Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic National Convention, Night One

Howie will most certainly disagree with my description (he still believes that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam Hussein was complicit in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that the Iraqi government, contrary to the history of the Ba'athist Party, was alled with al Qa'ida), but night one of the DNC convention was an emotional evening celebrating some typical, down-to-earth American family values.

Caroline Kennedy started it off by introducing a tribute to her uncle, Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In honoring her uncle, the 47-year veteran of the United States Senate, she also paid tribute to the Senator from Illinois and presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States. She said of Obama, "I've never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father (the late President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy) inspired them. But I do now!"

Caroline Kennedy's introduction was followed by a filmed tribute to her Uncle produced by the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns:

Following the filmed tribute the 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat, undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor that was discovered only last May, gave a rousing speech where he declared, "I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great battle (over a national system of health care)."

But the evening belonged to Michelle Obama, wife of the presumptive nominee and Senator from Illinois. With this speech she should have dispelled, for all but the most cynical (are you listening, Howie?), the GOP-inspired notion that she and her husband are somehow different, alien, bitter, or "hate their country," but, rather, want to improve it. As she put it in her speech, "All of us (are) driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do -- that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be."

As I watched the convention this evening, I was struck that what has really captured Americans' imaginations is not that Barack Obama is "the One," or "the Messiah," or "a celebrity," but that he is one of us. Looking at this assembled group of conventioneers, old, young, black, white, Hispanic, and Asian, well-heeled and all shades of middle class, watching the tears stream from their eyes, not for Teddy Kennedy's wealthy family, but for his life-long commitment to keeping "the dream" alive, not for Michelle Obama's beauty or brains but for her working-class roots, I could see evidence that the American Dream is not dead. Not yet.

This was not a phony Texan raised in New Haven, Connecticut, and educated (barely) at Yale. These were my "homeys," without regard to their origins -- a wealthy scion of a world-renowned Massachusetts family committed to public service and the principles of human rights and equality, and a girl from Chicago's South Side who worked hard and did well for herself and for others.

God Bless America.

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