DENVER – The thunderous roar in the arena, the fists in the air, the chorus of ‘Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!” – this was the moment she had been waiting for here in the Mile High City.
The moment brought tears in the Utah delegate section and hooting from Washington state supporters.
“She did it,” yelled Nicholas Petrish, a Washington delegate when Clinton gave her endorsement to Obama. A burly electrician, Petrish, an Obama supporter, said he saw tears in Clinton’s eyes, but yelled “Go Baby Go.”
“We love you Hillary!” screamed a man from Michigan.
All evening, Clinton – and her all-important speech – was the talk of the Pepsi Center. Delegates from Florida wondered what she would say to bring the party together. Women in Ohio and New York and West Virginia wore ‘Hillary for President’ buttons. California delegates held signs reading “18 million cracks”—referring to the 18 million votes Clinton received in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.
For the moment, it was all Hillary.
“This is our day,” said Erin Lally, a former state representative from Ohio who covered her red jacket with Clinton stickers and buttons. “Hillary deserves one big thank you, and she’s got one.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), one of Clinton’s most loyal congressional supporters, said the day was a “special one” for the former first lady.
“I am so proud of her,” Jackson Lee said.
Clinton’s former campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said the senator had practiced her speech all day, in between events to rally her supporters.
Beforehand, McAuliffe said he gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her to “knock it out of the park.”
“She knew what she had to do, and boy did she do it,” McAuliffe declared. “Right outta the park!”
“Bring on the unity.”
The mood among Hillary delegates reflected a ready willingness to embrace Obama.
Tony Vanderbloemer, a Wisconsin delegate, sporting a yellow Hillary shirt, put it this way: “It won’t be difficult for me to support Obama. But it’s going to be very difficult for me to not vote for Hillary.”
Still, there was some bittersweet disappointment.
Brian Stratton, the mayor of Schenectady, N.Y., and a one-time Clinton supporter, even slipped up in describing the transition.
“The primary race is over and as a nation and party we have to get behind her—I mean get behind him,” Stratton said.
Obama delegates in the Washington state delegation had put on blue Hillary stick-on buttons that were being distributed in the convention hall as a symbol of unity. Democratic volunteers across the hall handed out signs that read “Unity.” Some had Clinton’s name. Others had Obama’s.
“They asked if we would all be united,” said Kristine Petereit. “In our internal delegation we wanted to support and rally.”
“I’m a good soldier,” Petrish said, “and I do what I’m told.”
But it wasn’t that easy for some.
“It’s been a rough campaign for us, and it’s going to be rough ’till November,” said Nadia Morgen, a 36-year-old technical writer and Clinton supporter from Washington State.
One of the most emotional moments came when Clinton invoked Harriet Tubman’s advice to slaves in the underground railroad of 19th Century America. “If you want a taste of freedom keep going,” Clinton said.
“That gave me goose bumps,” Petrish said.
Morgen said Clinton delivered “a beautiful speech.”
“I don’t think anything more could be asked of her,” Morgen said. “I’m searching for the words for this. It struck a chord with everyone.”