Day 1: 2012 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
At 5 o'clock p.m. Eastern Daylight Time [2100 GMT] on Tuesday 4 September 2012, the 46th Democratic National Convention meeting inside the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina was gaveled to order by the Democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who thereafter made a few remarks, during which she declaimed This Convention is about more than re-nominating President Obama: it's about Americans coming together to build one Economy- not from the top down, but from the Middle Class out and the bottom up. The Invocation was then given by His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit; the Presentation of Colors was made by the American Disabled Veterans' Stanly County, North Carolina Chapter 12 Honor Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance was then led by 3rd graders from the W.R. O'Dell Elementary School in Concord, North Carolina; the National Anthem was sung by Amber Riley of the musical comedy 'Glee'.
The first scheduled speaker of this day's session was Chief Executive Officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee Stephen J. Kerrigan who declared that President Obama wanted this Convention to be different: to be the most open and accessible of its kind... because we know that, when people are engaged, we together can sow a stronger America. Kerrigan's remarks were followed by a short film about the host city.
As is usual with any National Convention (we saw much the same thing at the Republicans' own first full session just the week before), there was now much routine business to dispense with at the start. First on the agenda was the presentation of the Report of the Credentials Committee by its co-Chair Vashti McKenzie, a Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop McKenzie used this opportunity to establish what (or so it appeared) would be an overriding theme of this Convention: that, whatever one might think of what has happened over these past nearly four years, it could have been much worse had Barack Obama not been President.
Almost four years ago, Bishop McKenzie opined, our Economy was on the verge of collapse- 800,000 jobs were being lost a month, the housing market was in shambles and Detroit was on the road to ruin. When President Obama stepped into office, he pulled our Economy back from the brink... We are here in Charlotte to say, with one voice, that we will never stop fighting for the Middle Class!... We know the Democratic Party is, according to some, the oldest Political Party in the World: the oldest in the World, but also the World's most forward-looking. Ours is the Party of inclusion- the Party of understanding- a Party that believes this Nation draws its strength from its diversity, its values from its Middle Class.
We believe that- regardless of Gender, Race, Creed or Sexual Orientation- every American is entitled to quality Education, quality Health Care, to a decent job and a secure retirement: these are our values!
Almost as an afterthought to Bishop McKenzie's remarks, the Report of the Credentials Committee was agreed to by the Convention viva voce.
Next came the presentation of the Report of the Rules Committee by Committee co-Chairs Kamala Harris, California Attorney General, and Martin O'Malley, Governor of Maryland. This Report also included the formal appointment of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as Permanent Chair of this Convention and Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Germond as Convention Secretary and it, too, was approved by the Convention viva voce, after which Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz returned to the podium to announce the appointment of other necessary Convention officers.
Wasserman Schultz then introduced the aforementioned Permanent Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles- who, after formally taking the gavel, introduced Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the U.S. House Minority Whip and the Convention Parliamentarian who made a few remarks about the role of himself and his assistant Parliamentarians, along with some of the rules regarding replacing a delegate with an alternate in cases where a delegate was unable to participate in a vote either on the Convention floor or in caucus (thus, there would be no "proxy voting").
Hoyer was followed by Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias. An openly gay man, Tobias noted that, each time he has come before the Convention (this was his fourth Convention in a row [same number of Democratic Conventions in a row written up by The Green Papers, by the way] as DNC Treasurer), I speak about the same two things- Money and Equality. First, Money: the Democratic Party is the Party of Social Security, Federally-insured bank accounts... Workers' Rights, Pell Grants and so much more... The Economy does better significantly better under Democrats- and so do investors! The Stock Market is up 58 percent since Barack Obama took office... I favor the Party that invests in the future, boosts the Middle Class and those who aspire to join it!...
Second is Equality: the Democratic Party under the leadership of Barack Obama has dramatically improved the lives of millions of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual Americans- and at no cost to anyone else!
He was followed by the Permanent Convention Secretary Alice Germond who spoke while each of the 56 separate delegations to the Convention signed in electronically in lieu of a Roll Call: Wow, we are a Convention that really looks like America! she declared. At the end of her remarks, she noted that all 56 delegations had so signed in and that the Convention now had a quorum to do business.
Next came the presentation of the Report of the Platform Committee by Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California:
Four years ago, the American Dream had slipped out of reach for too many and it had turned into a nightmare for millions: President Obama changed our course!... He saved the American auto industry- he saved it!...
Referring to President Obama's re-election campaign slogan 'Forward': We want to move forward, not backward-- Forward!
She was followed by the Committee co-Chair, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, who introduced a video featuring a teacher, a windmill farm developer, the head of a small manufacturing company and others all talking about how President Obama's policies have made things better for them over the past four years.
After this, Platform Committee co-Chair, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, took to the podium:
Our Platform is crafted by Democrats- but it is not about partisanship: it's about pragmatism; it's not about Left or Right, but about moving America and our economy forward. Our Platform and our President stand firm in the conviction that America must continue to out-build, out-innovate and out-educate the World. You see: this Platform is a clear choice between economic pathways- forward or back, inclusion or exclusion, grow together as a nation or be a country of savage disparities that favor the fortunate few over the greatest driving force of any economy: a large and robust Middle Class.
We must choose 'Forward'- we must choose inclusion: we must choose growing together. We choose American might and muscle, standing strong on the bedrock of the American ideal: a strong and empowered, an ever-expanding and ever-growing, Middle Class. Our Platform emphasizes that a vibrant, free and fair market is essential to economic growth... Our Platform calls for a balanced deficit reduction plan where everyone- from elected officials to the wealthy and the superwealthy- pay their fair share and please listen to this: when your country is in a costly war, with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and Our Nation is facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn't Class Warfare-- it's Patriotism!...
It is plain that Our Platform and our President are not interested in petty political arguments: instead, this Platform of big and practical ideas sets forth an emboldened pathway towards the historic hope which has driven generation after generation of Americans forward: it is our most fundamental national aspiration that, no matter who you are- no matter what color or creed, how you choose to pray or who you choose to love- that, if you are a citizen of the United States of America, an American- first generation or fifteenth- one who is willing to work hard, play by the rules and apply your God-given talents- that you should be able to find a job that pays the bills; you should be able to afford Health Care for your family; you should be able to retire with dignity and respect...
This is Our Platform: this is our American mission- these are the dreams of our fathers and mothers: this is the demand from the next generation, who call to our conscience in a chorus of conviction- in classrooms from sea to shining sea, from north to south- when our children proudly proclaim with those sacred words from our most profound pledge: that we are a Nation with Liberty and Justice for all!
After Mayor Booker had completed his remarks, the Party Platform was adopted by the Convention viva voce.
Next came North Carolina Governor Beverly Eaves Perdue who, among other things, declared that Unlike Mitt Romney, President Obama is standing up for Planned Parenthood!
There was now a short film about a person whose family dealt with difficult Health Care decisions both before, and after, passage of the Affordable Care Act. Ryan Case of Boulder, Colorado, the son of the family that was the subject of that film then spoke briefly before he himself gave way to Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union [SEIU].
Ms. Henry noted that she grew up in southeast Michigan, not all that far from where Mitt Romney had grown up: a few miles away, but worlds apart!... When Mitt started out in business, he invested in the companies who were pioneering outsourcing: he loaded up companies with debt and, when they went bankrupt, he walked away with profits and he left workers who lost their Health Care, their pensions and even their jobs. We just learned that his company, when it found itself in trouble, asked for a Government bailout but, when more than one million auto workers... saw their companies fall on hard times, do you know what Mitt Romney said? "Let Detroit go bankrupt"!
Next came the co-Chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus- retiring Congressman Charles Gonzalez of Texas and Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez of New York.
Gonzalez opined that perhaps the biggest lie that the Republicans have told is that they want to work with President Obama, but the truth is what they really want to do is undermine the President at the cost of our American values like Justice, Fairness and Opportunity, no matter the color of your skin or where you come from.... We have worked for the American Dream: now it is time to vote for the American Dream!
Velasquez (the first Hispanic woman to chair a full Congressional Committee [the House Small Business Committee- this back when the Democrats still controlled the U.S. House of Representatives- of which she is now the Ranking Minority Member]) noted that my story has been the American Dream and, as Democrats, we want to spread the American Dream to all... President Obama has walked with us for the last four years- in good times and in tough times- and now we are going to walk with the President!
They were followed by Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois:
Tonight, I want to talk to you about a scary subject for many, many Republicans: I want to talk about facts... One of our Founding Fathers- President John Adams of Massachusetts- once said that "Facts are stubborn things." But, last week, as they nominated a very different man from Massachusetts, Republicans stubbornly smeared President Obama's excellent record of reforming welfare: they went on and on, pretending that our President weakened its work requirement. Now, everyone knows that that is a ridiculous charge... We know that President Obama has made sure that work is always part of welfare reform... And the fact is, under President Obama, States can only get flexibility if they move 20 percent more people to work. Let me repeat that for our Republican friends: more people working, not less... Facts are stubborn things...
There's something else the Republicans left out of their Convention: any explanation of why they call Mitt Romney "Governor Romney" .We already knew this extreme conservative man took some pretty liberal deductions: evidently that includes writing off all four years he served as Governor of Massachusetts- and if you want to know how someone's going to govern the country, look at how he governed his State. Mitt Romney promised Massachusetts three things: more jobs, less debt, smaller government. Then he left his State 47th out of 50 States in job growth, he added $2.6 billion in debt and, on his watch, government jobs grew six times faster than private-sector jobs. What does Romney promise today? More jobs, less debt, smaller government: but he didn't do it then- and he won't do it now!
From Day One, President Obama has told you where he stands, what he believes and what he is doing to make our Middle Class strong again. America is moving forward under President Obama's leadership--and that's a fact! Now it's our job in the next nine weeks to make sure the American People know the facts.
The next speaker was Doug Stern, a Cincinnati, Ohio firefighter and a former Republican who told the assembled that the Republican Party left people like me because being a public employee made me a scapegoat for the GOP. He was followed by former Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, a former Democratic National Committee Chair and, currently, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate from the Old Dominion:
Over the last four years, the GOP pushed ideology and wedge issues. Last week, they passed a Platform demanding privacy for Super PACs and denying privacy to women making Health Care decisions: meanwhile, Democrats fought for the Middle Class... The auto industry is back- manufacturers are hiring again- but we've got to do more and there's a real choice... The last time they were in charge, the other side turned a record surplus into a massive deficit with two wars, trillions in tax breaks, loopholes and entitlements they wouldn't pay for: now, they're pushing budget-busting tax cuts and economy-busting spending cuts...
Let's be clear: That's not fiscally responsible- that's fiscally reckless. We can't afford to try it again! We need to move forward because, while we've made progress, we still have a long way to go and we'll only get there if we elect leaders who put results ahead of ideology. I support President Obama, because he's that kind of leader...
Next week, we commemorate the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Many Virginians lost their lives at the Pentagon that day and in the wars we've fought since... their sacrifice reminds us we're not Democrats or Republicans first: we're Americans first. We've been through tough times, but we're tough people. Tough times don't last- tough people do. Let's come together, show how tough we are, and prove our best days will always be ahead of us.
He was followed by Mayor Anthony Fox of the host city- Charlotte, North Carolina who declared: When this Convention ends on Thursday, our work does not!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada now came to the podium:
It has been my honor to support and work with President Barack Obama, a man who has brought courage and character to the Presidency: President Obama's strength of character leads him to do the right thing, even when it isn't the easy thing... His whole life, there have been so many who told him what he shouldn't or couldn't do- but America has a President who knows what we must do: President Obama has also faced down another group of naysayers- in addition to the crowd of "couldn'ts" and "shouldn'ts," the Republican Party has become the party of the "wouldn'ts" and the "won'ts." They pledged on Day One they wouldn't lift a finger to help- and they haven't.
In the depth of the Great Recession, as millions of Americans were struggling to find work, the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said Republicans' number one goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term President. They wouldn't cooperate to create jobs- they wouldn't try to turn around the economy- they wouldn't do anything but stand in President Obama's way...
For three and a half years, they wouldn't govern: they couldn't lead- and we shouldn't let them take over the Senate and the White House. We must stop the Tea Party before the United States Senate falls into the hands of extremists and ideologues who leave no room for reason or compromise, who don't recognize common ground even when they're standing on it.
Of Mitt Romney, Senator Reid declared: Never in modern American history has a presidential candidate tried so hard to hide himself from the people he hopes to serve. When you look at the one tax return he has released, it's obvious why there's been only one... Mitt Romney says we should take his word that he paid his fair share. His word? His word? Trust comes from Transparency and Mitt Romney comes up short on both... If we don't know how Mitt Romney would benefit from the policies he proposes, how can we know if he's looking out for us or just himself?
The American People are still asking, "Who is Mitt Romney?" But the American people know Barack Obama: he is the leader who says we should, we can, we will- he is the leader who doesn't search for the easy path for himself, but takes the right one for us.
House Minority Leader (and former House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi of California now came forward to introduce the Democratic Women of the House declared that our work is not about the next election, it's about the next generation! She gave way to- in turn- Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York; Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania; Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin; Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez of New York (making her second appearance at the Convention podium) followed by female candidates for the U.S. House Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Joyce Beatty of Ohio-- joined on stage, after their respective remarks had been completed, by other Democratic female members of Congress.
After this, former President Jimmy Carter spoke to the Convention via pre-recorded video and his presentation was followed by the appearance, at the dais, of Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior and a former Senator from Colorado:
Four years ago, America imported nearly 60 percent of its oil... today, for the first time in more than a decade, we import less than half our oil, US natural gas production is at an all-time high and oil production at a 14-year high. Renewable energy from solar and wind has more than doubled under the President's leadership!
Joseph P. Kennedy 3d, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and a grandson of Bobby Kennedy, who introduced a video tribute to his great-uncle, the late Senator Ted Kennedy which included excerpts from a televised debate between Senator Kennedy and Mitt Romney back when the now-GOP presidential nominee unsuccessfully challenged Ted Kennedy in the 1994 Senatorial election in Massachusetts.
After this, the singer Ledisi came on stage to entertain the assembled.
The next speaker was former Congressman from Florida Robert Wexler, President of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, who declared that The President has explicitly stated that an Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable and that he will mobilize all instruments of US power- economic, diplomatic, intelligence and military- to prevent, not contain, a nuclear Iran... He has not only stood up to Iran, President Obama has also stood up for Israel in the International Community. When the anti-Israel Goldstone Report was released, questioning Israel's right to self-defense, President Obama challenged it... Now is the time to stand with Israel as it works towards Peace and Security, towards two States- a secure Israel living side by side with an independent, non-militarized Palestinian state.
Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, Minnesota now came to the podium. He complained that the Republican Party [had] said its number one goal wasn't to solve any of these problems: they said their number one goal was to stop Barack Obama. Think about this, ladies and gentlemen: in the middle of one of the greatest crises in American History, they sat on their hands and played Politics ... I don't recognize a once-proud Party that's been hijacked by extremists who have driven it off the Flat Earth they pretend we're living on! They spent eight years creating a colossal mess and the last four doing almost nothing except, of course, trying to blame it on President Obama. Hey, Pyromaniacs shouldn't blame the firefighter!
Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado was the next speaker:
Diversity is America's strength and only by working together, as one Nation, can we form a more perfect Union. That is why President Obama brought to Washington a vision for one America: an America in which we can overcome divisions of red and blue to make our country greater... His vision for one America- one in which we can overcome our divisions to make our country greater- continues to be an enormous challenge to Washington, D.C.; a town with professional pundits and pols, whose entire livelihood is never-ending partisan bickering... We are a diverse country, but we are one country- and we are at our best when we come together as Americans, not despite our differences, but in celebration of them. From the newest arrivals to our Native American brothers and sisters, we are one America. Barack Obama understands that, together, we can take on any challenge and, together, we can move our country forward. Out of many, one!
There now was a film shown about the Obama Administration's policies in relation to Womens' Rights, especially Abortion and Birth Control.
Maria Ciano of Westminster, Colorado a former Republican who was identified as a "stay-at-home mom" then came to the podium to declare: I still believe in small government but I no longer believe in the Republican Party. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the Government to have a say in my Family Planning: they want employers to decide what kind of Birth Control coverage I can have or whether I can have it at all!
She was followed by Nancy Keenan, the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America:
I am proud to say that the Democratic Party believes that women have the right to choose a safe, legal abortion with dignity and privacy. We believe in funding Family Planning because it helps to prevent unintended pregnancy... We believe that a woman should make Health Care decisions with her family, her doctor, and her God- and we believe that there's no place in that room for politicians, especially politicians who don't know how women's bodies work (a reference to the recent controversy involving Missouri Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin).
Women in America cannot trust Mitt Romney, Keenan further declared, to protect our health.
Next there was a short film about the Obama Administration's policies on Veterans' Issues.
Nathan Davis of Cincinnati, Ohio (the subject of this film) now came to the podium: referring to the first words on the Moon uttered by the so recently deceased Neil Armstrong, he noted that Every step can be a giant leap-- that's what I think about what this President has been doing. To his fellow veterans, he advised: Don't give up- believe in God- and keep going forward.
Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who had lost both her legs while flying Black Hawk helicopters, a former Assistant Veterans' Affairs Secretary and a candidate for U.S. House from Illinois (Duckworth had unsuccessfully run for Congress once before- back in 2006) now addressed the Convention:
Barack Obama has also lived up to his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, ending the war in Iraq, refocusing on Afghanistan and eradicating terrorist leaders including bin Laden. President Obama pushed for fairness in the military, listening to commanders as we ended "don't ask, don't tell", and on how to allow women to officially serve in more combat jobs: because America's daughters are just as capable of defending Liberty as her sons. When it comes to our men and women in harm's way, we have a clear choice on November 6th: last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he is seeking to command but he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word "Afghanistan". Barack Obama will never ignore our troops- he will fight for them.
Independent Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican Senator from the Ocean State, now came to the podium:
As a former Republican, I represent a group of Americans who, all too often, have no one to speak for them. This group doesn't necessarily have a name: we've been called "moderates- but that term can be misleading; there is nothing moderate about our Love of Country or our passion for America's future: there's nothing moderate about our desire to work together within the broad Center in which most Americans live. No matter what you call us, though, this much is certain: there are a lot of us, and all over the country, and- in November- we will, once again, help elect Barack Obama President of the United States!
We are, at our core, conservatives, in the best sense of the word: thoughtful, responsible with public resources and respectful of personal freedom- and we're liberal, in the best sense of the word: we believe that Government can, and should, be an instrument for the greater Good. And, although my former Party has hijacked the term, there is really nothing conservative about today's Republican Party- no- in fact, there is no room there for traditional conservatives like us.
Of many of the policy proposals put forth on behalf of the Romney/Ryan GOP ticket, Governor Chafee declared: That's not conservative, that's not responsible and that's not what this country needs!
There was now a short film about the Obama Administration's policies in relation to Health Care (in particular, blocking any attempt by opponents of the Affordable Care Act to gut it).
Stacey Lihn of Phoenix, Arizona and her family (the subject of the film) now came onto the stage and she spoke briefly about the potential costs of having to take care of her daughter with a congenital heart defect should 'Obamacare' be repealed (as Mitt Romney has promised to do should he be elected President).
Next came former Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio:
Let me tell you, folks in Ohio know what happens when you have a President who stands up for average working people... Barack Obama refused to let the American automobile industry die!... The auto industry supports one out of every eight jobs in Ohio, and it's alive and growing in America again... The auto industry is standing today- the Middle Class is standing today; Ohio is standing today- America is standing strong today! That's what happens when you have a President who stands up for average working people. President Barack Obama stood up for us, and- by God- now we will stand up for him!...
Now, Mitt Romney: he lives by a different code- to him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet: to him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off.... Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt'. If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the Nation; Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down- if Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.
Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport... In Matthew- chapter 6, verse 21- the Scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our President should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America and it's well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American People. On what he's saying about the President's policy for 'Welfare to Work', he's lying- simple as that; on his tax returns, he's hiding. You have to wonder: just what is so embarrassing that he's gone to such great lengths to bury the truth?...
There is a true choice in this election: Barack Obama is betting on the American worker- Mitt Romney is betting on a Bermuda shell corporation; Barack Obama saved the American auto industry- Mitt Romney saved on his taxes. Barack Obama is an economic patriot- Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer. My friends, the stakes are too high, the differences too stark, to sit this one out.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services was the next speaker. Noting how, as Governor of Kansas, she and her fellow Democratic Governors were envious as her then-fellow Governor, a Republican named Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, got a State Health Care law passed, she stated that Republicans may see 'Romneycare' as a Scarlet Letter, but we Democrats see 'Obamacare' as a Badge of Honor... Being a mother is no longer a liability [to gaining fair Health Care insurance coverage] and being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who had served as President Obama's first White House Chief of Staff, now came to the podium:
It is my honor to speak to you about the President I served. I want to tell you what I saw up close in the White House, while serving our President in a time of crisis, about the values he leans on and the voices he listens to.
When President Obama entered the White House: the economy was in a free-fall; the auto industry on its back; the banks frozen up; more than three million Americans had already lost their jobs- and America's bravest- our men and women in uniform- were fighting what would soon be the longest war in our history. You remember the uncertainty and fear that seized the country. On that first day, I said, "Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?" He looked at me, with that look he usually reserved for his Chief of Staff, "Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them."...
Each crisis was so deep and so dangerous, any one of them would have defined another Presidency: we faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American History- fortunately for all of us, we have a once-in-a-generation President... and, today, our Economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs a month to adding 4.5 million private-sector jobs in the last 29 months; banks are slowly but surely lending again and never again will taxpayers foot the bill for Wall Street's excesses. In case we forgot, that was the change we believed in- that was the change we fought for: that was the change President Obama delivered...
I remember when the President received a report that the auto industry had a few weeks before collapse... Among all the experts, there were only guesses... only the President suggested going all-in to save the industry. Rising above all the voices in Washington, President Obama listened to the voices that mattered to him most: the voices of the auto workers and the communities that depended on them... To President Obama, they were not just companies that needed a loan, they were communities that needed a leader to stand up for them- and because President Obama made the right choice, over one million Americans are still working today. The American auto industry is not just surviving- it is thriving; where Mitt Romney was willing to turn his back on Akron, Dayton and Toledo, Ohio, the president said, "I've got your back"... The President never changed his views to suit the moment or the audience and that is also a measure of leadership: every challenge was different, every choice was difficult- but, every time, the leadership was steady.
Now, one thing I know with absolute certainty- having served two great Presidents- is that, in the next four years, an unforeseen crisis, challenge or conflict is going to seize the country. Whose leadership, whose judgment, whose values do you want in the White House when that crisis lands like a thud on the Oval Office desk? A person who said in four words, "Let Detroit go bankrupt"? Or a President who had another four words, "Not on my watch"? And, believe me, when the fog of uncertainty that surrounds a crisis storms in to the White House- and all the advisors and chiefs of staff have only guesses and hedges to offer- it will be the President's leadership that determines how we as a Nation meet the challenges that face the Middle Class: it is the President's values that shape a future in which the Middle Class has hope.
Kal Penn, an actor (best known, perhaps, for his role as 'Kumar' in the Harold and Kumar movies) who was once the Obama Administration's liaison to younger Americans (officially, he had been Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement) next spoke to the Convention (at one point poking fun at Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican Convention by thanking "Empty Chair man"- meaning President Obama himself- for achieving many of the things as President that Democrats, as a Party, generally support).
Maya Soetero-Ng, Barack Obama's half-sister and an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's brother and the Head Coach of the Oregon State University basketball team, spoke briefly before the Convention about their famous siblings- the President and First Lady- from their own respective perspectives as family members. This was followed by a film highlighting the Obama Administration's policies related to Equal Pay for Equal Work for Women.
The next speaker was Liddy Ledbetter of Jacksonville, Alabama whose very name is on the 'Liddy Ledbetter Fair Pay Act'- the first Act of Congress ever signed into Law by President Obama and a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision against her in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire [550 U.S. 618 (2007)]. What a difference four years makes, she declared: Equal pay for equal work is an American value!
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts was the next speaker:
In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the Nation in job creation- during better economic times- and household income in our State was declining... and we had a structural budget deficit.
Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he's fixed: I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn't one of them. He's a fine fellow and a great salesman but, as Governor, he was more interested in having the job than doing it. When I came to office, we set out on a different course: investing in ourselves and our future- and, today, Massachusetts leads the Nation in economic competitiveness, student achievement, health care coverage, life sciences and biotech, energy efficiency and veterans' services... All that today's Republicans are saying is that if we just shrink government, cut taxes, crush unions and wait, all will be well: never mind that those are the very policies that got us into recession to begin with- never mind that not one of the Governors who preached that gospel in Tampa last week has the results to show for it! But we Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against- we need to be just as strong about what we are for.
We believe that Freedom means keeping Government out of our most private affairs- including out of a woman's decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody's decision about whom to marry. We believe that we owe the next generation a better country than we found and that every American has a stake in that. We believe that in times like these we should turn to each other, not on each other. We believe that Government has a role to play- not in solving every problem in everybody's life- but in helping people help themselves to the American Dream-- that's what Democrats believe!
If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward- if we want to earn the privilege to lead- it's time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe... If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it's time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe... We're Americans: we shape our own future- let's start by standing up for President Barack Obama!
This is the President who delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American after 90 years of trying; this is the President who brought Osama bin Laden to justice, who ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan. This is the President who ended "don't ask, don't tell" so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service- who made equal pay for equal work the Law of the Land. This is the President who saved the American auto industry from extinction, the American financial industry from self-destruction and the American economy from Depression- who added over 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last two-plus years, more jobs than George W. Bush added in eight. The list of accomplishments is long, impressive and barely told- even more so when you consider that congressional Republicans have made obstruction itself the centerpiece of their governing strategy. With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office and neither should you!...
Let's go tell everyone we meet that, when the American dream is at stake, you want Barack Obama in charge!
Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, now came to the podium. Playing on the oft-heard cry of (in particular) 'Tea Party' Republicans over the past few years (certainly ever since Barack Obama has been President) that "We want Our Country back", O'Malley noted that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now say they want to "take America back"- and we have to ask: back to what? Back to the failed policies that drove us into deep recession? Back to the days of record job losses?... Governor Romney, just because you bank against the United States of America doesn't mean the rest of us are willing to sell her out!
Texas State Representative (and a candidate to the U.S. House of Representatives) Joaquin Castro next introduced his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who now delivered the Keynote Speech at this Convention:
I stand before you tonight as a young American- a proud American- of a generation born as the Cold War receded, shaped by the tragedy of 9/11, connected by the digital revolution and determined to re-elect the man who will make the 21st Century another American Century: President Barack Obama...
Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation: no matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward. America didnít become the Land of Opportunity by accident: my grandmotherís generation- and generations before- always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow: thatís the country they envisioned, and thatís the country they helped build... And thatís the Middle Class: the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there and, with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there- and go beyond... Now, in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual: Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them- but we also recognize there are some things we canít do alone: we have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow- and it starts with Education... We know that you canít be pro-Business unless youíre pro-Education...
Now, like many of you, I watched last weekís Republican Convention. They told a few stories of individual success- we all celebrate individual success: but the question is- how do we multiply that success?... Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesnít get it: a few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. "Start a business" he said. But how? "Borrow money if you have to from your parents" he told them. Gee, why didnít I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldnít determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I donít think Governor Romney meant any harm: I think heís a good guy- he just has no idea how good heís had it. We know that, in our free market Economy, some will prosper more than others: what we donít accept is the idea that some folks wonít even get a chance- and the thing is: Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America- in fact, thatís exactly what theyíre promising us!
The Romney-Ryan budget doesnít just cut Public Education, cut Medicare, cut Transportation and cut Job Training: it doesnít just pummel the Middle Class- it dismantles it! It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the Middle Class. When it comes to getting the Middle Class back to work, Mitt Romney says "No"; when it comes to respecting Womenís Rights, Mitt Romney says "No"; when it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says "No"; when it comes to expanding access to good Health Care, Mitt Romney says "No"-- actually, Mitt Romney said "Yes" and now he says "NoĒ! Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ainít pretty- so hereís what weíre going to say to Mitt Romney: weíre going to say "No"!
Of all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most troubling is this: if we all just go our own way, Our Nation will be stronger for it- because, if we sever the threads that connect us, the only people who will go far are those who are already ahead. We all understand that Freedom isnít free: what Romney and Ryan donít understand is that neither is Opportunity- we have to invest in it! Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better that, somehow, the rest of us will too. Folks, weíve heard that before: first they called it ďtrickle-down", then "supply-side". Now itís "Romney-Ryan" or is it "Ryan-Romney"? Either way, their theory has been tested- it failed! Our Economy failed- the Middle Class paid the price: your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesnít get it- but Barack Obama gets it! He understands that when we invest in people weíre investing in our shared prosperity and, when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a Nation...
Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a Depression: despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our President took action and now weíve seen 4.5 million new jobs. He knows better than anyone that thereís more hard work to do but weíre making progress- and now we need to make a choice. Itís a choice between a country where the Middle Class pays more so that millionaires can pay less or a country where everybody pays their fair share, so we can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future; itís a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell grants or a nation that invests more in Education- itís a choice between a politician who rewards companies that ship American jobs overseas or a leader who brings jobs back home. This is the choice before us- and, to me- to my generation and for all the generations to come- our choice is clear: our choice is a man whoís always chosen us- a man who already is our President: Barack Obama.
In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint- or even a marathon- but a relay: our families donít always cross the finish line in the span of one generation...The days we live in are not easy ones but we have seen days like this before and America prevailed: with the wisdom of our Founders and the values of our families, America prevailed; with each generation going further than the last, America prevailed- and, with the opportunity we build today for a shared prosperity tomorrow, America will prevail!
The Keynote Address was now followed by a film about Michelle Obama's upbringing and her role as the Nation's First Lady, in particular her interest (along with that of Vice-President Biden's wife, Jill) in helping military families. After this presentation, Elaine Brye from Winona, Ohio- who described herself as a "military mom" 4 of whose 5 kids are in each in a different branch of the Nation's Armed Services (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines: she joked that it was hoped her youngest child- still in high school- would join the Coast Guard)- now introduced the First Lady, Michelle Obama who now strode to the podium:
Serving as your First Lady is an honor and a privilege but, back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we'd begun. While I believed deeply in my husband's vision for this country and I was certain he would make an extraordinary President, like any mother I was worried about what it would mean for our girls if he got that chance... Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joysÖAnd the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls: I deeply loved the man I had built that life with and I didn't want that to change if he became President.
I loved Barack just the way he was... to me, he was still the guy who'd picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door: he was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small. But, when Barack started telling me about his family- that's when I knew I had found a kindred spirit, someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine...
Like so many American families, our families weren't asking for much: they didn't begrudge anyone else's success or care that others had much more than they did- in fact, they admired it! They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that, even if you don't start out with much, if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. That's how they raised us- that's what we learned from their example: those are the values Barack and I- and so many of you- are trying to pass on to our own children. That's who we are and standing before you four years ago, I knew that I didn't want any of that to change if Barack became President.
Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen- firsthand- that being President doesn't change who you are: it reveals who you are. You see, I've gotten to see up close and personal what being President really looks like and I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk are always the hard ones- the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer: the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error. And, as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people- but, at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President all you have to guide you are your values,and your vision and the life experiences that make you who you are...
So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren't political- they're personal- because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles: he knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity: no matter who we are or where we're from- or what we look like or who we love. And he believes that when you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you- you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago... and I didn't think it was possible but, today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago- even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. I love that he's never forgotten how he started: I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he's going to do, even when it's hard Ė especially when it's hard. I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as "us" and "them": he doesn't care whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above- he knows that we all love Our Country and he's always ready to listen to good ideas- he's always looking for the very best in everyone he meets.
And I love that even in the toughest moments, when we're all sweating it- when we're worried that the bill won't pass and it seems like all is lost- Barack never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise... And he reminds me that we are playing a long game here and that change is hard- and change is slow- and it never happens all at once: but, eventually we get there- we always do...
So, today, when the challenges we face start to seem overwhelming- or even impossible- let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this Nation: it's who we are as Americans- it's how this country was built. And if our parents and grandparents could toil and struggle for us- if they could raise beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the Moon and connect the world with the touch of a button- then surely we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids...
If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire; if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores; if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote; if a generation could defeat a Depression and define greatness for all time; if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream- and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love- then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream-- because, in the end- more than anything else- that is the story of this country: the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.
That is what has made my story- and Barack's story: and so many other American stories possible. And I say all of this tonight not just as First Lady- and not just as a wife: you see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still "Mom-in-Chief".
After Mrs. Obama had finished speaking, the Benediction was delivered by Jena Lee Nardella of Nashville, Tennessee- the founder and director of Blood:Water Mission. Then the Convention's Permanent Chair, Mayor Villaraigosa, entertained a motion to recess until the next day which was approved by the Convention viva voce: it was 11:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time [0311 GMT].