The best DNC speeches

President Obama’s acceptance speech was delivered to a tired yet electrified crowd at the convention, but to a fresh TV audience. Many of the delegates were expecting either a “red meat speech” to the base or another of the classic Obama silver-tongued oration. If one had such hopes, they would have been thoroughly disappointed. However, many who had simply tuned into Obama’s speech at primetime thought he had done a swell job of communicating his message to the American people. Still, I believe it would be safe to say he did not deliver the greatest remarks of the evening, so I have prepared my list of the top ten speeches.

10. Mayor Julian Castro

The keynote speaker both described his inspirational journey of poverty to politics and outlined clear and concise reasons to re-elect President Obama. As someone who truly lived American Dream, Mayor Castro and his twin brother State Representative (and soon Congressman) Joaquin Castro studied hard to receive scholarships to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Castro, only 37, provided a key roadmap of what the future of Texas politics will look like. Perhaps the reason I found his speech so inspiring if because as a Texan, it inspired me that Mayor Castro will most likely be my state’s next Governor.

9. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden

Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Biden, delivered an inspirational speech to nominate his father for another term as Vice President. Beau Biden discussed the many hardships his father has had to bear, including most notably losing his first wife, Beau’s mother, and one of his children in an accident with a drunk driver just months before Joe Biden took his senate seat. Beau Biden further outlined the many great accomplishment his father has done since taking office.

8. Mayor Cory Booker

Mayor Booker of Newark, New Jersey delivered a red-meat speech to the blue-meat crowd. As the presenter of this year’s platform, the first to endorse Marriage Equality, he highlighted the themes of inclusion, justice, and equality within the platform. It also included key provisions to help veterans return home and balancing the budget without devastating working people. He stated that the wealthy being asked to pay higher taxes “isn’t class warfare—it’s patriotism”.

7. Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis, the former Civil Rights icon and leader of the SNCC, reminisced of his time fighting for basic Civil Rights and being beaten to a pulp for attempting to wait in a white waiting room. Lewis then compared disenfranchisement by Southern governments in the 1960s to the Voter ID acts of today. Lewis then tearfully stated that “we will not go back”, and then contrasted the statement for Obama’s theme of “forward”. Congressman Lewis was given a long applause and ovation by the convention crowd

6. First Lady Michelle Obama

The First Lady’s speech was simply beautiful. Her ability to cast the President as a kind, emotional, real figure in contrast to his aloofness was unbelievably successful. The First Lady was able to paint a truly human side to her husband. This was a complete 180 from the robot commonly associated with Governor Mitt Romney.

5. Governor Deval Patrick

I know I mentioned Governor Patrick before, but he just gave a simply fantastic speech. His comments about Democrats growing a spine put chills in mine. Also, after the farce of the soft homophobes at the 2004 DNC in Boston, I was really glad to see someone redeem the errors of the past.

4. Governor Brian Schweitzer

Governor Schweitzer of Montana spoke to the crowd in a folksy eloquence that I only saw matched by President Clinton. Governor Schweitzer highlighted the importance of not raising taxes on the poor, as he alleged Governor Romney did while in office. He also highlighted the success of Montana to successfully expand and strengthen its education system. Schweitzer has led the conservative state to certain liberal ideals, including the legalization of medicinal cannabis and suing the Federal Government over the Citizens United ruling.

3. Senator John Kerry

After Senator Kerry’s speech, I looked at the people around me and proclaimed, “Who was that guy who looked and sounded like John Kerry and where that man was being detained in 2004?” Senator Kerry was cool, relaxed, cracking jokes, and quite personable during his speech, mostly the opposite of his presidential candidate persona. Additionally, Senator Kerry was able to connect with the base without alienating the middle. Kerry highlighted the common critique of Romney’s inability to hold a steady position on many issues, mentioning the former attack against him of being “for it before he was against it”.

2. President Bill Clinton

President Clinton amazed me, with his flagship ability to take extremely complex, mundane political issues and simplify them with his folksy wits into an equation that is comprehensible for all Americans. President Clinton discussed his abilities to balance the budget, criticized Republican attacks on Obama’s record vis-à-vis welfare reform, and complemented his stewardship of the economy. Clinton stated that the mess that Obama inherited was far worse than the one he inherited, and that there would have been also an anemic recovery if he were the President. Finally, Clinton stated the need to curb defense spending and raise taxes on the wealthy, stating that was the way the budget was balanced in his day, or as he called it, “simple arithmetic”.

1. Governor Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Granholm, the former Governor of Michigan, gave a rousing speech on President Obama’s saving of the auto industry. She heavily criticized Governor Romney’s statement of “Let Detroit go bankrupt”, and lauded the President’s “guts” in helping Detroit. Towards the end of the speech, she began touting the numbers of jobs saved by the auto loans, throwing her arms and at times jumping up and down, yelling and powering through the heavy applause. But perhaps the greatest line of Governor Granholm’s speech, and perhaps even the greatest line of the convention, was that “In Mitt Romney’s world, the cars get the elevators, and the workers get the shaft”, a reference to Romney’s infamous car elevator.

Compassion is back in fashion: what I learned at the DNC

My father is usually a cynic when it comes to politics. While he was growing up, the President was assassinated a few blocks away from his grade school. His freshman year of college, both of his idols, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, were assassinated one after another in a matter of months.

After watching the GOP debates last year, he uttered a phrase that I have always remembered vis-à-vis policy in this country: “compassion is out of fashion”. Republican candidates for President had been asked what to do with an indigent person with a gunshot wound showing up at a hospital, and the crowd had yelled “let him die!” Ayn Rand Objectivism is popular; it is okay to be a selfish, money-grubbing putz because that is the American dream. To hell with everyone else, climb up the ladder of success and then pull it up after you. While the Republican Party seemed to exacerbate the issue, Democrats were guilty of putting up with it and maintaining it as well.

This past week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina with the delegation of my home state of Texas (yes, we have Democrats there too). What I was expecting was a retreat from the optimism of 2008 to the moderate cruelty and ambivalence of 2004. What I saw thoroughly impressed me, and gave me hope for the present and the future.

In stark contrast to the Republican’s theme of “we built it”, upward mobility, and the condemnation of global warming and other undisputed science, the Democrats had a theme of togetherness, equality, and a strong national defense. In a great rebuttal to the GOP’s seemingly new obsession with the national debt, President Bill Clinton, the only modern President to balance a budget, praised and endorsed Obama’s tactics on the economy and the budget. Reminiscent of the heavy focus on national defense at the 2004 RNC, speakers such as Senator John Kerry and former Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth praised the President’s ability to keep this nation safe, and many more lauded the accomplishment of bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

But perhaps most inspiring, most heartwarming, was the Democratic endorsement of a compassionate society and equitable economy. Raising taxes on the rich was a minimal talking point four years ago, now the candidates are unabashedly critical of the 1%, and are loud about repealing the bush tax cuts. The past few years had seen a bipartisan support for cruel, austere cuts that devastated poorer people, such as subtractions from food stamps, head start, and children’s health insurance. This year’s convention ran counter, with a slogan of “Americans coming together”.

In re Castro

Some thoughts on Mayor Castro’s speech, right before I make my way to Charlotte myself. I was somewhat disappointed by his keynote, as it lacked the electric zeal of both Obama’s ’04 speech and his June speech at the State Convention. I guess it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to directly call out Perry in North Carolina.

Of course, I did really like the other Castro’s speech, Joaquin Castro that is. I feel like most people underestimated his brief time in front of the camera. For what it is worth, I think he will make a damn fine Congressman. And, please, don’t misconstrue what I said to mean I did not like Mayor Castro’s speech, I did. It was just not another Obama, as I had been expecting it.