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« Obama: "The American Promise" | Blog Home Page | Strategy Memo: McCain's Turn »

Obama Accepts Nomination, Pledges "American Promise"

DENVER, Colorado -- The first African American in United States history accepted a major party's presidential nomination tonight, breaking at least one barrier that has stood for two hundred thirty-two years.

Giving thanks to party leaders and former rivals after a prolonged ovation from 75,000 fans crammed into Invesco Field, Barack Obama brought the crowd to their feet again: "With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States."

Vaulted into prominence by an optimistic convention keynote speech four years ago, Obama took the opportunity to change tactics with a hard-hitting criticism of President Bush and Senator John McCain while focusing heavily on policy proposals some have suggested have been lacking in Obama's earlier speeches.

"Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land: enough! This moment -- this election -- is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive," Obama said. "Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight."

Perhaps best known for his 2004 assertion that "[w]e are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America," Obama reprised the line to blunt notions that Democrats and Republicans have differing levels of patriotism. "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," he said. "So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."

Obama pulled no punches in Denver. McCain's economic policies are flawed "not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it," Obama said. "[I]t's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."

That change, which Obama has promised since launching his campaign in February 2007, had been somewhat ambiguous before tonight's address, and the Democratic nominee used his speech to flesh out more details of what he called "the American promise."

Obama promised to revise the tax code, eliminate the capital gains taxes for certain small businesses and cut taxes for what he said would be nineteen in every twenty families. He promised an end to dependence on oil from the Middle East and an increased reliance on American-produced energy.

"America, now is not the time for small plans," he said. From education to universal health care, workers' rights and bankruptcy laws, Obama offered red meat to the stadium of fans. In an appeal to more fiscally conservative voters, Obama also promised a "line by line" review of the federal budget with an eye toward cost reduction "because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy," he said.

Obama laid out a contrast with McCain more clearly, and to a wider audience, than he has at any point during the campaign. Obama and McCain have been content with debating more about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other single issue, and on both war and domestic policy, Obama cast himself as the candidate of the future. "We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past," he said.

Though both campaigns has devolved into name-calling and petty arguments over issues which will help no undecided voters decide, Obama pledged to renew his commitment to a high-minded campaign. "What I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes," Obama said. "Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism."

In Invesco Field, and across the nation, enthusiasm Obama's initial introduction to America from 2004 was renewed in one of the most dramatic speeches of the 2008 presidential campaign. "I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you," Obama said.

The American promise, Obama said, is what "brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream."

"America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend," Obama said. "America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future."

Forty-five years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of thousands marching on Washington that he had a dream, many dreams were realized as Obama accepted his party's presidential nomination.