Michelle Obama: Hubby was a persistent suitor
In an unusual start to the Democratic Convention, Michelle Obama regaled her audience with tales of Obama’s wooing.
Denver, Colorado -– She described how he wooed her and pursued her. She talked about how she finally let him buy her an ice cream. And she said his unrelenting pursuit of her would be good for the nation.
That woman was Michelle Obama, who stole the limelight and won the affection of Democratic delegates during the convention, describing husband Barack Obama as a persistent suitor in their courting days who would carry the same kind of determination into the White House.
And as she told anecdotes, she provided a rare and at times humorous glimpse into the couple’s private lives in one of the most unusual kick-offs to a major political party convention in US history.
Reflecting the importance the American electorate attaches to a candidate's spouse and family, her speech aimed to raise the personal profile of a man who was little known nationally until he addressed the 2004 Democratic convention and then was elected to the US senate.
Joined by her young daughters at the end, Michelle Obama also acquainted viewers who tuned in to the 20-minute broadcast speech with the prospect of the first African-American family in the White House.
"Millions of people ... know Barack understands their dreams, that Barack will fight for people like them and that Barack will bring finally the change we need," Obama told the 4,400 delegates gathered on opening night of the Democratic presidential nominating convention.
Michelle Obama's speech offered personal insights into the working-class background she shared with her 47-year-old husband, and emphasized how they had turned down high-paying jobs as Harvard-trained lawyers to pursue community service.
The comments appeared aimed at answering charges by Republican John McCain, who will be formally nominated next week, that Obama is an elitist. The two are locked neck and neck in the polls.
According to a videotaped prologue, the couple met when Michelle supervised an internship by Obama at her law firm. She kept turning him down for dates because she thought it inappropriate. The candidate wryly quips in the video that Michelle finally allowed him to buy her some ice cream, which showed her what kind of date he really could be.
The comment sent a ripple of laughter across the Pepsi Centre convention hall.
"What struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he'd grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine."
After their first daughter, Malia, 10, was born, Michelle Obama said her husband drove home from hospital "at a snail's pace" out of worry for his new-found charge.
In apparent reference to Obama's Kenyan father who left at an early age, Michelle said her husband was determined to give their children "something he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love."
Michelle Obama paid tribute to the "crosscurrents of history" of the women's and civil rights movements of the '60s that brought the African-American couple to the threshold of the presidency, "where the current of history meets this new tide of hope."
Those currents also brought Senator Hillary Clinton 18 million votes in the tough battle for the Democratic nomination, a feat which Michelle Obama acknowledged.
As a star attraction of her husband's campaign, Michelle Obama has drawn controversy at times, such as when she said she was proud for the first time in her life to be an American after she saw the huge response to Obama in the primary elections.
"I love this country ... I know firsthand ... that the American dream endures," she told delegates.
She said her husband was running for the presidency "to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make health care available for every American and to make sure every child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college."
The 47-year-old candidate, who is campaigning in the Midwest, will not appear until the convention's last day Thursday, when he will deliver his acceptance speech before a gathering of 75,000 at Invesco Stadium.
After her speech, Barack Obama's image loomed up on huge screens on a videophone connection from Kansas City, where he watched his wife's speech in the home of a family he met on the campaign trail.
Referring to the tale of his courtship of Michelle, Obama said the story showed he would be a "persistent president."
From the stage, Malia and Sasha, 7, joined in on the phone call.
"How do you think mom did?" the candidate asked.
"I think she did good," Sasha replied.
-- Pat Reber/Expatica