The first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention is over – and what an evening it was! First Lady Michelle Obama’s moving speech capped a series of strong presentations by a diverse parade of passionate Democratic politicians and non-pols whose lives have been affected by Barak Obama’s presidency.
For those who might not have the pleasure of watching the entire evening, here are some highlights from my favorite speakers in the order in which they appeared:
Harry Reid, Democratic Majority Leader, Member of the U.S. Senate, Nevada
Some said he shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden. But President Obama made the tough and right call to bring the world’s worst terrorist to justice.
Some said he couldn’t take on the big banks that brought our economy to its knees. But President Obama made the tough and right call so taxpayers will never again be on the hook for Wall Street’s risky bets.
Some said he couldn’t take on the insurance companies that were ripping us off. But President Obama made the tough and right call to save lives, save Medicare and ensure no one goes broke just because they get sick.”
“In the depth of the Great Recession, as millions of Americans were struggling to find work, the Republican leader of the senate, Mitch McConnell, said Republicans’ number one goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. They wouldn’t cooperate to create jobs. They wouldn’t try to turn around the economy. They wouldn’t do anything but stand in President Obama’s way.
I’ve had a front-row seat to watch the Tea Party take over the Republican Party. For three and a half years, they wouldn’t govern. They couldn’t lead. And we shouldn’t let them take over the Senate and the White House.
We must stop the Tea Party before the United States Senate falls into the hands of extremists and ideologues who leave no room for reason or compromise, who don’t recognize common ground even when they’re standing on it.
And if they won’t stand up to Rush Limbaugh or Grover Norquist, what would make anyone think they would stand up for you?”
“Today’s Republican Party believes in two sets of rules: one for millionaires and billionaires, and another for the middle class. And this year, they’ve nominated the strongest proponent—and clearest beneficiary—of this rigged game: Mitt Romney.”
Tammy Duckworth, Candidate for the US House of Representatives, Illinois
“I became an assault helicopter pilot, working my way up to command a Blackhawk helicopter company. In 2003, my National Guard unit was mobilized, and I became one of the first Army women to fly combat missions in Iraq.
Almost a year into my tour I was wounded, and recovered at Walter Reed with other wounded warriors. Some of us had obvious injuries. Others had scars on the inside that were less visible, but no less real. At the hospital, I realized my new responsibility: to honor the buddies who saved me by serving our military men and women. I became director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. We led the nation in screening for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, and we created a tax credit for Illinois businesses that hire veterans.”
“When it comes to our men and women in harm’s way, we have a clear choice on November 6th. Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he is seeking to command. But he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word “Afghanistan.”
Barack Obama will never ignore our troops. He will fight for them. That’s why he is my choice on November 6th. My choice is to do what my family did when times were hard: roll up our sleeves and get to work. My choice is to do what my crew did for me in a dusty field in Iraq.
On November 12th, 2004, I was co-piloting my Blackhawk north of Baghdad when we started taking enemy fire. A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap, ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out. In that moment, my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today.”
Ultimately, that’s what this election is about…It’s about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we’ll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we’ll pull together in a time of need; whether we’ll refuse to give up until the job is done.
So let’s finish what we started. Let’s keep moving forward with Barack Obama. Let’s do what this country has always done: look adversity in the eye and work together to overcome it.”
Stacey Lihn, a mother whose infant daughter Zoe has had two heart surgeries and needs one more.
But that’s not true. Not even close.
For me, there was the day the Affordable Care Act passed and I no longer had to worry about Zoe getting the care she needed.
There was the day the letter arrived from the insurance company, saying that our daughter’s lifetime cap had been lifted.
There was the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.”
“But we’re also scared. Governor Romney repealing health care reform is something we worry about literally every day. Zoe’s third open-heart surgery will happen either next year or the year after.
If Mitt Romney becomes president and Obamacare is repealed, there’s a good chance she’ll hit her lifetime cap.
There’s no way we could afford to pay for all the cares she needs to survive.”
“One in 100 children is born with a congenital heart defect. President Obama is fighting for them. He’s fighting.
For families like mine.
And we need to fight for him.”
Ted Strickland, Former Governor of Ohio
“It’s been a long slog back, and we’ve still got a long way to go. But all over Ohio—all over America—men and women are going back to work with the pride of building something stamped “Made in America.” Before Barack Obama took office, it looked like that pride could have vanished forever, but today, from the staggering depths of the Great Recession, the nation has had 29 straight months of job growth. Workers across my state and across the country are getting back the dignity of a good job and a good salary.”
“President Barack Obama stood up for us, and now by God we will stand up for him. Quite frankly, Barack Obama knows what it’s like to pay a mortgage and student loans. He knows what it’s like to watch a beloved family member in a medical crisis and worry that treatment is out of reach. Barack Obama knows our struggles. And, my friends, he shares our values.
Now, Mitt Romney, he lives by a different code. To him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet.
To him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off.”
“Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation. Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit from tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.”
“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.
On what he’s saying about the president’s policy for welfare to work, he’s lying. Simple as that. On his tax returns, he’s hiding. You have to wonder, just what is so embarrassing that he’s gone to such great lengths to bury the truth? Whatever he’s doing to avoid taxes, can it possibly be worse than the Romney-Ryan tax plan that would have sliced Mitt’s total tax rate to less than one percent?”
“Barack Obama is betting on the American worker. Mitt Romney is betting on a Bermuda shell corporation. Barack Obama saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saved on his taxes. Barack Obama is an economic patriot. Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer.”
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
“I was governor of Kansas when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. Many of us watched in amazement—envy, even—as he passed a universal health care law in his state. Well, Republicans may see Romneycare as a scarlet letter. But for us Democrats, Obamacare is a badge of honor. Because no matter who you are, what stage of life you’re in, this law is a good thing.”
“I’ve spent my career fighting the worst practices of insurance companies. I know how tough it is to stand up to powerful forces that prey on consumers. Governor Romney and Paul Ryan know how tough it is, too. That’s why they won’t do it!”
“What’s missing from the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare is Medicare.”
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago & Former White House Chief of Staff
“When President Obama entered the White House, the economy was in a free-fall. The auto industry: on its back. The banks: frozen up. More than three million Americans had already lost their jobs. And America’s bravest, our men and women in uniform, were fighting what would soon be the longest wars in our history. You remember the uncertainty and fear that seized the country.
On that first day, I said, “Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?” He looked at me, with that look he usually reserved for his chief of staff, “Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them.”
“Each crisis was so deep and so dangerous; any one of them would have defined another presidency. We faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American history.
Fortunately for all of us, we have a once-in-a-generation president.”
“I remember when the president received a report that the auto industry had a few weeks before collapse. We met in the Roosevelt Room late into the night. Some of the president’s advisors said that in order to save General Motors, you had to let Chrysler go under. Others said it was throwing good money after bad. Among all the experts, there were only guesses, and nobody put it at better than a one-in-four shot. Only the president suggested going all-in to save the industry.
Rising above all the voices in Washington, President Obama listened to the voices that mattered to him most—the voices of the auto workers and the communities that depended on them, just like the voices of the steelworkers and communities on the south side of Chicago where he worked earlier in his career. To President Obama, they were not just companies that needed a loan, they were communities that needed a leader to stand up for them. And because President Obama made the right choice, over one million Americans are still working today.”
“Now, one thing I know with absolute certainty, having served two great presidents, is that in the next four years, an unforeseen crisis, challenge or conflict is gonna seize the country. Whose leadership, whose judgment, whose values do you want in the White House when that crisis lands like a thud on the Oval Office desk?
A person who said in four words, “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” or a president who had another four words, “Not on my watch”? A person who believes in giving tax cuts to the most fortunate, or a president who believes in making college affordable for all Americans?”
Kal Penn, Actor/Producer, Former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement
Wait, this isn’t my speech. Prompter guy, can we pull up my speech?”
“One of the most special days was a Saturday in 2010. The Senate repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so anyone can serve the country they love, regardless of whom they love. But that same day, the Dream Act was blocked. That bill would give immigrant children—who’ve never pledged allegiance to any flag but ours—the chance to earn their citizenship. Simple. Important.
I was in a small office on the second floor of the West Wing with eight other staffers. We’d worked our hearts out and cared deeply about what this would mean for other young people. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room—tears of joy for the history that was made, but also tears of sadness because some American dreams would still be deferred.
Five minutes later, President Obama walked in, sleeves rolled up. He said to us, “This is not over. We’re gonna keep fighting. I’m gonna keep fighting. I need young people to keep fighting.” That’s why we’re here!”
“I volunteered in Iowa in 2007 because, like you, I had friends serving in Iraq, friends who were looking for jobs, others who couldn’t go to the doctor because they couldn’t afford it. I felt that had to change. So I knocked on doors. I registered voters.
And I’m volunteering again now because my friend Matt got a job at a Detroit car company that still exists, and Lauren can get the prescription she needs. I’m volunteering because Josiah is back from Iraq, Chris is finishing college on the GI Bill, and three weeks ago, my buddy Kevin’s boyfriend was able to watch him graduate from Marine Corps training. That’s change! And we can’t turn back now.”
“I really enjoyed listening to Rahm’s speech. But he’s a mayor now, so he can’t use four-letter words.
But I’m no mayor. So I’ve got one for you:
Lilly Ledbetter, Namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
“Some of you may know my story: How for nineteen years, I worked as a manager for a tire plant in Alabama. And some of you may have lived a similar story: After nearly two decades of hard, proud work, I found out that I was making significantly less money than the men who were doing the same work as me. I went home, talked to my husband, and we decided to fight.
We decided to fight for our family and to fight for your family too. We sought justice because equal pay for equal work is an American value. That fight took me ten years. It took me all the way to the Supreme Court. And, in a 5–4 decision, they stood on the side of those who shortchanged my pay, my overtime, and my retirement just because I am a woman.
The Supreme Court told me that I should have filed a complaint within six months of the company’s first decision to pay me less even though I didn’t know about it for nearly two decades. And if we hadn’t elected President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court’s wrongheaded interpretation would have been the law of the land.
And that would have been the end of the story. But with President Obama on our side, even though I lost before the Supreme Court, we won. The first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”
“As he said that day with me by his side, “Making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.”
“That was the first step but it can’t be the last. Because women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money.”
“Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars. But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.
Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts
“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation—during better economic times—and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit. Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.”
“The question is: What do we believe? We believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected. We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry.”
“If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.
We shape our own future. Let’s start by standing up for President Barack Obama.”
“This is the president who delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American after 90 years of trying. This is the president who brought Osama bin Laden to justice, who ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan. This is the president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service. Who made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. This is the president who saved the American auto industry from extinction, the American financial industry from self-destruction, and the American economy from depression. Who added over 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last two-plus years, more jobs than George W. Bush added in eight.”
“With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office—and neither should you, and neither should you and neither should you.”
Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland
“Since the first days of the American Revolution, Maryland has been called the “Old Line State” because of this true story of a group of soldiers called the Maryland Line: immigrants and native born, black and white, volunteers all. It is August 27th, 1776—two months since our Declaration of Independence. Outnumbered and surrounded, Washington’s army is about to be crushed forever at Brooklyn Heights. The British are closing in.
With America’s future hanging in the balance, word is passed up and down the Maryland Line: “Fix bayonets, we’re moving forward.” And they do. Into the breach. They hold off the British just long enough for Washington’s army to escape and fight another day. Today there is a plaque by the mass graves of those citizen soldiers. It reads, “In honor of the Maryland 400, who on this battlefield saved the American army.”
In times of adversity—for the country we love—Maryland always chooses to move forward. Progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we move forward or back: this too is a choice. That is what this election is all about!”
“With 29 months in a row of private sector job growth, President Obama is moving America forward, not back! By making college more affordable for millions of middle-class families, President Obama is moving America forward, not back! By securing the guarantee of Medicare for our seniors, President Obama is moving America forward, not back! By putting forward a concrete plan to cut waste, ask those at the top to pay a little more, and reduce our deficit, President Obama is moving America forward, not back! And by adding American manufacturing jobs for the first time since the late 1990s, President Obama is moving America forward, not back!”
“Facts are facts: No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Great Depression inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses or deeper problems from his predecessor. But President Obama is moving America forward, not back.”
“Instead of safeguarding our seniors, Romney and Ryan would end the guarantee of Medicare and replace it with a voucher in order to give bigger tax breaks to billionaires. Instead of investing in America, they hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and ship our jobs to China!
Swiss bank accounts never built an American bridge. Swiss bank accounts don’t put cops on the beat or teachers in our classrooms. Swiss bank accounts never created American jobs!”
“Yes, we live in changing times. The question is: What type of change will we make of it? As we search for common ground and the way forward together, let’s ask one another—let’s ask the leaders in the Republican party—without any anger, meanness or fear: How much less, do you really think, would be good for our country? How much less education would be good for our children? How many hungry American kids can we no longer afford to feed? Governor Romney: How many fewer college degrees would make us more competitive as a nation?”
Julián Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas
“America didn’t become the land of opportunity by accident. My grandmother’s generation and generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That’s the country they envisioned, and that’s the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won—these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.”
“We know that you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren’t charity. They’re a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow.”
“Now, like many of you, I watched last week’s Republican convention. They told a few stories of individual success. We all celebrate individual success. But the question is, how do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama.”
“Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
“Today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.
You see, I’ve gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like.
And I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer…the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people.
But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”
“When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president.
He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that’s not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.
He did it because he believes that here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine…our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick…and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or illness.
And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care…that’s what my husband stands for.”
“So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal.
“When people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.”
“He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work…because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”