UPDATED: PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton, accepting the nomination as the first female candidate to lead a major party ticket, conveying a message of unity while characterizing her opponent Donald Trump as temperamentally unfit to be president.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying,” she said. “And just as with our founders there are no guarantees. It’s truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we’re going to work together so we can all rise together.”
Capping an emotional evening not just for the history being made, but for a succession of speakers who saluted the military and fallen police officers. Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim Army officer killed in Iraq, challenged Trump by holding up a copy of the Constitution and saying, “Have you even read the United States Constitution?’ I will gladly lend you my copy.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do,” Clinton said.
Clinton came on stage after being introduced by her daughter Chelsea and, after hugging and sharing thoughts with her daughter, stopped and waved to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was sitting in the front row. At the end, she had the crowd cheering and delegates and dignitaries streaming out of the Wells Fargo Center called the speech “inspirational,” and “historic.” It was not immediately clear how it played to millions of viewers watching on T.V.
Clinton began her speech by mentioning the location of the convention — Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 amid sharp disagreements among the delegates in the Continental Congress. Eventually, what they found was compromise, Clinton noted.
“We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.”
She got in a few digs at Trump, including on the length of his speech — “70 odd minutes, and I mean odd.” She took issue with a quote that Trump said in his nomination speech in Cleveland a week ago.
“And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says, ‘I alone can fix it.'”
But her speech also tried to convey that Trump would not be able to handle the tasks of the presidency.
“A man who can bait with a Tweet is not a man who we can trust with nuclear weapons,” she said.
Clinton praised primary rival Bernie Sanders, and tried to convey the message that she understood the discord among supporters who have yet to warm up to her. At the start of her speech, some disaffected Sanders supporters tried to disrupt the speech with shouts, but they were drowned out by chants of “Hillary! Hillary!”
“I want you to know. I heard you. Your cause is our cause,” she said. She noted that she supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and backs a plan for free college tuition.
“It’s just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can’t refinance their debts,” she said.
Clinton acknowledged her problems with likability — “I get it — some people just don’t know what to make of me,” she said, noting that she has not done as well with the “public” part of service.
She then told of personal details of her life — her mother and family and her early work with the Children’s Defense Fund.
“The family I’m from, well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind. Builders in the way most American families are,” she said.
She also acknowledged the moment — with delegates and others in the audience bringing their daughters to the convention.
“Tonight we have reached a milestone in the march toward a more perfect union — the first time a major party has nominated a woman for president,” she said, drawing the biggest cheers of her speech.
On the floor of the Wells Fargo Arena, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that she was “very over the moon” given the historic evening.
Ellen Deweese, 21, of Pennsylvania said: “I cried in the beginning and then in the middle and then in the end. She has so much power behind her words.” Deweese said her many young friends who have supported Bernie Sanders may begin to be won over by Clinton. “She spoke directly to them tonight and there were many changes made in the platform to pay attention to their issues,” Deweese said. “It’s now the most progressive platform in the history of the party.”
Bobbie Singh-Allen, a California delegate and president of the Elk Grove Unified School District, said, “The week has been filled with such excitement and enthusiasm. History has been made as we speak and I have a front row seat to this.”
“I have had a lot of emotion on every night,” Singh-Allen said. On Tuesday night when we formally nominated her as president, I just broke down in tears, It was just such and emotional moment, and I was balling like a little baby.”
The air of cooperation and equanimity did not rule the entire evening, though. At several points during the speech, Bernie Sanders supporters began chants, including “No TPP” — referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They were quickly overwhelmed by many more Clinton partisans chanting “Hillary! Hillary!”
“Hillary was talking about a lot of the issues they care about so much — homelessness, child care, a woman’s right to choose on abortion,” said Cara Robin, a Westchester resident and president of the West Los Angeles Democratic Club. “I said to a woman in front of me who was chanting ‘You must be pro-choice.”
But Robin said she thinks the Sanders supporters will eventually come around. “There is anger and sadness and frustration right now,” Robin said. “They need to process all that and work through it and then move forward. I think with a little more understanding, and with what Bernie himself has said [endorsing Clinton] it will come together.”
James Rainey contributed to this story.