Pitch perfect

Michelle Obama lights up the DNC: “When they go low, we go high”

The first lady did not resile from celebrating the historic nature of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, relating it directly to the lives and aspirations of her teenage daughters — and the country’s history of slavery

Michelle Obama addresses delegates on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama delivered a passionate endorsement of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in an opening night speech that was widely hailed as “incredible,” “stunning” and one of the best political orations of a generation.

Without ever mentioning Donald Trump the undeniable star of day one of the DNC, smilingly demolished the Republican nominee’s “hateful ” and “bully” politics of division, while offering an optimistic outlook for a unified, progressive America and her children:  “Our motto is: when they go low, we go high.”

“In this election – I’m with her,” Obama said of the woman who served as her husband’s secretary of state, and who “didn’t get angry and disillusioned” when she lost the party nomination to him in 2008.

FLOTUS, in her first significant intervention in the presidential campaign, did not resile from celebrating the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy, relating it directly to the lives and aspirations of her teenage daughters — and the country’s history of slavery.

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I’ve watched my daughters, two beautiful intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters, now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States,” she said to delegates at the convention center in Philadelphia, as a clearly approving Bill Clinton watched on.

Again referencing Trump without identifying him directly, the first lady insisted: “So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!”

Some commentators said Obama’s pitch-perfect articulation of why a vote for Clinton was a vote for the “only one person” who could assume the “responsibility” and was truly qualified to be president, could even influence the outcome of the election in a tight race.

“When I think about the kind of president I want for my girls and for all children, that’s who I want,” Obama said. “I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues that a president tackles are not black or white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.

“Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions,” she added. “You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady, and measured, and well-informed.”

The picture Obama painted of the Democratic nominee was just the medicine the party needed on a turbulent day overshadowed by widening fallout from the hacked internal party emails scandal, and open chanting and heckling of successive speakers — though not FLOTUS —  from the delegate floor by vocal Bernie Sanders supporters.

“See, I trust Hillary to lead this country because I’ve seen her lifelong devotion to our nation’s children, not just her own daughter, who she has raised to perfection … but every child who needs a champion, kids who take the long way to school to avoid the gangs, kids who wonder how they’ll ever afford college, kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but dream of a better life, kids who look to us to determine who and what they can be.

“You see, Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless, thankless work to actually make a difference in their lives…”

In a seeming message aimed at the disaffected Sanders camp, smarting over revelations high-level Democrats tried to privilege Clinton’s candidacy, Obama said of the candidate’s own experience of losing the primary race eight years ago: “Hillary did not pack up and go home because, as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments. She proudly stepped up again to serve as secretary of state …

“There were plenty of moments when Hillary could have decided that this work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being picked apart for how she looks or how she talks or even how she laughs…what I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life.”

Across the political spectrum, political observers recognized the exceptional nature of Obama’s oratory, for a woman who has already won high praise for her public speaking skills. The Atlantic’s James Fallows compared Obama to several DNC historical “greats” — among them Barack Obama’s career-changing 2004 convention speech for John Kerry and Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Obama in 2012. Commentary’s John Podhoretz marveled at the speechwriting skills. Praise poured in for Sarah Hurwitz — the speechwriter who has worked for Obama for the past seven years. The 38 year-old graduate of Harvard told The Washington Post in June that when she is in front of her computer she wears noise-blocking headphones and imagines the First Lady’s voice in her head.

Watch Michelle Obama’s full speech to the Democratic National Convention:

Related:

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz announces resignation, booed at rowdy delegation breakfast

Follow Hillary Clinton’s youngest delegate as she reports from the Convention floor

Hillary Clinton selects Senator Tim Kaine as running mate

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