Michelle Obama Stresses Barack's Working Class Credentials in Speech; INTERNATIONAL

Article excerpt

Democrat Barack Obama offers "new hope" for America and would make an "extraordinary president", his wife and party leaders said yesterday.

Michelle Obama used stories from her life to emphasise her husband's American values and that he understood what the United States needs - despite his exotic name.

US Senator Edward Kennedy, the sole surviving son of America's most celebrated political dynasty, said the 47-year-old Illinois senator offered "new hope" and America would "scale the heights" under Obama's leadership.

Liberal heavyweight Mr Kennedy, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in May, said "nothing, nothing" was going to keep him from the convention.

But the opening night of the Democratic National Convention lacked criticism of President George Bush or Obama's Republican rival John McCain. It was a soft introduction to Obama, his life, values, and aims.

In a prime-time television address, carried live by US networks, Mrs Obama, 44, said she believed her husband would be "an extraordinary president".

She used her most high profile speech to expose details of Obama's personal story and to introduce the man she married to America.

"What struck me when I first met Barack was even though he had this funny name, and had grown up across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine," she said.

Mrs Obama recalled her husband carefully driving her home from hospital after the birth of her first daughter, Malia, and that he was determined to give her "something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father's love".

Both Malia, 10 and Sasha, seven, joined their mother on the stage.

Mrs Obama emphasised her husband, who has struggled to attract support from working class Americans, was raised by working class grandparents; she told voters focused on the troubled economy his family had struggled to pay bills; and she said their families had the same values, a belief in truth and honesty, and "you can make it if you try". …