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Recalling Barack Obama’s 2004 speech before the Democratic National Convention

Michelle (left) and Barack Obama waved to delegates on the evening Barack Obama spoke before the 2004 Democratic National Convention.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

Many voters’ introduction to Barack Obama was on July 27, 2004, when he gave the keynote address on the second night of the Democratic National Convention at what is now TD Garden in Boston. Also speaking that night was the late US Senator Ted Kennedy. Below is former Globe reporter Glen Johnson’s story from the July 28, 2004, editions of The Boston Globe:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy took center stage last night at the Democratic National Convention, accusing President Bush of squandering the good will that flowed to America following the Sept. 11 attacks, making the world more dangerous for the country, and inspiring fear among its citizens.


The Massachusetts Democrat said the man who now holds the office once held by his late brother, President Kennedy, seeks to "divide and conquer" the American public, and likened the challenge facing voters in November to that facing the colonists who fought for liberty from the British monarchy of King George III more than 200 years ago.

"The colonists knew they could do better, just as we know we can do better today," Kennedy said, effectively passing the stewardship of the party to Kerry, the man who has served as his junior senator for 20 years. "Now, it is for us, the patriots of this new century, to do that, to shape our own better future and make it worthy of our past, to choose a leader worthy of our country — and that leader is John Kerry."

The second night of a convention programmed to emphasize Kerry's record delved into harsher criticism of the Bush administration, with defeated presidential contender Howard Dean and Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of the presumptive nominee, stepping on the podium after Kennedy.

The audience erupted in cheers for the convention's keynote speaker, Barack Obama, the Democrat Party's Senate candidate in Illinois. Taking aim at "'spinmeisters' and negative-ad peddlers," he said, "I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's a United States of America."


With more than 100 of his relatives looking on from a reserved section, Kennedy, 72, gave what amounted to a valedictory address, telling the delegates, "I've waited a very, very long time to say this: Welcome to my hometown."

But the family patriarch quickly turned serious, contrasting Bush with Kerry, who will be crowned the party's presidential nominee tomorrow night. "John is a war hero who understands that America's strength comes from many sources, especially the power of ideas," he said. "He knows that a true leader inspires hope and vanquishes fear. This administration does neither. Instead, it brings fear."

The speech also included a section devoted to the Iraqi war, which Kerry voted to authorize but Kennedy strongly opposed. The senator was eager to voice his opposition anew before the delegates and a TV audience, but the Kerry campaign has excised most anti-Bush rhetoric from this week's speeches in an effort to avoid alienating moderate voters.

Nonetheless, Kennedy persisted, and went on to lament what he said was a lost opportunity to rally global support in the war against terrorism following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the worst acts of terrorism on US soil.

"How could any president have possibly squandered the enormous good will that flowed to America from across the world after September 11th," Kennedy asked.


"We should have honored, not ignored, the pledges we made," he said. "We should have strengthened, not scorned, the alliances that won two world wars and the Cold War. Most of all, we should have honored the principle so fundamental that our nation's founders placed it in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence - that America must give 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,"' he said. "We failed to do that in Iraq."

Following his speech, Kennedy was feted at Symphony Hall by his longtime political supporters. Among the entertainers was Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

During his turn on the podium, Dean indirectly referred to his time atop the polls last year, when he appeared headed toward winning the nomination. "I was hoping for a reception like this. I was just hoping that it would be on Thursday night, instead of on Tuesday night," he joked after extended applause.

The former Vermont governor, who rode a crest of antiwar sentiment to emerge as Kerry's most bitter primary rival, rattled off a list of reasons why he now supported Kerry, including "a foreign policy that relies on telling the truth to the American people before we send our brave American soldiers to fight in foreign lands."

Heinz Kerry used her speaking slot to trace the arc of her life from a childhood in the African nation of Mozambique to motherhood and her naturalization as an American following her marriage to the late Republican senator H. John Heinz III.


She also vouched for her current husband, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, saying: "John is a fighter. He earned his medals the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line for his country.

"No one will defend this nation more vigorously than he will - and he will always be first in the line of fire. But he also knows the importance of getting it right." she said. "For him, the names of too many friends inscribed in the cold stone of the Vietnam Memorial testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength."

Ron Reagan, the son of the 40th president, Republican Ronald Reagan, spoke to the delegates about what he said were the dangers of Bush policies limiting stem cell research.

"A few of you may be surprised to see someone with my last name showing up to speak at a Democratic convention. Let me assure you, I am not here to make a political speech, and the topic at hand should not, must not, have anything to do with partisanship," he said in his prepared greeting to the audience.

By the time he signed off, though, he outlined what he viewed as the stakes on Nov. 2, Election Day.

"We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity," Reagan said. "We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology. This is our moment, and we must not falter."


The Bush-bashing prompted debate amongst delegates. Some feared Democrats could be labeled overly negative. But others said both men could serve a valuable role of shoring up the anti-war Democratic base and articulating a critique of Bush in a vocal and energizing fashion.

"The focus of the convention should be positive," said Beverly Fazio, 68, of Indiana, Pa.

But one fervent Kerry supporter said Democrats should be happy to let Kennedy be Kennedy and Dean be Dean — with Bush as their target.

"I don't think it's Bush-bashing to talk about his record. The American people want too know what Bush has done," said Roland Garcia, 45, of Houston. "People don't want to hear whining and name-calling, but his record is fair game."

Meanwhile, Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, continued their journeys toward Boston. Edwards arrived from Raleigh, N.C., after a visit to the grave of his late son, Wade. Kerry is scheduled to arrive today just before noon, taking a water shuttle from Logan International Airport to the Charlestown Navy Yard for a rally. He will be joined by his Vietnam crewmates.

Excerpts from Obama’s speech:

“My father was . . . born and raised in a small village in Kenya. . . . [M]y mother . . . was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas . . . I stand here today . . . knowing that . . . in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. . . .

“That is the true genius of America . . . that we can tuck in our children at night and know they are . . . safe from harm. . . . That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted or at least, most of the time. . . .

“Now, even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. . . . The pundits like to slice and dice our country into . . . Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red

“Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or . . . a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. . . . It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs . . . the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta.”

Watch: Obama’s speech