Michelle Obama Touts Husband's Values, Her Working Class Roots in Opening Speech

On the first night of their National Convention, Democrats in Denver launched a charm offensive in an effort to reintroduce Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to the country and create a healthy gap in the polls against his Republican rival that has so far proved elusive.

After one of the most bitter primary battles in modern political history, Democrats kicked off the convention with a focus on Obama's life, his support from Democrats' unofficial royal family and its ailing leader, Sen. Ted. Kennedy, D-Mass., and an address from his wife, potentially the first African American first lady.

And Tuesday, the Democrats will hear from the party's other first lady, Sen. Hillary Clinton. The woman who battled Obama for the nomination is expected to make an appeal to her disappointed supporters to back Obama and help end what Democrats fear could be a dangerous split in the ranks.

A Clinton aide has told ABC News' chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos that the New York senator intends to "blow the roof" with her speech tonight.

But on the convention's opening night, it was up to Michelle Obama to try to fend off criticism that her husband is elitist and out of touch. She touted her husband's values as a husband and father, and highlight her working class roots at a time when the campaign is seeking the support of blue collar voters that supported Clinton during the primaries.

"I come here as a daughter -- raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters," she said.

Michelle spoke openly about her late father who she called "her rock."

"Although he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero," she said. "As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing - even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder."

In a nod to her husband's former primary rival, Michelle Obama thanked Clinton and acknowledged her 18 million supporters.

"I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history - knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me," she said. "People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters - and sons - can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher."

"People like Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again," she said of Obama's vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.

As his wife spoke to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Barack Obama was watching the speech via webcast in Kansas City, Missouri, at the home of voters Jim and Alicia Giradeau in the battleground state.

He appeared afterwards on a huge plasma screen, waving to Michelle and Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, who came out to hug their mother after her speech.

The little girls stole the show afterwards peppering their father with questions, "What city are you in, Daddy?"

"I love you Daddy!" they yelled at him.

Michelle Obama Touts Husband's Values, Love of Family

Going into the convention, Michelle Obama faced pressure having been the target by some Republicans early on in the Democratic primaries, her patriotism questioned especially over remarks she made after her husband won the Iowa Caucuses.

"For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country," she said speaking to a Democratic rally in Milwaukee, Wisc., Feb 18. A flood of criticism followed the remark, especially from conservative talk radio hosts and bloggers.

But on Monday night, the former corporate lawyer and medical center executive choose her words carefully, with a speech for which she wrote several drafts including a full draft completed as early as two weeks ago, a senior Obama campaign official told ABC News.

"I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president," Michelle Obama said.

Michelle Obama opened the door a bit on the Obamas 16-year marriage and described what makes their relationship click.

"In the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago," she said.

"He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rear view mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love."

Kennedy: 'Nothing is Going to Keep Me Away'

In an emotionally charged high point of the evening, Kennedy took the stage smiling and waving as a huge swell of applause went up in the convention hall.

"Nothing, nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight," Kennedy said to wild applause and cheers.

Television cameras panned to Kennedy's niece, California First Lady Maria Shriver, who wiped away tears from her face as she listened.

"And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama and for you, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew, the hope rises again, the dream lives on."

Caroline Kennedy, Pelosi, Address Convention

On the convention floor of Denver's Pepsi Center, Obama campaign volunteers in fluorescent yellow vests distributed "Change We Can Believe In" signs to delegates cheering the Monday night line up of Democratic stars.

Hollywood stars, too, roamed among the delegates on the convention floor between the speeches, including director Spike Lee.

Caroline Kennedy introduced a moving video tribute to her uncle, the long-serving Democratic senator, and compared Obama to him and her father, John F. Kennedy.

"Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments," she is expected to say according to released remarks.

"I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ripped into John McCain during her convention speech.

"Republicans say John McCain has experience. We say John McCain has the experience of being wrong," she said.

Pelosi praised Clinton saying, "All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign. Our party and our country are strengthened by her candidacy."

Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., a rising star in Democratic politics, invoked Martin Luther King in his speech.

"I'm sure that Doctor King is looking down on us here in Denver noting that this is the first political convention in history to take place within sight of a mountaintop," he said.

"I know Obama, I've seen his leadership at work," Jackson Jr., said. "Freedom in American never rung on a higher mountaintop than today."

Absent at this convention is Jackson's father, Rev. Jesse Jackson who has spoken at every Democratic convention since 1984 until this one. Jackson apologized recently for attacking Obama in colorful language caught on video.

Obama, Clinton Forces Hand Out Petitions for Nomination

The Obama and Clinton forces jointly handed out petitions for nomination for Obama, Clinton, Biden. Each of them needs a minimum of 300 signatures to get their names on the ballot.

Just another part of the "unity" choreography leading up to Wednesday's planned aborted roll call.

The opening night of the Democratic convention comes as Democratic leaders attempt to unify the party and mollify Clinton supporters, after a lengthy Democratic primary battle.

Clinton spoke to delegates of her home state this morning at a breakfast in Denver and argued that she is pushing for party unity. In her remarks this morning she said the word "united" at least nine times during her remarks, per ABC News' Eloise Harper.

"Let there be no mistake about it," Clinton said. "We are united. We are united for change. We are, after all, Democrats, so it might take awhile. We're not the fall in line party -- we're diverse, many voices. But make no mistake, we are united. "

However she reminded reporters that she won the popular vote during the primary season if Michigan and Florida votes were counted.

Asked later whether the focus on her was stealing the limelight from Obama's convention she said, "There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this is Barack Obama's convention as it should be. And there is no doubt that what we are doing is tying to bring everybody together."

Some Clinton supporters on the convention floor including Texas Democratic delegate Pam Durham, 55, said she'd be disappointed if she didn't get a chance to vote for Clinton.

"Voters sent me here to vote for Hillary Clinton," she said, "We have to stand for the democratic process."

Before the convention program got underway, a small group of about 15 Clinton supporters in front of MSNBC's news set, clashed over who deserves the nomination, per ABC News' Eloise Harper.

"Haters, that's what y'all are. Haters! You're not a Democrat! You're not a Democrat!" a man holding up an Obama sign shouted at a Clinton supporter.

"You lost, get over it!" another Obama supporter chimed in.

A handful of Clinton supporters also dogged MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, calling him a "sexist pig" and booing him as he walked onto the network's set. The Clinton campaign and other women's groups loudly complained about comments Matthews made perceived as chauvinistic.

Michelle Obama's Brother Introduced Her

Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson, a basketball coach, introduced his sister tonight.

He told ABC News' Kate Snow earlier that the people who judged her comments early in the primaries don't really know her.

"I think people who got upset with that," he said, "don't know her and the other are people who want to hang on to things like that to bring her down."

Tonight the potential first lady calmly delivered her speech hoping to convince Americans that she and her husband are ready for the White House.

"So tonight, in honor of my father's memory and my daughters' future - out of gratitude to those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment - let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let's stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America," she said.

On the convention floor in Denver tonight, Democratic delegates expressed support for Obama's wife.

"She is the perfect person to introduce him," Lisa Ross, 45, a lawyer and Mississippi delegate said.

Ross said the attacks are "unfair but if anyone can handle it michelle obama can. I think they'll find they need to find someone else to pick on. She won't be bullied."

Mississippi delegate Mary Katherine Brown said, "I thought it was wonderful because it was so clearly genuine, an American story that we all recognize," she said, "We have all talked about the things that make us uniquely American -- belief in country, creating a better life for our children, and the constant work to make that happen for our families."

ABC News' Kate Snow, Nitya Venkataraman, Sara Just, Teddy Davis, David Chalian, Karen Travers, and Eloise Harper contributed to this report.