today in black history

October 20, 2020

Jomo Kenyatta, African nationalist and first president of Kenya, was born in 1893. He would lead Kenya from 1964 until 1978.

Obama Accepts Nomination

POSTED: August 29, 2008, 12:00 am

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It was a night of high drama and history as over 70,000 rank and file Democrats, party delegates and the public, packed Denver’s Invesco Field, home of the NFL Denver Broncos, to cheer the Democratic Party presidential nominee, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Coming on the 45th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the final night of the Democratic National Convention saw Senator Obama make history as the first Black American to receive the nomination of a major political party for President of the United States. The night was filled with anticipation and the program at Invesco Field did not disappoint.

The event itself was historic, the venue having been moved from the Pepsi Center, a basketball arena that seats 19,000, to the much larger outdoor stadium. The crowd was treated to a mix of politics and entertainment, as the build up to Senator Obama’s speech was carefully orchestrated to reach a crescendo by the time the candidate took the stage. Music legends Michael McDonald of “The Dooby Brothers,” who sang a soulful rendition of “America the Beautiful,”, and Steve Wonder singing “Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” the legendary R&B singer’s hit that has become an unofficial theme song for the Obama campaign, had the crowd in Denver rocking. Then there were the likes of former Vice President Al Gore, a former presidential candidate, and senior Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, setting the stage for the candidate. And to answer Republican criticism that the campaign was out of touch with ordinary Americans, the Democrats put regular voters on stage to tell their stories and explain why they are supporting Senator Obama. All of the preliminary activities, entertainment and speeches, was punctuated by a biographical video of the Illinois senator that masterfully presented his life story to the national viewing audience.

On cue, after the video concluded, Senator Obama walked on stage from behind the partition, and strode to the podium, elegantly attired in a blue suit and crisp red tie. As the crowd erupted in applause, the grin that has become world famous appeared on his face as he acknowledged his supporters and attempted to quiet the crowd down so he could begin his speech. With his wife Michelle, and their two young daughters, front and center, Senator Obama repeatedly approached the microphone to begin his speech and could not as the roar of the crowd grew louder each time. At one point when it appeared the applause was dying down, the crown re-energized itself and stayed on its feet wildly cheering their candidate.

When Senator Obama was finally able to begin speaking, it immediately became evident that, in tone and demeanor, his acceptance speech would set the tone for his candidacy going forward to the November election. The senator masterfully made the case for his election to the presidency, specifically detailing the differences between him and his opponent, Republican Senator John McCain, and outlining his criticism of the last eight years of Republican administration in the White House. Declaring “eight is enough,” Senator Obama offered a sharp critique of the Bush administration that pointed out the damage that has been inflicted upon the nation’s credibility over the course of the last eight years and lamented over the loss of the hopefulness that has been part of the American story since the country’s founding. He charged, “We are a better country than this.” In many ways, he challenged voters to reclaim the aspirational vision that has given many Americans, including himself, the opportunity to envision a life with no boundaries.

Senator Obama also took time to make clear his understanding of the challenges working families and the middle class face in making ends meet. In somewhat of a preemptive strike to GOP criticism charging he has been vague in defining his agenda, the Democrat outlined what he stood for, running down a list of principles on which he stands; including lower taxes for working Americans, ensuring that every American child has access to a quality education, supporting small business development through tax incentives, eliminating tax loopholes for large corporations, withdrawing troops from Iraq and facing down terrorism. Through the course of the campaign Senator Obama has faced skepticism by voters over his foreign policy credentials and he made certain that he would address those doubts head on. One of the most striking lines of his speech was when he declared, “You know, John McCain likes to say he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives!”

One of the most important passages of his speech was his almost poetic “defense” of his patriotism, taking the time to directly challenge rumors that have called into question his citizenship, misinformation regarding his religious beliefs, and claims that he was unpatriotic. Senator Obama returned to his speech of four years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, suggesting there was not a “red America or blue America” and proclaimed that our soldiers overseas no matter what their political affiliation were fighting and dying together as Americans. The senator suggested, “If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.”

He boldly validated Senator McCain’s patriotic credentials and quickly challenged his rival, and his rival’s supporters, to not trivialize the campaign by making a “big election about little things.” Senator Obama put his opponent on notice and suggested the two of them not trivialize the campaign, but instead, focus on those issues that really impact Americans.

Despite the obvious “political” nature of Senator Obama’s speech, he did take notice of the “history” wrapped up in the night by recalling the anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In many ways he used the occasion of the anniversary to frame his own life story and suggest that the evolution of the nation over the last 45 years, most noticeable in his own candidacy, was the fulfillment of the vision of those who gathered on the Mall in the nation’s capital in 1963. Obama, recognizing the social progress made since 1963 and the work still to be done, said, “America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done.” As he closed his speech and the crowd roared their approval, the sight of Senator Obama and his family onstage was a picture that for many Americans, and particularly Black Americans, represented a vision that for long had been a dream and now stood as one of the seminal moments in American history.

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