PHILADELPHIA (CN) — Michelle Obama electrified the Democratic National Convention Monday night heralding the greatness of the nation in a very personal way, noting how it’s evolved from a country where “generations … felt the lash of bondage” to one where she can “wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves … and watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Even before the first lady stopped speaking, the pundits in the Wells Fargo Center where already hailing her mediation on the triumph of America as among the best speeches in political memory.
On a day when many Democrats, both on the convention floor and at home in their living rooms, was consumed by seemingly unbridgeable division between supporters of nominee Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Michele Obama grabbed hold of Donald Trump and the GOP’s dark vision of America, wrung it out and hung it out to dry, framing America’s diversity as its strength and the key to its progress.
“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,” Obama said to thunderous applause inside the arena.
“And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth, a leader who is worthy of my girls’ promise and all our kids’ promise, a leader who will be guided every day by the love and hope and impossibly big dreams that we all have for our children,” she said.
Obama warned her fellow Democrats that 2016 was not the time to “sit back and hope that everything works out for the best.”
“We cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical. No, hear me. Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago,” the first lady said.
“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.”
As much of a clarion call as her remarks were, she also took care to bring the soaring vision she was creating to a human level.
She recalled for instance, her family’s first days in the White House in the winter of 2009.
“When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns,” Obama said. “And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, ‘what have we done?'”
The first lady said it was at that moment that she realized “our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them.”
“That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith,” she said. “How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country.
“How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high,” Obama said.
She went on to say that Hillary Clinton would be a president under whom she would be proud to raise her children, and a capable decision-maker she would trust with the nuclear codes.
“What I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckled under pressure. She never takes the easy way out, and Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life,” Obama said.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had the unenviable role of following Obama to the stage, and her performance and the lackluster response it inspired reflected the fact she’d been upstaged by a showstopper.
While she tried gamely to both assail Trump and praise Clinton, hecklers frequently punctuated her remarks with boos and catcalls.
Gamely carrying on, Warren said the election is not just about picking a president but about choosing a leader for the country’s children for the next “four or eight years.”
She went right after Republican nominee Donald Trump, calling him a greedy billionaire who has taken advantage of the system.
“If you believe that America must work for all of us, not just the rich and powerful,” Warren said, “if you believe we must reject the politics of fear and division, if you believe that we are stronger together, then let’s work our hearts out to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.”
Chants of “Bernie, Bernie” broke out as Sanders walked onto the stage, and the cheers interrupted his half-hour speech about every two minutes, necessitating pauses while he thanked the crowd.
Earlier in the night comedian Sarah Silverman, sharing the dais with Minnesota Senator Al Franken, addressed the Sanders holdouts: “Can I just say to the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people: You’re being ridiculous.”
Sanders drew raucous cheers when he took the stage, to promise his “political revolution” would continue beyond the election, and pledged his support for Clinton.
Before his speech a video played on the massive screens around the stage, recapping Sanders’ campaign and ending on a shot of Clinton and Sanders waving together.
Sanders endorsed Clinton last week but did not release his delegates, saying he looks forward to their vote during the roll call that will formally give Clinton the nomination.
“Election days come and go but the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent, a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” Sanders said. “That struggle continues.”
Some Sanders supporters and most of Clinton’s hoped to hear a message of unity from Sanders, to help bring the party together to defeat Donald Trump. Sanders largely delivered, repeating his endorsement of Clinton and saying she would support his oft-repeated campaign of a higher minimum wage, fighting Citizens United and combating climate change.
“By these measures, any objective observer can conclude that based on her ideas and leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” Sanders said.
As he delved into his familiar talking points of income inequality, social and economic justice and health care, he drew repeated cheers from the crowd, demonstrating their enthusiasm for the unexpectedly strong campaign he ran and his progressive message.
Sanders praised the platform the party adopted Monday and emphasized that Clinton is the only option to defeat Donald Trump.
“In this stressful time for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up,” Sanders said.
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