First lady Michelle Obama electrifies party faithful
Issued on: Modified:
On the first night of the Democratic National Convention, first lady Michelle Obama said her husband could still be trusted to bring about change as the president of the United States in a speech that even critics said was “brilliantly” delivered.
First lady Michelle Obama delivered a rousing speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, telling the country her husband could be trusted to fix the economy and bring about much-needed change.
With nine weeks left before US voters head to the polls, Mrs. Obama energised the convention where Democrat delegates are meeting for three days of rallying in support of President Barack Obama's reelection bid. During the primetime televised event she painted her husband as an unselfish leader, as well as a caring father and husband.
“I didn't think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago...even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. I love that he's never forgotten how he started. I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he's going to do, even when it's hard – especially when it's hard,” Mrs. Obama said, striving to place her husband outside the partisan squabbling of Washington.
Her speech was infused with personal stories of hardship and triumph, from President Obama’s upbringing, but especially from her own. She recalled how her partially disabled father went to work every day with the hope of providing her and her brother with a university education.
She said sacrifices that her father endured did not spare her from heavy student loans. As a freshly-graduated couple, she joked that she and President Obama were “so young, so in love, so in debt.”
Her twenty-five-minute speech had the convention floor in Charlotte gripped, with cameras often cutting away to crying faces. As she spoke about her husband’s steadfast vision, it seemed that Mrs. Obama herself was often just barely managing to contain her tears.
Although she never mentioned Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name, the first lady’s speech was peppered with contrasts between Obama and his conservative rival.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles… Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it,” Mrs. Obama said in a thinly veiled jab at Romney, whom democrats have portrayed as someone whose privileged background has put him out of touch with ordinary people.
“He's the same man who started his career by turning down high-paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down... because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives,” she added a few seconds later.
A ‘brilliant’ speech
While Mrs. Obama’s headlining speech was delivered in front of her party’s base, the speech was being watched by millions on television and the Internet. According to Twitter for News, a service of the ubiquitous micro-blogging website, the end of Mrs. Obama's speech drove 28,003 Tweets-per-minute at its peak, in comparison with 14,289 Tweets-per-minute for Romney’s keynote speech before the Republican convention last week.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne said the speech was apolitical and “masterful” in its ability to skewer Romney without even mentioning him directly. “What she said directly is that Barack Obama understands people who are struggling. What she didn’t have to say is Mitt Romney doesn’t,” Dionne wrote.
The liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof similarly praised Mrs. Obama, writing “a great thing about the Michelle Obama speech was that it had none of the nastiness that often contaminates politics,” via his Twitter account.
Even rightwing critics found it difficult to criticise the first lady’s appearance. Speaking to Fox News, the conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said “I thought Michelle Obama’s speech was brilliant, brilliantly delivered,” even while adding “I didn’t buy a line of it” a few moments later.
Also speaking to Fox News, the Republican political strategist Karl Rove said Mrs. Obama’s speech was “well delivered”, but insisted the first lady was not a good witness to the president’s political record.
Mrs. Obama is widely popular among US voters and has energetically campaigned on the president’s behalf. But she has also worked hard to win a place in the hearts of Americans. In the 2008 campaign she was branded “unpatriotic” after she said the public support for her husband made her proud of her country “for the first time in my adult lifetime.”
Her convention appearance was being followed by keynote speeches on Wednesday by former president Bill Clinton, who presided over the White House during the boom economy of the 1990s, and on Thursday by President Obama, who will accept the Democratic presidential nomination.