After decades wrestling with living in public, Hillary Clinton introduced herself one more time to Americans on Thursday night, no longer as a famous wife, former U.S. senator or Cabinet secretary but as a presidential nominee intent on writing a new, historic chapter in her life — and the country’s.
“It is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Clinton said. Thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention interspersed chants of “Hi-lla-ry” with “His-to-ry.”
Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination acknowledging that both her party and the country remain deeply split — perhaps more so — eight years after her former rival, Barack Obama, won the White House.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart,” she said. “Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we will all work together so we can all rise together.”
Facing Clinton is one of the most difficult challenges in modern politics: succeeding a two-term president of her own party. A self-described unnatural campaigner, Clinton tried to contrast herself and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, as diametrically different from her unpredictable Republican rival, Donald Trump, whom she portrayed — as Democrats did for four days in Philadelphia — as reckless.
“He wants to divide us from the rest of the world and from each other. He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise,” she said. “He’s taken the Republican Party a long way from ‘morning in America’ to midnight in America. He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.”
Then Clinton cited former President Franklin Roosevelt, who “came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than 80 years ago, during a much more perilous time.” The crowd joined her: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Top Democrats close to Clinton — including her husband, former President Bill Clinton, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama — spent the week trying to erase what they called a caricature of Clinton with stories of the woman they know. Clinton would be the most disliked presidential candidate ever — if it weren’t for Trump.
“Sometimes the people who come to this podium are new to the national stage. As you know, I’m not one of those people,” Clinton said, grinning. “In all my years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part. I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.”
So she told them about her Midwestern family, “where nobody had their names on big buildings,” and about her Methodist faith. Earlier in the night, her only daughter, Chelsea, had highlighted her mother’s thoughtfulness and their shared love of reading and watching “Pride and Prejudice.”
“Mom,” the younger Clinton said, “Grandma would be so, so proud of you tonight.”
Clinton entered and soaked up the moment, walking to both ends of the stage of the Wells Fargo Center. Several times, she placed her hand on her heart.
In one final act of protest, dedicated backers of primary runner-up Bernie Sanders wore matching Day-Glo yellow T-shirts. They booed Clinton during parts of her speech. She ignored them.
“To all of your supporters here and around the country, I want you to know I’ve heard you,” she said. “Your cause is our cause.”
Once she concluded, fireworks exploded inside the arena.
Thursday night began with a thundering storm that drenched delegates. They could hardly fit inside the hall; delegates grumbled about credentials exceeding available seats.
Still, the Democrats’ undeniably more diverse and more celebrity-filled convention has so far topped last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland in television ratings. Republicans accused several networks of giving Democrats more air time.
Ahead of Clinton’s big speech, a series of speakers made direct pitches to reach specific voters that will be key for Clinton if she’s to hold together the fragile coalition that elected Obama.
Twelve Democratic women U.S. senators stood side by side, held hands and raised their arms in a sign of solidarity. Singer Katy Perry, who sang “Roar” — a beloved Clinton campaign song — and urged young voters to cast ballots: “You can just cancel your weird cousin’s vote, if you like.”
Two Republicans declared Trump unfit for office. The Dallas sheriff who lost deputies at a deadly rampage earlier this month underscored Democrats’ commitment to law and order. (“Black lives matter!” a few people shouted.) Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar jokingly introduced himself as Michael Jordan, “because I know that Donald Trump couldn’t tell the difference.”
The line-up built to a crescendo featuring the father of a fallen American Muslim soldier and a retired four-star Marine Corps general.
Khizr Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, died in Iraq.
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?” Khan asked, in one of the most powerfully received lines of the entire convention.
Then he pulled a copy of the Constitution from his pocket.
“You,” Khan told Trump, “have sacrificed nothing.”
After Khan came John Allen, the retired Marine general. “We could not stand on the sidelines,” Allen said, backed by a gaggle of military veterans. Chants of “U-S-A!” drowned out protests of “No more war!”
Blockbuster speeches from earlier in the week threatened to overshadow Clinton on Thursday. Her best moments in politics have come in unscripted, intimate settings.
But even if she could not reach the levels of oratory of her convention predecessors, Clinton embraced her own, more direct style — and her role as the first woman presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party.
When she lamented her 2008 primary loss, Clinton noted the presidential glass ceiling had “about 18 million cracks of light in it.”
On Thursday, she returned to the same memorable imagery.
“When there are no ceilings,” she said, “the sky’s the limit.”
Equipment glitch causes interruption of Obama speech
An “equipment malfunction” led to a brief interruption of President Barack Obama’s speech during the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night as it aired on the Miami PBS station WPBT-2, a station official said Thursday.
The malfunction happened at the programming hub in Jacksonville, causing the station’s “Pioneers of Television” series, which looks at television celebrities over the years, to cut in, said Jeneissy Azcuy, director of communications and outreach for WPBT2.
Azcuy said the interruption lasted a matter of seconds and was fixed as soon as it was discovered.
Manita Brug-Chmielenska, who lives in Northeast Miami-Dade, said she was watching the speech when suddenly she saw what “looked like a comedy routine” in midstream.
“I thought I accidentally switched the station,” she said. “I just couldn’t tell what it was.”