An Historic Night Ends the 2008 Democratic ConventionAugust 30, 2008
A buzz was in the air all day Thursday. It wasn’t just that it was the last day of the convention. It wasn’t just that it was the night that the candidate would officially accept the nomination. It was an historic day in many ways that, regardless of your political stripes, you couldn’t help but take notice. It was the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial — and on that same day, for the first time ever, a major party would nominate an African American as their candidate for President of the United States.
The morning started off with rousing cheers at the second Women’s Caucus meeting of the convention. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was clearly the MVP this time around, bringing down the house with a speech about equal pay and women’s equity. She was AAUW’s champion on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and on Thursday morning said, “President Obama will make this bill one of the first he signs in his new administration!” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), also a pay equity leader as well as AAUW’s chief ally in fighting public school vouchers, was also on hand and received one of the best receptions from the crowd. Pay equity national spokesperson and advocate, Lilly Ledbetter, told her compelling story to the caucus — and was moved by all the “I am the Face of Pay Equity” stickers she saw in the audience.
In a display of the women’s caucus’ clout, DNC Chair Howard Dean also stopped by to say a few words (actually, more than a few, a lot more!). Dean acknowledged, “Women have been doing the lion’s share of the work in the Democratic party for years.” And, in a wonderful surprise for attendees, Michelle Obama dropped by to say hello, thanking the delegates for all their efforts and asking them to continue the work to get her husband elected. “It can’t happen without women,” Michelle Obama said. “Women get things done, at least in my house they do!”
Immediately after the caucus, everyone made a beeline for Invesco Field, the venue for the rest of the day’s events. We were all told to leave by 2pm if we wanted to make it into the stadium in time for Sen. Obama’s speech — at 8pm!!!! Yep, the lines were expected to be that long, the traffic that crazy. That meant all those poor groups who had planned Thursday afternoon events prior to the decision to move Thursday’s convention proceedings to Invesco Field were outta luck — no attendees, no joy. This included the Women’s Senator’s event — which I was supposed to go to, but hey, I’m not sure even the women’s senators were there!
Tickets to Invesco Field were highly prized — I heard about one newspaper ad that offered 50 yard line seats to a Broncos game in trade, and if you know how rabid Broncos fans are about their football, it gives you an idea of the scramble going on to get into the hottest event in town. This despite warnings that the lines would be long — which proved overwhelmingly true. I talked to one woman who waited for 3.5 hours to get through the various security rings outside the stadium. Fortunately, your intrepid public policy director had floor seats and rode in on the VIP speakers’ bus — thanks to my pal Lilly Ledbetter — so no lines for me!
The afternoon and evening was marked by musical entertainment — including Sheryl Crow! — as well as more speechmaking. Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore spoke on environmental issues, but truly the best speeches came from the “real people,” 5 or 6 folks who came to tell real life stories of challenges. One of the best lines of the night was delivered by a man from Indiana prophetically named Barney Smith, who said, “I want a president who cares more about Barney Smith than Smith Barney!” The crowd started chanting “Barney! Barney! Barney!” at that point, and I have no doubt it was a moment Mr. Smith will remember for the rest of his life.
The atmosphere was electric — an enormous political pep rally in a football stadium. Flags waving — some enormous ones, too — fireworks, music, signs, painted faces, the works. Sen. Barack Obama’s speech was greeted to thunderous applause from the party faithful, and was more hard-hitting against his rival than he’s been in the past. He touched on many domestic issues important to AAUW. In fact, one of the biggest applause lines of the night was when he talked about fighting for equal pay for equal work. It’s been true the entire convention — this issue that AAUW has been working on since 1913 has finally arrived, in spades. AAUW members are nothing if not persistent, huh?
But the McCain campaign was not going to let the Obama camp keep all this history-making action to themselves. Less than 12 hours after the junior senator from Illinois accepted his party’s nomination before the largest crowd ever to attend such an event, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced his pick for his vice-presidential running rate: Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Just the second woman to run in the number two slot, the Republicans have answered back with their own slice of history — and oh yeah, it kinda stole the news coverage this morning, too. All’s fair in love and politics.
Now, off to the Twin Cities… after I get a little sleep!