On the first night of the Democratic National Congress 2012, the women speakers set a strong tone for the week. Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, made a powerful appeal to women voters. “Don’t assume that women know the truth about Mitt Romney,” she said, making a strong case that reelecting Obama is the only way to safeguard women’s health and women’s reproductive rights.
Pulling together, heroism, and hard work were recurrent themes, demonstrated most clearly in a speech by Tammy Duckworth, Democratic House Candidate in Illinois. One of the first Army women to fly combat missions in Iraq, Duckworth revealed her moving personal story, starting with her immigrant mother and ending with her service in the armed forces, in which she sacrificed both legs for the cause of her country. Her elegance and confidence yielded received a standing ovation.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, outlined the key benefits of Obamacare, focusing on the ways in which the Affordable Care Act protects children and senior citizens and ends discrimination against women. “Being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition,” said Sebelius. She was followed by Arizona mother Stacey Lihn, who brought many in the audience to tears speaking about how the Affordable Care Act, which forbids lifetime caps on health care, has eased her concerns about caring for her chronically ill child.
Alabama native Lily Ledbetter, namesake of the Fair Pay Act of 2009, spoke passionately about equal pay in a country where women still earn only about 70 cents to each dollar earned by men. “Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account,” Ledbetter said, in one of many of the night’s references to Romney’s monied background. But the pennies add up, Ledbetter continued, and they make a difference to working families to pay for the little things and the big things.
As for the big speaker of the night? I don’t have enough words to describe my deep admiration for First Lady Michelle Obama, but I’ll try to select a few: Rousing. Elegant. Heartfelt and utterly sincere. And there is no better advocate for the American people, or for Barack Obama. She sums up the reason I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and the reason that I still believe in the Obamas as our First Family:
“When you’ve worked hard and done well,” Michelle said, “and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
Come November, I know what I’m going to do to keep the door open—and what you can, too.