The first day of the Democratic National Convention may not have started well where party unity was concerned, but it ended on a high note in that regard.
There were barn-burner speeches by Cory Booker and Michelle Obama, a solid one by Elizabeth Warren, humor from Al Franken and Sarah Silverman, and a full-throated endorsement of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton by former rival Bernie Sanders.
“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight,” the Vermont senator told a cheering crowd Monday night at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
Earlier in the day, Sanders had addressed his delegates, some of whom booed him for endorsing Clinton. “Sanders seemed taken aback and stood for a long pause before moving on with his speech,” NBC News reports. He then told them, “Brothers and sisters. This is the real world that we live in.” There was undoubtedly lingering resentment over the leaked emails that appeared to show Democratic National Committee staffers favoring Clinton.
Later, on the convention floor, there were some boos, ostensibly from Sanders supporters, at mentions of Clinton. Some in the crowd didn’t take it well when Silverman, who backed Sanders in the primary season, urged them to support Clinton. At one point the comedian, who appeared with Minnesota’s Sen. Franken, went off script and said, “Can I just say to the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people, you’re being ridiculous.”
Booker and Obama both appeared to win the crowd over. Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey, delivered a rousing, almost sermon-like speech emphasizing the differences between Clinton and Donald Trump, and the differences between their visions for the nation. Like most of the night’s speakers, he emphasized the Democrats’ embrace of diversity, and in a passage likely to be quoted widely, he discussed the difference between tolerance and love.
“Tolerance says I am just going to stomach your right to be different,” he said. “That if you disappear from the face of the earth, I am no better or worse off. But love — love knows that every American has worth and value, no matter what their background, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together, that when we are divided we are weak, we decline, yet when we are united we are strong — invincible!”
The first lady spoke with emotion about the kind of nation she wants for future generations. “With every action we take, we know our kids are watching us,” she said. “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.”
Without mentioning Trump’s name, she decried bullying, and she touted Clinton’s credentials to lead the nation — and how she would shatter the final glass ceiling as the first woman president of the United States. Like many of the speakers, she gave a shout-out to LGBT Americans — in her case it was praising the people who donated blood in the wake of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, “because it could have been their son, their daughter in that club.” And one of her biggest applause lines noted, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Massachusetts Sen. Warren, who followed Obama, was a bit subdued but nevertheless hit major talking points on the differences between Trump and Clinton. “If you believe that America must work for all of us, not just the rich and powerful, if you believe we must reject the politics of fear and division, if you believe we are stronger together, then let’s work our hearts out to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States,” she said.
Sanders, who closed the evening’s program, had to delay starting his speech because of extended applause when he took the stage. When he began speaking, he acknowledged his supporters’ disappointment that he did not win the nomination — and his own. He also noted that he and Clinton had differences during the campaign, but they have come closer on many issues, such as tuition-free public higher education, and that is reflected in the Democrats’ platform.
He praised Clinton’s record in public life, saying, “I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.”
He further noted the importance of Supreme Court appointments: Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United and end the movement toward oligarchy in this country. Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment. If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.”
Earlier in the program, there were numerous LGBT speakers, such as Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player; Pat Spearman, a Nevada state senator, who is a lesbian; and Tina Kotek, who as Oregon’s speaker of the House is the first out lesbian to hold that post in any state.
“Before I came out to the world on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I came out privately to the Clinton family,” said Collins, who became friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, in college. “I knew they would accept me for who I was.”
Spearman noted Trump’s opposition to marriage equality and his vow to appoint Supreme Court justices who would reverse it. “But his worst attack” on LGBT people was picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, she said, given that Pence signed the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allowing anti-LGBT discrimination on religious grounds. It was subsequently amended.
And Kotek touted Clinton as “our answer to intolerance and fear,” adding, “I have her back because I know she stands with all of us.”