The Washington Post

Inside Bill Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech: Transcript and leadership analysis

Former President Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was a masterful piece of political oratory: folksy yet poetic, wonky yet accessible, and so politically brilliant that it may have been a mixed blessing.

But even if it cast a potential shadow on the president’s speech tonight, it did what it was supposed to do: present the argument for why Barack Obama should be elected, and present it in a way that only a former president can. There is no lonelier job, no singularly unique role, no position more imbued with unimaginable responsibility than the presidency of the United States.

As a result, the most convincing way to argue for Barack Obama’s performance during his first term was to have someone who’s held that lonely job (it doesn’t hurt that he’s immensely popular) do the arguing for him. Only Bill Clinton could deliver what may have been one of the best lines of the speech, saying that “no one — not me, not any of my predecessors” could have dug this country out of the economic mess the president inherited.

Yes, it was Clinton’s command of policy and his stirring yet down-home style that made his speech rousing and powerful. But it was the fact that he’s held the job before that made it convincing. Below, I take a look at Clinton’s prepared remarks, though he departed from them frequently as only Clinton can do (see the speech as delivered here). Let’s look at how he used his experience and authority to make his case.

(Scroll through the full text of Clinton’s remarks, and click on the yellow highlighting to read my notes.)

More from On Leadership:

Inside Michelle Obama’s speech

Why Condoleezza Rice’s speech stood out

The GOP’s deep bench of rising stars

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@post_lead | @jenamcgregor | @lily_cunningham

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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