BOSTON – Speakers at the Democratic National Convention here echoed the fighting mood among the 4,500 delegates and the thousands of grassroots activists outside the Fleet Center.

More than 800 of the delegates are trade unionists and about 40 percent are people of color, the highest percentages ever for a Democratic convention. Polls show that 80 percent of the delegates are strongly opposed to the Iraq war. The same polls show that the delegates were to the left of the Democratic Party leadership which toiled to tone down the mood of anger and fightback in the party’s ranks.

Sen. Edward Kennedy reminded the convention crowd that Boston was the cradle of the American Revolution. “Our struggle is not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown although it often seems that way. Our struggle … is with those who put their own narrow interests ahead of the public interest. We hear echoes of past battles in the quiet whisper of the sweetheart deal, in the hushed promise of a better break for the better connected. We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters.”

He flayed Bush for ignoring “the pledges we made. … Most of all, we should have honored the principle that our nations’ founders placed in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence – that America must give a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. We failed to do that in Iraq.”

The keynote speaker Tuesday night was Barack Obama, the candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois, who drew loud cheers when he spoke of “a belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work.” If elected, Obama will be only the third African American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

Ron Reagan, son of the late president, did not mention Bush by name but blasted know-nothing politicians like Bush, who obstruct promising stem cell research that could save millions from childhood diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, the disease that killed his father. “We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity,” Reagan said. We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology. This is our moment and we must not falter. Vote on Nov. 2 for stem cell research.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the Democratic nominee, drew laughter when she said, “By now I hope it will come as no surprise that I have something to say,” referring to her telling a reporter from a right-wing Pittsburgh paper to “shove it.” She added, “This evening I want you to acknowledge and honor the women of this world, whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted. It is time for the world to hear women’s voices … at last.” True patriots, she said, are “those who dare to speak truth to power.”

She reminded the crowd that her husband was a Vietnam War veteran. “For him, the names of many friends inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial – that cold stone – testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength.”

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