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As Hillary Clinton makes history, Bill reflects on their journey

Clinton shatters “glass ceiling” of male presidents in convention video
Clinton shatters "glass ceiling" of male presidents in convention video

PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party on Tuesday, a historic moment marked by an emotional speech from Bill Clinton, who told an intimate story of how they fell in love and built a remarkable political partnership.

The night was about Hillary Clinton, and the former president chronicled his wife’s accomplishments from working to end housing discrimination to launching a children’s advocacy group in Arkansas to negotiating peace deals as secretary of state.

“She’s a good organizer, and she is the best darn change-maker I’ve ever met in my life,” Bill Clinton said. “Some people say ‘Well, we need change. She’s been around a long time.’ She sure has, and she’s been worth every single year she’s put into making people’s lives better.”


Clinton started his speech with a simple narrative description — “I met a girl’’ — and described their courtship at Yale Law School in 1971. He said he asked her to walk to an art museum.

‘‘We’ve been walking and talking and laughing together ever since,’’ he said.

Clinton never once mentioned Republican standard-bearer Donald Trump by name, but made multiple references to him, including his comments mocking the disabled.

He also made a somewhat defensive pitch to progressives who’ve been slow to embrace his wife’s candidacy and were still protesting her nomination outside the arena.

“Real change is hard and a lot of people even think it’s boring,” Clinton said. “Speeches like this are fun. Actually doing the work is hard.”

Hillary Clinton unexpectedly spoke to the convention live via a video feed from New York, saying “We just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”

Addressing girls listening she said: “I may become the first woman president. But one of you is next.”


Bill Clinton delivers personal speech in support of Hillary
Bill Clinton delivers personal speech in support of Hillary

Hours before Bill Clinton spoke, the Democratic delegates gathered at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia officially voted to nominate Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee for president.

Gone was much of the acrimony from Monday evening, when the mere mention of her name elicited a chorus of heckling. Instead, when Senator Bernie Sanders took the microphone and requested that Clinton be nominated by acclamation, the crowd roared in a display of party strength.

‘‘I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,’’ said Sanders, Clinton’s chief rival, after a representative from every state read out the delegate count from a lengthy season of primaries and caucuses.

On a big night for women’s rights, however, the biggest draw was a keynote speech from a man: Bill Clinton.

The 42nd president of the United State focused his remarks on his relationship with Hillary Clinton, essentially telling their love story to an audience of millions.

“In the spring of 1971 I met a girl,” Bill Clinton opened, after walking on stage to deafening cheers. “She had thick blond hair, glasses. No makeup.”

“I was so impressed,” he said. “Momentarily I was speechless.”

Clinton walked the audience step-by-step through the course of their romance — including that he proposed to her three times before she finally agreed to marry him.

“I married my best friend,” Clinton said. He said that he hopes she made the right choice to follow him to Arkansas and put his career ahead of her’s.


He wove in some of the intimate details of their lives and personal anecdotes — the types that were missing from the speeches last week from Trump’s family members about the Republican nominee. One family tale: Hillary Clinton’s disapproval that he watched all six “Police Academy” movies back-to-back with their daughter, Chelsea.

Bill Clinton’s moment on the stage at the Wells Fargo Center was also a reminder of the historic role he might yet play: America’s first first gentleman.

“I keep thinking about how satisfying this moment must be for the Clintons,” said Susan Swain, who recently published a book chronicling the lives and roles of the country’s first ladies.

“This is the culmination of a 42-year political partnership for them,” she said, noting that their shared political journey began when then-Hillary Rodham ditched her influential job as a Washington lawyer to follow her then boyfriend to Arkansas, where he wanted to run for Congress.

“The two of them have been each others’ closest political advisers ever since,” she said.

Should Hillary Clinton win the White House, Bill Clinton would have access to the West Wing staff that has steadily grown in size over the years, Swain said. He wouldn’t have a dedicated plane — there’s no first lady’s Air Force One — but he would have access to the White House fleet of airplanes.

The first spouse frequently fulfills what is often considered a frivolous role of selecting flatware, approving menus for state dinners and redecorating portions of the historic home the family occupies. It’s difficult to imagine Bill Clinton in that role, and Swain said there’s precedent for another family member to step in for ceremonial duties: cue Chelsea Clinton.


But before the Clinton clan can start divvying up White House responsibilities, there’s a general election for them to win.

Insiders say Bill Clinton, known as the Democratic Party’s best salesman, will be part of an effort to persuade Americans, who polls show are deeply distrustful of his wife, that they should vote for her.

“A spouse is just exceptionally credible and effective as a surrogate and can talk about the candidate in a way few can,” asked Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House. “He can do that, plus he’s a former president. He brings a double credibility to it, which we’ve never seen before.’’

He also bears considerable political baggage. He has a history of affairs that humiliated his wife and his past behavior is already a topic Trump uses to taunt the Clintons.

And there’s the now unpopular Bill Clinton-era policies of de-regulating large financial institutions and an anti-crime bill that liberal activists blame for causing millions of black men to spend time in prison on stiff penalties for drug charges.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, says the 69-year-old Bill Clinton reinforces the wrong themes for his wife’s campaign. “This is an election about change and Bill Clinton is the past,” Castellanos said. “Bill even looks old now.”


Republicans can easily paint the pair as the epitome of concentrated Washington power that has become the target of ire for many Americans.

“Bill and Hillary are the Democratic Party Establishment,” Castellanos said. “They are the one percent. They are more of the same. They are the Hollywood, New York and Washington elite. Which you see here in the convention.”

It’s a complaint that resonates beyond just Republican-leaning voters, and continued to fuel anger on the left in Philadelphia, despite the show of party unity inside the convention hall.

Several hundred angry Sanders protesters came into a press tent set up outside the arena, chanting and then falling silent and sitting down with tape or “Bernie” stickers over their mouths, some holding signs saying they had been silenced.

Some blamed the Democratic National Committee. Others faulted the media, saying Sanders hadn’t got the press attention he deserved.

“The message is that the media has ignored Bernie Sanders the entire campaign,” said Stephanie Felten, a Sanders delegate from Texas.

They rejected Sanders’ call to rally around Clinton.

One woman with a piece of white tape over her mouth bearing the words “no voice” refused to answer verbally when asked whether, by ignoring Sanders’ plea for unity, the diehard Sanders supporters might contribute to a Trump victory.

Instead, she held up one sign that said Clinton was the same as Trump, and a second that read: “On November 9, you can’t say we didn’t warn you.”

Scot Lehigh of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Annie Linksey can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AnnieLinskey.