President Obama's DNC Speech: Don't Give Up Hope

5 years ago

On Thursday, President Obama took to the stage at the Democratic National Convention to convince the American people why they should vote him into a second term. He didn’t need to sell the 20,000 people in Time-Warner Arena. After Michelle Obama’s personal appeal and former President Bill Clinton’s hard-hitting message how past Republican administrations had hurt the middle-class, the faithful were already whipped up in a frenzy, waving flags and chanting, “Fired up! Ready to go!”

Image Credit: Zumapress

The President’s talk was a bit different from the soaringly optimistic speech he gave in 2008. After all,

“The times have changed—and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.”

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, reporters were most interested in issues of the economy and foreign policy – topics on which the Obama campaign hasn’t really laid out any plans this season.

That evening, the President accused the Republicans of dodging the hard questions the same way:

“Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right.”

In his speech, President Obama made a few jokes, but mostly he laid out ambitious plans:

“I will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways.”

“Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion.”

“I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000.”

Like Clinton's speech on Wednesday, Obama was framing the Democratic Party as the choice for the American middle-class – a group hit hard by job loss and rising healthcare costs. And that was a message that scored big in the arena, as delegates waved United Auto Workers paddles and red, white and blue flags.

And in a campaign that has been rather quiet on foreign policy so far, President Obama went surprisingly hawkish, ticking off a laundry list of accomplishments: focusing on the 9/11 terrorists, blunting the Taliban’s power in Afghanistan, setting a 2014 withdrawal date for the war.

With many of the speeches at the 2012 DNC, there’s been a strong undercurrent of bootstrapping and personal responsibility:

“Remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.”

“We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone.”

There was an air of something almost conservative in this speech. After all, with a slim undecided margin, the Democrats – like the Republicans— know the value of the elusive moderate voter. And just when I was beginning to wonder which convention I was at, the President uttered the lines that drew some of the loudest cheers of the entire night:

“You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home.”

The cheering over the DREAM Act was so overwhelming, that it was hard to hear his next sentence, supporting gay marriage and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

“Why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love…”

And all of these talking points were surrounded by the message of doing what’s right for the common good, not what’s easy for the individual:

"If you turn away now -- if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible, well, change will not happen."

“I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder- but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer- but we travel it together.”

The message definitely resonated with the party faithful. In the parking garage, delegates were still chanting, “Fired up, ready to go!”

The question is, will it fire up the unregistered or undecided voters out there?

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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