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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ron Edmonds/AP/Press Association Images A young Barack Obama with the 2004 nominee John Kerry
# US 2012
Videos: 5 classic moments from Democratic National Conventions
After the Republicans formally nominated Mitt Romney at their convention last week, it’s the turn of the Democrats to endorse Barack Obama once more. Here’s how previous conventions have unfolded…

LAST WEEK THE Republican Party formally nominated its candidate for president and in various speeches from various people, including Mitt Romney, the party laid out the reasons why its candidate should be voted into office in November.

This week it’s the turn of the Democratic party as its convention gets under way in Charlotte, North Carolina with party delegates are gathering and American is tuning in to watch and listen to the reasons why Barack Obama should get another four years in office.

Last week’s meeting of Republicans in Tampa, Florida was perhaps most notable for the strange speech from Hollywood Clint Eastwood in which he held a conversation with a chair, pretending Obama was sitting in it.

It was a classic convention moment that might have featured in our list of classic moments from RNC meetings past that we published last week. So in the interests of fairness and balance we present you with these five classic moments from Democratic conventions past as this year’s convention gets under way later today…

1964: “This country is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind

Nearly a year after his brother was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, Robert F Kennedy – himself a future presidential hopeful before he too was assassinated – took to the stage at the Democratic National Convention to pay tribute to his brother with the words of both Shakespeare and the poet Robert Frost.

He told delegates: “If we do our duty, if we meet our responsibilities and our obligations, not just as Democrats, but as American citizens in our local cities and towns and farms and our states and in the country as a whole, then this country is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind.

“And I think that if we dedicate ourselves, as he frequently did to all of you when he spoke, when he quoted from Robert Frost — and said it applied to himself–but that we could really apply to the Democratic Party and to all of us as individuals — that: ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.’”


1968: “Violence breeds counter violence and it cannot be condoned whatever the source”

After the assassinations of Robert F Kennedy and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Democrats gathered in Chicago in the midst of a turbulent year which was also marred by the ongoing Vietnam War. As the unpopular president Lyndon Johnson indicated he would not run and following Kennedy’s assassination the contest was between three candidates, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Senator George McGovern and Johnson’s vice president Hubert Humphrey.

The convention itself was marred by violence as protesters clashed with local police and the Illinois National Guard with famous news anchors like Dan Rather caught up in the violence. At the convention itself there was much infighting among the party as some condemned the tactics of Chicago’s Democrat mayor Richard Daley in ordering a crackdown on the violence. Network news switched between the demonstrators fighting with police outside and delegates fighting among themselves inside.

Eventually Humphrey was nominated but would be beaten by Richard Nixon in the general election:


1980: “The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

After four turbulent years in office, Jimmy Carter pitched up at the Democratic National Convention to face a challenge from a familiar name in Democratic politics – Kennedy. This time it was the youngest and last surviving member of the Kennedy brothers, Ted, who sought the votes of delegates held by Carter and the nomination for the presidency to face Ronald Reagan.

Ultimately his insurgent campaign was not sufficient to dethrone Carter who would go onto lose to Reagan in November but Kennedy delivered a stirring speech that is considered to be the most famous of his career and drew hearty approval from delegates much to the detriment of Carter when it came to facing Reagan a few months later:


2004: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America.”

As delegates gathered to nominate the veteran senator John Kerry as their nominee for the presidency to face George W Bush there was a feeling that Kerry would need to do much to convince the American people that he was the man to replace Bush even amidst the increasing unpopularity of the Iraq war.

But this convention was notable not for Kerry’s speech nor that of his rising star, the vice presidential nominee John Edwards who spoke of Two Americas in his speech, but the keynote address of a young Illinois state senator hoping to be elected to national office later that year. Barack Obama wowed delegates and commentators with his views and his story.

This rising star who spoke of the “audacity of hope” would go on to greater things just four years later when he addressed the party convention as its nominee for president:


2008: “Our government should work for us, not against us.”

Just four years after addressing delegates as a youthful state senator, Obama addressed delegates as their nominee for the highest office in the land at a packed Invesco Field stadium in Denver, Colorado.

This was the culmination of a marathon primary campaign in which the insurgent Obama saw off the presumed nominee Hillary Clinton and addressed 84,000 people in a speech which was watched by more than 38 million people in America. As the first black presidential nominee there was no doubting how historic this occasion was and the speech was always going to be similarly noteworthy as it laid the ground for his successful election a few months later:


Read: President Obama burns Clint Eastwood via Twitter

Videos: 5 classic moments from Republican National Conventions

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