Ted Kennedy, Michelle Obama Kick Off Convention

Denver resembled a love-in last night as the Democrats officially kicked off their national convention. Hoping to quell some lingering tensions within the party, Ted Kennedy – the longterm Senator who’s currently battling brain cancer – had the party on its feet as he spoke of a “season of hope.”

That season, said Kennedy, can help lead our nation into new territory, one where race, gender – and, yes – sexuality no longer cause social strife:

For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.

And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege. We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

Kennedy concluded by saying the “torch” had been passed and “the dream lives on,” a not-so-subtle reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Potential first lady Michelle Obama also spoke last night and spent much of her time discussing her family life, obviously an attempt to make the at-times controversial Mrs. Obama a bit more palatable to worried voters. But, after her heartfelt personal introduction, Obama got down to business and urged the party to rally around her husband:

So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let’s stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.

Mrs. Obama also made a point of saying “I love this country,” a possible anecdote to her misquoted “I’ve never been proud of America” gaffe from earlier this year.

Some pundits have criticized the events as being too soft, but the Democrats clearly hoped to lay the groundwork with some cuddly moments – Obama’s daughters came out to greet their satellite-produced father – before launching into the meat of this week.

Here’s video of Mrs. Obama’s video…