This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 4, 2008 - Wednesday's major event outside of the convention was a tribute to Sen. Bob Dole from the Kansas and Missouri delegations. Sens. Sam Brownback, Jack Danforth, Fred Thompson, U.S. Rep. and Missouri gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, and U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Wichita stood on stage to honor this great American.
I have heard Dole speak several times before, and he was far more emotional than I have ever seen. Dole nearly cried as he told how he wore Sen. John McCain's bracelet on the Senate floor while McCain was a prisoner of war. His voice also broke when he thanked the people of Kansas for allowing him to serve them for 35 years, when he talked about his wife, and when he talked about World War II veterans who visit their memorial in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flights.
Some things never change, though, and Dole was just as funny as ever. When he mentioned campaigning for his wife's re-election, he said that he was not doing it like Bill Clinton; he was trying to help his wife. He mentioned the recent conflict in Georgia, and said that when Sen. Barack Obama heard the news, he bought a ticket to Atlanta. Dole's humor never gets old.
Unlike Tuesday night, Wednesday night began with incredible energy. That energy built during the speech of Michael Steele, the former Maryland Senate candidate who had addressed the Missouri delegation the day before. Steele amped up the crowd by repeatedly asking, "Do you want to put your country first?" "Yes," the crowd emphatically responded. The key line, though, was when Steele said, "Drill, baby, drill." The line was chanted then, and then again during Mayor Giuliani's speech. Rudy was taken aback, but played along well.
Rudy did give a fantastic speech, probably the best that I have ever heard him give. Former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee both had great one-liners, but their speeches failed to capture the crowd the way that Rudy did. Rudy went after Sen. Barack Obama, his lack of experience, his repeatedly voting present, his naivete in foreign policy ("Next time, call John McCain"), and Obama's comment that Americans in small towns cling to religion. The crowd loved it. In fact, the crowd was standing and applauding so often that word was spread to stop cheering, because the ovations threatened to move Gov. Sarah Palin's speech out of prime time. You could tell that Rudy was enjoying himself, more so than many of the speakers who have taken to the podium.
Expectations were high for Palin, and she exceeded them beyond anyone's wildest imagination. When she first began her speech, with the usual formalities of agreeing to accept the nomination, she sounded nervous and stiff to me. But then she began to talk about her family, and from that point, she sounded like she was giving news updates to a PTA, not speaking to an international audience. The speech had so many great lines, and they were delivered so well. She told the American people who she is: a mother, proud of her children, not afraid to wave at them in front of the world; a wife, in love with her husband, calling him "her guy"; a leader, with a proven record of reform. She came across as someone we can trust to keep her word and do what is right. What more could we ask for in a vice-president?
One other word on Palin. I found it interesting that Palin's speech did not revolve around the novelty that she is a female candidate for the vice presidency. In fact, I don't think that she even mentioned it last night. Yet when she first stepped on to the platform, chills ran down my spine. Others told me that they felt the same way because this woman could become the first woman vice president. The moment was also meaningful for me on a personal level. A lady who was like my grandmother passed away last November. She was actively involved in politics and had many of Palin's wonderful qualities. Yesterday would have been this lady's 83rd birthday, and I can only imagine how proud she would have been that a woman with character and a strong record was the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States of America. How special.
Everyone that I talked with used the same expression: Home run. I had friends calling and texting me from all over the country, so excited, asking how they could volunteer, convinced that Palin can, should and will be vice president. The excitement still has yet to wear off.
Although the crowd had been deafening throughout Palin's speech, the crowd absolutely erupted when Sen. John McCain entered the convention hall. I thought that the chemistry between McCain and Palin and her family have was sweet, like they had been life-long friends. They will have a fun time campaigning together this fall.
Now we have reached the final day. I cannot wait for the big speech tonight.