09/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

'America, We Cannot Turn Back. Not with So Much Work to Be Done.'

Denver -- Forty five years ago, I heard the first great speech of my adult life, standing on the Mall in Washington, DC, when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his great "I have a dream speech." By luck I was at my first political convention when Mario Cuomo described America as a "City on a Hill." Four years ago, in Boston, I looked down from the Fleet Center to see a young candidate I had met weeks earlier when the Sierra Club endorsed him for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois electrify the crowd -- Larry King walked the corridors afterward muttering out loud to himself, over and over, "My, my, my, my. My, my, my."

So I've been very lucky in the speeches I've heard in person. And I was lucky again last night, at Invesco Field, when that still young U.S. Senator passionately echoed Martin Luther King's call to redeem the American promise. And the entire evening was a reminder of just how much has changed in the past eight years. Obama himself devoted more energy to global warming, energy, and the environment in one speech than the entire 2000 or 2004 campaigns saw, and just before he spoke Al Gore reminded us again that "inconvenient truths matter."

It seemed to me that Obama and the Democrats missed only one opportunity -- they linked him and his biography and this moment to Abraham Lincoln, and they took back from Ronald Reagan the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. But in his remarks on Bush's foreign policy of bullying without delivering, I did wish that Obama had taken Teddy Roosevelt back from the Republicans -- for surely one way of summing up the Bush administration is to "speak loudly and carry a small stick."

And it was delicious to watch a Sierra Club member and volunteer -- Marsha Shearer -- backstage with Obama in her Sierra Club "New Energy for America" T-shirt.