Hillary Clinton delivered her historic acceptance speech to the Democratic convention Thursday night, laying out a case for a Clinton presidency in stark contrast in tone and substance to last week’s Donald Trump speech at the Republican convention in Cleveland.
In a public life that’s spanned nearly 50 years, this was the most important speech Clinton has ever given, as she officially became the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party.
Eight years after she gave a milestone speech endorsing then-Sen. Barack Obama for president, Clinton took to the Philadelphia stage to lay out a history-centered case for her presidency: “Our founders knew that we are stronger together.”
“When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for all,” she said. “After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
Following an introduction by her daughter Chelsea, Clinton called the 2016 election “a moment of reckoning.”
Clinton reserved some of her most pointed language to take digs directly at Trump, wasting precious little time before taking on the Republican nominee.
“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Just as Trump has used late President Ronald Reagan’s “Make America great again” line as his campaign slogan, Clinton echoed Reagan’s words to take the wind out of Trump’s sails.
“He’s taken the Republican party a long way, from morning in America to midnight in America. He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.”
Mocking Trump’s penchant for getting into spats on Twitter, Clinton criticized Trump’s thin skin for critics, whom he regularly derides in 140 characters or fewer.
“A man you can bait with a tweet,” Clinton said, “is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Even as she highlighted her life story, Clinton took made reference to Trump.
“The family I’m from, well, no one had their name on big buildings,” Clinton said.
In many ways, she aimed for optimism in the face of an increasingly negative presidential campaign.
“We will rise to the challenge just as we always have,” she said. “We will not build a wall. Instead we will build an economy where anyone who wants a good job can get one. And we will build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrant who are already contributing to our economy. We will not ban a religion. We will work with all nations to fight and defeat terrorism.”
The video that preceded Clinton’s speech focused heavily on her role as U.S. senator from New York during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in Manhattan, fighting for funding for first responders and helping survivors move on to the rest of their lives.
The video and speech predictably skipped of her vote for the Iraq War. That vote is one of the biggest moments of her career and a self-described “mistake” that played a big role in her 2008 primary loss and which still keeps many American voters from coming to her side.
Clinton evoked her hawkish side Thursday night, with vows of “defeating ISIS” and allusions to U.S. drone strikes.
“I’ve laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS,” Clinton said. “We will strike their sanctuaries from the air, and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so that we detect and prevent attacks before they happen.”
She directly linked her candidacy to the presidency of Obama, whom she said does not get nearly enough credit for “saving us from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
Clinton criticized the consistent and profound lack of detail offered up by Trump. She put forth an argument that Democrats and her presidency would be a boon for the American middle class.
“I’ve gone around the country talking to working families, and I’ve heard from many who feel the economy sure isn’t working for them. Some of you are frustrated, even furious. And you know what? You’re right. Americans are willing to work and work hard. America isn’t working the way it should. And right now an awful lot of people feel like there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them period. Democrats, we are the party of working people. But we haven’t done a good enough job showing that we get what you’re going through and we’re going to do something to help.”
Addressing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), directly, Clinton thanked her primary adversary for inspiring millions of Americans, particularly the young people, she said, “who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.”
“You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center where they belong,” Clinton told the Vermont senator, who endorsed her candidacy less than three weeks ago and drew to a close to one the most quarrelsome rivalries in the modern history of the Democratic Party. Turning to Sanders’ supporters, whose raucous outbursts have bestrewn the otherwise polished convention, Clinton said: “I want you to know I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”
“Our country needs your ideas, energy and passion,” said Clinton, imploring those who backed Sanders to aid in rendering what many have hailed as the “most progressive” platform in the party’s 188 years. “We wrote it together,” she said, “now let’s go out and happen together.”