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By Kathleen E. Carey and Candice Monhollan
PHILADELPHIA — On a historic night in South Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept the major party nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention.
“So I want to tell you tonight how we’re going to empower all Americans to live better lives,” Clinton, the former first lady, said in her acceptance speech. “My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States. From my first day in office to my last. Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind. From our inner cities to our small towns, Indian Country to Coal Country. From the industrial Midwest to the Mississippi Delta to the Rio Grande Valley.”
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Her speech drew high praise from local delegates in attendance.
Mary Ellen Balchunis, a candidate for the 7th U.S. Congressional District seat, who came with her 22-year-old daughter, Lauren, pointed out what she liked about the speech.
“I love Hillary’s theme of ‘stronger together’ and how Hillary told the Bernie supporter ‘your cause is our cause,’” she said. “I like how Hillary pointed out Trump’s statement that he ‘can fix it alone,’ Hillary reminding everyone of her book, ‘It Takes a Village,” something that has always resonated with me as a mom.”
Balchunis continued, “I love how she said she will work for ‘the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents, the striving, the struggling, the successful and all the people who vote for me and who don’t.”
For Stephanie Phillips Markstein, a Bernie Sanders supporter from West Chester, the moment takes on a little bit of a different tone.
“In terms of the history of the moment, it is very bittersweet,” Phillips Markstein said. “Obviously, this is an historic moment of the country, something that somehow we’ve just gotten around to. Of course, at the same time, I’m still dismayed that ‘my guy’ didn’t win.”
State Sen. Dayin Leach, D-17, of King of Prussia, said Hillary’s speech worked for him.
“It’s memorable,” he said. “I was worried but I’m happy.”
Earlier he said, Clinton needed to connect to everyone in the arena while also showing her thoughtfulness and intelligence.
The state senator is no novice to conventions, this having been his eighth.
“I am a total junkie about these things,” he said. “To me, it’s the center of the political universe. You watch history being made. I’m a big fan of political oratory and everyone steps up their game for their convention speech. So for all of these reasons, I’m thrilled to be here, I’m grateful to have the chance.”
Clinton’s speech stuck to the theme of the night: the Democrats are the party of inclusion while the Republican party wants to keep people apart.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” Clinton said to a loud, cheering crowd. “Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders there are no guarantees. It’s truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we’re going to work together so we can all rise together.”
There was even a shout out to primary competitor Bernie Sanders, whose shadow has loomed large over this convention.
“Thank you Bernie Sanders for your movement,” Clinton said. “Your cause is our cause. Thank you for getting young people out to vote. Now we have to keep it going.
“We have the most generous and talented young people we’ve ever had.”
Newtown Square resident Shelly Rahman said she herself had concerns, especially when having to live up to the speeches of President Barack and Michelle Obama.
“I was so wrong!” she said of her concern. “She portrayed herself as a confident woman, loving mother and as the president, she did excellent by talking about Bernie at the start.”
Rahman said it was clear Clinton appreciated Sanders’ contribution.
“Unlike Trump, she clearly explained how she will solve issues,” she said. “It was very clear she is ready for the job. We can trust her with our future.”
From four-star Generals, soldiers, members of Congress and others, the speakers told the Democrats that filled the Wells Fargo Center the country and the world would be safer with Clinton as president.
Clinton stuck to the message.
“The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security,” Clinton continued. “Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face. From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we’re dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance — looking for steady leadership.
“In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.”
Clinton also payed homage to her husband Bill and president Barack Obama.
“I am better having known Barack Obama,” Clinton said.
Speakers throughout the night painted GOP candidate Donald Trump as an ineffective leader and selfish.
“Every generation of Americans has come together to make our country freer, fairer, and stronger,” said Clinton. “None of us can do it alone. That’s why we are stronger together.”
Delaware County Democratic Chairman David Landau also gave Clinton praise.
“Outstanding speech,” he said. “Stark contrast to Donald Trump. She was positive. She was specific. And most important, she spoke to American values that unite us and will bring the country together.”
Landau said it’s given more energy to the county’s Democrats.
“The Delco Dems delegation is all fired up,” he said.
Overall, Balchunis said, “I thought it was a great, unifying speech.”
Sanders delegate Jim Savage from Upper Chichester, who claimed allegiance to Clinton only after being directed by Sanders, gave the Democratic nominee his approval..
“Strong,” he said of her speech. “What a difference from last week’s hate and fear fest!”
Meanwhile, Katie Cozzone, a Chester County commissioner, couldn’t contain her excitement.
“I am overwhelmed with excitement and inspiration,” Cozzone said. “Not only did we make history, but Hillary’s commitment to a positive future for our country and all of our citizens is loud and clear.”