The first night of the Democratic National Convention rallied the base that President Obama needs to turn out in the fall. Energetic speeches by Lilly Ledbetter, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, up in coming Democratic star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and First Lady Michelle Obama painted their party in stark contrast to their Republican counterparts who held their convention just a week ago.
Lilly Ledbetter is the Alabaman woman who is also the namesake of the first bill the president signed into law. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act gives women who are victims of pay discrimination their day in court. A primetime speaker at night one of the convention, she called the bill a “first step” saying that the next move in the name of progress for women’s equality is paycheck fairness.
The Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year after passing the House three years ago. The act was brought up throughout the evening as yet another key struggle for women’s equality and something that separates the Democratic party from Republicans who oppose equal pay for women.
“[W]omen still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make,” Ledbetter said, “Those pennies add up to real money. It’s real money for the little things like being able to take your kids to the movies and for the big things like sending them to college. It’s paying your rent this month and paying the mortgage in the future. It’s having savings for the bill you didn’t expect and savings for the dignified retirement you’ve earned…Three years ago, the house passed the paycheck Fairness Act to level the playing field for America’s women. Senate Republicans blocked it. Mitt Romney won’t even say if he supports it. President Obama does.”
Later on in the evening, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick hit Mitt Romney hard with attacks on his record as governor of the same state stating,
“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation—during better economic times—and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit. Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.”
Governor Patrick made one of the most effective affirmative case for re-election and convincing cases against electing Romney from his unique position as both long-time Obama ally and the governor who took over Massachusetts after Romney’s tenure.
One of the newest faces of the night is a Democratic rising star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who had the coveted keynote spot that propelled Barack Obama to national stardom 8 years ago. The strongest sections of Castro’s speech focused on education:
“In my city of San Antonio, we get that. So we’re working to ensure that more four-year-olds have access to pre-K. We opened Cafe College, where students get help with everything from test prep to financial aid paperwork. We know that you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren’t charity. They’re a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow. We’re investing in our young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.”
Even after a number of stellar speeches, the talk the next few days will likely be about the passionate speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama. She spoke eloquently about her personal relationship with the president and their journey through the campaign and his first term. The crowd in the Time Warner Center was so riveted by the First Lady’s remarks and ability to effectively weave the personal narrative with the president’s policy achievements, at times you could hear a pin drop as they hung onto her every word and syllable.
Mrs. Obama began by describing her reluctance in uprooting her family to allow for the president to run at first resisting a change. Describing whether or not the presidency has changed Barack Obama she said, “Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.”
This line brought the crowd to their feet as they did repeatedly throughout the speech. By the end the hall was emotional, with some supporters left in tears.
After a solid night chock full of rousing speeches, Michelle Obama’s light shined brightest setting a very high bar for what is to come this week in Charlotte.
Zerlina Maxwell is a democratic strategist and soon-to-be attorney. You can follow her on Twitter: @ZerlinaMaxwell