The first evening of the Democratic National Convention reminded us why we will miss some Michelle Obama come January. In a night of many rousing speeches, the First Lady stood out. She said what a black woman needed to say and delivered it so well.
On the first night of their gathering in Philly, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, the Dems had a tall order to fill, which was to go after Donald Trump and show some unity by beginning to heal the rift between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps. And they had to do all of this while making their best case to the American people.
Watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s Full DNC Speech Here
Providing the backdrop for the primetime lineup was the first day of marches and protests by Sanders’ supporters, #BlackLivesMatter and others, not to mention the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the Wikileaks email dump showing her favoritism for Clinton at Sanders’ expense during the primaries.
Throughout her speech, Michelle Obama was in command of the Wells Fargo Center. And while there were boos and jeers interspersed throughout the evening, no one dared to go there while the First Lady spoke. Those who have followed her know she is a superior orator. And there is no doubt that this is a woman who will run things — if she does not run for something — after she leaves the White House.
And that White House — as the first lady emphasized that night as she has mentioned other times — was built by slaves.
Mrs. Obama reflected on the winter morning when she watched her daughters, “just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those men with guns. And that’s all their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, What have we done?” she told the crowd. “At that moment, I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation of who they would become. And how well we manage this experience could truly make or break them.”
Life for the first black family to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was no crystal stair, and Mrs. Obama laid it out in that regard. She reminded America of the Tea Party hate and the birthers, the disturbing times in which we live. “That is what Barack and I think about every day as he tried to guide and protect our girls from the challenges of this unusual life and the spotlight. How we urged them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” she said. “How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”
And she provided a history lesson. “That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done,” Mrs. Obama said. “So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters — two beautiful intelligent black young women — play with the dog on the White House lawn.”
“And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States,” she added.
Without mentioning Donald Trump by name in her remarks, Michelle Obama addressed the Republican nominee: “We know our kids are watching us. We as parents are the most important role model.” Further, she urged the convention not to let anyone tell them that the country is not great, or that we need to make the country great again. And in expressing her support for Hillary Clinton, the first lady said wants a president “who will teach our children that everyone on this country matters.”
President Obama reacted to his wife’s inspiring words on social media. He tweeted: “Incredible speech by an incredible woman. Couldn’t be more proud & our country has been blessed to have her as FLOTUS. I love you, Michelle.”
Incredible speech by an incredible woman. Couldn't be more proud & our country has been blessed to have her as FLOTUS. I love you, Michelle.
— President Obama (@POTUS44) July 26, 2016
There were other great speakers in the lead up to Bernie Sanders, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who described America as a “nation of interdependence” and whose message of unity harkened back to Obama’s iconic “red state, blue state” speech of 2004. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s anti-Trump speech called out the “divide and conquer” tactics of racial hatred and separating poor whites and blacks that Dr. King knew so well. The Democrats’ message of inclusion and tolerance matched the visible diversity of their delegates, as opposed to the brutal tone of the GOP — with their nearly exclusively white affair, save the token black faces cheerleading for white nationalism on stage.
In a day marked by high energy, acrimony and palpable anger for the Dems, Michelle Obama provided a stirring and emotional appeal that was the highlight of the evening. She brought down the house, spoke truth and made us proud, not that anyone should be surprised. After last week’s Melania Trump debacle at the RNC, Michelle Obama reminds us what it truly means to be America’s First Lady.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove