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Democratic National Convention Heads into Day 2 - 2004-07-27

The Democratic National Convention heads into its second day, following a rousing start Monday with party leaders throwing their support behind presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry.

Speakers at the convention will include former presidential candidate and former Vermont governor Howard Dean, members of Congress, and, an unusual choice, Ron Reagan, the son of former Republican president Ronald Reagan, who died in June.

The keynote speech will be delivered by African-American Barack Obama, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The 42-year-old Mr. Obama says he does not understand what he describes as his sudden popularity. But if he is elected, he would be the only African-American in the Senate, and only the third in recent decades.

Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas. When he was in elementary school, his mother married an Indonesian man and moved the family to Indonesia.

He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and spent time working as a civil rights lawyer in Harlem and Chicago, where he currently serves as a state senator.

As delegates looked ahead, talk of the day was still focused on Monday's list of speakers, which was headlined by Democratic Party heavyweight, former president Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton praised Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as the person who could unite the country and strengthen US alliances around the world.

"We have got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their country, but who have very different world views," the former president said. "Our nominee, John Kerry, who favors shared responsibility, shared opportunity and more global cooperation. And their president and their party in Congress, who favor concentrated wealth and power, leaving people to fend for themselves and more unilateral action."

In his speech, another former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, accused the Bush administration and the Republican Party of wasting opportunities for world unity following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded, but united," he said. "A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world. But in just 34 months, we have watched with great concern, as all this good will has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations."

President Bush is maintaining a low-profile during the Democratic convention, staying at his ranch in Texas. His Republican Party holds its convention next month in New York.

Meanwhile, protesters at the Democratic convention are being confined to a fenced-in zone near Boston's Fleet Center, where the more than 4,300 party delegates and thousands of other party dignitaries are meeting. Demonstrators, who are against the Iraq war and calling for more free speech, describe the area as a cage. Authorities say the heavy precautions are necessary for security.