Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 20, 2014

Gabrielle Giffords’ Pledge Provides Touching Moment Amid Partisan Jabs

Gabrielle Giffords Pledge Provides Touching Moment Amid Partisan Jabs

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) recited the Pledge of Allegiance tonight at the Democratic National Convention, igniting a crowd chanting, “Gabby! Gabby!”

Delegates continued to cheer Giffords as her friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) guided her onto the blue stage. Giffords recited the pledge perfectly, calling out at the end, “Liberty and justice, for all!”

As Giffords walked off the stage, she blew the audience a kiss. Her appearance — and the audience’s excitement — marked one of the most sincere moments of the back-to-back party conventions.

Giffords’ touching words came halfway through a star-studded lineup on the final night of the convention, culminating with President Barack Obama accepting his party’s nomination for re-election. Roll Call first broke the news Giffords would deliver the pledge.

Otherwise, the slick evening program was filled with world-famous singers, Hollywood actresses and polished video tributes. Many featured speakers relied on telling personal stories, instead of party talking points, to attack Republicans.

Earlier in the evening, Wasserman Schultz told her personal story of fighting breast cancer during the 2008 election cycle — during which she endured seven surgeries. For this reason, she described the president’s heath care overhaul law as “personal.”

Her words lacked the typical partisan red meat that party faithful have come to expect from leaders like Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Instead, the Florida Democrat choked up.

“I know what it’s like to sit in that waiting room wondering how many more anniversaries you’ll get with your husband or how many more birthdays you’ll celebrate with your kids,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I don’t care how strong a woman you are, that moment is terrifying.”

Videos played on the jumbotrons around Time Warner Cable Arena, including a tribute to late Democratic officials and activists. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina communicated with convention watch parties across the country.

In one film, a Greenwood, S.C., woman described her first meeting with the president at a small rally. She was so moved by Obama, she led the crowd in a chant that came to define the spirit of his 2008 campaign.

“Fired Up? Ready to go!”  the crowd replied in a back-and-forth exchange with the video of the president.

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) directed his ire at Congressional Republicans, including vice presidential nominee and House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), calling him the “architect of the Republicans’ backward blueprint.”

“We should not run from the term Obamacare,” Clyburn said. “I am glad Obama cares. Because Obama cares, children born with diabetes can no longer be denied coverage on their parents’ insurance policies.”

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) diverted from the script in his comments to the crowd, halting the teleprompter for several minutes until a red light on the dais encouraged him to finish.

In his thick dialect, Frank referred to his state’s former governor as “Myth Romney” in a full-fledged diatribe about the Republican nominee’s governance over his state. His prepared remarks extolled financial regulatory reform under Obama’s tenure.

“Nice of them to leave a gavel out here to make me feel nostalgic,” quipped Frank, a former chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

The star-studded program kicked off with singer and songwriter James Taylor, who crooned “Carolina in My Mind,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “How Sweet It Is” to dancing delegates.

“I know it’s an empty chair. It makes you nervous,” Taylor quipped as he stepped on stage, in a nod to actor Clint Eastwood’s awkward performance at the Republican National Convention a week earlier.

Singer Mary J. Blige encouraged the crowd to support Obama during her performance, which included hits “One Life” and “Family Affair.” The rock band the Foo Fighters called it a “fitting” tribute when they sang, “My Hero.”

Singer Marc Anthony performed the national anthem.

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