Past Democratic National Convention Darlings: Where Are They Now?

Julian Castro Delivers Historic DNC Speech

National political conventions can be the ultimate launch pad for a candidate's career or shine a glaring spotlight on a political pitfall. Either way, past conventions have made for some memorable moments.

Tonight this year's Democratic National Convention will mark a milestone when Julian Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, Texas, takes the stage and becomes the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at the party's convention.

"I'm very honored to do it," Castro told "Nightline" before his speech, adding that he was feeling a "combination of being both very excited and a little bit nervous."

Castro is a bold, fresh face for the Democratic party, carrying an air of nostalgia for when a young U.S. Senate candidate from Chicago spoke to the nation for the first time in 2004.

And other motivational figures have come and gone before him. Here's a few of the past convention darlings who have inspired, smirked, gaffed and rallied the crowd in previous years. Two of them became presidents.

The Relatively Unknown Keynote Speaker Goes to Washington

Barack Obama

Few people outside Illinois had heard of Barack Obama before he took the stage to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that nominated Sen. John Kerry.

In his national debut, the relatively unknown U.S. Senate candidate gave a rousing speech about how his past had shaped his identity, and how important it was to bring the nation together. Even eight years ago, politicians and pundits were calling him "the future of the party."

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of 'anything goes.' Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America," Obama said to thunderous applause.

Four years later, he was elected president of the United States on a message of change and unity.

Now as President Obama goes before the country on Thursday to accept the nomination for a second term, he will make the case for "what's next."

The Good Wife

Michelle Obama

As President Obama vies for a second term, first lady Michelle Obama tonight makes the case for her husband's positive vision for the nation's future at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. -- just as she did in a speech about a tight-knit family from Chicago when her husband first made a run at the White House in 2008.

"I love this country," declared Michelle Obama during her speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 25, 2008, adding that her husband had an obligation to "fight for the world as it should be."

Now, instead of introducing Barack Obama to the country, Michelle Obama will act as a "character witness" for his past decision-making and explain how he will move the country forward.

In the war to snatch up women's votes, the Republicans put Ann Romney front and center at their convention last week. Her "I love you, women" speech was aimed at rallying female support for Mitt Romney, and similarly, the Democrats know Michelle Obama holds a great appeal to women.

"I remind people that Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. And he knows what it means to want something better for your kids and your grandkids. And that's why I love him, and that's why I will have his back forever," Michelle Obama told supporters in Davenport, Iowa, last month.

The War Vet

John Kerry

Talk about coming full circle.

When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, he asked then-Senate candidate Barack Obama to deliver the keynote address at his nominating convention.

Now that President Obama is up for re-election, he tapped Kerry to give a speech focused on foreign policy and veterans issues for the closing night of his nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, based his 2004 presidential run on opposing the Iraq War, and he is expected to tout President Obama's plan to bring the troops home Thursday night.

The Convention Lecturer

Bill Clinton

Sometimes first impressions aren't the best impressions, even for future presidents.

When then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton made his national debut at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, he bored his audience into booing and jeering at his 35-minute nomination speech for Michael Dukakis.

Arguably the most memorable moment of the speech was when he said the words, "in conclusion," and the audience gave him a standing ovation.

It earned him the nickname"Comeback Bill," and he went on to win the presidency four years later.

Former President Clinton showed he'd learned his lesson when he spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Even though his speech lasted more than 20 minutes, it met with rousing enthusiasm. He will address the nation Wednesday to rally support for President Obama's re-election bid.

The Virginian

Mark Warner

When Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., delivered the keynote address at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, he spoke of changing the guard away from "George Bush and John McCain's America."

"John McCain promises more of the same: A plan that would explode the deficit and leave that to our kids, no real strategy to invest in our infrastructure; and he would continue spending $10 billion a month in Iraq," Warner told the crowd on Aug 26, 2008. "I don't know about you, but that's just not right. That's four more years that we can't just afford."

A once-rumored vice presidential contender for the 2008 Obama ticket, Warner, a former governor, has been steadfast in his stance not to run for the highest office. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Warner will become the senior senator for Virginia after Sen. Jim Webb retires next year.

The Lovers

Al and Tipper Gore

It's not then-presidential nominee Al Gore's speech that people remember from the 2000 Democratic National Convention. It's the steamy on-stage kiss he shared with his wife, Tipper.

In the days leading up to the convention, Tipper Gore had done several interviews to soften her husband's stiff image. But it was the big smooch that grabbed everyone's attention.

As he stepped up to accept the Democratic nomination for president, Al Gore joined his wife on stage, took her in his arms, and the couple locked lips briefly as the crowd went wild.

A decade after that PDA, Al and Tipper Gore separated, but have yet to officially divorce. Both are skipping the convention this year.

The No-Nonsense Rabble-Rouser

Ann Richards

In 1988, then-Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards, who later became governor, brought the house down at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta when she took jabs at then-Republican presidential nominee, Vice President George H.W. Bush.

"Poor George," Richards said in her keynote address on July 19, 1988. "He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

An activist and a politician, Richards' no-nonsense quips in her signature Texan drawl helped make her an icon of the Democratic party, even though she only served one term as governor.

Richards died in 2006 at the age of 73 of esophageal cancer.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...