Then an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote speech electrified the convention and set him on a trajectory for the Democratic nomination four years later: "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
Barack Obama's address in two parts
In his second keynote address—the first came at the 1992 Democratic convention, long before his estrangement from his party—Georgia Sen. Zell Miller stressed the need for a strong military defense: "And like you, I ask which leader is it today that has the vision, the willpower, and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family? The clear answer to that question has placed me in this hall with you tonight. For my family is more important than my party. There is but one man to whom I am willing to entrust their future and that man's name is George W. Bush.”
2000 DNC keynote speaker: Harold Ford, Jr. (see transcript)
Tennesse Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., the youngest member of the House in 2000, urged young voters to cast their ballots: “I also stand here representing a new generation, a generation … inspired by an unshakable confidence in our future…. I say to all those of this new generation ... if you want a future that is for everyone, then join with us to make Al Gore and Joe Lieberman the next president and vice president of the United States.”
2000 RNC keynote speaker: None
Instead of a keynote speaker, the Republican Party decided to emphasize the speeches of both Arizona Sen. John McCain and retired Gen. Colin Powell, which were on separate nights of the convention.
1996 DNC keynote speaker: Evan Bayh (see transcript and audio of address)
Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh's keynote speech highlighted Clinton's fiscal discipline: “Bill Clinton is balancing the budget while keeping our pledge to the elderly, the young and our future - not because it is easy - but because it is right.... That's what governing is all about. Getting priorities straight - and holding to them.”
1996 RNC keynote speaker: Susan Molinari (see transcript and audio of address)
Susan Molinari, a congresswoman for New York, began her address by saying, “This speech is a lot like a Bill Clinton promise. It won't last long and it will sound like a Republican talking.” She added, "We know people are having trouble just staying afloat, and it's easy to see why. Bill Clinton passed the largest tax increase in history, and now Americans pay almost 40 cents of every dollar they earn in taxes — the most ever.... Americans know that Bill Clinton's promises have the lifespan of a Big Mac on Air Force One. While that may be funny, ... what's not funny is what he is doing to the promise of America.”
1992 DNC keynote speakers: Zell Miller, Barbara Jordan and Bill Bradley
Then-Georgia Governor Zell Miller, at the time still an ardent Democrat, rallied Democrats at the '92 convention by saying President George H. W. Bush "just doesn't get it," and said of then-Vice President Dan Quayle, "We cannot all be born rich, handsome, and lucky, and that's why we have a Democratic Party." He later asked, "Who fights for the child of a single mother today? Because without a government who is on their side, those children have no hope. And when a child has no hope, a nation has no future.”
1992 RNC keynote speaker: Phil Gramm (see partial transcript)
Texas Sen. Phil Gramm addressed national security in his address: “When you count up the number of nations liberated from Soviet tyranny — when you total up the population freed from the Marxist yoke — when you add up the puppet despots whose support from Moscow has now been yanked away, ours is the greatest victory in the history of freedom. It was Ronald Reagan who put the Kremlin in the cross hairs but it was George Bush who pulled the trigger.” He added, "We must never allow the Democrats to disarm America again.”
1988 DNC keynote speaker: Ann Richards
Ann Richards’ feisty 1988 keynote address lives on thanks to several memorable lines. Speaking of the role of women in the Democratic Party, she implored, “If you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” Richards, then the Texas state treasurer, also said then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was ''born with a silver foot in his mouth.''
1988 RNC keynote speaker: Thomas Kean (see partial transcript)
New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean painted his rival party as “pastel” patriots who were weak on national security. “Republicans believe that if liberty is threatened anywhere, it is threatened everywhere,” he said. “All I can add is one warning: the Dukakis Democrats will try to talk tough. But don't be fooled. They may try to talk like Dirty Harry. But they will still act like Pee Wee Herman.”
1984 DNC keynote speaker: Mario Cuomo (see complete video and transcript)
In 1984, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo decried the past four years of Ronald Reagan's presidency by saying, "There is despair, Mr. President ... in your shining city." He reminded Democrats of their “credo”: “We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.”
Excerpt of address
1984 RNC keynote speaker: Katherine Ortega
When she delivered the keynote address at the 1984 GOP convention, Katherine Davalos Ortega, then the U.S. Treasurer, was the most prominent Hispanic official in the Reagan Administration. “To those millions of Democrats abandoned by their national leadership in San Francisco — Democrats who were shut out of their traditional party home,” she said, “we Republicans here in Dallas say: We welcome you to our home. Nuestra casa es su casa. Our home is your home."