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Let's Hear it for (and From) the Ladies: Top 10 Moments for Women at the DNC

09/12/2012 12:25 pm ET | Updated Nov 12, 2012

Weeks before the Democratic National Convention, I lamented the lack of women's voices slated for prime speaking roles in Charlotte, wondering aloud on these pages, "Where are the women?"

After a Republican National Convention where women's voices seemed more like token placeholders than voices representing more than half of all voters, the women we heard from at the Democratic National Convention felt refreshingly authentic. The women on stage talked about issues that polled well, to be sure--women's health, education, jobs--but it was clear they weren't just token women. The Democrats weren't just elevating women's voices, they were elevating women.

From a brave law student to the President himself, here is my top-10 list of stand-out moments for women at the Democratic National Convention:

Michelle Obama: First Lady Michelle Obama turned the typical First Lady convention speech on its head when she used the speech to not only share her love story and humble beginnings but also as a platform upon which she could show voters that her husband genuinely cares about them, too. Viewers connected with her candor, her wit, and her warmth.

Elizabeth Warren: The Senate candidate from Massachusetts showed her party, and voters at home, that her strong message of fighting for fairness for the middle class is not simply a political talking point - it is her mantra and her life's work. Her first appearance on the national convention stage, before President Clinton's masterful delivery of plain-spoken political oratory, should not be her last.

President Obama: The President's intentional use of female pronouns in his nomination acceptance speech was not lost on many women watching the convention. It was a subtle but meaningful nod to the President's focus on fairness and equality for women, because he understands we are more than a powerful voting bloc--we are powerful pieces of the American narrative. We hear you loud and clear, Mr. President.

Cecile Richards: The Planned Parenthood Federation of America president's Convention speaking appearance was a solid one. She channeled the fiery charisma of her mother, the incredible Governor Ann Richards, with this memorable line: "If women aren't at the table, we're on the menu." Cecile is as inspiring as her mother was.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords: Gabby Giffords leading the pledge of allegiance was an emotional testament to the former Congresswoman's courage and class. It was a moving tribute to a woman who epitomizes a quality we as Americans revere: resilience.

Sandra Fluke: From an unknown law student to spokeswoman for women's access to birth control, Sandra Fluke is becoming a political force to be reckoned with. Her speech made a clear distinction between the choices women--and all Americans--have in this election: moving forward or taking steps back.

Benita Veliz: Benita Veliz, valedictorian of her high school class, broke barriers when she became the first undocumented immigrant to address a national political convention. While speaking in support of the DREAM Act--bi-partisan legislation that provides conditional permanent residency to qualified unauthorized immigrants who enrolled in college or serve in the military--Veliz showed a poise and strength beyond her 27 years. "I know I have something to contribute to the economy and my country, and I feel just as American as any of my friends or neighbors," she said. Your example is already making a contribution, Ms. Veliz.

Sister Simone Campbell: One of the most vocal "Nuns on the Bus" who travelled the country denouncing vice presidential nominee and Congressman Paul Ryan's budget as immoral because it would harm poor families, Sr. Simone Campbell took her message to the convention stage with gusto. She transcended the rhetoric on so-called social issues like contraception, abortion, and rape and framed her discussion as one about responsibility when she said: "First, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are correct when they say that each individual should be responsible. But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families. Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another." Amen, Sister.

Senator Barbara Mikulski: Seeing nine Democratic women U.S. Senators, all of whom I am proud to support, on stage--led by their dean, Senator Barbara Mikulski--was at once inspiring and a reminder of how far we have to go to reach equal representation in Congress.

Governor Jennifer Granholm: Jennifer Granholm's speech on the last night of the convention was perfectly timed: she embodied the "Fired Up" signs delegates were waving when she delivered an animated, from-the-gut message blasting Governor Romney's record of what she called placing "profits before people."

After a convention filled with memorable moments from women who kept me consistently inspired, it's hard to narrow the list to just 10. I can't help but recognize a few others whose presence really shined on the party stage: California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, and workplace equality pioneer Lilly Ledbetter.

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