Senator Kamala Harris made history Thursday by becoming the first black woman and person of Indian descent to be nominated for the post of Vice-President of the United States on the third night of the Democratic party’s National Convention. With this, Harris has officially joined the party’s presidential ticket alongside Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
In what was undoubtedly the most important speech of her political career till date, the former California Attorney General formally accepted the party’s nomination and described her vision of America “as a beloved community — where all are welcome”.
With the United State’s political landscape marred by racism and inequality, the country needs a President who will act as a unifier and bring people together, she said. Harris also criticised US President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling him a “President who turns tragedies into political weapons”.
Harris’ historic speech came at the very end of a star-studded evening, featuring some of the Democratic party’s most prominent voices, including former US President Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Biden’s former rival presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Here is an overview of Harris’ speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention
‘We celebrate the women who fought for the right to vote’
Before Harris addressed the American voters who had tuned in to virtually witness the penultimate night of the convention, she was introduced by her sister Maya Harris, niece Meena Harris and stepdaughter Ella Emhoff.
Harris began her address by paying tribute to the suffragettes who fought for women’s equality and the right to vote as well as the women and men who fought for equality and justice, paving the way for her nomination, this year.
“That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me,” she said. “Women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.”
Harris went on to share her mother’s story — outlining how she moved to the US from India at the age of 19, met Harris’ father at a civil rights march in the 1960s, and raised two children on her own after separating from her husband when Harris was only 5-years-old.
“There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared. Another woman whose shoulders I stand on. And that’s my mother—Shyamala Gopalan Harris,” she said. “Like so many mothers, she worked around the clock to make it work—packing lunches before we woke up—and paying bills after we went to bed. Helping us with homework at the kitchen table—and shuttling us to church for choir practice.”
“She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.”
Harris’ mother, a breast cancer researcher who was born in Chennai, succumbed to cancer in February 2009.
‘Kamala Harris, For the People’
Harris was raised to believe in the many virtues of public service and the fight for justice, she recalled in her speech. It was her mother’s teachings of compassion for the struggles of all people that ultimately drove her to take up a career in law and public service.
“That led me to become a lawyer, a District Attorney, Attorney General, and a United States Senator. And at every step of the way, I’ve been guided by the words I spoke from the first time I stood in a courtroom: Kamala Harris, For the People,” she said.
In what appeared to be a jibe at President Trump, she said, “I’ve fought for children, and survivors of sexual assault. I’ve fought against transnational gangs. I took on the biggest banks, and helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges. I know a predator when I see one.”
Harris’ vision for America
Accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States, Harris vowed to serve the country committed to the values her mother taught her. She outlined her vision for America, which she claimed “feels distant” today.
“A country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges, and celebrate our triumphs—together. Today… that country feels distant,” she explained.
This is a vision of America that Joe Biden shares, Harris said. “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.”
Harris on Trump’s ‘failure of leadership’ amid the Covid-19 pandemic
The California senator launched a scathing attack on the Trump administration for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which claimed thousands of lives and livelihoods. The United States continues to be the worst-hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, reporting a startling number of new cases and deaths every day.
“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” she said. “If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s remote learning, or you’re a teacher struggling on the other side of that screen, you know that what we’re doing right now isn’t working.”
She pointed out that the impact of the deadly virus was being felt more acutely by minority communities and the disadvantaged. “Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately,” Harris elucidated.
“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons,” Harris said. “Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”
“There is no vaccine for racism”
The fact that black, Latino and indigenous people were falling prey to the virus more aggressively than white people was not a coincidence, Harris said. “It is the effect of structural racism.”
She laid bare the inequities that exist in access to education, health care, housing, job security and transportation. She then pointed out the inherent prejudice within the broader criminal justice system, a product of which, was the use of excessive force by the police against black people.
“This virus has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other – and how we treat each other,” she said. “And let’s be clear – there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve gotta do the work. For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us.”
“We’ve gotta do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because, none of us are free until all of us are free.”
The world is at an inflection point, where we have all been made to feel afraid and alone, according to Harris.
Harris calls on voters to elect Biden
Harris went on to extoll the virtues of former Vice-President Joe Biden. The country needs a president who will bring people together instead of dividing them further, she said. “We must elect Joe Biden.”
She recalled her personal relationship with Biden — remembering his days in the office as Vice-President, and the relationship she shared with his son Beau Biden. When Harris was Attorney General of California, Beau was her counterpart in Delaware.
“During the Great Recession, we spoke on the phone nearly every day, working together to win back billions of dollars for homeowners from the big banks that foreclosed on people’s homes,” she said.
She recollected hearing about Joe Biden from his son. “How, as a single father, Joe would spend 4 hours every day riding the train back and forth from Wilmington to Washington. Beau and Hunter got to have breakfast every morning with their dad.”
She then listed out his many accomplishments during his political career, including writing the Violence Against Women Act, enacting the Assault Weapons Ban, and implementing the Recovery Act as Vice President during the time of the Great Recession.
“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.”
‘This election can change the course of history’
Harris urged American voters to cast their vote on polling day, knowing that they have a shot at changing the course of history. She called on the citizens of America to fight for hope with confidence and conviction for the America they envision.
“Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?” She said.
“They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”