Joe Biden officially became the Democratic presidential nominee Tuesday night, with a diverse group of supporters from 57 states and territories pledging delegates to him (and some to Bernie Sanders) remotely.
Those participating in the virtual roll call included some other former rivals for the nomination, such as Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, out Maine state Rep. Craig Hickman, and activists Judy and Dennis Shepard, whose son Matthew was murdered in an antigay hate crime in 1998.
Biden was nominated by New York Times security guard Jacquelyn Brittany, who became an online star with her friendly interactions with the politician, and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Biden’s home state of Delaware seconded the nomination. Bob King, a former president of the United Auto Workers, nominated Sanders, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York seconded his nomination. But it was a foregone conclusion that Biden would end up the nominee, as he won far more delegates than Sanders in the primary season, and Sanders dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden.
The virtual roll call took viewers to every state and territory and showcased the nation’s diverse population, with a mix of elected officials and private citizens announcing their delegate allocations. The representative of Indiana was Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend and the first out gay major-party presidential candidate to appear in a national debate and win delegates. He touted his city’s economic recovery and said, “Joe Biden’s plan gives us a blueprint to revitalize industrial cities and rural areas alike.”
Hickman, the first gay African-American elected to the Maine legislature, spoke of running an organic farm and bed-and-breakfast. “My husband and I aren’t corporate tycoons,” he said. “We just want to make an honest living and feed our communities.” He spoke of Biden’s pledge to help more Americans start small businesses before assigning his state’s delegates.
The Shepards appeared from Wyoming. “Joe understands more than most our grief over Matt’s death,” Dennis Shepard said. “But we see in Joe so much of what made Matt’s life special: his commitment to equality, his passion for social justice, and his boundless compassion for others.”
Other segments in the convention’s second night focused on bipartisanship and foreign policy. A video highlighted Biden’s friendship with the late John McCain, the longtime U.S. senator from Arizona. Narrated by actress Octavia Spencer, the video featured McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, among others, and emphasized that the late senator and Biden were able to work together across party lines. Biden was a U.S. senator from Delaware before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president.
The bipartisan note also figured in an appearance by Colin Powell, who worked for various Republican presidents, including serving as secretary of state under George W. Bush, although he hasn’t supported a Republican for president since 2004. Powell lauded Biden’s character and said he will provide the kind of leadership the nation needs.
Powell praised Biden’s foreign policy expertise as well, as did John Kerry, who was Obama’s second secretary of state (following Hillary Clinton), and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who testified against Donald Trump in the House impeachment investigation. Another official who ran afoul of Trump, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, appeared earlier. Yates was fired by Trump 10 days after he became president for refusing to enforce a travel ban aimed at majority-Muslim countries. She called the ban “shameful and unlawful,” and said her firing “was the start of his relentless attacks on our democratic institutions and countless dedicated public servants.”
There were also segments focusing on health care, noting Biden’s advocacy of the Affordable Care Act as vice president (Trump wants courts to strike down the ACA). Ady Barkan, a man diagnosed with ALS, appeared in a video denouncing Trump, in which he called the possibility of four more years of Trump an “existential threat.”
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter (joined by his wife, Rosalynn) voiced their support for Biden, and the evening closed with a talk by the nominee’s life, longtime teacher Jill Biden, who spoke from a classroom at Brandywine High School, where she once taught English. She remarked on school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said her husband will help the nation rebound when he becomes president.
She commented on the losses he has endured — his first wife and infant daughter died in a car accident, and years later his son Beau died of cancer — and how he has come back. “Joe’s purpose has always driven him forward,” she said. His strength of will is unstoppable. And his faith is unshakable — because it’s not in politicians or political parties — or even himself. It’s in the providence of God. His faith is in you — in us.”
“We just need leadership worthy of our nation,” she added. “Worthy of you. Honest leadership to bring us back together—to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next. Leadership to reimagine what our nation will be. That’s Joe.” He and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, “will work as hard as you do, every day, to make this nation better,” she promised. “And if I have the honor of serving as your first lady, I will too.”
Joe Biden appeared with her at the end. The evening was anchored by actress Tracee Ellis Ross. Watch a selection of videos below.