August 29, 2008
(Because I couldn’t make a Friday deadline.)
What a night. What a week. What a year it’s been, and what an opportunity we have over the next two months for a real debate about the future of our country.
Thursday night, the night Barack Obama gave his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, was an enormous event. Not just because Senator Obama gave the kind of speech he needed to give – and a pretty powerful one at that. And not just because of the number of people at Mile High Stadium or the pageantry they saw (although both definitely added to the experience).
It was enormous because of what it represented.
I was on the ground there, 20 or 30 yards from the podium. I was seated between a person who’s been a close friend of mine for two decades and a man I met just this week. He’s confined to a wheelchair, using a ventilator, and he was taking pictures with his feet.
All around me were people from every place and every background in this richly diverse country. Not just elected officials, but those who elect folks with their votes. Not just people who have money, but those who had to raise it just so they could afford to go to Denver. Not just party regulars with several national conventions under their belts, but those who never considered going until this time, this year.
The place literally was moving. It swayed, churned, and palpitated with positive emotion. It had a rhythm. There were tens of thousands of American flags. At the highest point of the stadium, way off, as far as you could be from the podium, one guy raised a huge American flag. He waived it almost constantly throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
It was 84,000 or so strangers who felt like one body. And more than anything, it was symbolic of how our country should and can be.
As you probably know, Senator Obama, the first African American to be nominated for President by a major political party, gave this speech on a special day – the 45th Anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was with Dr. King that day. On Thursday night, he said, “For those of us who stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or who in the years that followed may have lost hope, this moment is a testament to the power and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. . . . It is a testament to the ability of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. It is a testament to the promise of America.”
Of course, he’s right. And it was a nearly perfect ending to a great, great week.
I tried to keep track of some of what’s been going on by blogging about it on www.kirkwatson.com. You can read all of the entries here. Here’s a quick highlight – something I wrote early Thursday morning after the unifying roll-call vote and the inspiring speeches by President Clinton and Senator Biden:
Obama Makes History
Last night, Barack Obama became the first African American nominated to be President by a major political party. It was a big moment.
It was made bigger by the way Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton moved to have him nominated by acclimation during the course of the roll call vote. It was a class act done with great style and grace. Earlier in the day, she met with her delegates and announced she was “releasing” them in the name of party unity.
Former President Clinton also reminded everyone why he has been so successful with his leadership. He gave an excellent speech that more than one Clinton supporter told me has made a difference in their feelings of unity.
That’s an important message I’ll take from this week, and I think many people feel the same way. Americans have been divided about the direction of this country for years. And Democrats have had an emotional discussion for about a year over the person who should lead us into the future.
But after this week, it really feels like we have a chance to draw all of that to a close.
Over the last couple of days, thousands of our fellow Americans have fanned out from Denver across this country, united around one agenda. It’s not about Democrats-vs-Republicans, not about conservatives-vs-liberals, and not about the mean, petty divisions that so many people associate with politics (though I fear those divisions will be on high display in Minneapolis next week).
It’s about an energy policy that makes us safer and more prosperous. It’s about health care that saves money, fortifies small businesses, and keeps people healthy. It’s about the schools and universities that will turn our kids’ abilities into innovation, and the infrastructure that will turn that innovation into prosperity. And it’s about standing as a strong, smart nation that fights the wars we have to win, defuses crises before they’re conflicts, corrects the mistakes we’ve been left with, and regains the admiration that our parents and grandparents earned for us.
These – not ugly smears, attacks, and political maneuvers – are the issues that should, and that will, define the important decision this country faces in less than 10 weeks.
That’s why this is such an exciting, inspiring, hopeful time. That’s why this week truly was historic. And that’s why so many millions of us feel like we’re on the right side of that history.