Well, we’re a day into this thing, and I for one feel that last night’s speeches were a great way to open. No, nobody shot daggers at Bush or McCain, but I think that’s okay for the first night. Michelle Obama gave a great speech, and the video conference between Obama and her — along with their delightfully cute daughters — was a very humanizing moment that felt genuine (which is not easy to do given how structured these things are). In many ways, her speech was as much about her as it was about her husband. Sad as it might be, the racially driven attacks on her, which have sought to paint her as a black militant women ashamed of her country, had to be addressed, and by stepping up to that podium last night and telling her own story — a truly American story — she helped to put some of those insinuations to rest.
I’ve got to say, she’s a pretty good speaker in her own right. Completely separated from her husband, I could still very easily picture her as a successful politician. She stammered over some lines, but she really knows how to invest in her words. There was nothing phony or plastic about the way in which she told her story. It felt almost conversational at times. She wasn’t just addressing a faceless crowd, she was addressing each individual in that crowd. The speech itself displayed the intelligence and savvy we’ve come to expect from this campaign. Tying the women’s suffrage movement with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and borrowing Senator Clinton’s line about the glass ceiling with “18 million cracks” in it was an elegant and beautiful way to reach out and salve the wounds of those supporters still feeling the sting of a bitter primary battle.
(And how cute was it when little Sasha said an unscripted hello to the Girardeaus family?)
Despite Michelle Obama’s impressive performance, the real hero of the night to me was Ted Kennedy who as the greatest symbol of the old vanguard of the party, passed the torch on to the next generation. The Kennedys have represented the very best of our party for forty years now, and Senator Kennedy has done a marvelous job at carrying on the legacy of his brothers with the idealism and respect that they deserved. And I must say I more than a little happy to see him ready for one last fight. As he made clear in his speech, Kennedy is deadly serious about passing a health care bill, calling it “the cause of my life.” There is a measure of sadness in this in as much as it is the last hurrah for America’s first family, but as legacies go, universal health care would be a towering achievement. There is no way any Democrat could ever adequately thank the Massachusetts Senator for his lifetime of public service.
God bless you, Ted Kennedy. God bless you.