It looked, felt and even smelled like a rock concert with the $6.50 nachos, the crowd filling Denver’s 76,000-seat Mile High Stadium and the opening acts by superstars Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder. But instead of upheld lighters, American flags filled the stands as Barack Obama officially accepted the Democrats’ nomination to be the party’s candidate in the 2008 race for the White House.
Michelle Obama, in a red and black dress, watched from the front row of what the Democratic Party called an open-air convention and doted on their young daughters as if they were at home in Chicago. But the closing night of the Democratic Convention in Denver was in fact – with the fireworks, streamers and ecstatic crowds stomping their feet as if to collapse the stadium – a piece of political theater on a scale this country has never seen.
After taking the stage, thanking the crowd countless times and accepting his party’s nomination, Sen. Obama, 47, turned the attention to those closest to him.
“To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama, and to Malia and Sasha,” he said at the podium, “I love you so much and I’m so proud of you.”
Michelle, 44, beaming, blew her husband a kiss.
Earlier, in a film tribute, the senator from Illinois spoke of his late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who raised him on her own, and the sacrifices she made. “She woke me up at 4:30 in the morning and we’d sit there and go through my lessons,” he told the crowd. “And if I grumbled, she’d say, ‘Well, this is no picnic for me either, buster.'”
In the film, his wife Michelle described falling in love with her husband – but not immediately. “I thought ‘Barack Obama? Who would name their kid Barack Obama?'” Michelle said with a grin. And Barack, looking back, had to agree: “Barack Obama – that’s a killer,” he said of his name.
But after several attempts, Barack told the crowd, he finally convinced his future wife to go to a meeting with him in the basement of a church in Chicago. Watching Obama speak to the members of the South Side community assembled there, Michelle admitted in the video, “That was it. After that day … I was in love with him.”
In his speech, the candidate laid out what he would do for the country if elected: cut taxes for working families, get out of Iraq, end dependency on foreign oil and make affordable health care accessible to all. With words that brought the crowd to its feet, Obama appealed to the compassion of the individual. “That’s the promise of America,” he said, “the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”
He also promised to restore the nation’s reputation as the world’s “last, best hope.”
When the speech was over, vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill joined Obama, Michelle, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, on stage as fireworks went off and streamers poured down. As Jill Biden wiped away tears, the little girls in pink dresses played with confetti and waved to the roaring crowd.
The nitty-gritty of the campaign would begin again the next day, but walking off the stage, the first African-American nominee for president, surrounded by his family, turned around and took one last look at the historic scene.