Democrats Kick Off Convention

Democrats will officially nominate Barack Obama as their presidential candidate. Publicly, they have been stressing party unity, but it's yet to be seen how Hillary Clinton will use her time on the stage, and just how wholehearted her support for Obama will appear to be.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Democratic National Convention opens today in Denver. It's a four-day made for TV spectacle, long-on speeches and blazed with political symbolism. The first three days events will take place at the Pepsi Center on a stage with the brightly lit structures like tentacles, reaching up over the speakers and out toward the audience.

BLOCK: Barack Obama will accept the nomination on Thursday night at Invesco Field where the Broncos play. Until then, a stream of others will do the talking starting with tonight's marquee speaker Michelle Obama.

The Democrats have some healing to do in Denver, some delegates for Hillary Clinton are supporting Hillary for president buttons and a grudge.

SIEGEL: Our co-host, Michele Norris, is in Denver at the convention. And she joins us now from the Pepsi Center. Hi, Michele.

MICHELE NORRIS: Hello, Robert.

SIEGEL: What do we expect to hear tonight at this first session of the Democratic National Convention?

NORRIS: Well, the theme tonight is one nation. Michelle Obama is the headline tonight. She's the keynote speaker. We're going to hear and see - hear from and see several members of Barack Obama's family: his brother-in-law, his sister-in-law. Big news today, though is the alert that Ted Kennedy will make an appearance at the convention. It was expected that people would see him only on screen in a special video tribute. The campaign now says that he has arrived in Denver. He will make a brief appearance at the convention this evening. It's not clear if he will say anything. They say what he's up to, they say he might say a few words. But you're going to expect that that will be a very, very emotional moment when he takes the stage, if ever, so briefly.

SIEGEL: Well, you had an interview with Michelle Obama this morning. Any previews on what she is going to say when she speaks to the convention?

NORRIS: She says that her message tonight will be similar to what she's been saying all throughout the campaign stamp. But what she really wants for this evening is try to make a real connection to the voters so that people see the Obama family, she says, as a family that is very similar to many of the people who save for months to get here to the convention, to many of the families who are watching and struggling to pay $4 for gasoline, $4 for a gallon of milk. She wants people to see this family and see something of themselves. And so she's going to be talking about not just their triumphs but also their struggles; how they to confront adversity on many fronts. And she's hoping, she says, that people will come a way with this, come a way from her speech with a much better sense of who Barack Obama is and what he stands for.

SIEGEL: Michele, talk a little bit about the challenge to the Obama people to deal with supporters of Hillary Clinton at the convention and not at least among them Bill Clinton, Hillary and Bill will both speak. How are the Obamas handling this?

NORRIS: Well, it's an uphill battle for them, Robert. When you walk around Denver, you see people who are wearing Hillary 2012 t-shirts. The feelings among those who were very passionate about Hillary Clinton are still pretty raw in the campaign as an uphill battle and try to reach those women. And there's a lot of things that are still being worked out also behind the scenes and trying to figure out how they're going to handle the roll call for Hillary Clinton and trying to figure out what exactly Bill Clinton's message will be when he takes to the stage. Will he talk about the future? Or will he spend more time trying to talk about his legacy during his presidency? But the campaign is hoping that at the end of this convention that the enthusiasm here at the Pepsi Center will convey and that will help motivate those voters who are still a little bit slow to throw their full weight behind Barack Obama.

SIEGEL: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: Good to talk to you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's our co-host Michele Norris at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

BLOCK: And over the next four evenings, you can hear NPR's live coverage of the convention on many public radio stations and at npr.org.

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