Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the first Latinos to chair a Democratic National Convention, said Thursday that this year's gathering represented a wider swath of Americans than any such event before.
"Look around you, everyone," he told delegates. "This has been the most diverse, most inclusive convention ever held anywhere in the United States of America."
Villaraigosa presided this year over the largest-ever number -- about 800 -- of Latino delegates. The convention also featured its first-ever Latino keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and the first-ever convention remarks from an undocumented immigrant. Many African Americans also spoke at the convention, as did gay and lesbian Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
A number of speakers pushed the message that Democrats are inclusive and Republicans are not, pointing to positions on immigration, same-sex marriage and voter identification laws. Villaraigosa applauded his party for adding support of gay marriage rights to its platform, calling it "a basic human right."
"This is a reflection of who we are as a party and who we can be as a nation," he said.
He also praised the president for his recent directive on immigration, which will allow some undocumented young people to stay in the United States temporarily with work authorization, taking a dig at GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his immigration policy plan.
"Instead of supporting their dream, Governor Romney wants to make life so miserable, so oppressive, so intolerable for them that they would leave the life they build behind, leave their children behind and 'self-deport'," he said. "How about that for family values?"
Villaraigosa said his own story, as the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and son of a single mom, shows why encouraging diversity is important.
"I got there on an affirmative action program, and some would say I got in through the back door," he said. "But one thing's for sure: I got out through the front. That's the open, inclusive America that we love."