Hillary Clinton at the DNC: ‘Barack Obama is my candidate’

(Photo/Jason Kosena)

(Photo/Jason Kosena)

For all the hoopla about the sometimes-termed “embittered” New York Sen. Hillary Clinton hijacking the Democratic National Convention, the erstwhile presidential candidate embraced Barack Obama during her 25-minute speech at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.

“Barack Obama is my candidate,” said Clinton, to cheers. “And he must be our president.”

Clinton’s speech, coming at 8:45 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time to a packed the convention hall, was the most anticipated of the evening; media and guests spilled out into the corridors of the main arena. “Hillary” and “Obama” signs dotted the floor, while others carried “Unity” posters, a rhetorical touch in light of Clinton’s message.

“Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines,” said Clinton.

She also indirectly appealed to her most inflexible supporters, those who say they’ll support Republican John McCain rather than see Clinton’s one-time combatant take office.

“I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him,” she said, referring to a sick soldier she had spoken of earlier in the speech — a man who had urged Clinton during her own quest to take care of his friends still in Iraq and Afghanistan before himself.

Clinton, who had been touted as a potential vice presidential pick, also praised Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who has curried favor with some high-profile feminists for his work to stop violence against women.

But while Clinton’s prime-time speech echoed Obama’s call for change in the White House, the senator nudged the presumptive nominee to remember the work that had come before them.

Clinton highlighted the efforts of suffragettes in Seneca Falls, N.Y., who gathered in 1848 for the first convention on women’s rights in U.S. history. And she gave tribute to abolitionist Harriett Tubman, whose message to “keep going” should remind Americans that “we’re not big on quitting.” Both allusions garnered wild applause.

Clinton also honored her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency, saying, “When Barack Obama is in the White House, he’ll revitalize our economy, defend the working people of America, and meet the global challenges of our time. Democrats know how to do this. As I recall, President Clinton and the Democrats did it before. And President Obama and the Democrats will do it again.”

Though the theme of Tuesday’s convention proceedings was “Renewing America’s Promise,” Clinton spoke very broadly on ending the war, improving the economy and fixing health care, and opted mainly to plug for Obama and a new White House regime.

Even so, Clinton, 60, has an impressive history of working for middle-class Americans. Here’s a brief look at her past:

Born in Chicago, Ill, in 1947, she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she pledged herself to the Democratic Party after a brief stint as a Republican. She later received her J.D. degree from Yale Law School and worked as a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund.

In 1978, Clinton became First Lady of Arkansas when her husband was elected as the state’s governor. She solidified her reputation as an outspoken and involved First Lady, chairing the state’s Rural Health Advisory Committee as well as the Educational Standards Committee, while at the same time becoming the first woman to make full partner at the Rose Law Firm.

When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, Hillary Clinton spearheaded the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, which failed to instigate major policy changes. She later initiated the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal project to provide underprivileged children with state health care. She launched, and won, a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, and won re-election in 2006.

Clinton announced her run for the presidency in 2007. As the first female contender to come close to securing the presidential nomination, her candidacy opened a dialogue on sexism in the media and in politics. During her campaign, Clinton focused on working families and education, calling for relief for the nation’s housing crisis and more teachers in hard-to-serve areas.

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Naomi Zeveloff

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