The first night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia kicked off with a monster slate of speeches, all aimed at unifying a party that—if you believe the folks marching outside—is fractured as it heads into general election season.
Last night’s (July 25) primetime speech lineup was huge, with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, First Lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders doing their best to rally the troops. Here are the can’t-miss highlights of each speech.
Eva Longoria introduced Booker, who previously rallied the delegates at the 2012 convention. His speech focused on how American’s differences are what make it a great county, saying that the founding fathers meant for us to have an “unusual and extraordinary commitment to each other” and calling out the “rugged individualism” of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as ineffective.
“We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love,” Booker said. “Tolerance says, ‘I’m just gonna stomach your right to be different.’ That if you disappear from the face of the earth, I’m no better or worse off. But love, love knows that every American has worth and value. That no matter what her background, no matter what their race or religion or sex orientation, love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together. That when we are divided we are weak, we decline. Yet when we are united, we are strong. When we are indivisible, we are invincible.”
He closed by quoting Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” moving the crowd to chant “America, we will rise!”
First Lady Michelle Obama gave what is widely considered the best, most moving speech of the night. She focused on what the outcome of the election will mean for America’s children and her views on what it takes to be successful in the White House:
This election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight year of their lives. And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who i trust with that responsibly. Only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend, Hillary Clinton….
Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life. And when I think about the kind of president i want for my girls, and all of our children, that’s what I want. I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white. They cannot be boiled down to 140 characters….
I’m with her.
She also made it clear that this election is an all hands on deck situation, that voters must turn out the same way they did to elect her husband in 2008 and 2012, that suffering a defeat is not grounds for walking away from the Democratic party.
But it was the end of her speech—where she spoke poignantly about what it means to be a Black woman in America—that brought tears to the eyes of many at the Wells Fargo Center:
That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to this stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving, and hoping and doing what needed to be done, 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, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters, and all our sons and daughters, now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So don’t let anyone tell you that this country isn’t great.
Warren began by thanking Sanders—who served in the Senate as an Independent before attempting to head the Democratic ticket—for his work with the party. “Bernie reminds us what Democrats fight for every day,” she said. “Thank you, Bernie.”
A group of Bernie supporters immediately began to chant “We trusted you.” Warren spoke right through the shouting.
Then she quickly reminded the audience just how little fear she has when it comes to taking on Donald Trump and the Republican party. In an interesting choice of words, considering the Democratic National Committee’s current email scandal, she said, “the system is rigged. It’s true.” But then she went on to accuse members of the GOP of rigging it via obstruction, saying, “When we turn on each other, we can’t unite to fight back against a rigged system.”
Then she issued a threat: “So to every Republican in Congress who said, ‘No,” this November, the American people are coming for you.”
Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn)—who identified himself as a huge Sanders supporter—had the task of introducing the Vermont Senator who fought hard in the Democratic primaries. Ellison wasted no time working to bring the holdouts over to Clinton’s side. “We are united around the most progressive platform in history,” he said. “That’s the platform that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton wrote together. And that’s the platform that we can make the law of the land if we stand together, if we work together and if we vote together on November 8.”
He also delivered one of the most pointed lines of the night: “Not voting is not a protest. It is a surrender.”
Then the convention had its first true rockstar moment. It took a solid three minutes for the crowd to stop shouting “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” and let him get beyond, “Thank you!”
After thanking campaign volunteers and contributors and “the 13 million americans who voted for the political revolution,” he addressed the 1,846 delegates who pledged to support him, perhaps surprising viewers when he said, “I look forward to your votes during the roll call tomorrow night.”
Then he addressed the (very loud) donkey in the room:
I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. But to all of our supporters, here and around the country, I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved. Together, my friends, we have begun political revolution to transform america. And that revolution, our revolution, continues. elections days come and go, but the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one percent—a government based the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice—that struggle continues.
He went on to give his one-time opponent a pointed endorsement, making it clear that he expects his supporters to fall in line behind Clinton. This drew a huge, if mixed response, with some boos at the mention of Clinton and more chants of “Bernie!”
We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger, not leadership which insults Latinos and Mexicans, insults Muslims and women, African Americans and veterans and Sikhs to divide us up. By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States….
It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I degree on a number issues. That this what this campaign has been about. That is what democracy is about. But I’m happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee, there was a significant coming together between the two campaign, and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.
He touched on the issues that he feels are important in the upcoming election—income inequality, right to choose, workers’ rights, LBGT rights, racial equality, free public education, the environment, and killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and admonished anyone who is considering not voting this November.
If you don’t believe that his election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a minute to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.
Sanders closed by reiterating the theme he seemed to most want his supporters to echo: “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight.”