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Former President Bill Clinton Seeks To Humanize Hillary Clinton In DNC Speech

PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork) -- Former President Bill Clinton sought to humanize his wife during his primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.

The former president regaled the crowd with how he met his wife, Hillary Clinton, who made history by becoming the first woman in U.S. history to be nominated for president by a major party.


"In the spring of 1971, I met a girl," Bill Clinton said to applause.

He talked about when he first met his future wife while they were at Yale University Law School.

"So I watched her, she closed her book, put it down and started walking toward me. She walked the whole length of the library and came up to me and said, 'Look, if you're going to keep staring at me, we at least out to know each other's names. I'm Hillary Rodham, who are you?'" Clinton recalled. "I was so impressed and surprised that whether you believe it or not, momentarily, I was speechless."

Clinton reminisced about asking Hillary Rodham three separate times to marry him.

He continued, "We've been walking and talking and laughing together ever since."

Clinton told the crowd how the former secretary of state got involved in civil rights, children's issues, and registering Mexican-American voters.

"Hillary opened my eyes to a whole new world of public service by private citizens," the former president stated.

Bill Clinton called his wife "the best darn change maker I ever met in my entire life," citing her work as first lady in winning congressional approval for a children's health insurance program and a bill that made it easy for parents to adopt children.

"This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo in anything," he said. "She always wants to move the ball forward, that is just who she is."

He drew attention to her Senate years -- noting she held the same New York seat as the late Robert F. Kennedy.

"She didn't let him down," Bill Clinton said.

He touted his wife's success as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, talking about helping to get a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel several years ago and her fight against terrorism.

"She backed President Obama's decision to go after Osama bin Laden. She launched a team to fight back against terrorists online and built a new global counterterrorism effort. We've got to win this battle in the mind field," he said.

The former president also talked about her making climate change the center of America's foreign policy and how she would defend the rights of women and the LGBT community across the globe.

"As she's been doing since she went to Beijing in 1995 and said, 'Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights,' she worked to empower women and girls around the world and to make the same exact declaration on behalf of the LGBT community in America and around the world," Bill Clinton said.

He then took a shot at what was said at the Republican National Convention about Hillary Clinton, saying it was "made up."

"How does this square with the things that you've heard at the Republican Convention? What is the real difference with what I've told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can't. One is real, the other is made up. You just have to decide which is which my fellow Americans," he said. "The real one had done more positive change-making before she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime."

However, the former president never mentioned Donald Trump by name during his speech.

Following her husband's speech, Hillary Clinton spoke to the DNC via video.

"It's been a great day and night," she said. "What an incredible honor you have given me, and I can't believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet."

She continued, "This is really your victory, this is really your night."

Trump, who campaigned Tuesday in North Carolina, mocked the former president's speech in advance, calling him "over-rated."

"No matter what Bill Clinton says and no matter how well he says it, the phony media will exclaim it to be incredible. Highly overrated!" Trump tweeted.

Bill Clinton wrote the first draft of his Tuesday speech himself before sharing it with the campaign and some of his longtime speechwriters, and was tinkering with it as late as Tuesday afternoon.

Unlike in 2012, when he took listeners on a tour of economic policy, Clinton this time plans to paint a picture of his wife as a longtime liberal advocate for children and families. As he frequently puts it on the campaign trail, he plans to call his wife a "change-maker" who "everything she touched, she made better."

While the subject of the speech may change, Bill Clinton still wants to be at the center of the action. That's unlikely to change should his wife become president.

While aides have said he will not get a cabinet post or a setup in the Situation Room, Hillary Clinton has made clear that her closest adviser will remain involved with her administration, saying he'd likely have a role in managing the nation's economy.

The two frequently talk multiple times a day, say aides, and Clinton is often in touch with top staff on her campaign. He weighs in on important choices, including advocating for Clinton to select Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate.

"I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners," Hillary Clinton said in a December primary debate. "But I will certainly turn to him as prior presidents have for special missions, for advice and in particular how we're going to get the economy working."

Hillary Clinton's campaign hopes the night of achievement, personal stories and praise can chip away at the deep distrust many voters, including some Democrats, have of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady. Much of the convention's second night was devoted to introducing voters to Clinton anew, including three hours of speakers who highlighted issues she has championed for years, including health care and advocacy for children and families.

"Tonight we will make history, about 100 years in the making," said Karen Finney, a senior adviser for Clinton's campaign. "What we're really going to focus on tonight is telling that story, and telling her story, talking about the fights of her life."

CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported the Mothers of the Movement, who lost children to gun and police violence, played a major part in Tuesday night's DNC. Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, took part.

"Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother. She has the courage to lead the fight for common-sense gun legislation," Fulton said.

Meryl Street also acknowledged the history of the moment of the first female presidential nominee.

"We got some fight left in us, don't we?" she said.

By night's end, the Clinton campaign hopes to have moved past the dissent that somewhat tarnished the convention's opening day. Supporters of Bernie Sanders, Clinton's primary rival, repeatedly interrupted the proceedings with boos and chants of "Bernie."

"She's acknowledged that she has work to do to gain people's trust, but also it's important for people to understand that she realizes that there's not some magic words that you can say that develops trust overnight," Hillary for America communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.

Despite Sanders' calls for them to support Clinton, thousands of "Bernie or Bust" activists have taken to the streets during the convention this week to voice support for the liberal Vermont U.S. senator and his progressive agenda.

Moments after Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party, a large group of Sanders delegates and supporters exited the Philadelphia convention site to hold a sit-in inside a media tent. Some had their mouths taped shut. A few spontaneously sang the chorus of the Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land," and a banner read, "We the people." They said they were holding a peaceful protest to complain about being shut out by the Democratic Party.

"This was not a convention. This was a four-day Hillary party. And we weren't welcome," said Liz Maratea, a New Jersey delegate at the media tent protest. "We were treated like lepers."

In the streets outside, Sanders supporters who had spent the day protesting began facing off with police. Protesters began scaling 8-foot walls blocking off the secure zone around the arena parking lot. An officer sprayed one of the protesters.

Police began detaining Sanders supporters after climbing the wall. It wasn't immediately known how many people had been detained.

The morning after his rousing endorsement of Clinton at the convention, Sanders himself was booed as he arrived for a breakfast with California delegates.

"It is easy to boo," Sanders said in response. "But it is harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under a Donald Trump presidency."

Trump cheered the disruptions from the campaign trail. In North Carolina on Tuesday, he told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that, "our politicians have totally failed you."

When Trump mentioned Clinton's name, the group answered with shouts of "Lock her up!" an echo of the chants at last week's Republican convention.

Trump has been a frequent target at the Democratic gathering, where several videos featured his comments about women and the disabled, and tried to discredit the real estate mogul's business record. But unlike the GOP convention in Cleveland, Democratic speakers made a concerted effort to mix the criticism with upbeat remarks about the nation and their party.

First lady Michelle Obama was a star of opening night, making an impassioned case for Clinton as the only candidate in the presidential race worthy of being a role model for the nation's children. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will speak Wednesday, along with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton's new running mate.

During Hillary Clinton's first presidential campaign in 2008, her husband angered some Democrats with dismissive comments about Obama. He's had flashes of frustration this year, particularly when his own record on trade and law enforcement has been challenged by the party he once led, but has largely stuck to the campaign's messages.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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