Last week was quite an emotional one for me as I attended the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) as a delegate for Hillary Clinton. Each day invoked a powerful theme of our collective values as Americans and how we all deserve a chance to live up to our God-given potential. A simple but powerful overarching message was conveyed – bridges are better than walls and we are stronger together when we all share in the opportunity of the American Dream.
Day 1 – Putting Families First – Michelle Obama delivered one of the best speeches of the convention by reflecting on what it was like raising two African American girls in the White House and what it would mean to see a woman become the next president. Our own Cory Booker then declared that our best days are yet to come.
Day 2 – Roll Call Vote – I was honored to be part of the New Jersey delegation and cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I listened to the Mothers of the Movement hold back their tears as they spoke about the tragic deaths of their children while chants of “black lives matter’ erupted in the hall. President Bill Clinton mesmerized us all with “herstory” as he gave us an intimate glimpse of Hillary as a proven change maker in a way that only he can deliver.
Day 3 – A Trifecta – Vice President Joe Biden, aka “Middle Class Joe,” brought down the house when he told us Trump doesn’t have a clue about the middle class as we all began to chant, “Not a clue.” Next up was our introduction to Tim Kaine, a fighter for social justice all his life who offered remarks in both English and Spanish. The grand finale – President Barack Obama panning Trump and making an appeal for Hillary with the now classic line, “Don’t boo, vote.” He also implored us to reject fear and elect Hillary.
Other memorable speakers like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren fired up the crowd while Michael Bloomberg gave a resounding endorsement to Hillary, stating, “I’m a New Yorker and New Yorkers know a con when they see one,” and calling Trump a dangerous demagogue.
Star power shined in between with Carole King, Paul Simon, Alicia Keyes, Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham and voices from Broadway.
However, the most moving and powerful were the voices of everyday Americans across the country sharing their heartfelt stories and experiences – a widow of a police officer, a mother who works two jobs to pay off her kids’ student loans, a grandmother raising her grandson because his parents are drug addicts, a young undocumented girl living in fear of deportation, and a young woman overcoming her physical disability who was able to ultimately dance at her wedding. But the most moving that brought tears to everyone was the now famous story of Khizar Khan, the father of Humayan, a Muslim Army Captain who was killed in Iraq. He asked Donald Trump if he has ever even read the U.S. Constitution, and questioned what he knows about sacrifice.
This is America and I could not be more proud to be an American.
Day 4 – A day I have been waiting for since 1984 when I heard the words, “I am Geraldine Ferraro” – Hillary accepts the nomination for President of the United States of America! Chelsea Clinton, a proud daughter introduces her mother. While I sat there as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I could not help but think of my mother and grandmother – strong women and role models in my life – and how proud I was of them. I identified first with Hillary as she wished her own mother could be there with her, and how I wished my mother could witness this historic evening with me as well. I also identified with Chelsea as I remembered my mother telling me to be strong and encouraging me to never quit or give up my dreams, and then reading “Good Night Moon” to my daughters as I hugged them to sleep and wished them sweet dreams.
I was so filled with emotion I could not breathe and I know everyone in that convention center felt the same. How I wish I could have shared this night with my mother. I remember when she met Hillary in 2008 and she said to her, “I want to see a woman president in my lifetime.” I remember Hillary’s smile as if to say, “Yes, it will happen one day!” Well, there is less than 100 days left, and although my mother suffers from Alzheimer’s, I know Hillary won’t let her down.
Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Valerie Vainieri Huttle is the assemblywoman from the 37th District.