DENVER—Invoking the iconic images of John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama promised to lead America to a new era of prosperity, peace, and conciliation as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night before a jubilant crowd of 80,000 at Invesco Field.
"Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story—of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to," said Obama, the first African-American to become the presidential standard-bearer of a major political party.
'It is that promise that's always set this country apart—that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well."
The crowd, which filled the mammoth football stadium to the rafters, burst into joyful ovation when Obama emerged from behind a series of faux columns reminiscent of the White House and walked briskly to the podium, waving and smiling broadly. Thousands waved American flags and many carried signs bearing Obama's slogan, "Yes We Can." Before he appeared, many danced to a recording of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," and the good-natured crowd did a few credible renditions of the wave as they awaited Obama's arrival.
Even if he fails to reach the White House, Obama's political ascent has been a remarkable achievement not only for an individual but also for a culture and a country. Forty-five years ago, Obama would have been denied the right to vote and consigned to second-class citizenship in much of the nation. Yet he stood Thursday night one step away from the highest office in the land.
Locked in a tight race with Republican John McCain, Obama sought to address the fundamental issue on the minds of most voters—the economy. "Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less," he told his cheering supporters on a clear, cool summer night where the Denver Broncos football team usually plays. "More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet," Obama said. "More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that is beyond your reach. These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed presidency of George W. Bush."
McCain would provide more of the same, said Obama, and pointed out that the Arizona senator voted for Bush policies 90 percent of the time.
Obama promised to "cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families," eliminate capital gains taxes for many small businesses and start-up companies, reduce and reform the federal bureaucracy, and set a goal of ending America's dependence on oil from the Mideast in 10 years.
Seeking to reassure voters about one of his biggest vulnerabilities—the lack of national-security experience—he derided the idea, promoted by McCain and the Republicans, that he would be a risky choice to be commander-in-chief. "We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy," he said. "So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans—Democrats and Republicans—have built, and we are here to restore that legacy."
He pledged to end the Iraq war "responsibly," "finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan," and emphasize diplomacy wherever possible to achieve America's goals around the world.
And, referring to critics who have questioned his patriotism, he said, "I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America—they have served the United States of America. So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."
Obama's conclusion paid homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during a civil-rights march on Washington 45 years to the day of Obama's acceptance speech.
"The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things," the Democratic nominee said. "They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred. But what the people heard instead—people of every creed and color, from every walk of life—is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked—that together, our dreams can be one."