WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris made history Wednesday night as the first Black woman to accept a spot on a major party’s presidential ticket.
In her highly anticipated address capping the third night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, Harris mixed her polish as a former prosecutor with deeply personal tales of her upbringing to argue that she and Joe Biden can rejuvenate a country ravaged by a pandemic and deeply divided by partisan bitterness.
Harris evoked the lessons of her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a biologist and Indian immigrant, saying Wednesday that she had instilled in her daughter 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.”
“There is no vaccine for racism,” Harris said. “We have got to do the work.”
In a largely empty arena near Biden’s Delaware home, Harris issued an urgent plea for voters of all colors to rally behind Biden and find a way to vote despite concerns about the pandemic and postal slowdowns.
“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” she said. “Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons.”
”Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose,” Harris asserted.
Before her acceptance speech, Harris had kicked off the third night of the convention by saying that viewers may have heard “about obstacles and misinformation, and folks making it harder for you to cast your ballot.”
“I think we need to ask ourselves why don’t they want us to vote,” Harris said Wednesday. “When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect in our country.”
She did not say what those potential obstacles were, but Democrats have accused President Donald Trump of deliberately trying to disrupt operations at the Postal Service in a year when more people are expected to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Harris urged viewers to send a text message to the Biden campaign to receive information on how to vote and deadlines for obtaining mail-in ballots, which vary by state.
Some of the most influential women in Harris’ life introduced her Wednesday night as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
They are Harris’ younger sister, Maya Harris; her niece, Meena Harris; and her step-daughter, Ella Emhoff. Maya Harris has long been one of Harris’ closest political advisers.
Emhoff is the daughter of Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, and affectionately calls Harris “Momala.”
Meena Harris called her aunt a role model who taught her she could do anything she wanted, and a role model to so many women and girls of color around the world. Maya Harris said she would have Harris’ back the way Harris had hers as children growing up.
Former President Barack Obama delivered a searing takedown of Trump while presenting Biden and Harris as the ones who will “lead this country out of these dark times.”
Obama made the case for electing his former vice president and Harris, a California senator, during a live address to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He implored people to vote, arguing that American democracy is at stake.
“This administration has shown that it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win,” Obama said, urging voters to “leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for.”
Obama portrayed his successor as having unleashed America’s “worst impulses” and treated the presidency as a reality show “to get the attention he craves.”
Obama was among the headliners on the convention’s third night and spoke before Harris. They are both barrier-breaking figures, he as the nation’s first Black president and Harris as the first Black woman on a major party ticket.
Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Joe Biden could hold his own on having a plan for nearly every policy challenge, large and small.
The Massachusetts senator said Wednesday night in her Democratic National Convention speech: “I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans — plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy.”
Warren spoke from an early education center in Springfield, Mass., and said Biden would guarantee affordable, quality child care for all families.
She said the pandemic had laid bare another central theme of her presidential campaign, that the nation’s economic system “has been rigged to give bailouts to billionaires and kick dirt in the face of everyone else.”
“Joe’s plan to ‘build back better’ includes making the wealthy pay their fair share, holding corporations accountable, repairing racial inequities and fighting corruption in Washington,” Warren said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of “disrespect for facts, for working families and for women in particular,” disrespect she said she had “seen firsthand.”
Pelosi spoke Wednesday night with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. She said Trump’s disrespect was “written into his policies toward our health and our rights, not just his conduct.”
She contrasted Joe Biden as having a “heart full of love for America” against Trump’s “heartless disregard for America’s goodness.”
Pelosi also listed a litany of bills House Democrats have passed, including LGBTQ protections, gun violence measures and a coronavirus relief bill, and charged that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump were “standing in the way” of those reforms.
She closed by predicting this fall that Democrats would increase their majority in the House and win back control of the Senate.
Hillary Clinton spoke, reminding people of her 2016 loss despite winning 3 million more votes than Trump as she urged Democrats not to sit the election out, so he wouldn’t be able to “sneak or steal his way to victory.”
Speaking from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., Clinton said that she had originally hoped Trump would put his ego aside and be the president America needed, but that that hadn’t happened.
Recalling a moment when Trump asked Black voters in 2016 what they had to lose by supporting him, Clinton said: “Now we know.”
Clinton said she knews about “the slings and arrows” that vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris would face as a Black woman on the ticket.
“Believe me: This former district attorney and attorney general can handle them all,” she added.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords called on Americans to speak out to combat gun violence, “even when you have to fight to find the words.”
Struggling to speak herself, Giffords recounted her difficulty recovering from the 2011 shooting that nearly took her life.
Giffords said, “Confronted by paralysis and aphasia, I responded with grit and determination.” She added: “Today I struggle to speak. But I have not lost my voice.”
Since the shooting, Giffords has become a leading gun control advocate and frequently speaks out on the issue. She told viewers that Biden had been there for her after the shooting and that Americans must participate in the November election to be “on the right side of history.”
“We can let the shooting continue, or we can act,” she said, adding: “We can vote.”