BOSTON -- Al Sharpton won the hearts of delegates to the Democratic National Convention with a rousing and raucous speech Wednesday night, saying his failed quest for the White House was proof that children can grow up poor and make it in America.
"As I ran for president, I hoped that one child would come out of the ghetto like I did, could look at me walk across the stage with governors and senators and know they didn't have to be a drug dealer, they didn't have to be a hoodlum, they didn't have to be a gangster," he said. "They could stand up from a broken home, on welfare, and they could run for president of the United States."
Sharpton repeatedly departed from his prepared text -- text that had been scrubbed by John Kerry's staff -- and the amended message resonated with the delegates who frequently interrupted his address with cheers and applause.
One of many standing ovations went on for a minute after he told delegates that after the nation failed to deliver on Civil War-era promises of "40 acres and mule" to freed slaves, "we didn't get the mule so we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us."
Earlier Wednesday evening, another former Kerry rival, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, accused the Bush administration of "fear-mongering" and said the true weapons of mass destruction were poverty, joblessness and racism at home.
The Ohio congressman, whose opposition to the Iraq war was central to his unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination, said the country needs "courage to shake off the administration's deceptions, their attacks, and their fear-mongering,"
The Bush administration's decision to go to war was based on distortions and misrepresentations, he said.
As he took the stage, members of the Colorado delegation held up letters spelling out his name.
Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.
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