Tennesseans See Barack Speech as Powerful Motivator 

“I cried. I couldn’t help myself”: That was one emotional reaction to the acceptance address of newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, typical of many in the Tennessee delegation to this year’s Democratic National Convention at Denver.

It came from Memphian Lois DeBerry, who is Speaker Pro Tem of the Tennessee House of Representatives. DeBerry said she regarded Obama’s remarks as “powerful and inspirational,” the most moving of any acceptance address she could remember. “I’ve known Obama for years, since he was a state senator and we used to see each other at legislative seminars and hat kind of thing,” said DeBerry, who added that, while she was surprised at the speed of Obama’s ascendancy, she had always seen him as presidential material.

DeBerry said she had been with Obama since he proclaimed the beginning of his presidential campaign in February 2007.

Fellow Memphian Gale Jones Carson, a newly installed Democratic National Commnitteewoman from Tennessee, had originally supported Obama rival Hillary Clinton for the presidency, but said she concurred with DeBerry. “It was great. It will go down as one of the most magnificent addresses of all time.”

Carson, who was preparing for her first official meeting as a DNC member on Friday, said she anticipated a huge boost in the polls for Obama in the aftermath of this week’s convention.

Another Memphian, Desi Franklin, was struck by the fact that Obama’s acceptance address was delivered to a throng of 75,000-plus at an outdoor stadium. “That puts it in the same historical class as JFK’s,’ she said, referring to the acceptance address by then Senator John F. Kennedy at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.

Bill Owen, a Knoxvillian and former state senator, said he had been to several national Democratic conventions and noticed a difference about this one. “In the past, people would come to these things and get excited about just being at a convention. When they went home, some of the excitement would dissipate. This one is different. Especially after Obama’s address, I think the delegates here will go home with a determination to make something happen for Democrats in general in this election.”

Bruce Schine of Kingsport agreed, and while he, like several others, foresaw a bump in the polls for Obama, cautioned about what several analysts refer to as the “Bradley effect,” so named after early poll results in a California gubernatorial election of some years ago showed then Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, an African American, leading his opponent, who would prevail, however, on election day itself.

“I think you have to be cautious enough to discount at least 2 or 3 percent of whatever poll figure attaches to Obama,” said Schine. “But there’s no question he moved and inspired a lot of people. And also no question but that he’s already a large historical figure.”

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