Guilt by Association
(Denver) - Michelle Obama is Barack Obama’s voice unleashed. The grace and poise she delivered in her keynote address capped a night where Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was honored for his year of service.
Documentary Filmmaker Ken Burns created a moving video tribute to Senator Kennedy.
It included interviews from Congressman John Lewis, fellow Senator John Kerry and Carolina Kennedy (who introduced him to the audience as Uncle Teddy).
Kennedy told the crowd “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world” The Massachusetts Senator hasn’t made many public appearances since his surgery for a brain tumor. Although he is still recovering from surgery his voice was strong and vibrant. He was the warm-up act for Michelle Obama.
The wife of Barack Obama address was filled with themes of family, middle class up bring, and love of country. Her family’s life in Chicago has held sway over her life. Her father was a blue collar city worker and her mother stayed at home.
She talked about values that Barack and her share. “You see, Barack doesn’t care where you’re from or what you’re background is…we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like.” There was one emotional moment in the speech where her voiced crack. “All of us are driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do. That we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts. This tread runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight.”
For some in the audience Ms. Obama broke the unwritten rule here at the DNC, mentioning Senator Hillary Clinton. “People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.” The crowd gave a standing ovation at the reference
There was also a reference to Senator Joseph Biden who will be Obama’s running mate. I was standing near him as she spoke about him during the speech.
You may be wondering how and where she got this voice. One person who knew her before the trappings of politics is Donnell Stewart of Catonsville, MD Class of 1989. Stewart and Michelle Robinson (Michelle Obama’s maiden name) were members of the tenth class of Blacks to attend Princeton University.
Princeton was one of the last Ivy League Schools to embrace the affirmative action concept. As Stewart tells it, “we came from varied areas. There were large contingents from Ohio and New York; less from the West Coast... 2 from Boston and small group from Chicago.”
The attrition rate for Black students was high. She attributed this lost of Black students to the times. In the early eighties minority students were protesting the divestment in the apartheid regime of South Africa. Some students were dismissed for the activities.
“She (Michelle Obama) was a silent behind the scenes player,” according to the Catonsville resident. “You have to understand we were bookworms.” She says a lot of minorities on campus gravitated to the “Third World Cultural Center.” Minorities were oddities at the Ivy League school. The world they entered into included prep schools graduates, country club memberships, questions about who are your mother and father, and what year did they graduate from Princeton. Until arriving at Princeton many of these students interaction with minorities was limited to someone serving them a meal.
Stewart says by their second year there was a great deal of solardarity among the limited number of Black students at Princeton. "You got to understand, this is a town of rich white people."
The protest lead to the creation of an all black dorm that was known as the PIC. This group pushed the envelope. They had chance to bring in varied speakers like Minister Louis Farrakhan. There is no record Michelle attending the lecture.
Stewart surmises the adminstration figured out Black students from lower economic means were more trouble than they were worth. By the late 80's there was a change in admission policies. This she says changed the mix of Black students from a varied economic circumstances (more well to do Black families). The era of protest subsided.
Having a degree from Princeton opens doors. “Look, a number of people at Princeton went to law school.” Michelle was a scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
The two ladies still talk but its campaign season and it hasn’t been frequent. She wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see history. Although she didn’t have credentials to get into the Pepsi Center she was watching.
The speech was over and I was getting off the floor when some said, “look.” I turned and saw the Obama kids, Malia and Sasha. Having kids appear on stage is not unusual for national political conventions. What was different was the appearance of Obama via satellite. “Daddy what city are you in?” Talk about an “ah” moment.
The speech hit a lot of the points, but as a veteran of these conventions I’m reminded the event is not for the people in the room but for the vast television audience who are getting their first look at the people who want to lead this country.
Tonight there is a lot of speculation about, “What Hillary will say? Will her supporters back Obama?” I’ll be watching and I hope you will too.
Late last night, I got word about the disruption of an assignation plot against Obama. For details you can go to this web sight