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Madeleine M. Kunin Headshot

Democratic Convention Day Two: Hillary Clinton, Lilly Ledbetter, and Red Necks for Obama

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When Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother simply as "my hero" I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I had not anticipated such sadness for what might have been. It was not only her dream that had died; it was my dream to see the first woman President. But Hillary Clinton soon set me on the right path.

"Keep going, keep on going," Hillary told the cheering crowd in the Pepsi Center, quoting Harriet Tubman's words, when she made her way north on the Underground Railroad.

Her message could be taken on several levels. The obvious one was meant for the Democratic Party--we cannot stop now. We have work to do to turn this country around. On another level, she told her supporters to "keep going," and not be discouraged because she was not the nominee.

"Keep going, keep on going," was also a message Hillary was giving to herself. The loss of the Democratic nomination was painful, but she would continue on her journey to fight for the people she had met along the way. She was not going to give up her quest.

The point of Hillary's speech had been made clear by the signs -the same size as those given out the night before for Michele Obama. These signs were two-sided: "Hillary" on one side, "Unity" on the other.

There had been no speculation whether she would ask the crowd to support Obama, but there was much speculation whether or not she would do so convincingly. Her first words settled the matter." I'm proud to be the Senator from New York. I'm proud to be an American, and I am proud to support Barack Obama."

Reaching out to some doubters, she told them," None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines", until we have achieved "women's rights here at home and around the world.'

When it sounded for a few minutes like she was giving a recitation of her campaign speech, listing the key issues, one after another, she suddenly turned the corner. "These are the reasons I ran for President and these are the reasons for supporting Barack Obama!"

A man's voice broke through the crowd, " We love you."

And love her, we did. One moment, the Hillary signs bobbed up and down in the air to the sound of joyous music, the next moment, she was gone.

Another woman held my attention tonight on the convention stage, a woman I had read about, a hero. Her name is Lilly Ledbetter and she comes from Alabama. She was there "for everyday people like me." Her claim to fame? She had sued Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for pay discrimination. After having worked as a supervisor on the factory floor, she was informed by a letter that she had been paid significantly less than the men who had the same job--less for 20 years. She sued the company and won, but Goodyear appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and won on five to four decision. Why? Because she had not filed her suit within 180 days of experiencing pay discrimination.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read her dissenting opinion from the bench because she felt so strongly about this injustice. Legislation is pending in the Congress to put and end to such discrimination and Lilly is counting on Obama to make it happen.

Footnote: Outside the convention--two slightly overweight men standing on the sidewalk, holding a red white and blue banner between them that read: "Rednecks for Obama." They were the genuine article. I told one of them that it was great that they were speaking out. He replied, "I just don't want red necks to be afraid to vote for Obama."