The cameo appearances by ordinary citizens were as interesting as the speeches by the extraordinary elected officials. There was Barney Smith, wearing a red and white plaid shirt, who described how his job had been shipped overseas. He got the best laugh of the night when he said he wanted a President who cared as much about Barney Smith as Smith Barney.
A nurse said,”Let me tell you what happened to me,” and described how her family had achieved the American dream, buying a house, educating their children, until one day, when both she and her husband became seriously ill, they lost their insurance, they couldn’t pay the bills, and they lost everything. She had voted for Reagan, Nixon and both Bushes, she announced, and today, she was a Democrat.
Certainly these stories were carefully scripted; nevertheless, they struck a realistic chord because they reflected the lives of many Americans who were not on stage in the Mile High stadium, but at home, watching the convention on TV.
The warmest welcome was given to Vice President Al Gore who expressed what everyone thought; how things would have been different if he had won in 2000: no war in Iraq, no failing economy, and, of course, no denial of global warming. He had a good one-liner. Referring to another four years of Bush-Cheney, he quipped “I believe in recycling, but this is ridiculous.”
When Barack Obama made his much anticipated appearance, he walked on to the stage with a natural grace as if he had anticipated this moment all of his life. It was his first introduction to millions of American voters, but for convention goers, he had, on this fourth night, become a familiar figure. He met his biggest challenge–to synthesize his usual inspirational words with a practical bread and butter agenda of what he would do as President.
He also said what he would not do. He would not attack his opponent’s character or patriotism, thereby, revealing his own character and patriotism.
The theatre of the grand finale was breathtaking. Rockets shooting up in the air, red, white and blue confetti falling down. No Democratic convention is likely to do the traditional balloon drop again.
Barack Obama had the biggest, most inclusive convention night in Democratic history. He also managed to pull this unprecedented night off without a hitch, thanks to the choreography of his staff and the hundreds, or more, law enforcement officers. I was impressed until we tried to get on a bus to get back to our hotel. Pure chaos ensued, a reminder that this was a Democratic event after all.
But that was only a footnote to a convention that showcased the Democratic Party, a party more diverse than any in history. I don’t know how many delegates were African Americans and Hispanics, but by any measure, they were present in extraordinary numbers. Fifty-one percent of the delegates were women; 49 percent men.