Joining the list of speakers already announced will be Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student who became a campaign lightning rod when conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” for supporting a provision in President Obama’s health-care law calling for insurance coverage of contraception.
Women from many other walks of life will also join the roster, including Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of a federal law requiring that women earn equal pay for equal work; Nancy Keenan, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Caroline Kennedy; and actress Eva Longoria.
Democratic organizers also announced plans to open up the final day of the convention, when Obama will speak, to the general public. “Tens of thousands” of tickets will be made available to the public starting this week, when Obama campaign offices across North Carolina will start distributing them to volunteers who have given at least nine hours of their time. Tickets will be made available to the broader public next week.
“From the very beginning, the president wanted us to make sure we were the most accessible and open convention in history,” said Steve Kerrigan, the chief executive of the Democratic convention, who noted that this is the first-ever convention to include an office of “public engagement.”
One goal was clear from party officials: drawing a contrast with Republicans, similar to the one that Obama has sought to draw with GOP opponent Mitt Romney, about their visions for the nation. Just as Obama talks regularly about protecting middle-class programs that he says Romney would slash, the Charlotte convention will feature public events and service projects for the city — while the Republican schedule in Tampa does not feature a single event for the general public, except for a festival being staged independently by Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.).
Republican convention organizers did not respond to requests for comment.
Similarly, Democrats’ slate of female speakers highlights the contrast Obama has tried to draw between his positions and those of his opponent on abortion and other women’s health issues. This week in particular, Democrats have seized on the comments of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin regarding “legitimate rape” to highlight some Republicans’ (including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s) opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
“This convention will define the election as a choice between two very different paths for our nation, particularly when it comes to the health and economic security of women and middle-class families,” convention spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said. “The speakers announced today were chosen because they can personally define that choice.”