PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama delivered his last address to a Democratic National Convention while occupying the White House and passed the torch to the woman he hopes will take his place as America’s next commander-in-chief.
“There has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said Wednesday night to a cheering crowd of more than 20,000 inside the Wells Fargo Center.
In 2008, I watched Obama, in Chicago’s Grant Park, stand before another cheering crowd and promise to build a brighter future for all Americans. I watched as he offered hope to those who have been ignored and overlooked; I listened to his lofty words about faith, resiliency and change.
I listened Wednesday to Obama offering more words of hope to a sometimes racially-fractured nation.
Obama said a lot has changed since 2008. He’s right. America has made tremendous strides under his leadership — and the nation has also experienced serious racially-challenged setbacks. But Obama can’t manage or prevent racial hatred. He can lobby for change, but he can’t pressure people to embrace people of color.
And still, correctly, Obama maintains the same level of enthusiasm for America today as he did in 2008.
“The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous,” Obama said.
“We’ve still got more work to do,” the president said. “More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven-and-a-half years.”
And so Obama ended his last speech to a Democratic convention — as president — the way he started his journey: with hope, fire in his belly, and with a bit of old-school oratory.
His job on Wednesday was to rally the faithful around Clinton’s candidacy and urge Democrats to vote. And he did it well.
“She will finish the job — and she’ll do it without resorting to torture or banning entire religions from entering our country,” Obama said of Clinton.
“She’s been there for us — even if we haven’t always noticed — and if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue,” he added.
And it’s refreshing to watch Obama take it to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee.
“It wasn’t particularly Republican and it sure wasn’t conservative,” he said of last week’s Republican convention. “There were no serious solutions to pressing problems. Just the fanning of resentments and blame and hate and anger.”
Obama was referring to Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week.
It was all doom and gloom, a dark portrait of America. And as always, Trump offered no solutions. He described America as a dangerous place in “crisis” and where “crime is through the roof” in inner cities across the country.
It’s not true. Not much that Trump says is true.
In the weeks ahead, Obama will hit the road and campaign for Clinton. He is masterful on the stump and I’m sure many voters will follow his lead.
Is the black electorate fired up for Clinton in the same way it was for Obama in 2008 and 2012? No. But there will never be a pivotal moment in history like that again. Obama was, of course, the nation’s first black president.
Looking back over the past eight years, Obama will leave office with more accomplishments than regrets and with a proud legacy solidly intact.
What do you think?
(Photo: Jessica Kourkounis)