Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nod with historic speech met with tears, pride
Clinton gave biggest speech of her life in becoming 1st woman to lead a major party in U.S. presidential race
Hillary Clinton delivered the biggest speech of her life Thursday night, and when she spoke these 10 words, she made history: "I accept your nomination for president of the United States."
Never before has a woman made that statement at a major party convention in the United States.
The crowd inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, on the final day of the Democratic National Convention, erupted in applause and waved mini-American flags and placards with Clinton's slogan "Stronger Together."
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"I'm so happy this day has come," Clinton said in noting the milestone she had reached, the barrier she had broken down, the glass ceiling she had cracked.
But she didn't spend too long on her entry into the history books. Clinton had other ground to cover in this all-important speech that was aimed not just at Democrats in the room, but millions of Americans watching at home. Declaring that the United States is at a "moment of reckoning," she urged Americans to reject fear and offered them an optimistic vision. Clinton promised to be a president for all Americans, whether they voted for her or not.
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She acknowledged that although she has lived in the public eye for decades and held high-profile positions, "some people just don't know what to make of me." So she sought to explain herself — not just what she's done, but why. She talked about her family and the lessons she learned from her parents while growing up.
Clinton hit a home run, strategist said
She laid out her specific plans and her principles, telling voters what she believes in, and drew repeated contrasts between herself and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. At times, she did that with crowd-pleasing lines that fired them up.
"Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis: A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons," she quipped.
Democratic strategist Craig Varoga said it was an effective speech.
"She hit the ball out of the ballpark," he said by phone."It did a very good job of connecting her values to her positions and then contrasting both her values and positions with Trump," he said.
She took on Trump, but not with the pithy insults such as the ones he uses, said Varoga, and her speech as a whole was "a roadmap" for the next 100 or so days until the election in November.
Delivering soaring speeches in huge arenas in front of thousands of people is not Clinton's forté. But Varoga said she seemed genuinely relaxed and happy, and that translated to the crowd, who left the final night of the convention energized.
"You really got the sense they were pumped to go home to their 50 states and to work for her," he said.
Maryscott Greenwood, who worked at the American Embassy in Ottawa under President Bill Clinton and is now a Washington-based strategist, said via email that conventions are like the Olympics of politics.
"Hillary just won gold," said Greenwood, who was in Philadelphia.
Greenwood said it was hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the evening and that she watched her friend with pride.
"Now the hard work of the general election begins in earnest," she wrote.
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Tom D'Angora has already been working for Clinton for months as an outreach coordinator on LGBTQ issues in New York City. He had a front row seat for the speech last night and called it "brilliant."
"She's been my hero for longer than I can remember," the theatre producer said. "For her to accept the nomination I think it was the most exciting thing I've ever witnessed."
I was in the midst of the balloon drop, as you can see pic.twitter.com/szAAtphVai— @fitzpatrick_m
D'Angora is somewhat of a superfan. His socks had Clinton's face on them, and his custom-made Nike shoes had her initials embossed in gold. Even his wallet is custom, with photos of Clinton on it.
He liked that Clinton mentioned specific ideas, and one of his favourite parts of the speech was when Clinton "doubled down" on gun control, he said. She told voters she does not intend to take away their guns — she just wants to ensure they don't get killed by people who shouldn't have them. She promised to work tirelessly to pass common sense gun laws and the audience reacted with loud applause.
"I think it was her strongest soundbite to date on that," said D'Angora.
Clinton thanks Sanders voters
Another moment that attracted cheering was when Clinton thanked her former Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, who is now backing her, and told him and his supporters: "I want you to know I have heard you. Your cause is our cause."
Samantha Herring, a Sanders delegate from Florida, appreciated the outreach.
"I thought she did a great job bringing us together," Herring said after the speech.
Next to her, Kira Willis was having a harder time offering unconditional praise for Clinton. She does plan on voting for her, but the passionate Sanders supporter is still emotional about his loss.
"It was a really great speech and I just hope she means what she says," said Willis, clutching a teddy bear for support. She brought it after reading an article that said the stuffed toys can reduce stress. She cried, not tears of joy, during Clinton's speech. "I'm drained, I'm emotional," she said.
Juda Yuen was also overcome with emotion, but in a good way. When Clinton finished speaking, and the balloons and confetti rained down on the convention-goers below, the journalist was wiping away tears.
"It was just really overwhelming," Yuen said, noting that Clinton came across as competent and presidential.
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"I never thought I would see this," she said about the gender barrier Clinton broke Thursday night. "I just felt really proud."
The pressure, the stakes and the bar were all high for Clinton, particularly considering the strong speeches that preceded her throughout the week by her husband, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.
The opportunity to reach millions of voters was one Clinton could not afford to waste and according to Varoga, she didn't. Clinton listed off a series of policy positions on health care, the economy, trade and other issues, and told Americans if they share those beliefs, regardless of their party affiliation, if any, "This is your campaign."
"Join us," she implored.
That was a telling moment, said Varoga, and it's a strategy he expects Clinton to continue with while campaigning. There is an opportunity to build a coalition of voters that includes moderate Republicans, independents, and Sanders supporters who aren't yet on board with her, he said.
Hecklers drowned out
Lucia Baez, a Florida teacher who was on the convention floor, said Clinton hit the mark in her appeal to voters beyond the arena.
"She was inspiring and unifying to all of us," she said in between taking photos of the scene around her. "Not Democrats, not Republicans, but us as a human race, as people who need to work together to keep us strong.
"This was beyond this room and the effects of this speech will go on throughout the rest of the campaign," Baez said excitedly.
Clinton's speech concluded a convention that started with doubts about whether the party would coalesce, but it finished with a sense of unity — for the most part. There were a few hecklers during Clinton's speech, shouting things like "No more war," which were met with loud chants of "Hillary" and "U-S-A!"
There were a few people holding up "Jill Stein" signs for the Green Party leader who has become a Plan B for some Sanders supporters.
But there were also people holding signs reading "Ladies Night" and "A woman's place is in the White House."
The mood in the arena was celebratory, but Democrats left with a sense of determination and ready to fight for Clinton's victory over Trump. Heather Steinmiller said she won't rest easy until Clinton is sworn in as the 45th president.
"Tonight is a small crack in the glass ceiling, but it's not until her hand is on that Bible that it will actually be shattered," said Steinmiller. "We are here to witness history, but also to begin our fight until November."
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