In her marquee moment, Michelle Obama talked less about her husband and more about her family's values.
The wife of soon-to-be Democratic nominee Barack Obama described how her family fits into the American mainstream and how a shared vision of a nation dedicated to the well-being of children and with enhanced opportunities for women and minorities is the “thread that connects our hearts.”
Introduced by her older brother Crag Robinson, Michelle Obama spoke movingly of her own middle-class upbringing on Chicago's South Side and the way she and her husband have raised their two young daughters.
“[My dad] and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world,” she said. “And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college.”
The traditional message for a candidate's wife at a convention centers around her husband, usually an effort to give human dimension to a distant figure. But her message, which also covered a broad sweep of policy points, was that strong American families share the same basic ingredients despite cultural or racial differences.
“Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation,” she said. “Because 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.”
After his wife's remarks, Obama appeared on a huge video screen behind her. “Now you know why I kept asking Michelle out again and again,” he said.
Obama, speaking from a supporter’s home in St. Louis, also chatted with his daughters, Melia and Sasha, getting their reviews of their mother's performance.
“She did good,” said 10-year-old Sasha.
In a convention fraught with the delicate question of how to deal with the disappointed supporters of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama also reached out to women.
In her list of other Americans who share the Obama’s view of family values, the former first lady was at the top.
“People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters – and sons – can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher,” Michelle Obama said.
The corporate attorney, who met her future husband in 1989 when she was assigned to mentor him as a summer clerk at the Chicago law firm where she worked, also outlined how her husband's proposals were part of the “thread that connects us – our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future.”
Onetime Clinton strategist turned television pundit James Carville said a values-oriented speech was the right play for Michelle Obama, who had been hit hard for remarks about a lack of pride in America.
“There's been a lot of stuff out there on her that's mostly Internet rumors,” Carville said. “I think that when Michelle Obama talks about values, people are going to like it and they're going to like her.”
Since June, Michelle Obama has worked to soften her image, but some Democrats don't want the fierce advocate for progressive positions to be remade as a housewife.
“They need to let Michelle be Michelle,” said onetime presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton. “If America sees the real Michelle Obama, they're going to love her.”