On the convention’s final night, Democrats focused on gratitude for our troops, the values that President Obama brings to his decisions, and our duties as citizens. (More)
I loved the Democratic National Convention, but I must admit I’m glad it’s over. The DNC did not consider Squirrel Standard Time when planning the event, and while Chef graciously offered me a thimbleful of espresso, that both kept me awake and brought a whole new meaning to “bright eyed and bushy tailed.” Mrs. Squirrel mistook me for a dust mop. So I’ll be glad to get back to my usual schedule … but I’m glad I stayed up to watch last night.
The night got rolling with Rep. Barney Frank’s comic-improv contrast of Mitt Romney and Myth Romney:
It turns out my governor was Mitt Romney, when we needed Myth Romney.[…] Myth Romney is a wonderful private sector executive who when he moves into the public sector can transform it. Maybe, as a Democrat, I should be grateful that we got Mitt and not Myth, because if Myth Romney had ever been governor and had done all of the things we were told he can do, he would have been reelected overwhelmingly.
When Ford’s decision hit, I went down to the local union hall. It was almost empty; a few workers milled about in shock and grief. I talked to a 45-year-old guy who told me, “This is the only place I’ve ever worked.
I’ve been loyal. I’ve done everything they’ve ever asked. And just like that, it’s gone.” He looked around the hall and said, “So, governor, is it over for us? Is the American auto industry dead?” Honestly, at that moment, I just didn’t know. And that was just the beginning. When the financial crisis hit, things got a lot worse – and fast.
The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse; and with it, the whole manufacturing sector. We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors and not Bain capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new president, Barack Obama!
He organized a rescue, made the tough calls and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees.
He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars?
Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft.
The evening’s most poignant moment came when former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance:
After Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden brought tears to his father’s eyes by formally nominating him, Second Lady Jill Biden introduced her husband:
I’m so proud to stand before you tonight not only as the wife of our vice president, but as a full-time teacher and a military mom. I’m here for our son, Beau, and for all of our troops, veterans and military families.
Four years ago, Beau stood on this stage to introduce his father, and soon afterward, he deployed to Iraq for a year with the Delaware Army National Guard. Tonight, thanks to the leadership of President Obama and my husband Joe, the war in Iraq is over.
Finally, I’ve seen Joe’s character in his heart. When I first met him, Joe had already seen just how fragile life could be. When he was 29 years old, Joe lost his first wife and baby daughter in a tragic car accident while they were out getting their Christmas tree, and the boys were critically injured. Joe’s life was shattered. But through his strong Catholic faith and his fierce love for our boys, Joe found the strength to get back up.
That’s Joe—that optimism, that determination, that big, strong heart that drives him forward every day. It’s what he learned as a young boy growing up with two hard-working parents in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s what makes him such a loving and supportive father of our three children: Beau, Hunter and Ashley. And it’s what drives him today as he and President Obama fight to strengthen the middle class they grew up in.
Day after day, night after night I sat beside him as he made one gutsy decision after the other to stop the slide and reverse it. I watched him. I watched him stand up. I watched him stand up to intense pressure and stare down enormous, enormous challenges, the consequences of which were awesome.
But most of all, I got to see firsthand what drove this man: his profound concern for the average American. He knew – he knew that no matter how tough the decisions he had to make were in that Oval Office, he knew that families all over America sitting at their kitchen tables were literally making decisions for their family that were equally as consequential.
He never, never backs down. He always steps up, and he always asks in every one of those critical meetings the same fundamental question: How is this going to affect the average American? How is this going to affect people’s lives? That’s what’s inside this man. That’s what makes him tick. That’s who he is.
The vice president distinguished President Obama’s people-centered focus with the profit-centered focus of Mitt Romney:
I’m sure [Romney] grew up loving cars as much as I did. But what I don’t understand, what I don’t think he understood, I don’t think he understood that saving the automobile worker, saving the industry, what it meant to all of America, not just autoworkers. I think he saw it the Bain way. Now, I mean this sincerely. I think he saw it in terms of balance sheets and write-offs.
Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits. But it’s not the way to lead our country from the highest office.
When things – when things – when things hung in the balance – when things hung in the balance – I mean, literally hung in the balance – the president understood this was about a lot more than the automobile industry. This was about restoring America’s pride. He understood – he understood in his gut what it would mean to leave a million people without hope or work if he didn’t act. And he also knew – he also knew – he intuitively understood the message it would have sent around the world if the United States gave up on an industry that helped put America on the map in the first place.
He also recalled President Obama’s decision to approve the Bin Laden raid:
Look, Barack understood that the search for bin Laden was about a lot more than taking a monstrous leader off the battlefield. It was about so much more than that. It was about righting an unspeakable wrong. It was about – literally, it was about – it was about healing an unbearable wound, a nearly unbearable wound in America’s heart.
And he also knew – he also knew the message we had to send around the world: If you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the end of the earth.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you what I think you already know. But I watch it up close. Bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama, and time and time again I witnessed him summon it. This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and a spine of steel. And – and because – because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made, because of the determination of American workers and the unparalleled bravery of our special forces, we can now proudly say what you’ve heard me say the last six months: Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.
And then President Obama spoke. After a deft jab that Republicans would tell a cold sufferer to “take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call back in the morning,” the president offered a five-point platform for America’s continuing recovery and reinvestment: energy, education, manufacturing, national security, and building stronger communities. Still, his speech focused not on himself but us, our duties as citizens, and the change and hope we make possible:
As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.
We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.
We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy.
We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States, and it’s in our power to give her that chance.
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we certainly don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules.
We don’t think the government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that the government is the source of all our problems, any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
Because – because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.
So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me.
It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change.
You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage.
You did that.
You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance.
You made that possible.
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home, why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home, welcome home.”
You did that. You did that.
If you turn away now – if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: the lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election, and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.
Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.
You know, I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed, and so have I.
I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.
And – and that – and that – and that means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them.
And while I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America.
Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges.
I’m hopeful because of you.
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter, she gives me hope.
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife, he gives me hope.
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their 4,000 employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and some pay, because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business, they give me hope.
I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, We would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and 20 pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg.
And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled.
He gives me hope.
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.”
In 2008, many seemed to believe that President Obama presented himself as the embodiment of “Hope” and “Change.” Last night he made clear that he still hopes for change because he still believes in “We the People.”
That’s why I still believe in him.
Good day and good nuts.