Historic firsts fill evening at Democratic National Convention

Shattering the glass ceiling wasn't the only way historic firsts took the floor in Philadelphia Tuesday night, when the Democratic Party named Hillary Clinton as its presidential nominee.

Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention via a live video feed from New York during the second night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.

With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the mic, addressing the crowds that thronged the Democratic National Convention hall in Philadelphia, history was made.

“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Senator Sanders said. The crowd roared, the delegates ‘ayed,’ and Mrs. Clinton officially became the first woman to be nominated by a major political party for the position of president of the United States.

Appearing on video from New York later Tuesday night, after a montage of the 43 men who have presided over the Oval Office filled the large screen overhead, Clinton thanked her party and the delegates for their role in helping her make “the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”

Calling out to the American viewers, she said: “If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say: I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.”

Clinton’s nomination comes 240 years into the existence of the United States of America and nearly a century after the Constitution was amended in 1919 to give women the right to vote. There were still state restrictions that continued to make it difficult for women (and men) of color to exercise that right into the 1960s.

Her nomination was not the only precedent-setter at the convention. Tuesday night held echoes of both Clinton’s past roles and of the milestones reached by women in politics since they gained suffrage.

The convention itself is being chaired by Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who has shattered her own share of glass ceilings. Ms. Fudge was both the first African-American and first female mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, a position she held from from 2000 to 2008. She is joined at the helm of the convention and the party by two other African-American women. Rev. Leah Daughtry, former chief of staff for the party's committee, is the chief executive officer of the convention for the second time, while Donna Brazile is the interim Democratic National Committee chair after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned last week, following an email scandal. Ms. Brazile became well-known in the party as Al Gore's campaign manager, the Washington Post reports.

In an interview with NBCBLK in November, Reverend Daughtry said that this year’s convention, now underway, would be "the most diverse and the most forward-looking convention that we've had in recent history."

The speaker line-up last night also included a fair share of ground-breakers. One of the senators who nominated Clinton during the state roll call was Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who said she was acting on behalf of "all women who have broken down barriers for others." Senator Mikulski herself was the the first Democratic woman to be elected to the Senate in 1987. Clinton held the role of senator for New York State between 2001 and 2009; the two women are among the group of 46 women to have ever held the role of US senator.

Another of the evening’s speakers was Madeleine Albright. A distinguished diplomat, Ms. Albright was the country’s first female secretary of State, a position that Clinton held under Barack Obama, when she was the third woman in the job. Albright was selected for that role in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton himself would break ground, were his wife to be elected to his former office, as both the first man in the role traditionally referred to as "first lady" and the first former president to hold that place. Mr. Clinton was the keynote speaker last night, offering a personal portrait of his wife to counter the narrative of corruption and scandal that has at times ensnared the campaign. 

Emphasizing his wife's history of activism, not just for women, but for socioeconomic and racial equality, Mr. Clinton called her the "best darn changemaker I've met in my entire life." She "had done more positive change before she was 30 than many politicians do in a lifetime in office."

The theme of “firsts” will continue Wednesday night, on point for a party that distinguishes itself from the competition with a progressive agenda.

This evening, President Obama, the first African-American president, will offer his support of Clinton. On Monday, she received the support of another historymaker, one who occupies another role Clinton herself once held: Michelle Obama, the nation's first African-American first lady.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters

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