POLITICS

Elizabeth Warren Is Only The Third Woman In History To Keynote A Democratic Convention

The last time a woman delivered the keynote was in 1992.

PHILADELPHIA ― Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered the keynote address at the kickoff of the Democratic National Convention Monday night, making her just the third woman in history to receive that honor. 

“I come to you as the daughter of a janitor, a daughter who believes in an America of opportunity. The hand of history is on our shoulders,” Warren said. “We know how to build a future, a future that works not just for some of our children, but for all of our children. We know, and we must have the courage to make it happen. This is about our values ― our shared values with our candidates Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine!”

Rep. Barbara Jordan (Texas) and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards are the only two other women who have ever delivered a keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention ― and their speeches were some of the most memorable in party history.

Jordan first had that honor in 1976, where she brought down the house with her speech, which opened with her tipping her hat to the historic moment: 

It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special?

I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.

When ― A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight, here I am. And I feel ― I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.

Jordan had come to national attention two years earlier, with her eloquently thunderous denunciations of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate hearings. She was also the first African-American person to deliver a Democratic keynote. She gave the speech again in 1992.

Ann Richards, when she was Texas state treasurer, gave the keynote in 1988. Richards ― who later became governor of her state ― addressed how few women there had been in one of her most famous lines: 

I am delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like. Twelve years ago Barbara Jordan ― another Texas woman ― Barbara made the keynote address to this convention, and two women in 160 years is about par for the course.

But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.

Read more about the history of women at Democratic conventions here, and watch a video on the story behind Richards’ speech:


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