Nsenga K. Burton
Leading up to the kick-off of the Democratic National Convention, pundits, politicians and bloggers spoke mostly about San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, the popular young Latino politician raised by a single mother who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Castro, a star of the Democratic Party, delivered his remarks, giving viewers a peek into the life of the man many say may be the first Hispanic president of the United States. Castro made history by being the first Hispanic to deliver the keynote speech in the history of the DNC. Castro may have made history, but Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and first lady Michelle Obama made it happen — Deval highlighted the effort to undermine President Obama’s many accomplishments while Mrs. Obama ushered us through the love story of the Obamas while reminding us of the values that shape the president’s objectives, whether popular or not.
Don’t get me wrong – Castro delivered–ensuring that we remembered that this country was made for everyone and that hard work, determination and opportunity serve as the cornerstone of our society. He spoke about how his mother carried a mop so that he could carry a microphone, offering concrete evidence of what would happen if Romney and Ryan roll back the advances made by people like him by not “investing” in the creation of opportunities for the most vulnerable in our society.
Castro’s bright smile and enthusiasm was trumped by Gov. Deval Patrick’s stern delivery of a speech that finally said what everyone has been thinking — why aren’t fellow Democrats vigorously defending President Obama who has faced unprecedented obstruction in Congress? Why aren’t we talking about Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts? According to Gov. Patrick, “Mitt Romney was more interested in having the job instead of doing the job,” running down a list of Romney’s failures including driving the state’s educational system to the bottom of the pile.
After promptly ripping Romney’s record, Deval illuminated President Obama’s record on many issues including healthcare reform, equal pay for women, gay rights, ending the war in Iraq and taking down Osama Bin Laden. Patrick’s comments challenged people to get a grip on wanting more from a president that has done more in his first term than other presidents accomplished over two terms and all while fighting an obstructionist government. Patrick urged Democrats to support President Obama saying, “It’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe” and rapping Democrats on the knuckles for not standing by their man. “Let’s start by standing up for President Barack Obama. I for one will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office and neither should you.” Patrick said what many had been thinking — Democrats need to toughen up and wholeheartedly back this president instead of allowing him to be steamrolled by Republicans who as former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland vehemently stated, “are lying.”
If Patrick gave us the stern tongue lashing, then Mrs. Obama did the opposite — offering a kinder, gentler profile of a man she clearly knows and loves — and assuaging our fears in the process. Mrs. Obama made viewers fall in love with President Obama in the same way that she did — by sharing personal stories and focusing on his values — values that have not changed in spite of his change in status. She addressed a characteristic that many Democrats find maddening – President Obama’s desire to hear good ideas from everyone, including those that would oppose him.
She advised us that President Obama is interested in bringing everyone to the table to make decisions and fundamentally believes that all people should have a voice including his detractors. He believes in equality and the common good. This is a value that President Obama lives by every day.
What she didn’t say and what one could glean from her comments is that this is highly unusual, which is why Democrats have a hard time understanding the president’s strategies or motives. Quite frankly, we have a political system that is about brow beating people into doing what you want them to do. Besides, after two terms of a president that said and did whatever he needed in order to make things happen (the War in Iraq), it takes time to appreciate a president who operates in a completely different way. The first lady reminded us that he is trying to change things, including his approach to politics. She noted that the president is in a tight race but can still win because he is indeed a winner in all aspects of his life. Just look at the woman he chose for his wife.
President Obama has overcome personal and professional obstacles to rise to the presidency of the United States. Mrs. Obama offered, “Doing the impossible is the history of this nation.”
It seems that Governor Patrick and Mrs. Obama accomplished the impossible — electrifying an audience of Democrats — many of whom have been characterized as being “disappointed” in this president — with words that spoke to the heart, mind and soul. If Gov. Patrick and Mrs. Obama’s speeches didn’t get you the least bit riled up, then you need to check your pulse. They confirmed that Democrats are alive and well and cannot be discounted or dismissed.