Return to Transcripts main page
CNN ELECTION CENTER
Democratic National Convention Coverage; Michelle Obama Speaks
Aired August 25, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Curious to hear from Ed Rollins, Alex Castellanos in New York how they see -- from a Republican standpoint, how they see what we have seen over the last several hours tonight.
Ed Rollins, your take?
ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Kennedy is the epitome of this party.
And for even people like myself, I started as a Kennedy Democrat. I was the epitome of the Reagan Democrats that changed over time. But he stayed as the soul of the Democratic Party. And, so, I think coming out in a very powerful voice, when everyone expected him to be feeble, and remind people of -- of the great things the Kennedys have done, opposite from where I may stand, but certainly something that's been good for this country, to -- to have a two-party system.
But I think, to everybody here tonight, he put the soul back in this party. He said that, "We can win."
That was a very important message, put the bickering and the side stuff -- and I think, to a certain extent, it inspired a lot of people. Certainly in that room, it will inspire a lot of Democrats. And a Kennedy is never to be underestimated.
COOPER: Alex Castellanos?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the -- the moral leadership of the Democratic Party has never belonged to the Clintons.
I think David Gergen is right. It's always belonged to the Kennedys. And when John F. Kennedy was taken from America, you know, America lost a dream. It lost -- it lost that -- the frontier he spoke about is the one we're still at today.
And -- and I think Americans always wanted to see that dream completed. And when, today, you saw the literally laying on of hands, the passing of the mantle from a Kennedy to Obama, I think that's the most valuable gift that Barack Obama has yet received in this campaign.
And he bypassed -- Kennedy today -- Ted Kennedy bypassed the Clintons. And I think it's going to make it much more difficult for the Clintons to continue, I think, their -- their kind of counterpressure campaign. COOPER: And, again, we are expecting to hear from Michelle Obama within this hour. There's also going to be a -- a video about her narrated by her own mother.
Tom Harkin right now, a senator from Iowa, is speaking at the podium. Let's just listen in briefly.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: We hold very dear our freedoms.
As our state motto declares, our liberties, we prize, and, our rights, we will maintain. We're willing to do what's right, not necessarily what's easy. And nobody exemplifies the Iowa spirit more than Jim Leach, our thoughtful, respected, longtime former Republican congressman from Iowa.
Back in the early 1970s, Jim was a foreign service officer in the Nixon administration. He served as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the United Nations General Assembly. But when...
COOPER: He's going to be introducing Jim Leach, who is going to be speaking several minutes from now. We're going to bring you Jim Leach's speech live.
Let's -- right now, let's go to Campbell Brown in New York -- Campbell.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thanks.
And I'm here with some of the panelists here in New York.
And let's talk about -- follow up on some of the points that John and Gloria were making about why Jim Leach is playing a role there, this idea of the -- both campaigns, frankly, competing over who can be the greater bipartisan in all this.
Who has the best case to make?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, so far, you know, in every campaign, what you want to do is see if you can find three or four other leaders on the other side that will come out for you.
And this goes back -- Ed Rollins and I can talk to you about -- Democrats for Nixon, Democrats for Reagan. And then there were Republicans for Clinton, the Republicans for this or that. That always helps you, because it sends an important message to others: Hey, come aboard. There are others that -- you know, have faith, where it's OK. Jump in the water. It will be fine. You can swim.
But, in this particular election, I think, for Barack Obama, it's essential that, if he's going to really be a post-partisan candidate, as he says, that he be able to demonstrate that there are Republicans out there willing to join him.
I would say to you what they really need -- Jim Leach is sort of -- well, there are three or four of them that joined up recently to do this, to sign up for -- for Obama. But what I think they really needed to do now is expand their ranks.
And that's why I think they're putting him on tonight, because they're going to try to invite other Republicans to join this, making this more of a chorus over time.
BROWN: Especially, Jeff, when you have -- when McCain has a pretty clear record on that front of legislation where he's gone across the aisle that he can put out in front of people.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Campaign finance reform, immigration, those are McCain's issues of bipartisanship.
But there's one Republican that Barack Obama really needs. And that's Colin Powell. And Colin Powell is the -- probably the leading bipartisan politician, former secretary of state.
BROWN: All right.
Jim Leach taking the stage now. Let's listen in.
JIM LEACH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you, Tom Harkin.
As a Republican, I stand before you with deep respect for the history and the traditions of my political party.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LEACH: But it is clear to all Americans that something is akilter in our great republic.
In less than a decade, America's political and economic standings in the world have been diminished. Our nation's extraordinary leadership in so many areas is simply not reflected in the partisan bickering and ideological politics of Washington.
Seldom has the case for an inspiring new political ethic been more compelling. And seldom has an emerging leader so matched the needs of the moment.
The platform of this transformative figure is a call for change. The change Barack Obama is advocating is far more than a break with today's politics. It is a clarion call for renewal rooted in time- tested American values that tap Republican, as well as Democratic traditions.
Perspective is difficult to bring to events of the day, but, in sweeping terms, there have been four great debates in our history, to which both parties have contributed.
The first debate, led by Thomas Jefferson, the first Democrat to be elected president, centered on the question of whether a country could be established based on the rights of man.
The second debate, led by Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican elected president, was about definitions, whether the rights of man applied to individuals who were neither pale nor male. It took almost two centuries of struggle, hallmarked by a civil war, the suffrage and abolitionist movements, the Harlem renaissance, and courageous civil rights leadership to bring meanings to the values embedded in the Declaration of Independence.
The third debate, symbolized by the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and the emphasis on individual initiative of Ronald Reagan, involves the question of opportunity, whether the rights are meaningful if all citizens are not given a chance to succeed and provide for their families.
The fourth debate, which acquired grim relevance with the dawn of the nuclear age, is the question of whether any rights are possible without peace and environmental security.
The American progressive tradition reflected in these debates spans Democratic standard-bearers, from the prairie populist William Jennings Bryan, to the Camelot statesman John F. Kennedy. It includes Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt, who built up the National Parks system and broke down corporate monopolies, and Dwight David Eisenhower, who ran on a pledge to end a war in Korea, brought a stop to European colonial intervention in the Middle East, quietly integrated the Washington, D.C., school system, and not so quietly sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to squash segregation in public schools forever in the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BROWN: Not the first example here of party-swapping at conventions.
We will all remember 2004, the very fiery speech from Democrat Zell Miller at the Republican Convention. And, of course, we will be hearing from Joe Lieberman at the Republican Convention -- Alex.
CASTELLANOS: Oh, yes. It's -- you're always trying to place across the 50-yard line. And that's what obviously the Democrats are trying to do here.
But, you know, you -- you sometimes, I think, want to keep it a little closer to the message of the convention and the candidate than you're perhaps hearing tonight.
BROWN: All right, we're -- we're going to take a little break here again.
BROWN: Former Republican Jim Leach speaking. What we are all waiting on, of course, Michelle Obama, who scheduled to speak in this hour -- so, lots more ahead from Denver and the Democratic National Convention.
Stay with us. We will be back after a quick break.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim Leach, the former congressman from Iowa, the Republican, is still speaking before this Democratic Convention.
Welcome back to our continuing coverage here on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.
Everyone is excited right now, Anderson, because Michelle Obama, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate, is about to speak and -- and address this audience. There will be a video as well. She wants to reintroduce, to a certain degree, herself, but, much more important, her husband.
COOPER: There -- there was certainly a lot of excitement in the hall in the wake of Senator Kennedy speaking.
I will say, it sort of dissipated somewhat during the current...
BLITZER: It's a little academic...
COOPER: ... little on the dry side.
James Carville seems the least satisfied Democrat here right now.
What's going wrong, James?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if this party has a message, it's done a hell of a job hiding it tonight.
CARVILLE: I promise you that.
COOPER: How do you mean?
CARVILLE: I mean, I...
COOPER: You haven't heard about Iraq. You haven't heard about Iraq John McCain. You haven't heard...
CARVILLE: Health care, about George -- George W. Bush, I haven't heard any of this.
It's almost like -- you know, we're a country that is in borderline recession. We're an 85, 80 percent wrong-track country.
People have -- health care, the energy. I haven't heard anything about gas prices. I mean, maybe we're going to look better, you know, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But, right now, like I say, we're -- we're -- we're playing hide the message pretty good.
COOPER: Well, I mean, David Gergen said this a short time ago...
CARVILLE: He sure did.
COOPER: ... that, in the first two hours, what is the message?
CARVILLE: You know what? And -- and David didn't get to where he was in life because he's stupid.
CARVILLE: He's exactly right. I mean, he's sitting there looking at this.
I'm about to jump out the chair and say...
BORGER: I noticed.
COOPER: Are you -- are you going to make a run on the stage?
BORGER: But, you know, the way they planned it was tonight was supposed to be sort of the personal, the biographical. Michelle Obama will talk about Barack Obama personally.
Ted Kennedy was a very personal, emotional speech. But I guarantee you, on night of the Republican Convention, you're going to hear talks -- talk about Barack Obama, commander in chief, tax cuts, et cetera, et cetera.
CARVILLE: They're going to tap-dance on his head, yes, absolutely, as they should.
BORGER: And, tonight, they -- they haven't done that here.
And, don't forget, John Kerry's convention got criticized, perhaps rightly so, because -- by maybe James...
CARVILLE: By -- yes.
BORGER: ... because it did not -- it was not tough enough.
COOPER: In fact, they sent out the message not to be attacking Bush at that convention.
COOPER: And we heard, before this convention, that that wasn't going to happen here.
James, you say, it's happening here.
CARVILLE: Well, it's -- I don't want to be -- let's be fair, because I think we're going to have some fireworks. And when we go to the stadium, I'm sure that Senator Obama is going to have much to say.
I'm just saying, you have got four nights. Right now, the Kennedy thing is the most emotional thing I have ever seen. You couldn't be a human being -- I don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican, or you're watching us anywhere in -- you know, anywhere, in the world. You're going to be moved by that.
But that's -- that's something separate and apart. There's no -- there's no message coming out of here. There's no sense that the party has a sense of urgency or any of that. And this is -- only got four nights. This is 25 percent of the whole thing.
COOPER: David Gergen, sitting from New York, do you agree?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. I think -- I think James Carville hit as succinctly and as -- as he always does, as colorfully as anyone might.
And I thought -- Anderson, listen, I thought that they -- they lost the first two hours of this, with -- with almost nothing going on, on the stage. It was compelling. The Kennedy moments were wonderful.
But then they turned to -- to Leach just at the 10:00 hour, as the -- as the networks were coming on. And Jim Leach, I happen to be a friend. I greatly respect him, but that was not the speech you want to start. Once you have got the audience almost on a hook, you want to continue it. This is a television show with a message. And if you -- Carville is right. If you lose the first 25 percent of it, you have just frittered something away, a major, major opportunity.
Now, they can come back. The Michelle Obama appearance here is going to be dramatic and extremely important. She can rescue the night. But I can you that, from a television standpoint, and what you normally try to achieve in a convention, there has not been a central message that will drive this election or -- or bring viewers back to see more.
BLITZER: You know, David, I suspect, if you and James and others were disappointed there weren't more fireworks in going after the Bush administration, going after John McCain on this, the first night of the Democratic Convention, you're probably going to be disappointed with what's left of this first night, because we're standing by to hear from Michelle Obama.
She's going to be delivering what is being described as a very personal account of her life and her husband's life. And we're only moments away from that.
Remember, CNNPolitics.com is where you can be getting additional information. Watch us. Use your laptop at the same time. We're standing by live to hear from Michelle Obama -- right after this.
BLITZER: All right. Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention. We're at Pepsi Center here in Denver, Colorado.
And the anticipation now set for Michelle Obama. Momentarily, she's going to be speaking, addressing this crowd here. About 20,000 people are inside this arena here in Denver, millions more watching around the United States, indeed, around the world.
And, Anderson Cooper, as we get ready for what will be a very personal, personal statement from Michelle Obama, we have seen some excerpts already. And she gets very personal speaking about her life. And we hear about her husband's life. She will be introduced by her brother, Craig Robinson. That will be an emotional moment, as well, by all accounts.
I want to get back to this notion that James Carville and David Gergen were -- were saying, that the Democrats, except for the beautiful tribute to Ted Kennedy, have, effectively, they say, wasted this first night of this Democratic Convention.
COOPER: We should also point out we're going to be going without commercial interruption all the way through Michelle Obama's speech, which is going to take place any moment now.
But, I mean, how concerned -- Donna Brazile, you don't seem all that concerned, as James Carville is.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm an Louisianian, so I like my politics and my rice spicy as well.
BRAZILE: But I'm -- I'm patient. I'm a lot more patient than James when it comes to waiting for that moment. I think it's very important...
COOPER: But there -- there have been two hours before Senator Kennedy came out, which it would be hard to kind of define what stood out in those two hours.
COOPER: ... your commentary?
BRAZILE: Well, no. They -- we passed a platform. We got the rules passed, the credentials, to see -- look, a lot of what happens during the first couple hours is all the technical things that go into making this a political convention.
But the time to get your message out is right now, when most Americans are tuning in. And I think it's important that, as we finish up tonight, that Michelle Obama come in here and really lift this crowd back up.
COOPER: But I don't understand. In what is essentially a four- hour dog-and-pony show, why waste time with stuff you could do on the Internet about filling out forms?
COOPER: I mean, why not -- if this is a television production -- I mean, we make so much about the fact that these conventions are largely dog-and-pony shows now -- why not actually make it one?
BRAZILE: Because this is also an opportunity to hear from our nation's governors, to hear from lawmakers, to hear from ordinary Americans, as you're seeing tonight.
COOPER: But who is listening? Because no one in the convention hall seems to be listening.
BRAZILE: Well, Anderson, we're filling in a lot of time that many of the audience people are not listening to.
But, look, this is what the Democrats wanted to do tonight, was to present a (AUDIO GAP) bringing (AUDIO GAP) That was the purpose tonight, to lay that foundation, so, tomorrow, when we -- when the party begins to talk about the contrasts, talk about the economy, talk about the war in Iraq, we would have laid the foundation tonight.
COOPER: We should also point out that our viewers can listen to all these speeches streamed live on CNNPolitics.com. We're trying to bring you the best speeches and obviously the best commentary throughout the evening.
BORGER: Well, you know, the person speaking behind us, Anderson, is Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She was an early supporter of Barack Obama, very vocal, a new senator, battleground state.
This is for consumption also at home. It's a nice way to say thank you to Claire McCaskill for being there from day one.
But I agree with my colleagues here, which is, there are other ways to say thank you in -- in -- in prime time. And maybe they're just trying to build...
COOPER: Hallmark makes some cards.
BORGER: But maybe they're just trying to build excitement for -- for Michelle Obama.
BRAZILE: ... what we're doing.
And I will tell you, four years ago, the Kerry campaign had us, basically, speaking out of one side of our mouths, which is, don't talk about the other side. Let's talk about John Kerry.
At this convention, Democrats are free to talk about Senator McCain, the Republicans, and draw the contrasts. And we will get to that.
BORGER: Well, you have a crowd here that I think is ready for the red meat, I mean, don't you -- don't you think? You know, this is a crowd that's had eight years of a Republican administration. And they're -- they're ready for it.
CARVILLE: Yes. I think...
CARVILLE: ... they got millions of viewers at home that are really looking for something to do.
COOPER: We're about to see a video that they have made about Michelle Obama, narrated by her mother. And that will introduce the brother of Michelle Obama, who will then introduce her. We are going to bring you that video as it is being seen here in the hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIAN ROBINSON, MOTHER OF MICHELLE OBAMA: I want to tell you about my daughter, Michelle. She's my baby. (MUSIC)
M. ROBINSON: Michelle was born January 17, 1964. That's her brother, Craig, on the left.
We lived in an apartment on the South Side of Chicago, where her father worked at the city water plant. And I got to stay home with my children.
Michelle was especially close to her daddy.
CRAIG ROBINSON, BROTHER OF MICHELLE OBAMA: My father was in his 50s, and my sister would still sit on his lap and put her head on his shoulder, as she used to do when she was a kid. And that sort of, in one picture, epitomizes their relationship.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her dad was a -- just a sweet man, a kindhearted man, and somebody who thought everybody should be treated with dignity and respect. And I think that that carried over to Michelle.
M. ROBINSON: We raised Craig and Michelle to go to college. But we teased them about how some people went away to college, and never came back to their community.
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: My mom and dad would always say that, if just a few people would come back and live in the community, it would make all the difference in the world. And we -- we talked about that a lot.
CHARLES OGLETREE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: She was very committed to the South Side of Chicago. She was very committed to using every bit of her skills and talent to lift others up.
M. ROBINSON: After law school, Michelle came back. And, at first, she worked for a big law firm. That was where she met Barack.
M. OBAMA: The firm was abuzz about this hot shot first-year law student from Harvard. His name was Barack Obama. And I thought, well, who names their kid Barack Obama? So, I figured, this guy has to be weird.
B. OBAMA: She was assigned as my summer adviser. I was late that day. So, I don't think I made such a great impression. But she was dazzling.
M. OBAMA: When he first showed up, he was a little late. So, I thought, well, maybe he didn't have his act together. But, then, when he walked in, he was very handsome. And he had this air of interesting in him that I -- I didn't expect.
B. OBAMA: I didn't see a ring on her hand. So, it turned out she didn't have a boyfriend, but she was very resistant to the idea of some inner-office dating. I asked her a couple of times, and she was sort of pushing me off a little bit.
M. OBAMA: And then he made his big move.
B. OBAMA: Finally, there was a company picnic. And, on the drive back, I offered to buy her ice cream. That is what put her over the top. That's where she said, no, you know, this guy knows how to treat a woman.
M. ROBINSON: But the law firm wasn't right for her. All those years ago, we taught her to serve her community. And that's what she ended up doing.
YVONNE DAVILA, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR'S OFFICE STAFFER: Michelle came to work for us in the mayor's office. And, after a couple of years, she went to work in Public Allies, which is an organization that mentored young people and gave them an opportunity to learn public service work. And she did this because this was important to her. It didn't matter that it didn't pay any money. This was important to her. This was her mission, and this was something she wanted to do.
TRAVIS REJMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE GOLDIN INSTITUTE: I think Michelle has a gift for seeing the potential in people that they don't even know is there. You know, the Public Allies class had people that, if you saw them walking down the street, you wouldn't assume that these people would be community leaders. But so many of them went on to careers and lives in public service that she must have some kind of uncommon gift in seeing that in people.
JOBI PETERSEN CATES, PUBLIC ALLIES: I'm really excited for people to see the Michelle that I knew, the Michelle who I miss in my day-to-day life, the Michelle who threw a casual joke or a comment or a hug in the corridor, who could make you feel like you could do anything.
M. ROBINSON: Michelle was like a mom to so many people over the years. It's no surprise to me that she's been a wonderful, caring mother to her own children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's an amazing mom. I mean, for her, that's what life is all about, her children. The girls are extremely grounded, very loving, very smart, know right from wrong. And it's all about her kids.
M. ROBINSON: Michelle was able to find the balance between career and being a mom. After Public Allies, she went on to create the community service center at the University of Chicago, and led community outreach for the university's hospitals. Michelle has always reached out to others. It was something I loved about my husband, too.
C. ROBINSON: Michelle's compassion came from my father. And people came to him with their problems. And he always managed to have people go away feeling better than they did when they came to talk to him. I'm certain that that's where Michelle gets her compassion from. M. OBAMA: My father died very early from complications from multiple sclerosis. And I think about him every day when I think about how I raise my kids, because I -- I remember his compassion. I remember the words, his advice, the way he lived life.
And I am trying each and every day to apply that to how I raise my kids. I want his legacy to live through them. And, hopefully, it will affect the kind of first lady that I will become, because it's his compassion and his view of the world that really inspires who I am, who I want my girls to be, and what I hope for the country.
M. ROBINSON: This is my daughter. When she was young, I remember how she would look up to us. Now I look up to her. I hope America gets to know the girl we raised and the woman she became, because she is the most remarkable person I know.
I wish my husband could see this day, but, every day, I get to see a piece of him in her. And, for that, I am so proud and so blessed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
C. ROBINSON: Good evening. I'm Craig Robinson, and Michelle Obama is my little sister.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Tonight, I want to introduce you to my sister, the girl I grew up with, the poised young woman I saw her grow in to. The compassionate mother, aunt and sister-in-law she is. The passionate voice for women and children she has become. And the type of first lady she will be.
Sometimes, when I look at the woman you are about to hear from, it's funny to think that this is the same person who used to wake me up early, and I mean early, on Christmas morning - because we both had to be up at the same time, in order to open our presents.
This is the person who would play the piano to calm me down before all of my big games in high school.
This is the person who -- even though we were allowed only one hour of television a night -- somehow managed to commit to memory every single episode of the Brady Bunch.
But when I really think back, I can also see how the person she is today, was formed in the experiences we shared growing up: working hard, studying hard, having parents who wanted more for us than what they had. And always being reminded that in this country of all countries -- those things were possible.
Neither of our parents went to college.
My father went to work right out of high school to help pay for his brother's college tuition. He worked at the water filtration plant for 30 years.
We lost my father in 1991.
And I know he's looking down on us tonight, so proud of his daughter, not because of who she married, though he was a big fan of Barack -- but because of the hard-working, brilliant woman she is, what she's accomplished in her own right, the mother she's become, and the values she's instilled in her daughters.
My mother Marian is here tonight. She remains our family's anchor, and the sole reason Michelle was willing to campaign at all was because she knows that Mom is there to help take care of the girls.
When we were young kids, our parents divided the bedroom we shared so we could each have our own room.
Many nights we would talk when we were supposed to be sleeping.
My sister always talked about who was getting picked on at school, or who was having a tough time at home.
I didn't realize it then -- but I realize it now -- those were the people she was going to dedicate her life to: the people who were struggling with life's challenges. She has continued to follow that passion. She gave up a job in a big law firm to work in her community. With a group called Public Allies, she trained a new generation of community leaders.
She developed the University of Chicago's community service center -- connecting the university to the neighborhood that was blocks away -- but often worlds away -- from its gates.
And when I wasn't happy doing what I was doing -- investment banking -- she was the one who encouraged me to go back to my first love -- teaching and coaching.
And today I'm proud to be the coach of the Oregon State men's basketball team. Go Beavs!
But she did take something away from that first big law firm job. A young lawyer by the name of Barack Obama.
My sister had grown up hearing my father and me talk about how to judge a person's character by what type of sportsman they are, so she asked me to take Barack to play basketball.
If you're looking for a political analysis based on his playing, here it is: he's confident but not cocky, he'll take the shot if he's open, he's a team player who improves the people around him, and he won't back down from any challenge.
Together, I've watched Barack and Michelle strengthen each other. I've watched them create a home filled with love, and grounded in faith. During challenging times I've watched Michelle and Barack stand by each other. And I know, they'll stand by you -- the American people -- now and in the future.
So please join me in welcoming an impassioned public servant, a loving daughter, wife and mother, my little sister and our nation's next first lady: Michelle Obama.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
M. OBAMA: As you might imagine, for Barack, running for president is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother, Craig. I can't tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I've felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.
And at six-foot-six, I've often felt like Craig was looking down on me, too, literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, Craig wasn't looking down on me; he was watching over me. And he has been there for me...
... every step of the way since that clear day, February, 19 months ago, when, with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change, we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that has led us to this moment.
But each of us comes here also by way of our own improbable journey.
I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector, and my lifelong friend. And I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.
And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They're the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Their future -- and all our children's future -- is my stake in this election.
And I come here as a daughter, raised on the South Side of Chicago...
... by a father who was a blue-collar city worker and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family. And one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, her intelligence reflected in my daughters. My dad was our rock. And although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early 30s, he was our provider. He was our champion, our hero. But as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk. It took him longer to get dressed in the morning.
You know, but if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing, even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier and he worked a little harder.
He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child could receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved and cherished and have a place in this world.
And thanks to their faith and their hard work, we both were able to go to college, so I know firsthand from their lives and mine that the American dream endures.
And, you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that, even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.
He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.
And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to work -- the work that he'd done when he first moved to Chicago after college. You see, instead of going to Wall Street, Barack went to work in neighborhoods that had been devastated by the closing of steel plants. Jobs dried up. And Barack Obama was invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community. And the people gathered there together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. See, they were parents trying to get by from paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get it together on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn't support their families after jobs had disappeared.
You see, those folks weren't asking for a handout or a shortcut. See, they were ready to work. They wanted to contribute. They believed, like you and I believe, that America should be a place where you can make it if you try.
And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about "the world as it is" and "the world as it should be." And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations.
But he reminded us that we also know what our world should like -- look like. He said we know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?
It's the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in high school gyms, and people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had, refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals.
And it's because of their will and determination that this week we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote...
... and the 45th anniversary -- and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.
And I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work, the same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country.
People who work the day shift, they kiss their kids good night, and head out for the night shift, without disappointment, without regret, see, that good night kiss is a reminder of everything they're working for.
The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table.
The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.
The young people across America serving our communities, teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.
People like Hillary Clinton...
... who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.
People like Joe Biden...
... who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.
All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.
And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.
And, you see, that is why I love this country.
And in my own life...
In my own life, in my own small way, I have tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. See, that's why I left a job at a big law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities, because I believe that each of us -- no matter what our age or our background or our walk of life -- each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.
And it's a belief that Barack shares, a belief at the heart of his life's work.
See, it's what he did all those years ago in Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and after-school programs to keep kids safe, working block by block to help people lift up their families.
It's what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard-working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.
It's what he's done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure that the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs, and benefits, and health care, including mental health care.
See, that's why Barack's running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly...
... to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.
That's what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America.
He'll achieve these goals the same way he always has, by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party, if any, you belong to. See, that's just not how he sees the world.
He knows that thread that connects us -- our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future -- he knows that that thread is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree.
It was strong enough to bring hope to those neighborhoods in Chicago.
It was strong enough to bring hope to the mother he met who was worried about her child in Iraq, hope to the man who's unemployed and can't afford gas to find a job, hope to the student working nights to pay for his sister's health care, sleeping just a few hours a day.
And it was strong enough to bring hope to people who came out on a cold Iowa night and became the first voices in this chorus for change that has been echoed by millions of Americans from every corner of this nation...
... millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them, and that Barack will bring finally the change that we need.
And in the end, and in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, see, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago.
(APPLAUSE) He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering at us anxiously at -- through the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father's love.
And as I tuck that little girl in -- as I tuck that little girl in and her little sister into bed at night, you see, I think about how, one day, they'll have families of their own and how, one day, they -- and your sons and daughters -- will tell their own children about what we did together in this election.
They'll tell them -- they'll tell them how this time we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears...
... how this time -- how this time we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming...
... how this time, in this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House...
... that we committed ourselves...
... we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.
So tonight, in honor of my father's memory and my daughters' future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let's stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.
BLITZER: So there it is, Michelle Obama paying a beautiful tribute to her husband, and speaking personally, very emotionally about herself. Here's Barack Obama, via video from Kansas City, Missouri. He is by satellite in Kansas City, Missouri. He's going to be speaking now to this crowd. So let's listen in as Senator Obama reacts to what we just heard from Michelle Obama.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Hey, sweetie.
Hello, everybody. Hello from Kansas City. How about Michelle Obama?
Now you know why I asked her out so many times...
... even though she said no. You want a persistent president.
SASHA OBAMA: Hi, daddy.
B. OBAMA: ... you were -- you were unbelievable. And you also look very cute.
S. OBAMA: Thank you!
M. OBAMA: That's Sasha.
B. OBAMA: And, listen, I'm here with the Gerardo family (ph) here in St. Louis. This is Jim and Alicia (ph). And like us, they've got daughters...
S. OBAMA: Hi, Gerardo family.
B. OBAMA: The -- we've got Lindsay (ph), and we've got Hannah (ph), and we've got Grace (ph) over here. And they've just been wonderful hosts the whole time that we've been watching.
S. OBAMA: Daddy, what city are you in? B. OBAMA: I'm in Kansas City, sweetie. And, Malia, Sasha, how do you think Mom did?
S. OBAMA: I think she did good.
B. OBAMA: All right. I think so, too. Well, listen, I want you guys to look after the girls -- look after Mommy before I get there. And I'll see you guys on Thursday, all right?
MALIA OBAMA: I love you, Daddy.
B. OBAMA: Love you guys. Sleep tight.
M. OBAMA: Love you. Bye-bye.
B. OBAMA: Love you. Love you, sweetie. You were great.
S. OBAMA: Love you, Daddy. Bye.
BLITZER: There they are, Michelle Obama and the two daughters, Sasha and Malia. A picturesque moment indeed. A nice touch to end this portion of this Democratic National Convention. Day one about to come to a close, Anderson.
And she did what we expected her to do, speak personally, speak emotionally from the heart about her love for this man, and make the case why he should be the next president of the United States.
COOPER: No doubt the most important speech of Michelle Obama's life thus far, and she has made many speeches so far on the campaign trail.
John King, did she do what she needed to do?
KING: Anderson, I was fascinated watching Congressman Jim Clyburn. He's the top elected African-American in the country, the number three man in the House of Representatives, transfixed the whole speech. He has been around politics a long time. He's heard a lot of speeches.
He was watching the monitor, because everybody in this hall knows how important that was. Not to the people in this hall, to the people watching out at home. Because they don't know who these people are. They don't know the Obamas. And if you look at the polling, if you go to these communities, they have questions. Do they share our values? What was their life story?
So what is she talking about -- or her brother -- the "Brady Bunch," things like that. They are asking the American people, people in Pittsburgh, 65-year-old Catholic women, people in the hills of West Virginia who have never voted for a black man for anything, to vote for a black man for president of the United States. They need to have a connection.
COOPER: Let's go to Campbell Brown in New York.
BROWN: Anderson, I want to ask David to follow up on the point that he had made earlier, a complaint, David, that you had had earlier, about sort of the lack of compelling message coming out of this convention so far. Did that change, do you think, when she took the stage tonight?
GERGEN: I think she rescued the evening for the Democrats. But much more importantly, she gave the validation for Barack Obama and the Obama family that I think Americans were looking for. You wanted to have some better sense of who are these people, what are their values, where do they come from? And more importantly, what do they believe our future ought to be about?
And it was a very deft speech in all sorts of ways. Not just the grace points -- I mean, she did this so well about reaching out to Hillary Clinton, talking about the 80th anniversary. She did it well by wrapping together the anniversary for women and the anniversary for Martin Luther King, the two strands that define her as an African- American woman.