Boosting education and ensuring America’s success in the 21st-century economy were key themes espoused during day two of the Democratic National Convention in Denver Aug. 26.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, delivering the convention’s keynote speech, said American voters "have one shot to get it right" by electing Barack Obama president to end an era of Republican leadership that is stuck in the past. And Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick drew sharp distinctions between Obama and his presumptive Republican challenger for president, Arizona Sen. John McCain, on education in particular.

Watch Gov. Deval Patrick’s speech

"My fellow Americans," Warner began, "the most important contest of our generation has begun. Not the campaign for the presidency. Not the campaign for Congress. But the race for the future. And I believe from the bottom of my heart that with the right vision, the right leadership, and the energy and creativity of the American people, there is no nation that we can’t out hustle or out compete. And no American need be left out or left behind.

"Yes, the race for the future is on, and it won’t be won if only some Americans are in the running. It won’t be won with yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s divisions. And it won’t be won with a president who is stuck in the past. We need a president who understands the world today, the future we seek, and the change we need. We need Barack Obama as the next president of the United States."

Warner, a moderate Democrat and successful businessman who "got in on the ground floor of the cell-phone industry," as he put it, underscored the need for a president with the vision to lead the country through new 21st-century challenges.

"If you think there’ve been dramatic changes in the world and in technology over the last 10 years, you ain’t seen nothing yet," Warner said. "The race is on, and if you watched the Olympics, you know China’s going for the gold."

He continued: "You know, America has never been afraid of the future, and we shouldn’t start now. If we choose the right path, every one of these challenges is also an opportunity. … Look at education. If we recruit an army of new teachers and actually give our schools the resources to meet our highest standards, not only will every child in America get a fair shot, the American economy will get a shot in the arm. Whether they want to be an engineer or an electrician, every kid will be trained for the jobs of the 21st century."

Four years ago, Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic Convention, a speech that propelled him onto the national political stage.

Warner, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in a state with a habit of split-ticket voting, spent part of his national address talking about his achievements as governor of Virginia, where–working with a GOP-controlled legislature–he led efforts to bring that state into the 21st-century economy.

"When I became governor, this is what Virginia faced: a massive budget shortfall; an economy that wasn’t moving; gridlock in the capital. … So what did we do?" he asked.

"We made record investments in education and in job training. We got 98 percent of eligible kids enrolled in our children’s health-care program. We delivered broadband to the most remote areas of our state, because if you can send a job to Bangalore, India, you sure as heck can send one to Danville, Virginia, and Flint, Michigan, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Peoria, Illinois. In a global economy, you shouldn’t have to leave your hometown to find a world-class job."

Warner concluded: "With the right leadership, we can, once again, achieve a standard of living that is improved, not diminished, in each generation. We can once again make America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery. … And Barack Obama and [presumptive vice presidential nominee] Joe Biden will get it done."

Speaking after Warner, Patrick also highlighted the importance of education in the campaign, drawing key distinctions between Obama and McCain.

"Barack Obama understands that we must renew our commitment to the American story today. And the gateway is through a first-rate education," said the Massachusetts governor, who grew up in Chicago’s South Side, where Obama also put down roots.

"That’s why Barack Obama wants to help our kids be ready to learn when they get to kindergarten by investing in early education. That’s why he wants to fix and fund No Child Left Behind. That’s why he wants to better train and better reward high-performing teachers, why he wants to emphasize more math and science preparation, and why he wants to support the college ambitions of young people by helping them pay for it.

"Barack Obama understands, like you do, that a well-educated America will make things again, because we’ll be ready for emerging industries like clean energy and life sciences and high tech that produce good jobs, as well as a cleaner environment. And in that new economy, working people will again be able to see a path into the middle class and a secure future."

Patrick continued: "Now, John McCain says he believes in education, too. But he is against fully funding No Child Left Behind, against fully funding Head Start, against hiring more teachers, and wants to abolish the Department of Education. This should come as no surprise. John McCain is just more of the same say-one-thing-do-another crowd in the White House today."

Representatives from the McCain campaign did not return an eSchool News reporter’s telephone calls seeking comment before press time.