2004 Democratic National Convention

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2004 Democratic National Convention logo
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The 2004 Democratic National Convention culminated in the arrival of John Kerry on July 29 to address the delegates.

The 2004 Democratic National Convention was a United States presidential nominating convention that took place from July 26 to July 29, 2004 at the TD Banknorth Garden, then called FleetCenter, in Boston, Massachusetts. The convention was one of a series of historic quadrennial meetings of the Democratic Party with a primary focus on officially nominating a candidate for President and adopting a party platform. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson served as chairman while former presidential advisor to Bill Clinton, Lottie Shackelford, served as vice chairman.

Defining moments of the 2004 Democratic National Convention included the featured keynote speech of Barack Obama, a Honolulu native and candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois, and the confirmation of the nomination of John Kerry as the candidate for President and of John Edwards as the candidate for Vice President. The two faced incumbents George W. Bush and Dick Cheney of the Republican Party in the 2004 presidential election.

The 2004 Democratic National Convention marked the formal end of the active primary election season, although all meaningful primary elections had finished months earlier. Kerry and Edwards faced Carol Moseley-Braun, Wesley K. Clark, Howard B. Dean III, Richard A. "Dick" Gephardt, D. Robert Graham, Dennis J. Kucinich, Joseph I. Lieberman and Alfred Sharpton Jr. in the primaries.


Convention themes

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Former Vice President Gore, who won the popular vote over George W. Bush in the 2000 election, was the first major speaker of the Democratic convention. In his speech, Gore stressed the importance of counting every vote and starting a new direction in America.

The 2004 Democratic National Convention was planned with four specific themes in mind. The first night of the meeting focused on the theme "Plan for America's Future" with speeches devoted to building optimism for John Kerry's candidacy. The second night of the meeting focused on the theme "A Lifetime of Strength and Service" devoted to John Kerry's biography and his path to his nomination. The third night of the meeting focused on the theme "A Stronger More Secure America" devoted to issues of homeland security and the global war on terror. The last night of the meeting focused on the theme "Stronger at Home, Respected in the World" devoted to the overall agenda of the party to secure the borders, improving domestic welfare while at the same time promoting international cooperation in world affairs.

Party platform

The 2004 Democratic National Convention successfully passed an official party platform. A forty-one page document, the party platform was entitled "Stronger at Home, Respected in the World" — also the name of the theme conveyed on the last night of the convention. The first part of the platform was called "A Strong, Respected America." The section defined specific goals and actions to defeat terrorism, to keep weapons of mass destruction from the hands of terrorists, to promote world peace and security, to strengthen the military, to achieve energy independence and to strengthen homeland security. The second part of the platform was called, "A Strong, Growing Economy." The section defined specific goals and actions to create what the party called "good jobs" and "standing up for the great American middle class." The third part of the platform was called, "Strong, Healthy Families." The section defined specific goals and actions to reform the healthcare system in the United States, to improve education and to protect the environment. The final part of the platform was called, "A Strong American Community." It stressed the diversity of the nation and the importance of upholding civil rights as a major tenet of the party.

Boston venue

Beacon Hill and Downtown Boston as seen from Cambridge
Beacon Hill and Downtown Boston as seen from Cambridge
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The free speech zone at the Convention

The 2004 Democratic National Convention holds several distinctions — the first held in Boston, one of the few held in the home state of the presidential nominee and the first since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. With its bid to host the meeting, Boston leaders became a target of criticism by residents and businesses while others welcomed the bid with fanfare. During the convention, there was a memorial service to honor the victims of the attacks.


Frustration grew over increased counterterrorism measures nearly shutting-down the city. Counterterrorism measures included rigid regulation of transportation in and out of the city, closure of several major road arteries and the imposition of random baggage checks for metropolitan train system. Manhole covers were welded shut while garbage receptacles and postal boxes were removed from the streets for fear they would become tempting hiding places for explosives. DHS officially declared the 2004 Democratic National Convention an NSSE, making the Secret Service the lead agency responsible for security.

Free speech zone

One of the most controversial "counter-terrorism" measures was the declaration of a designated free speech zone for protesters, limiting where and when protesters could exercise their first amendment rights. Protesters through the American Civil Liberties Union mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit for the right to protest outside of the designated free speech zone, which the group claimed was unconstitutional. FleetCenter access promulgated tight security measures that frustrated even the news media. Credentials enabling reporters to enter and exit the meeting became the subject of strict rules forbidding the act of borrowing and sharing such passes, a common practice for the major media outlets in the past.

Protesters inside the "free speech zone" drew parallels to Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray, and staged a demonstration in which they wore hoods akin to those worn by Abu Ghraib detainees. Many demonstrators simply refused to enter the "free speech zone."

Police strike

Other Bostonians took advantage of the meeting as a national stage for specific agendas. The police union, for example, gained attention with threats of picketing of delegates from entering and exiting functions — a dilemma for Democrats as the party has traditionally been an ally of organized labor. Having worked without a contract for two years, the police union struck a deal with Boston mayor Thomas Menino for a new contract, avoiding a major embarrassment for the party.

Keynote address

Template:Wikisourcepar Illinois state Senator Barack Obama delivered the convention's keynote address, becoming the third African American to do so since Barbara Jordan in 1976. Obama, a candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois, was enthusiastically received by the delegates, who waved blue-and-white campaign signs and chanted his name. The excitement of his reception rivaled that of President Clinton's entrance the night before.

As the keynote speaker, Obama set the tone for the party platform. His speech, proclaiming the unnecessary and artificial divides in American culture and politics, was reminiscent of John Edwards's "Two Americas" stump speech: "There's not a liberal conservative America—there's the United States of America." Obama emphasized the importance of unity, and made veiled jabs at the Bush administration and the news media's perceived oversimplification and diversionary use of wedge issues: "We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war, and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

The overall theme of Obama's address was the nature of the American Dream. Obama noted his interracial and international heritage: he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Kenyan immigrant father and a white mother from Kansas. He emphasized the power of education, recounting the privilege of attending the exclusive Punahou School and Harvard Law School despite his family's poverty, and tangentially criticized poor black youths who believe that reading a book is "acting white." He went on to describe his successful career in law and politics while raising a family in Chicago. "In no other country on Earth is my story even possible," Obama proclaimed. He identified himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too."

Obama's powerful performance led to much speculation as to his place in the party and the nation's future. After Obama had left the stage, media commentators, panels of historians and political scientists on the major television networks began explicating what many began calling the "Obama phenomenon" — in Illinois and elsewhere in the country. It was pointed out that many in Illinois openly discussed Obama's future as a possible presidential candidate, especially evident in his ability to capture white votes like no other racial minority candidate had ever done in downstate Illinois. While Obama was praised greatly by pundits and offered enthusiastic speculation, others cautioned that Obama was still a mere state legislator and had much more to experience and accomplish before even attempting a run for national office.


  • "That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted-or at least, most of the time." —Barack Obama
  • "In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? I'm not talking about blind optimism here...No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!" —Barack Obama
  • "We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States." —Barack Obama

Edwards's address

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John Edwards stepped on and off the stage to chants of his name. In his address, Edwards made the case for uniting the "two Americas" of the status quo.

Not yet formally nominated for the Vice Presidency, John Edwards took the stage at the Convention to give the first major national speech of his political career. Delegates, excited by his presence, raised red-and-white vertical "Edwards" banners and chanted his name. The theme of Edwards's address was the divide between the "two Americas," his populist message throughout the primary campaign and now one embraced by Kerry. He tied the division to his own roots in North Carolina, and introduced his family to the audience. Edwards addressed his parents from the podium: "You taught me the values that I carry with me in my heart: faith, family, responsibility, and opportunity for everyone. You taught me that there's dignity and honor in a hard days work. You taught me that you look out for your neighbors, you never look down on anybody, and you treat everyone with respect."

Edwards went on to define the two Americas he claimed to exist, one for the rich and one for the poor, and repeated several times that "It doesn't have to be that way." Edwards offered, through the Democratic ticket, one united America. He called for one health care system, equal in quality to the coverage received by Senators and other elected officials, and promised to establish a Patients' Bill of Rights. Edwards proposed one public school system for all, arguing that "None of us believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community." He appealed for the end of the two economies, "one for the people who are set for life, [whose] kids and grandkids will be just fine, and then one for most Americans who live paycheck to paycheck." Edwards also stated how the Democrats expected to pay for their agenda: "We'll roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending. We can move our country forward without passing the bill and the burden on to our children and grandchildren."

Many pundits noted that while Edwards's charismatic style was in evidence, he had rushed through the speech, ending several minutes earlier than planned. The delegates in the FleetCenter, however, were enraptured, and Edwards led them several times in a statement-response chant: "Hope is on the way." This, and the general upbeat tone of the address, was a response to attacks by the Bush campaign claiming that Kerry and Edwards were pessimistic and cynical; it was altered and echoed the next day in the more detailed speech of John Kerry: "Help is on the way."


  • "We hear a lot of talk about values. Where I come from, you don't judge someone’s values based on how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing. So when a man volunteers to serve his country, and puts his life on the line for others — that's a man who represents real American values." —John Edwards
  • "I have heard some discussions and debates about where, and in front of what audiences we should talk about race, equality, and civil rights. Well, I have an answer to that question. Everywhere. This is not an African-American issue, not a Latino issue, not an Asian-American issue, this is an American issue. It's about who we are, what our values are, what kind of country we want to live in. What John and I want — what we all want — is for our children and our grandchildren to be the first generations to grow up in an America that's no longer divided by race." —John Edwards

Kerry's address

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Kerry gave a salute and proclaimed, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."

The suspense over Senator Kerry's arrival was built up by his daughters' eloquent testimonials about growing up with Kerry as their father. Their speeches were followed by a short video of selected highlights of Kerry's life: his birth in Colorado, his childhood in New England, the travels with his diplomat father to post-World War II Germany, and his heroism in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, interspersed with clips of Kerry speaking and narrated voiceovers. After the video's conclusion, and with Kerry's navy crewmates standing across the stage, former U.S. Senator Max Cleland delivered a speech proclaiming that the global conflict and active wars in Afghanistan and Iraq required a decorated military hero such as Kerry in the White House. Kerry then entered from the back of the hall, greeting delegates and shaking hands as he moved to the front. To cheers and applause, Kerry gave a military salute and deadpanned, "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty." After a brief, impassioned introduction of himself, Kerry formally addressed the delegates: "With great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States."

Kerry's acceptance address was widely compared by media pundits to the progressive-era speeches of President Theodore Roosevelt, who advocated the social welfare programs characteristic of American liberalism, but also supported strengthening American military power and nationalistic patriotism. The speech, analysts added, attempted to portray the Democratic Party as masculine, even macho — much like the Republicans have historically presented themselves. Kerry stressed his qualities as a warrior and his ability to wage war when needed, a need to expand and modernize the armed forces, and a need to increase the size of special forces divisions. Alluding to the Bush administration's having fired Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki for demanding a peacekeeping plan before going to war in Iraq, Kerry also stressed the need to heed the counsel of generals.

Media analysts also characterized Kerry's speech as closer in style to a sitting president's State of the Union Address than those historically given by candidates at nominating conventions. Kerry listed specific proposals for programs and legislation, and offered a way to pay for them. He promised to train 40,000 new active duty troops, to quickly implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, to cut the national deficit in half within four years, to cut middle class taxes while repealing the Bush administration's tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 per year, to stop privatization of Social Security, and to embrace science over religious dogma, especially with regards to stem cell research, which the Bush administration has constrained. He issued a promise to improve homeland security measures and quality of living: "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America." Although Kerry clarified the broad tenets of the Democratic platform, some liberals criticized the party's evasion of abortion rights and gay rights, while others found Kerry's plans too vague. On the whole, however, the address was well-received, and pundits found that Kerry's forceful delivery had made the normally dour candidate more appealing.

On the day after Kerry's speech, George W. Bush's reelection campaign launched a counterattack on the claims and promises made by Kerry and others at the convention. At a campaign stop in Springfield, Missouri, Bush told a crowd: "My opponent has good intentions, but intentions do not always translate to results." He went on to attack Kerry's Senate record: "We heard a lot of clever speeches and some big promises. After 19 years in the United States Senate my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements." White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan added to the criticism, saying, "I think the senator from Massachusetts is a walking contradiction." Democrats generally took umbrage at Republican attacks. A Pennsylvania delegate who voted for Kerry,State Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, said "Kerry's lifelong habits of courage, conviction, and responsibility comprise the strongest possible refutation of false Republican stereotyping."


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After the convention, Kerry and Edwards kicked-off a non-stop tour of the country to elaborate on issues raised in Boston. Here, they travel on their campaign train through Missouri.
  • "In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals. We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared." —John Kerry
  • "Here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead. We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better. We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We're the can do people." —John Kerry
  • "I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good. That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people." —John Kerry
  • "I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush. In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity. Let's respect one another. And let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States." —John Kerry
  • "I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my religion on my sleeve, but faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." —John Kerry
  • "Now, I know there that are those who criticize me for seeing complexities — and I do — because some issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming "Mission accomplished" certainly doesn't make it so. As president, I will ask the hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system, so policy is guided by facts and facts are never distorted by politics. And as president, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation." —John Kerry
  • What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steelworker that I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory was literally unbolted, crated up and shipped thousands of miles away, along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met have had to train their foreign replacements? America can do better. And tonight we say: Help is on the way." —John Kerry

Other speakers

Main article: Speakers of 2004 Democratic National Convention

In addition to the Obama, Edwards, and Kerry addresses, there were also speeches from former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as many of the democratic primary canidates for the 2004 Presidential Election.

Demonstrations and protests

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Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speaks out against the occupation of Iraq.
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Tom Hayden urges anti-war activists to continue efforts to organize.
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Protestors burn a two-faced effigy of President Bush and Kerry in the streets of Boston.

There were a number of demonstrations during the 2004 Democratic National Convention to put pressure on the Democratic Party to oppose the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, as well as protests from activists dissatisfied with the moderation of the ticket and platform as well as Republicans who support the incumbent president and his pro-war policies. Many of the demonstrators were anarchists and others focused on long term change, unimpressed with the mild or even conservative policies of many Democrats. Many activities were festive in nature. The Really Really Democratic Bazaar was held on July 27, a festival with free food and music.

Small scale street demonstrations surged on the final day of the convention and Boston police tactical teams composed of hundreds of officers appeared in full force. That afternoon, an anarchist group called the Black Tea Society convened outside FleetCenter and called for "decentralized direct action." Their protests were denounced by city officials lacking permits to march. A local Critical Mass group bicycled through Boston as a form of protest to what they believed to be a political party that turned its back on what they describe as the party's traditional ideals.

That evening a group of peace activists held a peaceful rally a few hundred feet from the FleetCenter. Local Boston politicians were joined by presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and long-time activist and California state senator Tom Hayden in a call to end the occupation of and to remove U.S. troops from Iraq and to bring in an international peacekeeping force.

The first major protest was held on the Sunday evening before the meeting convened at FleetCenter. An estimated 2,000 anti-war members marched at the same time that approximately 1,000 anti-abortion activists congregated. The same anti-abortion group had their permit revoked to protest outside of the Kerry family home. They challenged the decision and a federal judge banned them from any such demonstration.

The most publicized protest happened on the final evening as various groups collaborated and marched through the Boston financial district and civic center. They arrived at the FleetCenter where they burned a two-faced effigy of President Bush and Kerry. Protestors stomped on the figures as copies of Bush's autobiography were also heaped into the fire. Hundreds of police officers wearing full riot gear — helmets, shields and batons — outnumbered protestors as they monitored the demonstration.

Results of delegate voting


Not voting             26 votes  (0.6%)

TOTAL VOTES 4,322 Votes (source:

Vice president

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Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton spoke to the delegates on opening night. Democratic National Convention delegates voted the president and senator as the most popular Democrats in the United States.

See also

External links

Template:Sequencede:Demokratischer Parteitag 2004


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