CHARLOTTE, NC — In uncompromising honesty — tinged with personal emotion and a great deal of passion — the two major speeches of the opening night of the 2012 Democratic Convention appeared to have electrified both convention goers as well as millions watching on live broadcasts.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s keynote speech to the packed audience at the Time Warner Center in Charlotte, N.C., sent a direct message to voters: “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it.”
The 37-year-old mayor is not well known outside of his native Texas and its political circles, but tonight’s address brought delegates and other attendees to their feet several times along with numerous bursts of applause.
Castro, and and his identical twin brother Joaquin, were raised by a single mother and grandmother, both immigrants from Mexico. Castro noted that his family achieved happiness and success through hard work and a good education made possible by the American dream.
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However Castro warned that GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s policies would “dismantle” the middle class if elected, eliminating the chance to achieve that dream for others, and took Romney to task for his shifting positions on issues like abortion rights, gay marriage and his own push for universal health care as governor of Massachusetts.
Watch Castro’s speech here:
Castro also said that the Romney-Ryan budget “doesn’t just pummel the middle class — it dismantles it,” he said.
“It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to respecting women’s rights, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, “No.”
Following the mayor’s well received remarks, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke after first being introduced by a short DNC-produced film, and then a heartfelt personal introduction by Elaine Brye, a self-described “military mom” from Winona, Ohio. Brye, who has four of her five children serving on active duty, each in a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, praised the First Lady’s commitment to the families of servicemembers, as well as those in the military.
In her remarks, Mrs. Obama said that her husband remains anchored by the same values he brought to the White House nearly four years ago.
“I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – no, it reveals who you are,” Michelle Obama said.
“So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles … Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it.”
Mrs. Obama delved more deeply into the details of her husband’s policies promoting his health care overhaul, push for tax cuts for middle income earners and the auto bailout. And she took on the economy, her husband’s biggest political liability, arguing that he “brought our economy back from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again.”
The First Lady underscored her belief in everyday Americans, those who struggle just to make ends meet, saying, “Every day, the people I meet inspire me… every day, they make me proud… every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.”
“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it … and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love,” she said. “And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
Earlier in the evening, delegates watched a video tribute to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died in August 2009. The video featured footage of a 1994 campaign debate between Romney and Kennedy in that year’s Massachusetts Senate race.