By CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, DAVID HILL and ASHLEY M. LEWIS
DENVER (Aug. 28, 2008) - After four days of early morning pep rallies, late night receptions hosted by Maryland's top political players and arena speeches by the biggest names in Democratic politics, expectations burgeoned for Maryland's convention delegates awaiting their nominee's acceptance speech.
When Sen. Barack Obama took the podium Thursday night before 75,000 people at Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High, he exceeded many of their expectations. The Maryland delegation stood for most of the speech, and some members cried. After the speech, the crowd erupted under the fireworks and people snatched confetti out of the air and pocketed the shreds as souvenirs.
"People were delirious. It was electrifying. If anyone had any doubts about whether or not he can lead this country, they were completely erased,'' said Michael Steed, an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee from Chevy Chase.
In contrast to the high rhetoric that energized Obama's early campaign, the Illinois senator electrified the delegates with a litany of substantive points that reached out to different factions of the party, including women, the working class, gays and veterans.
Acceptance speeches often have two purposes, said former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. "On one level they say it's good for policy stuff. On the other one, they say it should be more inspirational," he said.
The first portion of the speech belonged to the policy stuff.
"Now is the time to end this addiction [to oil], and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close," Obama said, comparing his energy policy to that of his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain.
"I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels," he said. Obama answered criticism that his speeches are all style and no substance by outlining other points of policy in similar detail.
"He said he was going to be specific," said Dan Clements, a delegate and the director of Maryland for Obama. "He talked about tax cuts, health and education programs."
Others were surprised by the departure from the inspirational style that catapulted Obama's career from the podium of the 2004 Democratic Convention where he delivered the keynote address.
"I expected him to really go lofty and stay lofty," said Mike Eaves, a delegate and real estate agent from Forest Hill who was one of six Maryland delegates to vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton during Wednesday's roll call. "He tried to reach out to too many groups."
He addressed groups ranging from "our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters" to "proud auto workers at a Michigan plant," said Eaves, who chose to watch on television instead of attending the rally at Invesco.
But for other delegates, that was the beauty of the speech. "It's the unity speech that we need to have and I know this speech will energize us for the rest of his campaign," Steed said, earlier in the day.
There was speculation among delegates that Obama would use the speech to reach out to Democrats who didn't support his candidacy in the primaries.
"I think he tried really hard to be specific, to reach out to people and say I'm an American just like you're an American," said Lynn Novelli, a delegate from Gaithersburg.
Obama said that during his presidency he would work to restore "The Promise of America," the central theme he chose for his speech Thursday night.
"That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper," Obama said.
Capital News Service reporter Laurie White contributed to this report.