St. Paul — I cried Wednesday night at the Xcel Center.
I didn’t just tear up when Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, talked about her son, Track, who will deploy to Iraq next week. I didn’t just tear up when she talked about her beautiful daughters — including one who has to suffer seeing her most intimate mistake and challenge in the public eye. I teared up when this 44-year-old woman, with her proverbial hair down, felt completely comfortable and confident talking about her love for her husband in a packed arena: “We met in high school, and two decades and five children later, he’s still my guy.”
And, yes, when she spoke of her son, Trig, and about special-needs children, I cried. She said:
And in April, my husband Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig. From the inside, no family ever seems typical.
That’s how it is with us.
Our family has the same ups and downs as any other . . . the same challenges and the same joys.
Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.
And children with special needs inspire a special love.
When you look at that beautiful boy and realize that in America, some 90 percent of parents would not have let him live, how can you not be both terrified for us and filled with joy for the love this little boy has? How can you help but be excited by the prospect that Americans might become more aware of the silent elimination of such blessings?
Without pandering, without sounding like a politician, Palin was able to say, essentially, I am one of you. I work hard. Love my family. Love God (“a servant’s heart”). We struggle, just like you. But we know what is right and what is wrong. And I am here today to make sure you can make the choices you need to do right by your family.
She didn’t have to spell it all out, she showed it to us Wednesday night. She showed us that even a small-town gal from Alaska can be successful and be a leader.
And she laid the groundwork for invigorating a movement. Immediately after her speech, National Review Online readers e-mailed me to tell me they had just watched the next Ronald Reagan, the long-awaited successor. What I think we’re seeing is a new generation of conservatism. As Mitt Romney laid out clearly in his speech earlier in the night, there are some real differences between liberals and conservatives, and with a passionate energy this young woman is on the road to leading the Right into the future, with great respect for those who have laid the groundwork before us.
Other readers asked me why Palin didn’t talk about “life.” Her entire speech was about it. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American exceptionalism. With love and spirit and good humor.
I’ve not cried during a political speech since the pope and George W. Bush met on the South Lawn of the White House earlier this year. There they talked freely about good and evil, truth and falsehood, God and man, love and hate. They talked about defending what is important and essential — most essential: our very lives and liberty. They talked about the special opportunity that is American life. This is what Sarah Palin presented to Americans watching her, probably meeting her for the first time, Wednesday night.
There are miles to go yet in this election. But Sarah Palin has gotten off to an excellent start. And Americans — men and women reminded of what’s important, boys and girls inspired by her energy and accomplishments — are better people for having met her, this woman in love with her country, her family, her God, and this gift of life in America.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.