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Ignoring the celebrity status that some say has defined him, Barack Obama stepped out on the stage Thursday night to a wave of adulation that swept through the vast football stadium.
As the first black presidential candidate of a major American political party, the Illinois senator also stepped into history.
It was a Hollywood moment, which only a year or so ago seemed unlikely, but here he was in the cavernous Invesco Field at Mile High accepting the Democratic nomination for president.
Obama hit on the themes that his party has been hammering home all week — relief for working families, health-care reform and the war in Iraq — and tying his opponent, John McCain, to a president who is mired in record-low approval ratings.
“The same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say, ‘Eight is enough,’ ” Obama told the roaring crowd of 78,000 supporters.
Unlike so many previous conventions, Hollywood and the entertainment business merited nary a mention by any of the major Democratic speakers.
The omission was not because there aren’t serious media policy issues — just think consolidation and network neutrality, as well as that old standby bugaboo, sex and violence — it’s because the Democrats are arguing that the U.S. is facing “a planetary emergency,” to use the words of Al Gore.
And that was just a reference to one problem, global warming.
Hollywood, while not on center stage, was represented, however.
George Lucas was spotted in the halls of Invesco Field in the hours leading to Obama’s speech. Forest Whitaker came to the stadium with his wife, Keisha, and Star Jones. Also seen: Daniel Dae Kim of “Lost”; Jessica Alba and her husband, Cash Warren; Rosario Dawson; and Fergie.
Spike Lee was there, too. “Fired up!” the director said. “Bigger than the Super Bowl!”
Before Obama spoke, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson attempted to deflect the Republican criticism that the candidate is little more than a glamorous, exotic oddity. “We didn’t come to elect a celebrity,” he said, “we came to elect a president.”
Later, Obama talked about the sacrifices that average Americans like his mother and grandmother raising their families.
“I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine,” Obama said. “These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me.”
By midafternoon, the show got under way with an alternation of musical bands and acts — including Stevie Wonder, will.i.am, John Legend, Sheryl Crow and Michael McDonald — and testimonials from war veterans and politicians.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told the crowd that about 50,000 from around the country had been encouraged to travel here to join the core faithful after the closing-night venue was shifted from the Pepsi Center.
Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, who recited the Pledge of Allegiance quicker than she does a double somersault, received a warm round of applause, but it was Jennifer Hudson who brought down the house with her full-throttled rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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