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Democrats praise 'new hope' Obama

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Michelle Obama on her husband's hopes

US Democrats have launched their national convention in Denver, with ringing endorsements of the party's White House hopeful Barack Obama.

In a keynote speech, Mr Obama's wife, Michelle, praised his values, saying her husband would make "an extraordinary president".

Senator Edward Kennedy, undergoing treatment for brain cancer, said the "dream lives on" through Mr Obama.

Senator Obama will formally accept the party's nomination on Thursday night.

He is to address a crowd of an expected 80,000 people at a sports stadium, arriving from a tour of electoral battlegrounds.

The first African-American to be nominated as a US presidential candidate, he will stand against Republican John McCain in the 4 November ballot.

Senator McCain will be nominated next week at the Republican Party's convention in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota.

Some of the latest opinion polls suggest the two men are in a statistical dead heat.

'Best ideals'

The Democrats hope their national convention in Colorado will show the Illinois senator as a family man and heal the rifts of the primary race.

Senator Edward Kennedy addresses the delegates

In an assured speech, Mrs Obama talked of being raised with the same values as her husband: "That you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect."

She went on: "We want our children and all children in this nation, to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

The couple's two young daughters, Sasha and Malia, then joined their mother on stage as Mr Obama spoke by satellite video link-up from Missouri.

Justin Webb
I thought Michelle Obama's speech was effective but not a knock-out; it doesn't settle the matters of perceived lack of patriotism and oddness and effeteness (if that is a word)
BBC North America Editor, Justin Webb


The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Denver says Mrs Obama knew that she had to claw her way back into the affections of the US public after a nasty slip earlier this year, when a comment about being proud about her country for the first time drew stinging criticism.

Her speech was effortless political theatre, our correspondent says, but also brilliant content, aimed at precisely the kind of Americans worried about her patriotism.

Earlier, Mr Kennedy, the 76-year-old scion of the iconic Democratic family, appeared on stage to loud cheers.

"I have come here to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and elect Barack Obama president of the United States," he said

"There is a new wave of change all around us," he said, "and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination - not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans."

CONVENTION AGENDA

Monday: Michelle Obama speech on Obama the man; tribute to Ted Kennedy
Tuesday: Hillary Clinton speech; keynote speech by former Virginia governor Mark Warner
Wednesday: Speeches by Bill Clinton and Joe Biden; vote to confirm Barack Obama as party's candidate
Barack Obama to accept nomination with speech in stadium

And in an echo of his speech in 1980 when he ceded the nomination to the incumbent president Jimmy Carter, he said: "The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on."

His niece, Caroline Kennedy, who had introduced a video homage to Mr Kennedy shortly before, paid her own emotional tribute to both him and Mr Obama.

"Their stories are very different but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family," she said.

"Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them most."

Mr Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, earlier spoke of a shared upbringing in which she and her brother learned that with hard work and imagination they could "dream the improbable".

'Strength and unity'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke of a defining moment in history for the US.

Praising Mr Obama's "bold" vision for the nation's future, Mrs Pelosi described him as "honouring American values, a belief in personal responsibility, in community, in hard work".

Party officials have played down the scope for discord between supporters of Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was his chief rival for the nomination.

Opening the convention, Democratic chairman Howard Dean spoke of "the strength and unity of our party".

Mrs Clinton herself, addressing delegates from her home state of New York on Monday, urged them to throw their support behind Mr Obama.

She will give a speech to the convention on Tuesday and her husband and former president Bill is to speak on Wednesday.

More than 4,000 Democratic delegates and tens of thousands of officials, activists, protesters and journalists have descended on Denver for the event.


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