Michelle Obama is a lady of grace, character and dignity like no other, and in her speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, she demonstrated all of those traits and more. No matter who wins the election in November, I know that I will miss the dignity and intellect that both Barack and Michele Obama have brought to the White House.
First, for any who did not see Ms. Obama last night, here is a link to both the video and full transcript of the speech: Michelle Obama’s DNC speech
This speech, above all, exemplifies what the convention should be about, as opposed to the ranting and name-calling that seems to have become the hallmark of political speeches in the modern day. It was by far the most positive speech I have heard or read during this election season. Ms. Obama did not mention Donald Trump’s name a single time, nor did she make nasty remarks directed at him. Instead, she said:
“I want someone with the proven strength to persevere, someone who knows this job and takes it seriously, someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black-and-white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.”
“Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well-informed.”
“I want a president with a record of public service, someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed.”
“So, look, so 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!”
Perhaps the most important message of the night was this:
“So 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.”
I concur with Washington Post reporter Janell Ross when she says “This address is how political spouse speechmaking can and should be done.”
No, we certainly cannot sit and hope for the best. With the conflict and divisiveness that has defined this election, it is all too easy to become tired, frustrated and cynical, but we need to inject enthusiasm into our support of Ms. Clinton. We can no longer afford to have the “ho hum, well at least she’s better than Trump” attitude we have exhibited thus far. I, too, am guilty of that, but in the last several days I have come to see that this lack of enthusiasm is not the way to inspire others to actually want to vote for Clinton. It is rather like putting a meal on the table, saying “it isn’t much, but at least you won’t starve.” Doesn’t exactly make your mouth water, does it?
One humorous side note: the funniest political cartoon I saw this morning showed Donnie and Melania in front of the television, watching Michelle Obama’s speech, Melania with a notepad, scribbling furiously, and Donnie saying “Quit taking notes”!
Bernie Sanders also spoke eloquently and passionately last night, and rose far above the voices of those who booed and attempted to disrupt him. For a full transcript of his speech: Bernie Sanders DNC speech
Where Ms. Obama’s speech focused mainly on values and family, rather than platform specifics, Sanders dealt more with specifics, while at the same time calling for party unity and declaring his support for Clinton.
“Let me be as clear as I can be. This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency. This election is not about political gossip. It’s not about polls. It’s not about campaign strategy. It’s not about fundraising. It’s not about all the things the media spends so much time discussing. This election is about – and must be about – the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.”
“We have come a long way in the last 7 1/2 years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession. Yes, we have made progress, but I think we can all agree that much, much more needs to be done.”
“This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions – not just bombast, fear-mongering, name-calling and divisiveness.”
“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. 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. “
Like Ms. Obama, he reminds us that we cannot sit quietly on the sidelines and expect the outcome to be for the best, but we must become involved and engaged in the battle ahead.
“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.”
“Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
As I hoped, the speeches and general tone of the Democratic convention are much calmer, much saner than those we saw in the Republican convention. However, the convention is not completely united, not entirely without discord and disharmony. Unfortunately, just days ahead of the convention, Wikileaks released documents allegedly about Clinton, the campaign and internal discussions. I will not comment at this time about the content, source or validity of the documents, as I have not had time to review them closely and I think there are still many unanswered questions. However, the incident led to the ouster of Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and invited Sanders’ supporters and others to protest both outside and inside the convention center at a very bad time (no doubt intentional). It is to be hoped that the speeches of Ms. Obama and Mr. Sanders have begun to do the job of reversing at least part of the damage that was done by Wikileaks. In the coming days, the party simply must find a way to overcome any remaining divide and bring unity and harmony within the party, as they must present a united front to conquer the madness that is on the other side.