PHILADELPHIA: First Lady Michelle Obama offered an emotional endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Monday, hailing the power that having a first female president would bring America and pouring scorn on Donald Trump.
After a day dominated by Democratic infighting, it fell to Obama to unify delegates on the opening night of the party’s four-day convention in Philadelphia.
The speech was at times raw and personal, and it electrified the arena.
“In this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States and that is our friend Hillary Clinton,” she said, to multiple standing ovations.
“Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States,” said the wife of America’s first black president, her voice cracking with emotion.
The outgoing first lady remembered her two “bubbly little girls” Sasha and Malia, as they entered the White House and who leave it as “poised young women.”
But — in a thinly veiled jab at Trump — she also painted a picture of a family that had to struggle with the shrill tone of national politics.
“We urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith,” she said, a clear reference to Trump’s early demands to see President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
“We insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” the first lady said in a message that Democrats will hope resonates with fathers and mothers voting in November.
“Our motto is, ‘when they go low, we go high.'”
The Democratic convention opened to chaotic scenes earlier in the day, as rival supporters of Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded boos, jeers and taunts in a very public show of party disunity.
As shock polls showed Republican Donald Trump leading the race for the White House, Democrats gathering to make Clinton the first woman presidential nominee from a major party were in disarray.
Diehard supporters of Sanders booed when a pastor leading the invocation prayer mentioned Clinton’s name, setting the stage for each successive mention to spark a raucous chorus of outbursts.
Twice on Monday, Sanders appealed to supporters to help build party unity, ahead of his pivotal primetime address to delegates to close the night.
“We have got to defeat Donald Trump. We have got to elect Hillary Clinton and (running mate) Tim Kaine,” Sanders told a gathering of his supporters.
“Trump is a bully and a demagogue,” he said. His call to support Clinton was nevertheless met with loud jeers.
He later sent a text message to supporters asking them not to protest on the floor of the convention as a “personal courtesy” to him.
But that appeared to have minimal impact.
Much hinges on his third effort later Monday, when he addresses the convention directly in a primetime speech.
The party is reeling from leaked Democratic National Committee emails which show nominally neutral party staff trying to undermine Sanders’ insurgent campaign and questioning his Jewish faith.