By  on August 12, 2008

The plight of the American worker and the middle class will be a central theme at the Democratic National Convention in two weeks as the party nominates Sen. Barack Obama to win back the White House for the first time in eight years.

There will be many firsts at the four-day meeting that begins Aug. 25 in Denver, where thousands of party loyalists, lawmakers and delegates will gather at the Pepsi Center to approve a platform, nominate a vice presidential running mate and anoint Obama.

The first-term senator from Illinois will make history as the first African-American to be nominated for president by a major political party, but the Democratic National Convention Committee didn’t want to stop there with its theme of “change.”

In unveiling the convention’s overall theme, “America’s Town Hall,” and headline speakers, the DNCC on Monday touted a new twist to the convention’s format — an interactive dialogue with the public that will feature the voices of everyday Americans who have been hit hard by the weakened economy.

The town hall format will feature prerecorded questions and stories from voters in eight U.S. cities and live answers from elected leaders, national policy experts and other speakers from the convention floor. The DNCC will send camera crews to Denver; Atlanta; Detroit; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, and Tampa, Fla.

Featured speakers will also answer questions from the public that are submitted online.

“The town hall will be a nightly gathering of folks highlighted by a keynote speaker each night, but focusing on the discussion that matters to Americans sitting around their kitchen table worrying about gas and food prices and the direction the country is taking,” Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a convention co-chair who is considered a vice presidential contender, said during a conference call with reporters. “We will have the opportunity to include folks who have never been involved before.”

Against a backdrop of rising energy and food prices, mounting job losses and a deepening housing crisis, Obama and the Democratic faithful face the challenge of convincing voters that their platform can revitalize the economy and restore prosperity.

The Republicans, who are preparing to select Arizona Sen. John McCain as their nominee, will confront the same issues at the four-day GOP convention that begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul. The Republicans have not announced their convention schedule or themes.

In the weeks leading up to the conventions, a large swath of voters said they were anxious about the economy, rising prices and the lack of “good jobs,” according to the latest findings by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Of the 1,503 voters questioned late last month, 72 percent said the economy was either in a recession or depression, while just 10 percent said the economy is in “good shape.”

The Democratic committee has made Tuesday night’s theme, “Renewing America’s Promise,” featuring Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) as the prime-time speaker. Clinton battled Obama for the nomination during a lengthy primary campaign. She endorsed him in June.

Sebelius said Clinton and other speakers will focus on the “economic challenges and issues that are so important to workers who lose their jobs, Americans who are losing their homes, folks struggling with the cost of college, their pay not keeping pace and Americans that don’t have access to health care and health insurance.”

Other convention themes include “One Nation” on Monday night with Michelle Obama, wife of the candidate, delivering the keynote address. The as-yet-to-be-named vice presidential nominee will deliver an acceptance speech Wednesday night around the theme of “Securing America’s Future.”

The final night will feature Obama’s acceptance speech, titled “Change You Can Believe In” before an expected crowd of 75,000 party faithful at Invesco Field at Mile High stadium.

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