The Democratic National Convention had a raucous, divided beginning on Monday, that was badly in need of a bridge between factions. A succession of speakers tried to soothe the differences between Hillary and Bernie supporters and move on. It took a long time for someone to succeed.
It wasn’t Sarah Silverman, who thrust a hot poker at Bernie supporters and inflamed their reaction.
Paul Simon’s Bridge Didn’t Quite Make It
It wasn’t Paul Simon, who at least quieted the crowd a bit with an uneven performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” But the quiet didn’t persist beyond the moment.
It was the speaker who spoke from her heart, bringing her support for Hillary down to the personal — our First Lady, Michelle Obama. Her speech was powerful, passionate, and even — at the last — tearful.
If Hillary had ever managed to make her case in the terms that Michelle Obama did, the race might have been over a long time ago.
Michelle began with a vignette from her first days in the White House, a verbal picture of watching her two daughters being driven to school in big, black SUVs by men with guns. At that moment, her thought was:
“What have we done?”
Her focus then, and ever since, has been with the children — her children and the children of the country. That’s where she went in her speech, and where she stayed.
What does the 2016 election mean? For her:
“It’s about leaving something better for our kids.”
She repeated a phrase that, in other mouths, has become tiresome. Somehow, she breathed new life into it in a way no one else, even its most famous proponent, has:
“It takes a village.”
New life because Michelle Obama made it so personal, so intimate, so relatable. With tears in her eyes, she spoke about waking up “every morning” in a house built by slaves. She spoke about the wonder of watching her “beautiful and intelligent” daughters living in that house, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.
The Most Important Bridge Is Between The Past And The Future
The miracle of the Obamas being in the White House lies in how far the country has come, how different the nation is for their children and ours. As a family, they’ve built a bridge between the past and the future:
“Our daughters take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States.”
For granted. Think about it. For Sasha and Melia, being raised in the White House is the norm. For them, having a beautiful, black woman — their mother — receive more visibility, admiration, and praise from the American public than, perhaps, any First Lady in history is actually their norm.
The conditions that moved Michelle to tears are simply a way of life for her daughters — in spite of all the discord and obstructionism and hatefulness that have also been directed the family’s way. While she spoke of Hillary and the “glass ceiling,” the young girls who are her daughters’ ages don’t even know what that is. And that is a good thing, because they are going to proceed as if it doesn’t exist and never did.
Michelle Obama may not have changed hearts in the long run. Given the tearfulness of his supporters as Bernie Sanders later spoke, I’d say she probably did not. However, she held the mesmerized delegates in the hall in the palm of her hand. There was no booing of the First Lady, as there was for other speakers.
Amy Silverman may have been provocative because she was seen as a traitor to the Sanders cause. However, everyone knew — everyone remembered — how good the country, and Democrats, have had it by virtue of the Obamas living in the White House for the past eight years.
So for that — thank you, Michelle. It was a profoundly touching moment.
Watch the First Lady’s speech at Monday’s convention here:
Feature photo of Michelle Obama, screenshot from YouTube video.