Magazine article Variety

Memories of Philadelphia May Long Endure

Magazine article Variety

Memories of Philadelphia May Long Endure

Article excerpt

THE 2016 DEMOCRATIC National Convention will go down in history as the one in which Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominated for president by a major political party.

This veteran journalist won't soon forget being there to see a powerful woman stand in the same place where FDR and JFK and even William Jennings Bryan stood. You didn't have to be a Democrat, or a woman, or even an American to feel that the world had changed forever.

That may be what I remember most about this, my ninth political convention. But it may not be. Because there was also the soaring rhetoric of Michelle and Barack Obama, bringing us back to the audacity of hope, to our highest aspirations, and to 2008, another moment when a political convention and a general election made history.

And there was the golden oratory of Bill Clinton, the happy old warrior pulling one more hugely ingratiating speech from somewhere in his politician's soul. The 42nd president whispered. He roared. He made us believe how much he still loves Hillary. And he probably even convinced a few skeptics that they should love (or at least vote for) her, too.

The primetime memories of Philadelphia will not soon dim. But on the flight home to Los Angeles, they were crowded in my mind with other sounds and images.

The Rev. William J. Barber II, a Protestant minister in North Carolina, got the convention rocking on Thursday night, well before Clinton's historic acceptance speech. In rising volume and spiraling cadences, he described how Trump had put democracy on life-support with his gloom-and-doom prophecies and his slams on immigrants and Muslims. Barber urged Americans to vote, and to return the U.S. to the true spirit of "a brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew named Jesus Christ." He described our need to become "moral defibrillators," prepared to shock the heart of America back into the proper rhythm after the damage Trump had done.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was one in a parade of Republicans and former Republicans who said they would vote for a Democrat for the first time ever in their fervor to defeat Trump. After Trump's dystopian message from Cleveland a week earlier, the Democrats pounded away again and again that America is "better together."

Sometimes events around the periphery of political conventions leave the biggest impressions. I could hardly tell you what happened at my first: the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego. The most memorable thing might have been the fireworks show put on by The San Diego Union-Tribune. Newspapers were then in their heyday, and the U-T could afford to put $1 million of pyrotechnics into the night sky.

I know that the lingering memories of last week will be small moments, the intangibles that make each political house party its own. Philly 2016 was all about steamy weather and thundershowers that seemed timed to descend every time we had to make the half-mile walk from the security perimeter to the front doors of the Wells Fargo Arena.

The 80% humidity and repeated downpours had even the most well-coiffed TV hosts scrambling for makeovers. And there was the tall, gangly busker with a row of missing teeth who stood on a downtown street corner and delivered a rendition of "Amazing Grace" as sweet as any A1 Green ever laid down.

I shared a late-night dinner with attorney Gloria Allred and heard how, as a woman who had married and had a child before she graduated from college, she never dreamed she would go on to finish near the top of her law school class. …

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