July 28, 2016. With all the events and colorful activities that have taken place for four days in Philadelphia, what I will remember most are the speeches. In many cases the speakers highlighted single issues while with others there were themes about the past and future. The main agenda for this week, of course, was the upcoming presidential election and the ensuing campaign to elect our candidates. Everyone spoke to that end. All the speakers were inspirational in their own right.
As someone who was on the ground during this week, here are highlights from some of the speakers through their spoken word as well as the impact of their words. It is my takeaway; perhaps yours was different.
First Lady Michelle Obama stole the hearts of the convention goers. She talked about what it meant to watch her African-American daughters play on the lawn of the White House, a house built by slaves. She worried about who would shape the future of our children. The person she trusted most to take care of our country’s children and who understood the challenges of the Oval Office was Hillary Clinton. She choked up while speaking.
Bernie Sanders repeated many of the issues he had fought for during his campaign. But in the end he argued forcefully for the need to defeat Trump and elect Hillary. Bernie left us with a strong statement about continuing his “revolution.” Everyone I have spoken with, for or opposed to Bernie, believes that he made Hillary a stronger candidate and moved the party to a more progressive agenda. He closed by saying “I am proud to stand with her.”
Vice President Joe Biden was passionate in his speaking style and emphasized the need to help the middle class. He talked about his middle-class roots and those of his wife. He described the painful loss of his son to cancer and how he gets up daily to go forward. He praised Hillary for her passion and attacked Trump, saying he was without a clue, a rant that the audience soon repeated. His final message: “Don’t bet against America. We can endure, overcome, and move forward.” My favorite quote from his speech: “We own the finish line.” Joe, your spirit of optimism made us feel we did.
Bill Clinton spoke about his 45-year relationship with Hillary as wife, mother, and political partner. His goal for us was to get to know more about Hillary. Despite all the anecdotes and warm stories about their life, Chelsea, and friends, my takeaway was his description of Hillary as a change maker. He meant that Hillary was always committed to solving problems, not giving up, and effecting change in the end. Perfect example was the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) established by Congress in Bill’s administration with Hillary’s help after the health plan failed. Today that program still exists and more than 8 million children receive coverage. As a result of CHIP, there has been a permanent improvement in the extent and quality of children’s health care in the U.S.
President Obama, like VP Biden, spoke optimistically about the state of our country. He talked about what is right with America and that who we are as a people is the fundamental choice of this election. The President laid down the theme of the election — America is great, but we are stronger when we are together as a nation. Only one candidate can lead the nation and that is Hillary Clinton. For four years when she served as Secretary of State, he saw her “intelligence and work ethic.” He described her as our champion who knows what’s at stake. He left us with this — “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” and we must not “fear the future but … shape it.” Hillary will fight for us! She never quits. His endorsement of Hillary was strong and without question.