Bernie and Michelle Offer a Panoramic View of an Inclusive, Optimistic View of America

During the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders stole the show. One is the descendant of African Americans, the slaves who built the White House, and the other a child of Jewish immigrants who fled war-torn Russia to escape religious persecution.  

Both speakers have made it big in an America where hard work, good character and brains paid off. The belief that today’s young people will have the same opportunity is shrinking. Along with most Western countries, rapid change imposed by lightening speed technological advances and free trade agreements have produced diminished returned for people who work with their hands.

Obama and Sanders are products of the post-war booming economy where kids from poor working families could rise to the top of their profession by getting a good education, dedicating themselves to public service, and staying true to themselves.  

They are role models for the next generation

Neither Bernie nor Michelle used their talents to enrich themselves at the expense of others. What you see is what you get. Neither pretends to be something they are not and neither appears to have anything to hide. They are role models for the next generation and a sign that those born without a silver spoon in their mouth can achieve great things and be good people at the same time - if society gives them half a chance.

Michelle has been a superlative first lady and Bernie, well, he’s the most authentic character to emerge on the political scene in decades. He mixes Ronald Reagan’s gift of the gab with Bobby Kennedy’s vision of a truly democratic America, all mixed with a good dose of Leon Trotsky. It was a strange pleasure to watch Sanders convincing his followers “on objective grounds” to vote and work for Hillary. No mushy sentimentalism on the old Marxist’s part. He lost the nomination; perhaps not fair and square, but it was time to defeat Donald Trump. “Trump cannot become the President,” Sanders said from the podium of the Democratic Convention while his legions of young followers, with tears in their eyes, cheered him on.

I’m not certain of the impact of all the speeches that came before Michelle and Bernie’s nor those that will come after (with the exception of Bill and Hillary’s), but Monday night of the Democratic convention was a panoramic view of a colour-blind, inclusive, optimistic America where newcomers are invited to partake in a better life and ordinary working citizens have an opportunity to at least match the economic expectations of their parents. As Sanders said, “Hillary believes that if you work forty hours a week you shouldn’t be living in poverty.” That statement, in a nutshell, is what this convention is about.

Joyce Wayne writes the blog www.RetirementMatters.ca.

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