Opening Night Called 'Awesome'
Tessie Taylor, along with all the other delegates, was holding her breath Monday night when Sen. Ted Kennedy walked onto the stage to deliver a stirring address to the Democratic National Convention.
Kennedy, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, and Michelle Obama, wife of presidential candidate Barack Obama, held the audience spellbound during the opening night of the convention in the Pepsi Center in Denver.
"God, it is so good," Taylor said Tuesday morning of Kennedy's speech. "That's exactly how I felt when he actually walked out there."
Taylor, a Moore County Democrat, is one of six delegates to the national convention from North Carolina's 6th congressional district. North Carolina has about 134 delegates at the convention.
"It was electrifying," Taylor said of the Kennedy appearance.
Taylor, who lives in Jackson Hamlet, said she and many other delegates feared that Kennedy, in weakened condition following surgery and still undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, would not be able to make the appearance. Caroline Kennedy, his niece and the only surviving child of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, introduced him as her "Uncle Teddy."
But Taylor said many in the audience were expecting Caroline Kennedy to return to the stage and report that the veteran senator from Massachusetts could not make it.
"I thought it was especially meaningful, because he is so seriously ill, that he was able to put forth this effort," Taylor said in a Tuesday morning telephone interview. "He needed to have an impact on this moment in history. I just don't have the words to describe my feelings. It was exuberance."
She called the entire Monday night program "just awesome," including the prime time address by Michelle Obama, who shared anecdotes of her courtship and marriage, and said they both come from similar backgrounds with the same values and goals.
Although the night obviously belonged to Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama, the program has a few surprises among the varied speakers. They included Obama's half-sister, Maya, an American history teacher, who told of their years growing up together in modest circumstances. Other speakers were Craig Robinson, Michelle's brother and head basketball coach at Oregon State University; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; former Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican from Iowa and an Obama supporter; and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois.
Heightening the emotion and human interest of the night was an appearance by the two Obama daughters, who joined their mother at the conclusion of her speech. They were then joined by their father by video from the campaign trail in Kansas and Iowa, where he is squeezing out a few more days before officially accepting the party nomination later this week.
Taylor said the North Carolina delegation is seated a few rows behind the Delaware delegation, which was moved to the front after Sen. Joseph Biden was selected as Obama's vice-presidential running mate.
"I got some great pictures of Joe Biden last night," Taylor said. "We're not many rows behind him."
Taylor said the North Carolina group was pleased Monday when Gov. Mike Easley showed up to attend his first national convention.
"We were awed that he showed up," she admitted of the governor who makes few public appearances.
Easley is among North Carolina's super delegates and is also committed to Obama.
However, a percentage of the state's delegates remains committed to Sen. Hillary Clinton and some apparently plan to continue pushing her candidacy.
"They tried something last night, and it didn't work," Taylor said. She described an effort by Clinton supporters to secure 15 signatures needed for a ballot for the North Carolina campaign. The group did not succeed.
Later Tuesday morning, Taylor reported that the North Carolina delegates committed to Clinton have agreed to release their votes to Obama Wednesday afternoon. Taylor said she was assured of this change by the Clinton coordinator during the daily meeting of the North Carolina delegation Tuesday.
North Carolina delegates are half and half when it comes to gender, and 49 of the 134 delegates are African American. There are three Asian Americans and two Native Americans in the state's delegation.
Taylor said that 25 percent of the overall delegates to the convention are African American, the largest representation in party history. This is significant for many reasons, but especially because Obama, if elected, will be the nation's first African American president.
Jimmy Roosevelt, grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressed the Senior Caucus, which Taylor attended Monday as her first convention duty. Roosevelt discussed efforts by the Bush presidency and Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, to privatize the Social Security System, she reported. Taylor said that Roosevelt also talked about the Obama plan to deal with such issues as the economy and education.
"We had a great day yesterday," Taylor said.
Taylor, who is attending her first national convention, also plans to take part in the African American and faith-based caucuses. She is vice-chair of Pinehurst C Democrats and is president of both the North Carolina and Moore County African American caucuses.
The convention will close Thursday night when activities will be moved to a football stadium because attendance is expected to exceed the seating capacity of the Pepsi Center. That's the night that Obama delivers his speech formally accepting the Democratic nomination for president.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story