The final night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday featured heavy representation from the Palmetto State, with U.S. Rep Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison and former state Rep. Bakari Sellers making the case for Hillary Clinton just hours before she stood on stage herself.
“As a father of three daughters and grandfather of two adorable granddaughters, I am proud to stand before you as we prepare for the ultimate opportunity, to smash the glass ceiling by nominating for president of the United States the person who is the most qualified, experienced than anyone ever up for the job,” Clyburn told the crowd of cheering delegates.
“If there is one thing I know about Hillary Clinton, it is this: She is a fighter,” he said.
My heart has been with Hillary Clinton since Day One.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, told the crowd about how Clinton came to his home state after graduating from law school. He said she worked hard to reform the juvenile justice system and traveled across the region to make the 1965 Voting Rights Act “real in the lives of all Americans.”
“In my home state of South Carolina, we often say that you can best tell what a person will do by looking at what he or she has done,” he said. “Hillary Clinton has always worked to advance our nation’s pursuit of a more perfect union.”
He also praised Clinton for recognizing the need to take “effective action” on income inequality, embracing the Congressional Black Caucus’ 10-20-30 plan to target impoverished communities. It calls for at least 10 percent of rural development investments to go to communities where 20 percent or more of the population have lived below the poverty line for the past 30 years.
Our nation is strong, but we can be stronger. Americans are good, but we can be better. America is great, but it can be greater.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
“Hillary Clinton does not care about going outside her comfort zone,” he said
As he spoke, delegates from South Carolina on the convention floor cheered him on and held up letter signs spelling out his name.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought us to the mountaintop, and although we are not there yet, we are still climbing, and with President Hillary Clinton, America has arrived even further,” he said to loud applause.
“Let’s emerge from Philadelphia working together to make our nation stronger, Americans better and America greater,” he said, “by electing Hillary Rodham Clinton the next president of the United States.”
Clyburn did not endorse a candidate in the 2008 presidential primary but came out for Clinton this time around. He had originally planned to stay neutral, but said he felt pressure from Clinton supporters to weigh in – especially from his wife and one of his daughters.
“My heart has been with Hillary Clinton since Day One,” he said when he endorsed her in February.
Clinton said she was “incredibly honored” to have Clyburn’s support in February, calling him “a lifelong progressive champion of affordable health care, educational opportunity and civil rights.”
Two other South Carolina Democratic leaders gave back-to-back speeches on Thursday, both emphasizing the importance of understanding history to move the country forward.
South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison reminded delegates that President Lyndon Johnson had predicted that Democrats had “lost the South for a generation” after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Now Democrats, more than ever, we must continue to embrace our history.
“But to paraphrase JFK,” Harrison added, “now the torch has been passed to a new generation of Southerners — diverse, progressive and fed up with Republicans’ failed governance and dangerous divisiveness.”
Harrison commended his fellow South Carolinians for taking the Confederate flag down from the statehouse after a mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston left nine dead, but added that this wasn’t the time for complacency.
“We can’t pat ourselves on the back for being polite until we do what is right,” Harrison said.
Bakari Sellers, a former state representative and lieutenant governor nominee, said that Democrats should channel the struggle and hope of the Civil Rights movement.
“To stand here at this crossroads in our nation’s history is proof that anything is possible,” he said. “Every single one of us is a product of struggle. Our lives were made possible through struggle and hope.”
Sellers called on delegates to get on their feet if they support affordable health care, education, a living wage and a host of other progressive causes. By the time he concluded his brief address, thousands of delegates were standing and cheering inside the Wells Fargo Center.
Echoing the optimistic tone of most speakers at the four-day convention, including President Barack Obama, Sellers introduced a national audience to the South Carolina state motto: “Dum spiro, spero” – “While I breathe, I hope.”
Porter reported from Philadelphia. Bergengruen reported from Washington.