It's hard to know from inside Planet Convention exactly how the ebb and flow of energy in the arena translates out there to the rest of the world. A speaker like Emanuel Cleaver gets up and blows the roof off. He did. You find yourself smiling and laughing and rising to your feet, applauding with thousands of others doing the same. The speech builds to a crescendo, then ends in a storm of roaring cheers that drowns out his final words so you can't even hear them, instead having to read off the jumbotron. "Hope on! Hope on! Hope on!"
And then, plunk. The speaker walks off, another walks on, and the emotion drains like water from tub. Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy, following Cleaver, sends his words into an energy vacuum.
The same thing happened after Senator Barbara Mikulski and the women of the Senate appeared. Surrounded by her colleagues, MIkulski whisked us into an "I am Woman Hear Me Roar" kind of pride, then led the group off stage left. Arne Duncan appeared from stage right and delivered a speech that, I bet, nobody in the arena will remember a single moment of. (Except me: As a person who writes on education for the St. Louis Beacon--feel free to visit there, too -- I will remember the fact that Duncan spoke of "a race for jobs" and of us having to worry about other countries who "outcompete us in education." This sort of language in education does not sit right with people me, but tonight is not the night to take this up.)
In different ways, and for different reasons, Cecile Richards, Ed Meagher, General Eric Shinseki, Sister Simone Campbell, Sandra Fluke, Cristina Saralegui, Elizabeth Warren, and of course Bill Clinton all brought the crowd to the highests of highs. It was Saralegui who, responding to the crowd's reaction to one of her jabs at Romney and the Republicans, said "Don't Boo. Vote."
As the evening wore on, I felt more and more impressed by the overarching intelligence that put together the podium schedule. We heard from proud and avowed capitalists who had made lots of money and STILL were Democrats (JIm Sinegal of Costco, Bill Butcher the beer guy, self-effacing Governor John Hickenlooper, and Governor Jack Markell). We heard from immigrants from Latin America and Cuba. We heard from labor. From the faith community. From people who addressed social diversity and inclusion. And the military and military families. And women's experiences, meaning: the experiences of half the people in this country.
This isn't the moment to hash out what wasn't really on display tonight in the key of C Major: the larger, more globally sensitive landscapes of foreign policy and environmental change. The interconnectedness of the United States and the rest of the world. But this doesn't matter because, as many speakers suggested, Obama himself would be the first to admit that there remain heaps of work to be done, or work that was begun that might need revisiting.
Here and there among the minor-key speakers, those who didn't have prime time slots or whose purpose was not to get us all lathered up, there was talk of Israel, or Obama's "all of the above" approach to energy production. And for all I know that's what he's going to talk about on Thursday.
Really, tonight was full enough. We had a blast.