30,000 cheer First Lady on first night of the Democratic Convention
BY HAZEL TRICE EDNEY OF TRICEEDNEYWIRE.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TriceEdneyWire.com) – First Lady Michelle Obama wowed the crowd here in Charlotte Tuesday night, drawing tears and chants from an audience of 30,000 at the Democratic National Convention.
“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” she said, obviously contrasting the President with Millionaire Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate who touts his business and financial success as among the reasons he’d be good for America. “I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters — and for all of our sons and daughters, if we want to give all of our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise, if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility — that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it then we must work like never before!”
The audience exploded with applause for the First Lady, who is hugely popular across the country. Speaking on opening night, she brought a major touch of glamour with substance to Charlotte’s Time-Warner Arena where the audience had increasingly packed in up to the rafters in anticipation of her speech.
It was a crucial moment for the Obama campaign as Republicans who convened in Tampa last week had successfully stirred their base, decreasing the gaps in some polls in which the President has been clearly leading among voters. Though the level of excitement at the Democratic Convention is not the same as in Denver four years ago during the anticipation of the nation’s first Black president, it was clear after Michelle Obama’s speech that the momentum is peaking once again.
“You’re not going to have that same energy four years later. You’re just not. He’s not the first Black President anymore, but people are fired up and ready to go,” said the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. However, he predicts that the “clear contrast” between the Obama’s and the Romney’s will be the greatest inspiration for Democrats and some undecided voters.
“It was a major contrast between her and Ann Romney tonight. Of course that’s the picture she wanted to paint – that her family and Ann Romney’s family are strikingly different. The difference is that her husband is going to look out for the middle class, look out for the poor, look out for those that need a hand up and the other family is not,” said Johnson. “I think the speeches all day long demonstrated that Democrats, progressives and those who love this country are ready to give Obama four more years and to keep moving forward in the direction we’re going now.”
Among the stark difference here in Charlotte is also the diversity of the people attending the convention. People of all ages, races and walks of life were clearly represented as opposed to the vastly White attendance at the Republican Convention in Tampa last week. Perhaps the best description of the mood in Charlotte was given by a 17-year-old volunteer for the Obama campaign.
“Four years ago, it was about the changing of the guards. Now it’s about the guarding of the change,” said Ron Busby Jr., a student at Georgetown Prep School in Washington, D.C. Busby was experiencing his first convention with his father, Ron Busby Sr., president of the U. S. Black Chamber of Commerce.
The major challenge for the Obama campaign will be to communicate such that his primary base, largely Black voters, will become excited again. Though the past four years have brought strides in the economy, health care and international successes, there has been a season of apathy due to a stubborn economy and consistently high unemployment rates among African-Americans.
“I think the energy is building,” said Marvin Dickerson of the National Executive Committee of the 100 Black Men of America. “I think all the speakers tonight really began to tell the story of the first four years of President Barack Obama and it’s starting to lay out his accomplishments. And I think that when the story has been clearly told, there will be no question that this has been a president that – despite all the barriers and odds that have been thrown his way, including the unfortunate hand that he was left by the previous administration – he has still methodically moved this country forward.”
Telling the story on the first night was an all-star agenda of Democrats, including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; a keynote, and all of the Democratic women in Congress standing on stage together. Each speaker laid out President Obama’s slate of successes, which included his saving of General Motors from bankruptcy; his increases in student aid like Pell grants; his support of a woman’s right to choose an abortion; his success with the Affordable Care health care act, his first act of signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act for women to have equal pay for equal work; and his killing of Osama Bin Laden.
The anticipation continued to rise as former President Bill Clinton was to speak on Wednesday night, nominating President Obama, who was set to speak on Thursday.
“I was so impressed with all the speeches,” said Ron Busby Sr., president of the U. S. Black Chamber of Commerce. “It was an inclusive host of speakers from all nationalities to all races, to all genders, sexualities and preferences from across the country that spoke to everyone across America about all issues that we share in common about a future that looks like us as opposed to a previous past that looks like them. This is our opportunity to continue the movement that we have built on for the last five to six years and we are just so excited about being here in this movement of changing the guard verses guarding the change.”
Having watched her husband handle the presidency, Michelle Obama says she loves him more now than ever.
“He has seen first-hand that being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are,” she said. “So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political — they’re personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it.”
Moments after First Lady Michelle walked off the stage and the lights lowered for the closing remarks and prayer, chants erupted from the crowd waving Obama 2012 placards: “Fired up! Ready to go! Fired up! Ready to go!”
Concluded Shirley Newsome of Chicago, “It was what we expected. It was what we needed.”