Mia Love is a symbol. And in politics, that's not necessarily a pejorative or a bad thing, because politics is about symbols, good as well as bad.
If elected to Congress from Utah's new 4th District, Love would become the first black woman Republican to hold a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also is an LDS woman, the mayor of a small Utah suburban town and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, so she fills multiple symbolic roles, most of them about diversity and aspiration.
That's why she was invited to address the Republican National Convention Tuesday evening, a convention that has nominated another Mormon, Mitt Romney, to be its presidential candidate.
Her speech, "The America I Know," was brief, only about three minutes, preceded by a campaign video that introduced her to the convention. But she packed a load of Republican catch phrases and positive rhetoric about the American dream into it, and she knows how to deliver a line. She varied her pace, speeding up to build tension before coming down hard to punch home a theme.
It was a solid performance that energized the crowd on the convention floor, and it confirmed for a national television audience what delegates to the Republican state convention learned earlier this year: Mia Love is a poised, articulate, animated speaker and a formidable candidate.
As she does on the campaign trail, she told the convention about how her parents arrived in the United States with $10 in their pockets "and a hope that the America they had heard about really did exist." She said that when tough times came, they didn't look to Washington but within. "So the America I grew up knowing was centered in self-reliance and filled with the possibilities of living the American dream." "This is the America we know because we built it," she said in a climax that also slyly cut at President Obama.
In the few moments allotted her, she managed to reference Ronald Reagan's question to Americans in 1980 about whether they were better off than they were four years before, Neil Armstrong's words as he stepped on the moon, the Olympics (a Utah favorite), Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abe Lincoln.
Her appearance before the convention was too brief to give her political career a lift of the same magnitude that Barack Obama received when he electrified the Democratic National Convention in 2004. But it gave her positive national exposure and a compelling introduction to Utahns in her district who before Tuesday may only have known her name.