The only similarity between a football crowd at the Mile High Stadium in Denver and the crowd that was there for Barack Obama's acceptance speech was that they did "the wave." Spotlights danced along the upper tiers, as flag waving spectators stood up and sat down in rhythm, without the aid of a conductor. They were self propelled.
I'm told this stadium is filled most Sundays in the football season when the Denver Broncos are playing. It never was filled like tonight. Instead of white yard lines and goal posts, the playing field was occupied by the posts of all the states, centered around a blue tiered stage and a faux marble backdrop that looked like a blend of a Greek temple and the White House. It was not only the playing field that looked different, it was the crowd that behaved differently. They knew they had to win, not just for one night, but for the next four years.
The other team was not in the stadium; the Republican Party was no where in sight, but we knew they were sitting on the bench, ready to tackle Democrats at their convention next week.
This last night of the Democratic convention was an example of playing defense against the Republicans. Speaker after speaker identified with ordinary Americans and stated that Republicans were either out of touch, or didn't care about these people's lives. A popular button sold on the streets, stated in dark blue letters against a light blue background," Ask me how
many houses I have?", referring to John McCain's remark that he did not know how many houses he had.
The cameo appearances by ordinary citizens were as interesting as the speeches by the extraordinary elected officials. There was Barney Smith, wearing a red and white plaid shirt, who described how his job had been shipped overseas. He got the best laugh of the night when he said he wanted a President who cared as much about Barney Smith as Smith Barney.
A nurse said,"Let me tell you what happened to me," and described how her family had achieved the American dream, buying a house, educating their children, until one day, when both she and her husband became seriously ill, they lost their insurance, they couldn't pay the bills, and they lost everything. She had voted for Reagan, Nixon and both Bushes, she announced, and today, she was a Democrat.
Certainly these stories were carefully scripted; nevertheless, they struck a realistic chord because they reflected the lives of many Americans who were not on stage in the Mile High stadium, but at home, watching the convention on TV.
The warmest welcome was given to Vice President Al Gore who expressed what everyone thought; how things would have been different if he had won in 2000: no war in Iraq, no failing economy, and, of course, no denial of global warming. He had a good one-liner. Referring to another four years of Bush-Cheney, he quipped "I believe in recycling, but this is ridiculous."
When Barack Obama made his much anticipated appearance, he walked on to the stage with a natural grace as if he had anticipated this moment all of his life. It was his first introduction to millions of American voters, but for convention goers, he had, on this fourth night, become a familiar figure. He met his biggest challenge--to synthesize his usual inspirational words with a practical bread and butter agenda of what he would do as President.
He also said what he would not do. He would not attack his opponent's character or patriotism, thereby, revealing his own character and patriotism.
The theatre of the grand finale was breathtaking. Rockets shooting up in the air, red, white and blue confetti falling down. No Democratic convention is likely to do the traditional balloon drop again.
Barack Obama had the biggest, most inclusive convention night in Democratic history. He also managed to pull this unprecedented night off without a hitch, thanks to the choreography of his staff and the hundreds, or more, law enforcement officers. I was impressed until we tried to get on a bus to get back to our hotel. Pure chaos ensued, a reminder that this was a Democratic event after all.
But that was only a footnote to a convention that showcased the Democratic Party, a party more diverse than any in history. I don't know how many delegates were African Americans and Hispanics, but by any measure, they were present in extraordinary numbers. Fifty-one percent of the delegates were women; 49 percent men. .
The first time Barack Obama and Joe Biden appeared alone on stage together, I was conscious that one man was black and the other white; the contrast between the two men was stark. When Obama's World War II veteran white grand father was shown on the screen I had to remind myself that Obama is the product of his mixed heritage.
As we watched video clips of Obama on the campaign trail, interspersed between speakers we got used to him. Race, that defining characteristic, almost as obvious as gender, began to fade in the background.
When the two couples, the Obama's and the Biden's appeared on the stage with their multi-hued families,it seemed natural that white and black would be on stage together in a shared embrace. This, I thought, is how it should be, aware of color, and yet, color blind.
The question for the American people is whether they can make this odyssey that democratic delegates to the convention made; seeing Barack for who he is, neither white nor black, but a man who can be President.