DENVER — Even the Obama delegates were reaching for Clinton signs.

Such was the intensity of the moment, as delegates of every political stripe grabbed up the white signs — “Paid for by Obama for America” — with the dark blue “Hillary” script that were distributed just before the senator from New York took the stage.

On the Tuesday night when no one at the Democratic National Convention talked about anything except New York Senator Hillary Clinton’s speech before, during or after the defeated presidential candidate addressed the convention that might have been hers.

Even before Clinton took the stage, when her image flashed on the massive screen behind the convention podium and the Kinks song “You Really Got Me” blasted through the loudspeakers, the crowd was up and cheering.

And they did not stop.

Of course the Clinton delegates cheered. But so did the Obama delegates.

Hillary had them all. And she gave them to Barack Obama — not at the end of her address, but with the opening line.

“I am honored to be here tonight. A proud mother. A proud Democrat. A proud senator from New York. A proud American. And a proud supporter of Barack Obama,” Clinton began, to the roar of a crowd that she told: “Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose.”

This was not just an endorsement. It was an argument with her most ardent supporters that they did not fight for her but for issues and ideals.

“I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?” Clinton demanded in a speech that had the entire hall riveted. “Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

Clinton did not cheat the historic moment.

The candidate who won 18 million votes and more convention delegates that any woman in the history of major-party politics.

America is still around after 232 years because we have risen to the challenge of every new time, changing to be faithful to our values of equal opportunity for all and the common good.

And I know what that can mean for every man, woman, and child in America. I’m a United States Senator because in 1848 a group of courageous women and a few brave men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, many traveling for days and nights, to participate in the first convention on women’s rights in our history.

And so dawned a struggle for the right to vote that would last 72 years, handed down by mother to daughter to granddaughter–and a few sons and grandsons along the way.

These women and men looked into their daughters’ eyes, imagined a fairer and freer world, and found the strength to fight. To rally and picket. To endure ridicule and harassment. To brave violence and jail.

And after so many decades–88 years ago on this very day–the 19th amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote would be forever enshrined in our Constitution.

My mother was born before women could vote. But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

As Obama and Clinton floor “whips” worked together to distribute “Unity!” signs to all the delegates, Clinton followed delivered the most powerful section of her speech, a recollection of Underground Railroad days that linked the women’s rights and civil rights struggles.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

How do we give this country back to them?

By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they’re shouting after you, keep going.

Don’t ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

That might have sounded like a call on her delegates to keep on fighting on her behalf.

But Clinton pivoted, with political skill earned the hard way on a long and disappointing presidential campaign trail, to her most powerful endorsement of Obama.

We are Americans. We’re not big on quitting.

But remember, before we can keep going, we have to get going by electing Barack Obama president.

We don’t have a moment to lose or a vote to spare.

Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance.

It was her finest speech, her most important speech.

And because of that, it was not a valedictory address.

No one doubted that Hillary Clinton would make a clear, unequivocal endorsement of Barack Obama.

But the wit, the grace and the elegance with which she did so guarantees that Hillary Clinton will be not just a supporter of Barack Obama. She will be an essential player in the Obama campaign — and in the continuing story of the Democratic party and the nation.