DNC Opening Night: Sanders Takes The Stage To Thunderous Applause, Says He's 'With Her'

Jul 26, 2016

Democrats opened their national convention in Philadelphia by front-loading some of their highest profile speakers on the event's first night.

First Lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned speech; Massachusetts Senator and progressive darling Elizabeth Warren spoke as well. But there was no more anticipated speaker on stage Monday night than Vermont's own Bernie Sanders.

Watch Sen. Bernie Sanders' speech from Monday night at the convention.

VPR's Peter Hirschfeld is in Philadelphia this week and spoke about the mood in the arena, and in the Vermont delegation, Monday night.

On the mood at the Convention leading up to Sanders' speech:

"It's one of those events where there are so many moods, depending on what specific moment you're at. Monday was the first of what will be a grueling, week-long endurance marathon. Delegates wake up at around 6 a.m. to attend delegation breakfasts, there are activities and caucuses throughout the day, and so by the time you get to convention night itself, people already have a long day behind them.

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"There were moments where I looked at the delegation and they were looking a little sleepy and lackluster there were other moments where you could tell they were inspired, they were charged up. And no more so than when Bernie Sanders took that stage last night. It was the moment that a lot of them came to Philadelphia to witness and I don't think there's one of them that thought he disappointed."

On Sanders' call to support Hillary Clinton: 

"I talked to a number of Vermont delegates who say they are not at a place, at this point, where they're going to be able to support Hillary Clinton. I didn't talk to anybody, immediately after Sanders speech, who said that it instilled that 'Ah ha! Come to Hillary' moment for them."

From left to right, three members of the Vermont delegation, Aster O'Leary, Shyla Nelson and Noah Detzer, hold hold "Bernie" signs during Sanders' remarks, while Ashley Andreas holds a sign calling for action to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Credit Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR

"Noah Detzer is a young guy from the Upper Valley who is here as a delegate, and the main reason he's participating in Democratic Party politics at all this year is because of Bernie Sanders. I talk to him inside the convention hall last night a couple moments after Bernie Sanders left the stage, and I asked him, 'Your guy is telling you it's time to get behind Hillary, can you do it?' And Noah said, 'Sanders kind of has to say that right now, and frankly, I'm not there yet.'

"And he [Detzer] said his ability to line up behind Clinton is going to have way more to do with Clinton's speech later this week than Sanders’ speech last night.

"That said, there are plenty of Sanders supporters taking their lead from the center, and I don't think there's any doubt that the significant majority of Sanders supporters will find their way to Clinton, if they're not there already.

"The margin that can't or that won't is going to be one of the many, many determining factors in this general election."

On the leaked DNC emails: 

"Human nature dictates that people are going to not take kindly to some of the e-mails that came out over this past week and there are elements of Bernie Sanders' speech last night that are a little bit of a knife twist to Clinton.

"He talks about not taking money in his campaign, he talks about not letting the billionaire class or super PACs fund our political process. Now, if that's not at least a sideways glance at the Clinton campaign, I don't know what is.

"He [Sanders] has said, in no uncertain terms, this is the time to unify the party, to come behind Hillary Clinton." - VPR's Peter Hirschfeld

"And that does do something to fuel the continued anger that a lot of Sanders supporters feel for Hillary Clinton.

"However, Sanders has also had moments of real full-throated support for Hillary Clinton. He has said in no uncertain terms, this is the time to unify the party, to come behind Hillary Clinton. And that's a message that they are for the most part staying true to this week."

Funding for VPR's reporting from the presidential conventions is made possible in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.