Obama's speech at Invesco Field, Thursday

Whew. What a marathon the Democratic National Convention was! I'm back home now, but I owe you an in-depth description of Barack Obama's acceptance speech the last day of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, at Mile High Stadium (Invesco Field).

First, let me say how humbled and honored I was to go to the national convention. It was an amazing experience to see the political convention process and players. Thursday's convention program had headliners of entertainment and politics, including Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder, along with Al Gore and Joe Biden.

One of the most amazing moments was the introduction of 23 US generals that oppose the war in Iraq. General Wesley Clark was among them, and with all the generals lined up on the stage, it was sobering to realize how many of us that completely support our military do not support the war in Iraq.

Barack Obama began his speech with, "With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States." It hearkened back to John F. Kennedy's words when he accepted the nomination in 1960, and I looked around at the delegation to see if anyone else made the connection. Dennis McDonald did, and said to his seatmate, "That's what Kennedy said when he accepted." It was an important and grounding moment.

Obama's campaign to date has promoted change and hope, both very worthy aims to be sure; but I was most pleased to hear some more specifics on issues in his speech. Now, that's not to say that we heard a plan of action--the event wasn't for lining out in-depth plans--but Obama did speak directly to a number of issues of importance to Montanans and Americans.

Obama described how it's harder to work for a living wage, afford life's necessities, and then said, "We are a better country than this." He also said something to the effect that none of us is better than anyone else, a solid belief that was instilled in me by hard-working grandparents. I also believe that no one is above anything; anyone can wait tables, dig ditches (or firelines, like I did), or sweep; the class system that's dividing the nation and making the middle class smaller and smaller while the very rich and very poor numbers grow must be corrected. Now, I believe that what you've earned is yours, but the ability of fewer and fewer people to better their situations is critical, and not at all American. Obama spoke well to the need to improve all our lots.

Obama honored John McCain and lauded his military and political service, but said, "The record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change."

He went on to say, "I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans?"

I hear a lot about taxes when I talk to voters, especially since Bozeman has grown so much that land values have skyrocketed, and so have property taxes. I voted for property tax relief, and to eliminate the business equipment tax. I pay taxes just like everybody else, and each school mill levy, police and fire ballot initiative, and state program that needs funds, I pay into that. I'm glad to do it, because a society runs on communal effort, which is why not every home has its own fire engine. But tax breaks to the uberwealthy and to corporations who leave our shores, that's got to change.

Basically, the belief that Obama echoed is one that I've held, and you've held, for a long time. "Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work. That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."

America, and Montana, don't work if each of us is selfish, and Montanans are the most generous, hard-working, gracious, selfless people I know. I think we accomplish more than most because we will work hard without need for flattery or affectation.

Obama spoke about improving tax laws, harnessing alternative energy, funding education, changing bankruptcy laws, providing health care for all Americans, and working toward equal pay for equal work. He gave more ideas and more specifics tonight than in the past campaign speeches, and I was glad to hear it.

The most to-the-point and on-target language for me was this: "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort."

These issues are the hot-button topics that CAN divide, but we shouldn't let them. There are points of agreement on each of these issues, no matter how disparate the pro and con positions. We've spent too much time tearing each other down over single issues; now we need to find the common ground, improve what we can, and work on the hard stuff.

Obama, near the end of his speech, said, "This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend."

Stand strong, everybody. There's a new day coming, if we decide there is.

Photos of the night are here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2006367&l=b95d9&id=1002190929
and here:

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