n. Hillary Clinton showed AFT convention delegates that she came out of the 2008 primaries the same way she went in—fighting to help build a better America. The Navy Pier convention hall filled with cheers and standing ovations on July 12 as Clinton addressed delegates with passion and conviction, vowing to continue her battle for strong healthcare, excellent schools, equal opportunity and other goals that matter most to working Americans. That fight resumes immediately, she said, with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put America back on the right track by electing Sen. Barack Obama the next president of the United States.
"I know Sen. Obama. I've campaigned with him and against him. I know his story represents the American dream. And I know he wants to take that experience into the White House to make that dream available to others."
The stakes in the coming election couldn't be higher because the pain Americans have suffered under the current administration could hardly be greater, she reminded delegates. She spoke of a teacher she met on the campaign trail who spends a third of her wages on the daily commute to her job, the home healthcare worker cutting back rounds because of the high cost of gas, and the many Americans who can't make a run to the grocery store or the gas station without gut-wrenching anxiety.
"These are not just abstractions—these are real-life experiences" for American families, she said. After two terms of George Bush, "the Republicans should hold a press conference tomorrow, apologize to the country and say they're just not going to run anyone" for president.
But the reality is that the GOP is far from finished, and in the 2008 election, their presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, "will offer four more years of the same failed policies, from the economy to healthcare to Iraq and beyond."
Change can come, but only if Americans work for it, she stressed. In that effort, Clinton described how AFT activists are more than equal to the challenge of building a more progressive America.
The New York Democrat spoke warmly of the thousands of AFT members who spent countless hours at phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods and traveling across the country on behalf of Clinton, the AFT's endorsed candidate in the Democratic primaries.
"I saw you across America," Clinton told the delegates. "I saw those signs and saw those hats and T-shirts—and it made me feel so good.
"Thank you for sharing this remarkable journey—one that I did not want to make without you and one I will never forget. … You were there because of who you are and what you care about."
That type of political activism is an extension of public service exemplified by so many AFT members, she said, describing how this commitment makes a difference in peoples' lives, including her own. Recalling her childhood near Chicago in the 1950s, she spoke fondly of the many "teachers who inspired and instructed" her to aim high in life at a time when the glass ceiling for women was thick and formidable.
The opportunities she enjoyed must increase in today's America, Clinton said, and "the only way we can realize the promise is to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America.
"If we make the right decision in November, we will be on the right track. Now, let's roll up our sleeves. Let's get to work. Let's do everything we can to make this election the watershed it deserves to be."
Clinton was introduced to delegates by AFT president Edward J. McElroy, who called her an "old and dear friend of the AFT" who "gave voice to the concerns of our members and of working people everywhere" in her many years of public service.
July 12, 2008