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History takes the stage: Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to lead a major-party ticket

Day Two of the Democratic National Convention in less than 3 minutes. Full coverage at latimes.com/trailguide

Hillary Clinton made history Tuesday as the first woman chosen to lead a major-party presidential ticket as family, friends and old political allies took turns extolling her as a leader with the experience to keep the country safe and the heart to help those who have been forgotten.

"I give you a leader who can unite us as a nation, a leader who can break down barriers and build a better future for every American," said Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights hero, as he helped formally place Clinton's name in nomination for the White House. "She will fight for us all with her heart, soul and mind."

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The longest and most lavish testimonial was delivered by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, who offered a tribute that began, "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl," and traced her career through her time as first lady and years as secretary of State.

"We've been walking and talking together ever since," he said. "Hillary opened my eyes to a whole new world of public service by private citizens."

Pivoting to the election, he addressed one of greatest challenges facing his wife: overcoming the image of a candidate who's been in the public eye for decades when so many voters want something new. "People say, 'Well, we need to change. She's been around a long time.'"

"She sure has," Clinton said, wagging a finger in emphasis, "and she's sure been worth every single year she's put into making people's lives better."

"She's still the best change-maker I have ever known," he said.

While Hillary Clinton has been pioneering, she has also been controversial, her achievements tainted by scandal.

Polling over the years has found the former first lady, New York senator and Cabinet secretary to be one of the most admired women in the country — but more recently, one of the most disliked and mistrusted.

History was given its due. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, joined onstage by a number of women in Congress, placed Clinton's victory in the arc that began in Philadelphia in 1776 and continued nearly a century ago when women were given the right to vote.

"We are preparing to shatter the highest, strongest marble ceiling in our country," the San Francisco lawmaker said.

But most of the night was devoted to remedial repair work on Clinton's image.

One speaker after another from the assorted worlds Clinton has inhabited — politics, women's advocacy, child welfare, education reform —  sought to offer a more human portrayal than that of a striving and scheming politician, embattled lately over her use of a private email server to conduct government business.

There was talk of playing make-believe on family vacations. Comforting women whose children died violently. Fighting for health benefits for police and firefighters after Sept. 11. Hiring a foster child, who used a trash bag as his suitcase, to work as an intern in her Senate office.

"I felt seen and heard for the first time in my life," said the young man, Jelanie Freeman.

The protest and anger that suffused the convention's first day seemed to fade — at least inside the hall.

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Cheered instead of booed, as she was by some delegates Monday, Clinton officially secured the nomination after the suspense-less 90-minute roll call.

The result was preordained when Clinton's chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, abandoned his candidacy and gave an enthusiastic endorsement, then followed up Tuesday by urging his backers to end their rowdy resistance.

"It is easy to boo, but it's harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under Donald Trump," Sanders said of the GOP nominee at a breakfast with California delegates. "Trump is the worst candidate for president in the modern history of this country."

It was a harsh view widely shared inside the convention hall, where repeated speakers characterized the Manhattan business tycoon as a heartless bigot who refused to rent apartments to minorities and a sexist who has incessantly demeaned women.

"Donald is not making America great again," said actress America Ferrera, one of a number of Hollywood celebrities sprinkled through the evening. "He's making America hate again."

South Dakota's votes delivered the prize that eluded Clinton eight years ago when she first ran for president.

The state-by-state balloting, traditionally a chance for local boosterism and some good-natured bragging — the birthplace of pizza, the home of tax-free shopping — briefly turned emotional when Sanders' brother, Larry, cast his ballot as a delegate for Democrats living abroad.

A politician in Britain, Larry Sanders' voice grew thick as he discussed his parents, their hard life and how proud they would be of "Bernard," the candidate for president.

Bernie Sanders teared up as he watched.

Hillary Clinton officially becomes the Democratic Party nominee for president. More coverage at latimes.com/trailguide.

In a bit of stagecraft to promote the image of Democratic harmony, an announcement of the tally was delayed until Vermont — which passed on its turn in the alphabetical order — concluded the roll call by casting 22 of its 26 votes for Sanders.

He immediately rose to his feet, took the delegation microphone and moved that the vote be made unanimous. As his wife, Jane, briefly embraced him, a sea of blue and gold Clinton signs blossomed on the convention floor and delegates, on a voice vote, roared their approval.

"Finally, finally it's happening," said Ruth Musser-Lopez, 63, a Clinton delegate from Needles, Calif., who threaded her way through the state's delegation, shaking hands and hugging strangers as tears streamed down her face.

But the careful choreography — and the joy many felt  — did not ease the anger and disappointment of a relatively small but stubborn band of hard-core Sanders supporters.

Several dozen delegates marched out of the hall into the nearby media center, where — quickly swallowed up by a swarm of reporters — they chanted, "This is what democracy looks like!" then sat down in silent protest.

The state-by-state roll call was a concession to Sanders and his backers and an effort to help unify Democrats after the fractious primary fight carried over into the opening day of the convention.

In contrast to Monday, when the mere mention of Clinton's name drew jeers among some of them, Sanders supporters seemed more interested Tuesday in delivering one last hurrah for their candidate, cheering lustily when his name was formally placed into nomination. When it was their turn, Clinton supporters responded in kind.

The more amicable atmosphere was due in no small part to Sanders.

Hours after delivering a wholeheartedly pro-Clinton speech in Monday night's finale, he paid an unexpected breakfast call on the California delegation, a hotbed of resistance to Clinton's pursuit of the nomination.

"As goes California, so goes America, so I know that you know that you have an enormous responsibility," the Vermont senator said, urging resistors to lay down their grievances and rally behind Clinton as he had.

Not all were convinced.

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Victoria Thompson, 56, a Sanders delegate from Citrus Heights, outside Sacramento, welcomed Sanders' visit but said she was not moved to overcome her resistance to Clinton.

"I can't vote for her. I will not vote for her," Thompson said. If Sanders was not an option, she said, she would defect to the Green Party.

Times staff writers Evan Halper, Colleen Shalby and Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.

For more political news follow @markzbarabak and @ChrisMegerian

UPDATES:

8:30 p.m.: This story was updated with more comments from former President Bill Clinton.

7:30 p.m.: The story was updated with comments from former President Bill Clinton and others.

4:50 p.m.: The story was updated with details on a few dozen Sanders delegates marching out of the hall.

4:10 p.m.: The story was updated with Clinton winning the nomination.

2:40 p.m.: The story was updated with details about the convention hall atmosphere.

The story was originally published at 2:30 p.m.

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