Party officials expected it to be a big night: the first Black Democratic presidential nominee would speak on the day, 45 years later, that a heralded civil rights icon had spoken.
Party officials expected it to be a big night: the first Black Democratic presidential nominee would speak on the day, 45 years later, that a heralded civil rights icon had spoken. That could explain why organizers of the Democratic National Convention, held in Denver last week, moved the event Thursday from the 21,000-seat Pepsi Center, to the 75,000-seat INVESCO Field for Sen. Barack Obama’s party nomination acceptance speech. After Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama’s tough rival during the primary elections, decided against a roll call Wednesday and threw her delegates and support behind Obama, he became the official Democratic presidential nominee. “With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Obama said Thursday to deafening applause and cheers. And after thanking the previous nights’ key speakers–which included his wife, Michelle, who spoke on opening night of the convention, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton–Obama came out fighting, taking Republicans to task and calling out their collapsed policies and dogging issues. “We are better than these last eight years,” Obama said, after describing some of the hardships the nation has faced in recent years, from job losses to the lending crisis and the war on Iraq, that he blamed on “the failed policies of George W. Bush.” His message seemed to strike a chord with the thousands of people in attendance. The flicker of camera flashes and the intermittent ovations and chants were the only breaks in Obama’s assault. The Illinois senator did pause before pummeling his Republican presidential opponent, John McCain, to acknowledge the Arizona senator’s service to this nation. “John McCain has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that, we owe him our gratitude and respect,” Obama said. Then the gloves were back on. Painting a picture of McCain as a Republican out of touch with the hard luck and economic strife of the American people, Obama said, “I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know.” Obama continued his McCain pouncing, aligning the Republican nominee with Bush. Listing what he considered the failures of the Bush administration, including its inept emergency response in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Obama made them blemishes for McCain’s campaign. The crowd raised placards of “CHANGE” as Obama went on to tell how he would transform the nation, raising it from the doldrums of economic despair and making provisions for the health care and education. As cameras panned the over-capacity crowd, men and women could be seen on giant screens with tears streaming from their eyes, or with huge smiles on their faces. More than a thousand miles away from where King delivered his insightful and inspiring speech in Washington, Obama outlined his own vision for change. His rousing message told the Republicans and McCain to bring it on. “Now is not the time for small plans,” he proclaimed. Obama’s plan would cut taxes for small businesses and working families, he said. In the wake of the highest gas prices in the nation’s history, the first-term senator said that as president, the nation’s reliance on foreign oil would change. “In ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East,” Obama declared. Women, teachers, students, servicemen and middle-class American families would reap the benefit of an Obama administration, he explained. Hailing from humble beginnings himself, Obama rejected the celebrity moniker McCain heaped on him in an ad campaign. Obama, whose father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas, was raised in Hawaii and lived and was educated, for a period of time, overseas. He explained that his ability to attend Harvard was made possible by grants and student loans. As his wife had explained in her opening night speech, Obama said he was hardly raised in opulence. “I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes,” Obama said, referring to his grandmother, who could not travel to the convention, and others who helped shape his life. Obama’s message detailed how the nation could exercise its freedoms, yet collectively address and resolve some of its issues that “put our country first.” From views on abortion and gun control to ones on same-sex marriages and immigration, Obama offered to “find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.” And in a zinger statement on the Iraq war that Obama promised to “end responsibly,” he blasted McCain. “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell. But he won’t even go to the cave where he lives,” Obama said as the crowd erupted in support. Throughout the week, political analysts and pundits had said the Clintons and others had to outright say that Obama was ready to be president and then throw their support firmly behind him. It was Bill Clinton who, recalling a political d%uFFFDj%uFFFD vu, reminded the crowd Wednesday night that during his own candidacy, he was called inexperienced and considered unknown. It was similar to what had been said about Obama, Clinton pointed out in his speech before he declared his support for the Illinois senator. But Thursday, Obama stumped for himself and told succinctly and passionately why he should be elected. As King had “dreamed” of change on the horizon during the fight for Black civil equality, Obama said Thursday that he had “seen” that the “change we need is coming.” ______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.