Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night with a promise to bring the nation together and “be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”
The former vice president opened his acceptance speech with a reference to the Black civil rights movement. “Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: ‘Give people light and they will find a way,’” he said. “Give people light. Those are words for our time.
“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division. Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”
The campaign, he said, is “about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America. Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the ‘knee on the neck.’ For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve to experience America’s promise in full.”
The nation must be ready to confront four historic crises, Biden said: “The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the ’60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.” He and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, are the ones to unite and lead the nation to address these matters, while “the current president” (Biden never mentioned Donald Trump’s name) will continue to be divisive and flounder.
Trump “still does not have a plan” to deal with the COVID-19 crisis or its economic fallout Biden said. He promised that he does: rapid testing, ample personal protective equipment, and a mask mandate.
He also decried Trump’s pandering to bigotry. He invoked the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., three years ago. “Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of the fields with lighted torches? Veins bulging? Spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ’30s? Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it? Remember what the president said? There were, quote, ‘very fine people on both sides.’ It was a wake-up call for us as a country.”
Biden promised to fight systemic racism, deal with climate change, close tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans, create jobs that pay well, build on the Affordable Care Act, protect Social Security and Medicare, and more. He highlighted the concerns of young people about climate change, racial injustice, and economic injustice, and pledge to address them.
“I won’t have to do it alone,” he said. “Because I will have a great vice president at my side. Sen. Kamala Harris. She is a powerful voice for this nation. Her story is the American story. She knows about all the obstacles thrown in the way of so many in our country. Women, Black women, Black Americans, South Asian Americans, immigrants, the left-out and left-behind.
“But she's overcome every obstacle she's ever faced. No one’s been tougher on the big banks or the gun lobby. No one’s been tougher in calling out this current administration for its extremism, its failure to follow the law, and its failure to simply tell the truth.”
He and Harris both draw strength from their families, he said. He gave shout-outs to family members include his wife, Jill; his son and daughter, Hunter and Ashley; and his late son, Beau, who died of cancer at age 46. He was joined by Jill Biden, Harris, and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, at the end.
The evening also featured a tribute to Beau Biden, a military veteran who became attorney general of Delaware; a tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, followed by a performance of the song “Glory” from the film Selma by John Legend and Common; and a video highlighting Joe Biden’s support for military families. There was a segment on health care with out Sen. Tammy Baldwin and one with a selection of Biden’s former rivals for the nomination, introduced by Pete Buttigieg. In a particularly moving moment, Brayden Harrington, a New Hampshire boy who, like Biden, has a stutter, talked about what the candidate means to him.
There were some bits of levity, though. Host Julia Louis-Dreyfus made some jokes at the expense of Trump and Mike Pence (not well-received on the right) and comedian Sarah Cooper, known for her lip-synching of various preposterous Trump remarks, did an imitation of the president.
See a selection of videos below.