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Hope, history and hype

Democrats celebrate a series of ‘firsts’ at a landmark convention

By Leigh E. Rich

The Democrats touted their 2008 gathering in Denver as “a convention of firsts,” with its live high-definition streaming, its Spanish language simulcast and its “Delegate Service Day,” according to their Web site,

Michelle Obama, and many of the other speakers who were featured at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC), also urged Americans to look ahead with new hope—and to support Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, whom they promised will lead this change.

But the 2008 DNC reveled in the past as much as it grappled for a new day in America.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who suspended her campaign for the nomination in June, spoke Tuesday, Aug. 26, on the 88th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which secured women the right to vote.

Obama accepted the party’s nomination on Thursday, Aug. 28, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Even one of the “firsts” claimed on the convention’s Web site is anything but: instead of accepting the presidential nomination from the convention hall, with its limited accessibility, Obama moved his to the much larger Invesco Field at Mile High, just like John F. Kennedy did in 1960 when he spoke from Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum.

The Republicans got into the anniversary game last week as well.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, announced his vice presidential pick on Friday, Aug. 29, which also happened to be his 72nd birthday. His new running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is the first woman ever to be selected for the GOP’s presidential ticket. She celebrated this feat on her and her husband Todd’s 20th wedding anniversary.

Only a cynical political operative or a disciplined statistician could compute the probability of such cosmic convergence.

For Denver this is the 100th anniversary of hosting a Democratic convention—in the same year that marks the 150th anniversary of the city. The Democrats haven’t been in Denver for a national convention since 1908, when William Jennings Bryan was the candidate of choice for a third time.

Bryan never attended the event, so, for Denver, having the nominee present is an actual first. Known to most as a “cow town” in big city costume, Denverites were all abuzz about the Democrats this time around, proud to host the true “first” that was not being hyped on the convention Web site: America’s first black presidential candidate from a major party.

Even though Michelle Obama mentioned the word “hope” in her speech eight times Monday night, she summed up the 2008 DNC far better than the Democratic National Convention Committee: this is “where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.”

Rich, L. E. (2008, September 4). Hope, history and hype: Democrats celebrate a series of ‘firsts’ at a landmark convention. The Inkwell, pp. 1–2.

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