DENVER, August 26 – Barack Obama’s wife Michelle on Monday pledged allegiance to the "blessing" of the American dream, as the historic Democratic convention opened in a pageant of political symbolism.
On a night of piercing emotion, cancer-stricken liberal icon Edward Kennedy meanwhile passed his dynasty’s torch of idealism to Obama, who will be anointed as the first black nominee of a major party on Thursday night.
Michelle Obama, who some conservatives claim lacks the values of heartland America, portrayed her husband as a crusader for justice and said his showdown with Republican John McCain came at a pivotal moment in US history.
"I stand here today at the cross-currents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me," said the aspiring first lady.
And she paid a pointed tribute to Hillary Clinton as rumors rumbled of discord between the two camps as the convention opened.
She lauded "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."
As Stevie Wonder’s "Isn’t She Lovely" rang out after the speech, daughters Sasha and Malia blew kisses from the stage over a satellite link to their Dad, in a finely-crafted moment of political imagery, as Obama’s campaign attempted to flesh out his life story.
"I love you Daddy," Sasha, 7, said at the climax of the convention’s first night, watched by thousands of Democratic activists in a Denver arena, and a target audience of millions of television viewers at home.
Michele, 44, said she and her husband, were driven by a "simple belief" that the "world as it is just won’t do."
"That is the thread that connects our hearts.
"That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope."
"That is why I love this country."
The Democratic hopeful, meanwhile, told his daughters to look after their mom, until he rides into Denver to make a triumphal speech accepting the nomination, in a football stadium before more than 75,000 people on Thursday.
Kennedy, 76, made a surprise appearance at the political extravaganza, barely three months after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
"This November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama, and for you, and me, our country will be committed to his cause," Kennedy roared.
"The work will begin anew, the hope will rise again, and the dream lives on," Kennedy said in a reprise of his famous 1980 convention speech, after his own failed presidential campaign.
Earlier, Clinton made a fresh attempt to rally her millions of primary voters behind the Democratic presumptive nominee.
"Let there be no mistake about it, we are united," Clinton said, before the convention which will confirm Obama’s stunning rise to the pinnacle of US politics after less than four years in the Senate.
Opinion polls still show that despite Clinton’s repeated public shows of support for Obama, many of her voters are still not reconciled to voting for her former rival.
But Mannie Rodriguez, a Clinton backer from Colorado, said the former first lady’s supporters must unite to defeat McCain.
"Hillary wants us to support Obama the same we supported her, and that’s what we are going to do."
Clinton will make a closely watched speech at the convention on Tuesday night.
Republicans meanwhile made new attempts to spoil the party, with an advertisement featuring Clinton saying during the primary battle that she and McCain had a lifetime of experience, while Obama had only a speech he gave in 2002.
"Was she right?" the ad asked, portraying Obama as the most inexperienced party nominee of modern times, and attempting to fan anger among Clinton supporters at Obama’s choice of Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate.
But while the McCain camp was picking at internal Democratic wounds, Obama staged his own cross-party raid by convening a town-hall meeting in Iowa with undecided independent voters and Republicans.
"Right now we got an election to win," the Illinois senator said at the outdoors meeting in Davenport, in the state that catapulted him into contention for the Democratic nomination in its January caucuses.
"I feel pretty good about my chances, especially now that I’ve got one of the finest statesmen in this country on my ticket, Joe Biden, as vice president."