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Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton tells cheering crowd at the Pepsi Center Wednesday that "Barack Obama is the man for this job" and that he has the experience needed to lead a diverse nation.

DENVER — Democrats on Wednesday paid homage to their past by listening to an invigorating valedictory by former President Bill Clinton and then gazed to their future as portrayed by newly minted vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

And Barack Obama made a (somewhat) surprise early visit to the Democratic National Convention after becoming the first man of color to receive a major party's nomination — which came as Hillary Clinton moved to nominate him by acclamation. Obama briefly praised convention performances so far and promised more.

Obama was officially named the candidate earlier in the day, in a historic moment that had many people, especially older delegates who had grown up in a segregated society, visibly weeping.

"We've done pretty well so far," Obama said to thunderous applause. "Michelle Obama started it off pretty well. ... Hillary Clinton rocked the House last night. ... Bill Clinton reminded us what it is like when you actually put people first."

He invited everyone to the INVESCO Field at Mile High for his speech tonight, saying, "We're going to have a great time tomorrow night, and we're going to see you there."

Obama's early sneak-peek appearance was reminiscent of similar visits made by Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy to conventions when they were first nominated, and Democrats hope Obama will have the same later electoral success as they did.

On Wednesday, it was Biden's turn to depict a bright future he sees if Obama is elected, and a bleaker version if Republican John McCain wins.

"The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier (referring to former Navy pilot McCain) — they require a wise leader: a leader who can deliver change, the change everybody knows we need. Barack Obama will deliver that change," the senator from Delaware said.

Biden added about Obama, "I watched how he touched people, how he inspired them, and I realized he has tapped into the oldest American belief of all: We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it."

Biden said when he was young and his working class family struggled in tough economic times, his father would tell him, "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up." Biden added, "Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up."

Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took many shots at McCain for positions on foreign policy that are opposite to Obama's, including his long opposition to setting a firm time for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"Now, after six long years, the Bush administration and the Iraqi government are on the verge of setting a date to bring our troops home. John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right," he said.

Obama hugged Biden after his speech — and said it showed why he wanted him on the ticket.

The convention was told that Biden has been tempered by tragedy and personal challenges for future tests.

His son, Beau, who is the Delaware attorney general, told how just after Biden's first Senate election in 1972, "My mom took us to go buy a Christmas tree. On the way home, we were in an automobile accident. My mom, Neilia, and sister, Naomi, were killed. My brother Hunter and I were seriously injured and hospitalized for weeks."

Biden managed to care of his surviving children while also serving in the Senate, and he later remarried.

Beau also said that when his dad was young, "he had a severe stutter" and his nickname was "dash" — as in a dash at the end of an unfinished sentence. Beau said he dad overcame that so well that "some people poke fun at my dad for talking too much."

Earlier, Democrats showed they still love Bill Clinton. He received huge ovations in the Pepsi Center and was continually interrupted by applause when he said what the crowd liked and evoked choruses of boos when he criticized Bush administration "mistakes."

Clinton praised Obama and urged Americans to embrace him.

"Everything I learned in my eight years as president ... has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job," Clinton said.

He said Obama has the intelligence and curiosity a president needs. He has a family heritage and life experience needed to lead a diverse nation. While Obama will try to work and reason with other nations, "when he cannot convert adversaries into partners, he will stand up to them."

Ticking off what he called Republican failures, Clinton said: "They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more. Thanks, but no thanks. In this case, the third time is not the charm."

Clinton reminded the audience that in 1992 Republicans said he was too inexperienced to be president. He said they were wrong then, and they are wrong about Obama now.

The party's 2004 nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also addressed the convention and said, "In 2004, we came so close to victory. We are even closer now."

Kerry added, "We do know what a McCain administration would look like: just like the past, just like George Bush. And this country can't afford a third Bush term. Just think, John McCain voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Ninety percent of George Bush is just more than we can take."

Singer Melissa Etheridge rocked the convention with what could have been the theme of the night when she sang a medley of lyrics from songs such as Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," and Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the U.S.A."


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