Hillary Clinton offered herself to the nation as the dedicated public servant and tested leader best equipped to face a “moment of reckoning” and bring Americans together to solve the enduring problems of economic and national security.
Clinton acknowledged the continued turmoil in the United States and across the world that has led to fear and anxiety but pledged to help Americans recover from the sluggish economy and keep them safe from terrorist threats.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” Clinton said. “Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders there are no guarantees. It’s truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we’re going to work together so we can all rise together.”
The crowd waved American flags and “Stronger Together” signs and chanted “Hillary!” so loud they, at times, drowned her out. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, watched from the audience.
Clinton had a difficult task to both appeal to left-leaning Democrats, many of whom passionately prefer her rival, Bernie Sanders, as well as moderates and independents who are still undecided. Several times she was interrupted by people shouting, presumably his supporters.
Only minutes into her speech, she thanked the independent senator from Vermont for inspiring millions of Americans and directly asked his supporters for help. “I want you to know, I’ve heard you,” she said. “Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.”
Recent national polls show Clinton locked in a tight race with Republican Donald Trump with voters questioning her likeability and honesty.
Clinton cited Trump’s name more than 20 times, and methodically sought to take apart his case for the presidency, point by point.
She accused him of turning Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” into “Midnight in America” and rejected his calls for a wall at the border with Mexico and a ban on Muslim immigration as contrary to American ideals.
She said his boast at last week’s Republican convention that he alone can fix the country runs counter to democracy. “Our founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power,” she said.
She strived to undermine his bragging about his business record, recalling his casino bankruptcies and lawsuits for unpaid bills.
“That sales pitch he’s making to be your president? Put your faith in him and you’ll win big? That’s the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses,” she said.
She also took on his motto of putting America First: “Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado.”
She went after Trump directly one of his perceived advantages, that he would be the stronger leader defending America. Instead, she worked to scare Americans about the prospect of Trump in charge, all but calling him unbalanced.
“Does Donald Trump have the temperament to be commander-in-chief? Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign,” she said. “He loses his cool at the slightest provocation. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Where Trump last week at the Republican convention spoke in broad brush strokes punctuated by emotion, Clinton tried to persuade voters with detail and practicality. She filled her speech with some of the dozens of policy proposals she has rolled out during the last year, everything from repairing roads to combating Alzheimer’s disease.
“He offered zero solutions.” he said. “But we already know he doesn’t believe these things. No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.”
Clinton tried to do what her husband did for her in his own address Tuesday night – humanize herself by telling personal stories and showing her own personality.
“The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part,” she said. “I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me. So let me tell you.”
She described her parents: her father, Hugh, a Navy veteran who started his own small business, and her mother, who was abandoned by her parents.
Though she’s one of the most famous women in the world, Clinton has struggled with relating to everyday Americans on the campaign trail after years of being criticized as an out-of-touch wealthy Washington insider.
Like Trump, she was introduced by her adult daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who called her a “kind, thoughtful and hilarious mother” who didn’t miss a soccer game or dance recital when she was growing up and now will “drop everything” for a few minutes of blowing kisses with her granddaughter. “That’s who my mom is: a listener and a doer, a woman driven by compassion, by faith, by kindness, a fierce sense of justice and a heart full of love,” Chelsea Clinton said.
Clinton also was not shy about referencing her place in history as the first woman to secure a major party’s nomination for president, calling “a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union.”
“Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come,” she said. “Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
Her speech, which closed out the four-day event in Philadelphia, came after well-received speeches by her husband and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, all of whom are considered talented story tellers.
Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, will embark on a three-day bus tour Friday with stops in Pennsylvania and Ohio, some of them in rural areas hard hit by the economic downturn.
She has had trouble attracting white working-class voters, and she acknowledged the uneven economy had left many Americans “frustrated – even furious.” And she added, “And you know what? You’re right.”
She argued that Democrats are the party of working people but have failed to acknowledge the depth of the problem.
“My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages,” she said. “Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.”
Clinton began thinking about her speech several weeks ago, sending ideas and suggestions to aides at various points during the writing process, according to her campaign. She continued to work on it Thursday.
She invoked her 1996 book, “It Takes a Village,” a story about the people and groups that impact children, which her campaign says was the forerunner to her campaign theme “Stronger Together.”
“Stronger Together is not just a lesson from our history,” she said. “It’s not just a slogan for our campaign. It’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been and the future we’re going to build.”