Last night’s Democratic Convention program was chock-full of American stories. (More)
A journey that can only happen in America
There was Vice President Joe Biden’s speech:
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you, thank you. I love you. Ladies and gentlemen, 8 years ago, I stood on the stage in Denver. And I accepted your nomination to be Vice President of the United States. And every single day since then, it has been the honor of our lives for Jill and me. Every day we have been grateful for Barack and Michelle, for asking us to join them on the incredible journey. A journey that can only happen in America. We not only have worked together, as it has become obvious, we have become friends. We are now family. We are family.
He spoke about working with President Obama, and with Secretary of State and now Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. He spoke of his recently-passed son Beau:
His wife and his two kids are here tonight. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, many are strong in the broken places.” I’ve been made strong at the broken places by my love with Jill, by my heart and son Hunter and the love of my life, my Ashley. By all of you, and I mean this sincerely, those who have been through this, you know I mean what I say – by all of you, your love and prayers and support. But you know what, we talk about, we think about the countless thousands of other people who suffered so much more than we have, with so much less support. So much less reason to go on. But they get up every morning, every day. They put one foot in front of the other, they keep going. That is the unbreakable spirit of the people of America. That is who we are. That is who we are. Don’t forget it.
And he shared stories he’s heard through his long time in public service:
Like the people in the neighborhood that Jill and I grew up in, she in Willow Grove, and mine down in Wilmington and Claymont, the kid in Claymont with the most courage, who always jumped in when you were double teamed or your back was against the wall. Who became a cop because he always wanted to help people. The middle daughter of three daughters, who always made her mother smile, who is a hero to her sisters.
Now I was a major in the United States Marine Corps because I wanted to serve my country. The teachers who Jill knows who take money out of their own pockets to buy pencils and notebooks for their students who can’t afford them. Why? Because being a teacher is not what they do, it is who they are. You know what I know, for real. These are the people that are the heart and soul of this country. It is the America that I know. The America that Hillary knows and Tim Kaine knows.
Others had shared their stories first-hand earlier in the evening: the daughter of the principal who was murdered at Sandy Hook; a filmmaker whose father was murdered while serving as a Philadelphia cop, whose brother and nephew are in jail, and who has served time himself; a mother whose son was murdered in the Orlando Massacre; two women whose loved ones were murdered in Charleston. They told stories of grief and pain, but also stories of hope and determination. American stories.
“I never expected to be here”
There was vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s speech:
I never expected to be here. But let me tell you how it happened.
I was born in Minnesota and grew up in Kansas City. My folks weren’t much into politics. My dad ran a union ironworking shop. My mom was his best salesman. My brothers and I pitched in to help during summers and on weekends. That’s how small family businesses work. My parents, Al and Kathy, taught me about hard work, and about kindness, and most importantly, about faith.
I went to a Jesuit boys school – Rockhurst High School. The motto of our school was “men for others.” That’s where my faith became vital, a North Star for orienting my life. And I knew that I wanted to fight for social justice.
That’s why I took a year off of law school to volunteer with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. I taught kids welding and carpentry.
He spoke Spanish fluently. He also spoke of his father-in-law Linwood Holton, the former Governor of Virginia, who desegregated that state’s schools and enrolled his daughter Anne in an integrated inner-city Richmond public school … the same school Kaine’s own children attend. He spoke of his service as a civil rights lawyer, taking on banks, landlords, real estate firms, and insurance companies who discriminated against people of color. He spoke of his service on the Richmond City Council, then as Mayor of Richmond, then as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia, and as a U.S. Senator.
He spoke of how to measure a candidate’s authenticity:
Here’s a little tip for you: When you want to know about the character of someone in public life, look to see if they have a passion, one that began before they were in office, and that they have consistently held on to throughout their career. Hillary’s passion is kids and families. Donald Trump has a passion too. It’s himself.
And he spoke of trust:
Hey, remember Karla, the little girl we heard from on Monday who feared her parents would be deported? She trusts Hillary to keep them together. And remember the Mothers of the Movement we heard from last night? They trust Hillary to keep other mothers’ sons and daughters safe.
And as he’s serving our nation abroad, I trust Hillary Clinton with our son’s life.
He spoke of Donald Trump’s long record of cheating contractors and workers, and he made that case forcefully. But he then pivoted back to something he learned as a Jesuit missionary:
The next president will face many challenges. We better elect the candidate who’s proven she can be trusted with the job. The candidate who’s proven she’s ready for the job. And by the way, I used the word “ready” for a specific reason. When I lived in Honduras, I learned that the best compliment you could give someone was to say they were listo (ready). Not inteligente (smart), not amable (friendly), not rico (rich). But listo. Because what listo means in Spanish is prepared, battle-tested, rock-solid, up for anything, never backing down. And Hillary Clinton is lista.
The language was Spanish, and that too was an American story.
“The generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – indeed, all of our stories – possible”
And then President Obama took the stage:
Twelve years ago tonight, I addressed this convention for the very first time.
You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha – now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride. You fell for my brilliant wife and partner Michelle, who’s made me a better father and a better man; who’s gone on to inspire our nation as First Lady; and who somehow hasn’t aged a day.
I know the same can’t be said for me. My girls remind me all the time. Wow, you’ve changed so much, daddy.
And it’s true – I was so young that first time in Boston. Maybe a little nervous addressing such a big crowd. But I was filled with faith; faith in America – the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – indeed, all of our stories – possible.
He spoke of Clinton in Teddy Roosevelt-ian terms:
Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics. She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t. But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try. That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described – not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…[but] who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”
Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. She’s been there for us – even if we haven’t always noticed. And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about “yes he will.” It’s about “yes we can.” And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands.
Then he spoke of our stories:
And that’s why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands. My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do. But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn; for all the places I’ve fallen short; I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you what’s picked me back up, every single time.
It’s been you. The American people.
It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost. Do not quit.
It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl, made by a seven year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget – a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action.
It’s the small business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession – because, he said, “that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America.”
It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.
It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who’s learned to speak and walk again – and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand.
He asked us to share our stories, our hope, our support with Clinton:
Time and again, you’ve picked me up. I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. Because you’re who I was talking about twelve years ago, when I talked about hope – it’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!
America, you have vindicated that hope these past eight years. And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen. This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.
Thank you for this incredible journey. Let’s keep it going. God bless the United States of America.
And then he headed for the wings to exit stage left. But Hillary Clinton stopped him. She came out. Their eyes met. She broke into a smile. They embraced.
First rivals, then colleagues, now friends. The first black President of the United States. The first woman nominated to by a major party to be President of the United States.
On a night full of American stories, their embrace was among of the most beautiful American stories of all.
Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster (AP)
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