Women take center stage
The new melting pot, diversity, was the unifying thread of the speeches delivered by Hispanic civic leaders, leading female politicians and openly gay legislators who took the podium during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
By day, motor vehicles within a two-block radius of the Charlotte Convention Center were stopped and searched, while three blocks away Occupy Wall Street South protestors, Code Pink activists and undocumented Hispanics challenged officers of the law near the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Uniformed police mobilized on foot, on bicycles, on choppers, in patrol cars and above the Charlotte skyline, in helicopters.
The evening’s earliest speakers included North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, who took the podium to urge voters to re-elect President Obama, “because he’s standing up for middle-class families,” Perdue said.
Perdue advocated once more for education. With a shaky unemployment rate, Perdue said the president had grown the economy.
“It starts with education,” Perdue said. “The president has made schools a top priority. He knows that all parents want their children to have even better opportunities than they had. The president’s education initiatives are helping North Carolina’s schools soar.”
Perdue also supported the current White House administration’s perspective on the role of women in the work place.
“President Obama … has helped women fight for equal pay for equal work; he has fought to guarantee that women have access to quality, affordable health care, including making sure that insurance plans cover birth control with no out-of-pocket cost,” Perdue said.
Perdue’s points were amplified an hour later by the U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who led her own delegation of congressional women.
Among them, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was a crowd favorite.
“Women are beginning to get the preventive services — including birth control — that they deserve. If they get sick or pregnant, they won’t lose their insurance. And soon, for the first time, no longer will being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition.”
“Healthy moms mean healthy families. When my Republican colleagues held a hearing about birth control and refused to include a single woman on the first panel as a witness, I asked, ‘Where are the women?’ The women are here,” Maloney said.
Chanting, “The women are here,” Maloney brought women to their feet.
From Wilmington, N.C.,
representing New Hanover County, and the 7th Congressional District, was delegate Elizabeth Redenbaugh.
Redenbaugh, 44 — an attorney by trade and a former Republican from the time she was 18 years old — became a Democrat one year ago.
“Romney has promised to de-fund Planned Parenthood, abortion, stem cell research,” Redenbaugh said. “From what I understand there’s a plank about abortion in the Republican Party. A fetus would have 14th amendment rights. If we actually afforded due process to an unborn child, how would a woman take advantage of that? The clock is ticking. You don’t stay pregnant forever,” Redenbaugh said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Redenbaugh was joined on the floor by Janice Covington, a Charlotte resident and North Carolina’s first-ever transgender female delegate.
Covington said she is a party of one advocating for jobs for everyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, as she climbed into a cab outside of the Westin Hotel next door to the convention center earlier today.
An active transgender since 1969, Covington has enjoyed a lifelong career as a building contractor, but she said, “Some of my friends can’t find jobs. Some of my friends have died because they could not afford food.”
Rather than wait for police officers to untangle the traffic jam, Covington paid off her cabby — Yamine Berhe, an Ethiopian who moved to Charlotte four years ago to be with his sisters — and marched head and shoulders among a group of young women wearing pink T-shirts that stated “Yes We Plan.”
Women were everywhere. Turning up in keynote speaker Julian Castro’s address. Castro traced his success to his grandmother and his mother, a lineage he shares with brother Joaquin Castro, who introduced him.
“My grandmother didn’t live to see us begin our lives in public service,” Julian Castro said. “But she probably would have thought it extraordinary that just two generations after she arrived in San Antonio, one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way — the good people of San Antonio willing — to the United States Congress. My family’s story isn’t special. What’s special is the America that makes our story possible … No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward.”
Amid “We love Michelle” signs waving to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage.
“Even if you don’t start out with much you should be able to work hard, which is what you’re supposed to do; you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids,” she said. “That’s how they raised us. That’s what we learned from their experience.”
She also re-shared her concern that the presidency would change the Obama family dynamic, a dynamic that revolves around their love for their daughters, Sasha and Malia.
“Standing before you four years ago, I knew I didn’t want any of that to change if Barack became president. Well today, after so many struggles and triumphs that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen first hand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are,” she said.