- A memorial service for an Ohio congresswoman turned into a rallying cry for party unity and a strong show of support for Barack Obama
yesterday, as the Clintons and Obama flanked the stage and took turns at the podium.
They were in Cleveland to celebrate the legacy of Stephanie Tubbs Jones
, the first black congresswoman of Ohio, who died Aug. 20 of a brain aneurysm.
In life, she was fiercely loyal to Hillary Clinton, who named her co-chairwoman of her national campaign. Tubbs Jones stumped all over this state and helped deliver a decisive primary victory for Clinton. She backed Obama after Clinton was defeated.
Obama will need many more Clinton Democrats to switch sides if he has any chance of winning this state, which President George W. Bush
won by 3 points in 2004. Aides said Clinton will likely appear here on the trail for Obama.
"Stephanie opened our hearts," said Clinton, who wore a black suit and pearls. "She was not a fair-weather friend. I certainly know what that means."
Clinton sat between her husband and Obama on stage. Michelle Obama
and Joe and Jill Biden sat in the front row.
Obama, who is on a bus tour of swing states with Biden, also spoke of Tubbs Jones' unflagging loyalty. He got a standing ovation when he spoke at the Cleveland Convention Center.
"During this most recent contest, Stephanie and I started off on different sides ... we would see each other and she just said to me, 'This is what it means to be a friend for me,'" Obama recalled. "And all I could say is 'I understand.' And that is a testimony to her and the kind of person she was."
Next up was Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who stayed neutral during the primaries, but has since become a vocal Obama supporter.
"Sixty-five days from today we have an opportunity to change the world. ... The best way to pay homage to our sister is to work your families. Get everyone in your family out to vote," she urged the crowd. "As Stephanie would say, 'Let's get busy.'"
Though not on the program, former President Bill Clinton
was asked to speak and took the opportunity to talk about how Obama's candidacy had changed perceptions of the presidency.
"There's a 6-year-old who looks at me and says, 'Are you really the president?' And I said, 'Yes, I am.' And he said, 'You're not dead yet.' He thought the president was George Washington
or Thomas Jefferson
, a president was a dead white guy.
"Thanks to you, senator," Clinton addressed Obama, "no one will ever think that is the definition again."
Biden and Obama are set to head to Michigan
later today, but were keeping a close eye on Hurricane Gustav
"We are deeply concerned. I've instructed my Senate staff to monitor the situation closely, make sure we've contacted both FEMA
but also private relief organizations just to make sure that whatever happens people are prepared," Obama said.
Later the senator said he himself had spoken to Louisiana
officials and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
"We're praying for New Orleans but we want to make sure that people are making all the necessary precautions."