sure wasn't on civil rights. Roosevelt would not even support an anti-lynching bill; 1936, when Roosevelt was re-nominated, there was an African-American preacher who gave a prayer at the convention. Southern senators walked out. They thought this was outrageous that you would have an African-American on the podium. That all changed with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, civil rights and voting rights, mainly Johnson. In 1965, Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act. He hoped that African-Americans would come into the mainstream in a big way. On that floor, 24 percent of the delegates are African-American....
    And that's the irony, because there should be no conflict here this week. You know, they're not arguing over big issues. They agree on economics, Iraq, foreign affairs, all sorts of stuff. Yet we're hearing about this roll call vote, and angry delegates, and factions, and all sorts of stuff. That's so amazing that this long conflict between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has ended this way....
    The people who voted for Hillary Clinton this spring are very different for the most part from the people who voted for Barack Obama. So the great irony is that, while ideologically Democrats think pretty much the same, those voters are in different enough groups that it's a hard time getting them together. That's what's sad about that. - PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University: Absolutely. Lyndon Johnson transforms the Democratic Party, especially in terms of racial diversity. 1964, at that Atlantic City convention, Fanny Lou Hamer and the African-Americans who came to represent the true interracial Mississippi, were actually disallowed from being seated. By 1984, Jesse Jackson delivers his very famous rainbow address, telling the party that diversity is actually its strength rather than a weakness....
    Democracy is messy. So when we think back to 1948, when Truman supports a civil rights plank, the Southern Dixiecrats actually leave, and Strom Thurmond has a third-party run. 1968, the whole world is watching, according to the new left, and Mayor Daley actually calls in troops to basically harass and assault new left demonstrators. 1980, the very fractious convention between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. But, again, by 1984 and '88, you have Jesse Jackson, who was the consummate outsider finally on the inside of the Democratic Party, and he's actually invoking people like Fanny Lou Hamer and different civil rights activists....
    Well, the liberal wing of the party reaches its heyday in the early '70s, with people like George McGovern and people like Walter Mondale. So that liberal wing has really been -- I don't want to say beaten into submission, but certainly they've seen better days. In a way, Obama has written himself that people see him as a Rorschach, and they read whatever they want into him. So people who are liberals see Obama as a liberal in the party. Conservatives in the party actually say,"Obama's on my side." People who are moderates or centrists actually say,"Obama's my guy." So Obama actually has united, I think, a three-part party. It's a tri-headed party of liberals, centrists, and conservatives who see in Obama a person who they can all appropriate. - PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • Thomas Whalen on"Ailing Kennedy refuses to miss big event":"This may be Ted Kennedy's final gift to the party," said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian who has written on the Kennedys."This says that he feels this is the Democrats' year and the party is not as unified as he'd like it to be. His appearance takes the headlines away from the Clinton faction.""The greatest legacy Kennedy would want would be an Obama victory in November," Whalen said. - USA Today, 8-26-08
  • Paula Giddings on"Michelle Obama as First Lady":"People are trying to fit her somewhere in their minds and in this array of images we have in our culture about African-American women, as the vixen, or the mammy or the angry black woman," said Paula Giddings, a black studies professor at Smith College."But she doesn't fit any of the molds so she is kind of unsettling to a lot of people. She is something new.""Imagine seeing her in the White House. Just the picture of her on the lawn with her two girls," Giddings said."In deep ways and superficial ways, it would be a dramatic shift." - Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Myra Gutin on"Michelle Obama as First Lady":"For some people she is supposed to represent a woman who is more traditional in her approach to the office of first lady and be somebody to do the requisite entertaining and look after her husband," said Myra Gutin, a historian of first ladies."But some feel like the first lady should be more of an activist in the model of Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Clinton." But Monday night, Gutin said, Michelle Obama must first address some of the negative feelings she has generated, and show that she will be a good first lady. - Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Jim Lorence on"UWMC History Professor Says Biden a Good Pick for Obama's Running Mate": Monday NewsChannel 7 spoke to Professor Jim Lorence of the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County about the importance of picking the right running mate for a presidential campaign. He gave us some insight past vice presidential candidates have influenced elections."The campaign in which the vice presidency did make a difference was in 1960 when Lyndon Johnson was on the Kennedy ticket, and Johnson brought Texas into the democratic column." Presidential candidate Barack Obama has already chosen his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who has six terms in the Senate and 35 years of political experience."He [Biden] may make people feel more comfortable with Obama because he brings that foreign policy expertise to the ticket." Presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to announce his running mate by the end of this week. Rumors are circulating that it will most likely be a McCain-Romney ticket."I think that Romney's expertise in the area of foreign policy, or at least his background in the private sector and in business and on economic issues is going to be an important factor in the selection of a vice president," says Professor Lorence. - WSAW, WI, 8-25-08
  • Sean Wilentz on"Obama Hope of Audacity Means Race Isn't About Losing Liberals": Obama has shown an"enormous ability to arouse the intense admiration and affection of his base," says Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University."Exactly what he means by change, hope and transformation -- all the sort of big-payoff words that appear in his speeches -- he has yet to clearly define." - Bloomberg, 8-25-08
  • Fred Siegel on"Obama's ideological elusiveness": Some critics voice skepticism. They see an ambitious fellow who remains intentionally undefined."His philosophy is ambition," said Fred Siegel, a historian at the Cooper Union in New York."I see him as having a rhetoric rather than a philosophy." Senator, what is your view of the Supreme Court decision barring the execution of child rapists? The question was standard fare for a politician who has questioned the equity of the death penalty. But Obama's answer set reporters to typing furiously."I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes," he said."I think the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime." - International Herald Tribune, 8-25-08
  • Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin: Former governor and historian to speak at the Democratic National Convention - PolitickerVT, 8-25-08
  • Julian E. Zelizer on"Conventions now even timed for strategy": Political conventions are no longer the venues where presidential candidates are selected and introduced to the nation's voters, said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. That now happens during each party's primary race, which begins early in the election year."Basically conventions are now made for the media — carefully choreographed, staged events intended to promote the candidate and the party on the national stage as the real election season kicks off," Zelizer said."With their new function, it makes more sense to have them as close as possible to the general election." - Daily Record, 8-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer on"Obama's Pick Taking The Measure Of Joe Biden, The Longtime Senator And Democrats' Choice For VP":"The role of the attack dog is something he is quite comfortable with," said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. - CBS News, 8-24-08
THE SPEECHES...

The Speeches....

  • Barck Obama on the Campaign Trail in Iowa:
    "I can't wait to hear Michelle's speech, I will tell you that I did get a little preview of the video they did of her, and she was extraordinary."
  • Nancy Pelosi:

    This week is the culmination of an historic race that has brought millions of voters to the polls--many voting for the first time. All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign. Our party and our country are strengthened by her candidacy.

    We meet today at a defining moment in our history. America stands at a crossroads, with an historic choice between two paths for our country. One is a path of renewing opportunity and promoting innovation here at home, and of greater security and respect around the world. It is the path that renews our democracy by bringing us together as one nation under God. But there is another path--it leads us to the same broken promises and failed policies that have diminished the American dream and weakened the security of our nation.

    We call this convention to order tonight to put America on the path begun by our founders--a path that renews America's promise for a new century. We call this convention to order to nominate a new leader for our time-- Barack Obama--the next President of the United States. Two years ago, the American people set our nation in a new direction--electing a new Democratic majority in Congress committed to real change....

    Barack Obama's dream is the American dream. He gives us renewed faith in a vision of the future that is free of the constraints of the tired policies of the past--a vision that is new and bold and calls forth the best in the American people.

    Barack Obama's change is the change America needs. Whether in Illinois or in Washington, Barack Obama has bridged partisanship to bring about significant reform. Barack Obama knew that to change policy in Washington you had to change how Washington works.

    That means restoring integrity to government by reducing the influence of special interests. I saw firsthand his strong leadership on one of the toughest issues: enacting the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of Congress. This was only possible with Barack Obama's leadership.....

    One hundred and fifteen years ago, a young woman named Katharine Lee Bates visited Denver. From the top of Pike's Peak, she looked across Colorado--to the bountiful golden prairies to the east and to the majestic mountains to the west. That night she returned to her hotel room, opened her notebook, and the words of"America the Beautiful" spilled from her pen. My favorite verse is the fourth: O beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years...

    Today, Barack Obama is a 21st century patriot who sees beyond the years. As president, Barack Obama will renew the American dream; Barack Obama is the leader for America's future.

    Inspired by that same vision of"America the Beautiful," Democrats will leave this Denver convention, unified, organized, and stronger than ever to take America in a new direction with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as President and Vice President of the United States! - Download, PBS
  • Caroline Kennedy:

    I am here tonight to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country: Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy. Their stories are very different, but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family.

    Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments. As our nation faces a fundamental choice between moving forward or falling further behind, Senator Obama offers the change we need....

    I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama. And I know someone else who's been inspired all over again by Senator Obama. In our family, he's known as Uncle Teddy. More than any senator of his generation, or perhaps any generation, Teddy has made life better for people in this country and around the world.

    For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He's been a senator for all who believe in a dream that's never died. If you're no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you've seen a rise in the minimum wage you're being paid, Teddy is your senator too....

    He is a man who always insists that America live up to her highest ideals, who always fights for what he knows is right and who is always there for others. I've seen it in my own life. No matter how busy he is, he never fails to find time for those in pain, those in grief or those who just need a hug. In our family, he has never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle.

    He has a special relationship with each of us. And his 60 great nieces and nephews all know that the best cookies and the best laughs are always found at Uncle Teddy's. Whether he is teaching us about sailing, about the Senate or about life, he has shown us how to chart our course, take the helm and sail against the wind. And this summer, as he faced yet another challenge, he and Vicki have taught us all about dignity, courage and the power of love.

    In this campaign, Barack Obama has no greater champion. When he is president, he will have no stronger partner in the United States Senate. Now, it is my honor to introduce a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. - Download, PBS
  • Senator Edward Kennedy:

    My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.

    And nothing -- nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.

    I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.

    As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.

    But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you -- I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.

    For me this is a season of hope -- new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few -- new hope.

    And this is the cause of my life -- new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American -- north, south, east, west, young, old -- will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

    We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

    Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

    And Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.

    We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn't say it's too far to get there. We shouldn't even try.

    Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

    Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.

    There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination -- not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

    And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
  • Michelle Obama:

    ... every step of the way since that clear day, February, 19 months ago, when, with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change, we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that has led us to this moment. But each of us comes here also by way of our own improbable journey.

    I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector, and my lifelong friend. And I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

    And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They're the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Their future -- and all our children's future -- is my stake in this election.

    And I come here as a daughter, raised on the South Side of Chicago...

    And, you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that, even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.

    He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.

    And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them.

    And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them....

    And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about"the world as it is" and"the world as it should be." And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations.

    But he reminded us that we also know what our world should like -- look like. He said we know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?...

    ... and the 45th anniversary -- and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

    And I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work, the same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country.

    People who work the day shift, they kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift, without disappointment, without regret, see, that goodnight kiss is a reminder of everything they're working for.

    The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table.

    The servicemen...

    The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

    The young people across America serving our communities, teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

    People like Hillary Clinton...

    ... who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

    People like Joe Biden...

    ... who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

    All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

    And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

    And, you see, that is why I love this country....

    It's what he's done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure that the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs, and benefits, and health care, including mental health care.

    See, that's why Barack's running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly...

    ... to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.

    That's what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America....

    ... millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them, and that Barack will bring finally the change that we need.

    And in the end, and in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, see, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago.

    He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering at us anxiously at -- through the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father's love....

    ... how this time -- how this time we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming...

    ... how this time, in this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House...

    ... that we committed ourselves...

    ... we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

    So tonight, in honor of my father's memory and my daughters' future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let's stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.

    Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.


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