DENVER - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) delivered a strong show of support for Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in her primetime address at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night.
"Whether you voted for me or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose," Clinton said. "We are on the same team, and one of us can sit on the sidelines."
Party leaders and the Obama campaign were looking to Clinton to use her podium to heal fractures in the party left by the 19-month primary campaign in which Clinton and Obama battled tooth and nail for the nomination. Though unsuccessful in winnng the party nomination, Clinton walked away from the grueling primary season with 18 million votes.
Polls and pundits are split on whether bitter Clinton supporters will actually protest Obama's candidacy come November by either staying home or voting for Republican presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). But Clinton used her primetime speech to encourage her supporters to throw their weight behind Obama.
"When Barack Obama is in the White House, he'll revitalize our economy, defend the working people of America and meet the global challenges of our time," she said. "Democrats know how to do this. As I recall, President Clinton and the Democrats did it before. And President Obama and the Democrats will do it again."
Jon Carpenter, president of the USC College Democrats, said Clinton's speech was successful in communicating the need for her supporters to get on board with Obama.
"I think that the most important message in her speech was that she said to her supporters that they weren't in this for her as a person, but instead they were in this campaign for the causes that she believed in and she told her supporters that those are the same causes that Barack Obama believes in," Carpenter, a junior majoring in political science, said. "The message was, 'It's not about me, it's about what Obama and I both stand for.'"
Even Republicans on campus commended the Senator's speech, saying that Clinton showed Tuesday night that she is a powerful and energizing political figure.
"I thought Hillary Clinton did a great job, I really did," said Ben Myers, chairman of the USC College Republicans and a senior majoring in communication. "I thought her goal going out there tonight was to basically show that she has a lot of support, she has a lot of followers and she's a force to be reckoned with. She commanded respect in that room tonight.
Myers added that he is looking forward to hearing Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden's (D-Del.) speech tonight and comparing the audience reaction with Clinton's address.
"I don't think it will be the same energy [for Biden] as was there [for Clinton]," he said.
It was fitting that Clinton's speech, which celebrated her historic campaign and its legacy, coincided with the anniversary of women's suffrage.
"My mother was born before women could vote," Clinton said. "But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President."
Standing at the podium in front of the hundreds of sign-pumping fans, Clinton delivered an emphatic thanks to her legions of dedicated supporters.
"To my supporters, my champions - my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits - from the bottom of my heart: Thank you. You never gave in. You never gave up. And together we made history," she said.
Many women on campus said Clinton's campaign was a testament to the strides women have made since the 19th Amendment was passed 88 years ago.
"I woul say her campaign is almost as important as women's suffrage because I think she made a huge step forward," said Alaina Binstock, executive director of Women and Youth Supporting Each Other and a senior majoring in political science.
Binstock said Clinton's campaign has also inspired the young women she mentors at two middle schools close to the USC campus.
"They see on TV and they read in newspapers that a woman ran for president. It's no longer a hypothetical, and now more want to go into politics because of her," she said. "Before her, it was just an idea, now there is a face to women in politics."
Clare Doody, a junior majoring in American studies and ethnicity, was a staunch Clinton supporter early in the race. She said watching Clinton's campaign unfold showed her that, though women have made significant strides in achieving equal rights and respect in the political arena, there is still much work to be done.
"Hillary's campaign brought to light for me that sexism still does exist," she said. "I get offended when people would accuse me of being a Hillary supporter just because I'm a woman, but she was sort of a role model at some level. Even though she and Barack are similar on many policies, I liked her so much more."
Though some criticize Clinton for polarizing the party by staying in the race after it was clear to many Obama would secure the nomination, Doody, who is now political director for Students for Barack Obama, does not believe Clinton's candidacy will hurt Obama's chances in November.
"She had to stay in as long as she did to be a role model for all the females ... I'm glad she stayed in because I think it was good that we had a viable female candidate as long as there was. It was an actual battle," she said. "If you supported Hillary for her policies, then the obvious choice is Barack Obama."
At the end of the day, Doody said Clinton should be commended for paving the road for more women to enter politics.
"I don't think she erased any boundaries or radically changed the lives of most Americans, but she's done a great service in showing that a female candidate can be completely viable and taken seriously," she said. "As Hillary said, 'The ceiling wasn't broken, but it has 18 million cracks in it now.'"