PHILADELPHIA — First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 spoke about the ways that the presidency can affect the lives of American children on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.
“Our time in the White House would form the foundation for who [Malia and Sasha] would become,” she said. “It would truly make or break them.”
At this, an audience member shouted audibly “Good job, Michelle!” Obama touched on the topics of “hateful rhetoric” and race, noting the famous picture of a young African-American boy touching President Barack Obama’s hair to see if it felt like his.
“This election isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, left or right, this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives,” she said.
Obama emphasized that “there is only one person” she trusts with the responsibility of “our nation’s children”: presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“When she didn’t win the nomination, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned...She didn’t pack up and go home, because as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires,” Obama said of Clinton when she lost her initial bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
She added that one quality she admires most about Clinton is that she never buckles under pressure.“She never takes the easy way out and Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life,” she said.
Obama noted that she believes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump isn’t ready to be president, and reiterated on her theme of children.
“You see, Hillary understands that the president is about one thing and one thing only: it’s about leaving something for our kids,” she said.
Obama became emotional as she talked about the barriers Clinton will break down with her nomination.
“She has the guts and the grace to keep coming back and putting those cracks in the highest glass ceiling,” Obama said.
She added that she and her daughters can now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on Earth,” she said.Other speakers on the first day of the Convention included Oregon US Senator Jeff Merkley GS '82 and Ben Jealous, a visiting professor at the Wilson School.
Merkley discussed the former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ contributions to the new platform of the Democratic Party, which he said was widely thought to be more progressive than any in recent memory. He also talked about distinctions between the Democratic and Republican candidates.
“Our response to these real challenges should not be to blame to bully or to belittle but to give real solutions,” he said.
Merkley noted that these efforts should not be discarded after November.
“Bernie Sanders inspired us to bold solutions, willingness to stand up to the powers that be and galvanized the grassroots movement and will continue long after November, and we need it to continue long after November,” he said.
He focused on issues of mass incarceration in communities of color, trade policies and “a government for the people.”Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, discussed the relevance of fighting for civil rights. He emphasized the legacy of the Democratic Party and what it stands for.
“We are the party of FDR, JFK and MLK...and Hillary Clinton,” Jealous said.
The convention will call a roll call vote to officially nominate Clinton on the second day of the Convention, making her the first female presidential nominee from a major party. Speakers will include former president Bill Clinton and the mothers of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland.