Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Barack Obama to Give Keynote Speech at Democratic Convention?

The New York Times thinks so!
The Democratic National Committee has not yet announced or, in fact, selected the keynote speaker for its convention in Boston next month, but Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, let a hint slip here this morning.

"I cannot wait to hear his voice," Mr. Kerry said of Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate candidate here in Illinois, who became a hot commodity in national political circles after emerging from a crowded primary field this spring. "First at our convention, where he's going to have an opportunity to speak in a few weeks, and then on the floor of the United States Senate."

So far, the Democrats have said little about marquee names for the convention, scheduled to begin in Boston July 26. On Monday, officials announced that former President Bill Clinton would kick off the festivities with a prime-time speech Monday night, and that Mr. Kerry's senior colleague, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, would also have a coveted evening slot. The candidate's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, would take a prominent turn at the microphone, too, they said.

But Mr. Kerry himself was the first to publicly name Mr. Obama, a young state legislator from Chicago's South Side who has already been whispered about as a possible presidential or vice presidential candidate in coming years.

Good-looking, Harvard-educated, well-spoken, half-Kenyan, Mr. Obama has become an instant poster child for a party always eager to cultivate its black and Hispanic constituencies, particularly as Mr. Kerry faces criticism for surrounding himself mainly with white men.

Party officials said Mr. Obama's name was among those being tossed around for the coveted keynote speaking slots, which are traditionally traded among the party's elders and its rising stars. Affirmative action is also practiced in scheduling, as organizers try to showcase a rainbow of talent.

Senator Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee gave the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in 2000, and Ann Richards, then the governor of Texas, splashed onto the national scene with her keynote address ("born with a silver foot in his mouth") in 1992. Other keynoters include Mario Cuomo (1984), Morris K. Udall (1980), Barbara Jordan (1976), and Daniel K. Inouye (1968).

Republican keynoters of note include Earl Warren (1944), Douglas MacArthur (1952), Thomas Kean (1988) and Susan Molinari (1996).

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