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2008-08-29

Rep. John Lewis, Rosey Grier, Wendell Pierce and Many More React to Obama Nomination from Stadium Floor

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Democracy Now! goes to the Mile High Stadium, where Barack Obama addressed more than 84,000 people in the largest crowd at a Democratic convention in US history, surpassing John F. Kennedy’s acceptance in 1960 at the L.A. Coliseum. An estimated 25 million people watched Obama on TV. We get reactions from the endless lines outside to the stands of spectators to the delegates on the stadium floor. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

The Mile High Stadium, where Barack Obama addressed more than 84,000 people in the largest crowd at a Democratic convention in US history, surpassing John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech in 1960 at the L.A. Coliseum. An estimated 25 million people watched Obama on TV.

From the endless lines outside of people waiting to go in, to the stands of spectators, to the delegates on the stadium floor, we begin with actor Wendell Pierce. He was standing outside. The line went on for hours. He’s star of the hit TV show The Wire.

    WENDELL PIERCE: Profoundly moving, for me. I wasn’t born — I was born a couple of months after the march on Washington, you know, and I knew so many people who were a part of the civil rights movement in New Orleans, where I’m from.

    And I just think that — you know, that line. I keep thinking of the one line from the speech, where Dr. King said this was a dream of having the nation rising up to live out the true meaning of its creed. And this is really a celebration of America, you know. It’s not an African American achievement, it’s an American achievement, that we have matured as a nation to really actually live by what we believe, you know.

    And so, the world is watching. I just got back from Beijing. And I think that people are seeing this is an opportunity that — and proof positive that it is — that we’re not hypocrites, that we actually live by what we believe in, because no one would have expected an African American to be eight weeks away from being the president of the United States.

    AMY GOODMAN: And on this third anniversary of Katrina?

    WENDELL PIERCE: It’s a complete 180 from the feelings I feel about today, because it’s a travesty. It’s criminal that three years out, we might as well be three months after, that the travesty of the inaction then is still in action now, and it’s because the lack of political will.

    AMY GOODMAN: Democrats are in power, except for the President.

    WENDELL PIERCE: Yes, that’s for — you know, speaking truth to power, which is what the civil rights movement is about, doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is going to get an exemption, doesn’t mean that Kathleen Blanco, who was the Democratic governor for all those years, gets an exemption.

    Actually, we have $500 million right now sitting in Baton Rouge. Zero has been spent in New Orleans. And you see a conscious effort being made by those in Louisiana, from my point of view, to strangle the city, to make it inert. Nothing is happening. Then in a couple of years, mark my words, they’re going to be asking the federal government to redirect those dollars, since nobody is coming back. So, I mean, that’s the plan I see.

    ROSEY GRIER: My name is Rosey Grier.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s alright to cry.

    ROSEY GRIER: Yes, it certainly is. Yeah, it’s a good thing, you know, that men can cry. I cry a lot.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think about here?

    ROSEY GRIER: I think this is really an exciting time for all of us. We’re seeing a great change in our country in our thinking. And there’s a possibility that we could really come together in unity and do the things that need to be done to make this a great nation.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did you end up coming from L.A. to Denver? Are you a delegate?

    ROSEY GRIER: No, I came with the NFL Network. They’re shooting a piece on me, and they wanted to come to this to witness a historical moment. And we’ve have been here since Tuesday, and it’s exciting.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you know Barack Obama?

    ROSEY GRIER: No, I don’t know him. I’ve watched him. I’ve listened to him. I think that he’s — he reminds me a lot of Bobby Kennedy. And that mystique, that energy that the Kennedys brought, he seemed to get people to come out of the closets and off the fences and get out in the battleground and say, “We are Americans. We can work together. We can change things.” And so, that’s the exciting part about all of this.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of a stadium filled with — oh, what — 70,000 people? Have you seen this in politics before?

    ROSEY GRIER: No. I think it just shows you what this is all about, that so many people want to come and be a part of history, because that’s what it is. This will go in the history books. This will go all over the place, about there was a time in Denver when the first black man was nominated to be president of the United States of America and accepted the challenge. And all the ones who thought — the young people, who never thought it was possible for them, because of their color, realize that it’s all possible.

    AMY GOODMAN: So you’re right at home here in a football stadium.

    ROSEY GRIER: Oh, yeah. That’s where I learned my concept of team.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, did you think you’d have a political rally in a football stadium?

    ROSEY GRIER: No, this is the uniqueness of it. As we said earlier, that this is about history. And everyone wants to be a part of history. I was there. I heard the speech. I was sitting in the stadium of the Denver Broncos. And great.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, is it alright to cry?

    ROSEY GRIER: Of course. It’s always alright to cry.

    AMY GOODMAN: Will you be doing it tonight?

    ROSEY GRIER: I have no idea. I cried last night, cried this morning. So I’ve been doing pretty good at that. It gets the sad out of you. It gets the mad out of you.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you remember when you first heard Barack Obama’s name?

    ROSEY GRIER: When I first heard it? No, I don’t remember the first time I heard it. I think I heard of it when he ran for the Senate, and I began to really pay attention to him. I began to listen. And I found that he had a very way — a good way of saying things. And you listened to him. You felt he had great knowledge and wisdom. He reminded me of the wisdom of President Carter. He had great wisdom.

    AMY GOODMAN: But President Carter, while he waved at everyone on Monday night, he — President Carter was at the convention.

    ROSEY GRIER: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: He waved at everyone, but he wasn’t allowed to speak.

    ROSEY GRIER: Well, I don’t run the campaign.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, do you think Barack Obama can win?

    ROSEY GRIER: Do I think he can win? Of course, he can win. But it’s going to mean that people can no longer talk or say that I wouldn’t go do something differently in the booth. So it means that people who really believe in this have got to get their friends to tune in and really listen to the man.

    AMY GOODMAN: What most moves you about him? Is it a particular position?

    ROSEY GRIER: Well, not so much as I know that the spirit of this nation needs to be rekindled. I think a lot of people are going down. They don’t feel inspired anymore. They’re just kind of going down and down and down. They need a new energy, someone who can inspire them to get up and go again, not to lie there, but to get up and speak and do, because that’s the only way change is going to come. The American people themselves have to get involved in the process of change.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the war?

    ROSEY GRIER: Well, no one likes war. War only brings heartaches and pain, destruction and waste. And you would want all wars to end, that people learn to get along and to talk things through and make great decisions, to love one another and to help one another.

    PILAR MARRERO: Pilar Marrero from La Opinion. I’m a reporter for the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country, and I’m here covering this event. It’s a very historic event. It’s very satisfying as a reporter to be here. I’m also going to be in the Republican convention, so it will be interesting to compare the two. And, you know, I’ve been covering conventions for many years now. I think this is my seventh or eight convention cycle. And I’ve never seen such an interesting cycle as we have now. It’s really — it’s really different. It feels different than previous times. And it has been fascinating to cover, frankly.

    AMY GOODMAN: And your readers, where are they on Barack Obama?

    PILAR MARRERO: Well, as you know, Latinos were very heavily for Hillary Clinton, but from all the polls that I’ve seen, they are now very heavily for Barack Obama. The thing is, for them, you know, they’re not happy with the war in Iraq, they’re not happy with the economy, they’re not happy with the state of the economy, losing their jobs. They have the highest unemployment rate in the country right now. And they are basically upset about the whole situation and thinking about voting for a change, I think.

    And I don’t see — even though Republicans are trying very hard to fight for that Latino vote and saying, you know, McCain was the guy who pushed immigration reform and he’s from Arizona and he knows Latinos, trying to get some of that vote back that Bush was out to get the last time around, the polls are not showing that they’re moving towards the Republican side. They’re moving towards the Democratic side. But the question really is whether people are going to be enthusiastic enough to go out to vote, and we don’t know that yet.

    JEFF COHEN: Jeff Cohen, the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. Clearly, we’re going to be witnessing a historic day today. And I think the question that all independent journalists are asking is, will we be disappointed beginning January, February, March, if Obama is elected?

    And it’s — I mean, I look at the media coverage here at this convention, and I see Democracy Now! and Glenn Greenwald scrutinizing the biggest story, which is the corporate influence in both political parties. And you just don’t see it in the mainstream media. It’s a soap opera, a continuing soap opera. Who’s getting along with whom within the Democratic Party elite? But, I mean, there’s real issues that need to be explored by journalism. And as the head of a center for independent media, I see that independent journalists and bloggers and community radio are asking the questions, what do these two parties stand for? What are their similarities? Why are the same corporations here this week in Denver and next week in St. Paul? So, big, big kudos to independent media for asking the questions you don’t see, like —-

    Real quick, MSNBC in the last couple days, there’s been a soap opera as people debate each other on the air. Who likes each other? Who hates each other? It’s all become so insular. And the big issues, if you watch MSNBC, hour after hour, you just don’t get them. Even Rachel Maddow, who’s so great and really knows policy -— what do they have her talking about hour after hour? Horserace, strategy, polls. You want to get the big issues, the so-called mainstream media aren’t covering them; the independent media are.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: I’m John Lewis, congressperson from the 5th district of Georgia. I feel very, very good. I feel deeply moved by what is happening, what is about to happen. It’s one of these moments in our history that I will never, ever forget. I never thought I would live to see this day.

    AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this day, forty years ago.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, this day, forty-five years ago —-

    AMY GOODMAN: Forty-five years ago.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: We were in Washington, more than 250,000 of us, black and white, Protestant, Catholic, Jews, people of different background, rich and poor. And we were on and inspired by the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., that one day we would make it possible for people to be able to register to vote. In many parts of the South, people could not register to vote, simply because of the color of their skin. And we changed that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your speech had to be changed to be toned down forty-five years ago. What were you trying to say?

    SECURITY OFFICER 1: Sorry, the interview is over now.

    SECURITY OFFICER 2: Ma’am, you’re done. Let’s go. You gotta go this way.

    AMY GOODMAN: I have a chair, and I’m sitting.

    SECURITY OFFICER 2: Let’s go. Well, alright, you gotta go.

    SECURITY OFFICER 1: We gotta keep -— start moving.

    AMY GOODMAN: Just this last little bit, this last [inaudible].

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: Tell them this —

    AMY GOODMAN: This is a great man here.

    SECURITY OFFICER 1: Secret Service has asked that this area be locked down. So you guys have to go.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: But this is not –

    SECURITY OFFICER 1: Get out of his seat, ma’am.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: This is not Chicago in ’68, sir. Don’t create a problem.

    SECURITY OFFICER 1: Listen.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS: Don’t create a problem.


AMY GOODMAN: That was Congress member John Lewis, as the police tried to take me away from talking to him. John Lewis was there forty-five years ago, when Martin Luther King gave his address on the Mall in Washington, D.C. In fact, John Lewis, as a young civil rights activist, also gave a speech that day. We’ll talk with Michael Eric Dyson about that. He’s coming up in our next segment.

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