It was a night to spotlight women — and one notable man — Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.
Kamala Harris accepted the nomination for vice president — the first woman of color to have the nomination in U.S. history. She promised that she and presidential nominee Joe Biden would undo the damage done under Donald Trump and bring the nation together.
“We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work,” she said from Wilmington, Del., where Biden joined her onstage at the end. “A president who will bring all of us together — Black, white, Latino, Asian, indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden.”
“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons,” she said. “Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose. Joe will bring us together to build an economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind. Where a good-paying job is the floor, not the ceiling. Joe will bring us together to end this pandemic and make sure that we are prepared for the next one. Joe will bring us together to squarely face and dismantle racial injustice, furthering the work of generations.
She noted that the pandemic has exposed injustices, saying, “Black, Latino, and indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately” due to structural racism. “There is no vaccine for racism. We’ve gotta do the work,” she added. “For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us.”
Harris lauded Biden for a variety of achievements during his political career, such as authoring the Violence Against Women Act as a U.S. senator and championing the Affordable Care Act as Barack Obama’s vice president. She also praised him as a family man, recalling that she got to know his son Beau when she was attorney general of California and Beau Biden attorney general of Delaware.
She offered shout-outs to the women who had come before her, including Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination, and those who had supported her throughout her life, such as her sorority sisters at Howard University and, most of all, her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who brought up Harris and her sister largely on her own.
“My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives,” the candidate said, including pride in her heritage (her mother was an immigrant from India, her father from Jamaica) and in being a strong Black woman, and commitments to family and public service, leading Harris to become a district attorney, attorney general, and U.S. senator.
Harris said she remains committed to those values and “a vision of our nation as a Beloved Community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.”
Other women speaking Wednesday included the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who lost the electoral vote despite besting Trump in the popular vote by nearly 3 million.
Clinton noted that in 2016, she said and meant that Trump had to be approached with an open mind and given a chance to lead. But he has utterly failed as a leader, she said, and she called on voters who either supported him or sat out the election to get behind Biden and Harris now.
“For four years, people have said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how dangerous he was.’ ‘I wish I could go back and do it over.’ ‘I should have voted,’” Clinton said. “This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election.”
“Remember in 2016 when Trump asked, ‘What do you have to lose?’” she continued. “Well, now we know: our health, our jobs, even our lives. Our leadership in the world and, yes, our post office. As Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders warned us on Monday: If Trump is reelected, it will get even worse. My friends, we need unity now more than ever.”
Biden and Harris are “the team to pull our nation back from the brink,” she said. They will fight for paid family leave, health care for all, job creation, law enforcement void of racism and brutality, reproductive freedom, the preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and more, she said.
But their victory must be unassailable, Clinton said. “Remember,” she cautioned, “Joe and Kamala can win 3 million more votes and still lose. Take. It. From. Me. We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”
The biggest male star of the evening was Obama, who spoke from Philadelphia immediately before Harris and underlined the contrast between Trump and Biden.
“I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president,” the former president said. “I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.
“But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
Biden and Harris will rescue the economy, get the pandemic under control, expand health care, restore the nation’s standing in the world, fight bigotry, and more, both because of their character and experience and the policies they embrace, Obama said. Biden, a man of empathy and decency, was the last one in the room with him whenever he made a major decision as president, and Harris is an “ideal partner” for him, the former president added.
Others appearing throughout the night included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold that post; former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was severely injured in a mass shooting and is a major advocate for gun control; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who endorsed Biden after she dropped out of the presidential race; survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; and immigrants whose family members have been deported or threatened with deportation under Trump.
Videos detailed the work of gun control activists, including bisexual Floridian Emma Gonzalez and Maria Jose Wright, the mother of Pulse shooting victim Jerry Wright; the efforts of women to win the vote (the constitutional amendment codifying that right was ratified a year ago this week); and the hardships faced by small-business owners during the pandemic.
Speakers struck many inclusive notes, calling for fights against racial and religious bias, and bigotry based on one’s choice of partner, and host Kerry Washington mentioned the need to address the epidemic of violence against Black transgender women. Several also praised the activism of young antiracism protesters.
The convention will conclude Thursday night as Biden accepts the nomination and speaks to the nation. Watch videos from Wednesday below.