Complex at the DNC: Obama Takes Non-Believers to Church

Barack Obama gave an electrifying endorsement of Hillary Clinton and passed the baton in an historic moment at the DNC.

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"Complex at the DNC" is a daily journal of convention events by Kevin Powell, activist, writer, and author of 'The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood.'

Wednesday, July 27

I have heard Barack Obama speak many times. I was right up front in July 2004 when he was first introduced to a national audience at the Democratic National Convention. Four years later, when I was in the middle of my own run for Congress in Brooklyn, I defied my campaign team and flew to Denver, Colorado, for all of 24 hours to hear Obama accept the Democratic presidential nomination. And in 2012, I was in Charlotte for the DNC to hear him speak again. But tonight in Philadelphia, he gave an electrifying speech: part challenge to the American people, part endorsement of nominee Hillary Clinton, and part good-bye after nearly eight years in office.

There was a different atmosphere in the arena tonight. Bernie-or-bust protesters are still pissed and some folks are holding their noses while supporting Clinton, but the convention is the hottest ticket in Philly. Tonight's line-up included former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, current Vice-President Joe Biden, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and U.S. President Barack Obama, and the arena was packed; folks had to shut down the convention floor and VIP suites.

Bloomberg took on Trump as only a fellow billionaire could, evoking laughter when he referred to Trump as a "con man" and suggested that he wasn't even a successful entrepreneur. Biden and Kaine gave equally passionate speeches extolling Clinton's virtues and blasting Trump. Kaine even cracked us up by imitating Trump's favorite phrases, "Believe me."

But we were all waiting for Obama. He's not a perfect president, and he didn't have a perfect presidency—not even close. There have been great highs (recovering economy, Obamacare victory) and devastating lows (wars that never end, increased racial violence, more mass shootings than we can count). Obama referenced all those things and more. Like pretty much every other speaker before him, Obama acknowledged Bernie Sanders, uttering "Feel the Bern." When folks started to boo at the mention of Trump, Obama responded, "Don't boo, vote."

It was one of the best speeches I've ever heard him give, and it hit me that he only has about six months left in the office—then, it's over. Obama joked about how he has aged, talked about what he's learned, showed great humility, and did what he has always been best at: highlighting what we have in common as Americans and human beings. People screamed like they were at a church revival, shouting, "Four more years!" People wept openly and continuously.

"Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me," he said. "Because you're who I was talking about twelve years ago, when I talked about hope—it's been you who've fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope."

And when Obama was finished speaking, Clinton emerged from behind the stage and they hugged. The first black president passed the baton to who we hope will be the first woman president in American history. 

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