By Hazel Trice Edney
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (TriceEdneyWire.com) – 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.”
She continued, “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.”
She said, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. 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 Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore. Longtime Democratic Activist Donna Brazile will 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 emails; then issued a written apology the same day.
“On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email. These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not – and will not – tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates. Individual staffers have also rightfully apologized for their comments, and the DNC is taking appropriate action to ensure it never happens again.”
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. Not only angry Bernie Sanders supporters, but some young people are disillusioned by politics after the continued unwarranted police shootings of Black people.
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.
“There’s a big disconnection with this generation between the understanding the power of their vote because they are feeling like their vote doesn’t matter and doesn’t count. And so, why vote at all?” he said. “And so the work that we’re doing now is to make sure they know that their vote not only matters and does count, but also making them understanding they [they] are by not voting still voting. You’re voting for another candidate.”
He continued, saying 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?”
He said at Black Youth Vote, which is under the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, “we try to make them understand that all politics is local. That it’s not only important to vote in their presidential election, but voting the whole ticket and being engaged in the whole ticket.”
He said they explain to young people that they can make a difference in criminal justice for voting for their choice of a state’s attorney and in the educational system by voting for a school board representative…If you want to see components of your life change, that’s how you do it. You vote.”
On a broader level, that is the very goal of the Democratic Convention, which comes on the heels of the Republican Convention, held last week in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 percent 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.”