Sen. Kamala Harris didn’t have to do too much heavy lifting during her historic vice presidential acceptance speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. That’s because former President Barack Obama took that mantle up quite well in his own speech leading up to Harris’ big moment. Harris is the first Black women and woman of color be the vice presidential pick of a major political party in the country’s history.
Harris, a former attorney general for the state of California, recognized the moment as she began her acceptance speech.
“I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me. Women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all,” Harris said. “This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. And we celebrate the women who fought for that right.”
That right did not include Black women, Harris said.
“So many of the Black women who helped secure that victory were still prohibited from voting, long after its ratification. But they were undeterred,” said Harris. “Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched, and fought—not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table. These women and the generations that followed worked to make democracy and opportunity real in the lives of all of us who followed.”
Harris went on to say, “They paved the way for the trailblazing leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And these women inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on. Women like Mary Church Terrell and Mary McCleod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and Shirley Chisholm. We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
By and large, Harris was on stage to share her personal journey to America on how she got to where she is. That pathway began with her mother-Shyamala Gopalan Harris and her dad-Donald Harris. It was her mother, however, who shouldered much of the load after her father split when she was still an adolescent.
That didn’t stop Harris from attending Howard University. That reality didn’t keep her from being California’s top cop and later a U.S. Senator. You can now add vice president pick on a presidential ticket to that resume.
“My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning,” said Harris. “And oh, how I wish she were here tonight but I know she’s looking down on me from above. I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman—all of five feet tall—who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America. I do so, committed to the values she taught me. To the Word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight.”
For most of the evening, Harris made the pitch of being warm and embraceable. But every now and then, she would slide in a verbal jab against President Donald Trump and his administration.
“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,” said Harris. “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.”
And then taking a pointed swipe at President Trump with his baggage of sexual assault allegations, Harris straight out called the president on the carpet.
“I know a predator when I see one.”
Like Obama before her, Harris circled the bandwagon on President Trump’s mishandling of COVID-19, which in effect, has hurt the nation’s economy.
“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” Harris 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. And we are a nation that’s grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy. And yes, the loss of certainty. And while this virus touches us all, let’s be honest, it is not an equal opportunity offender. Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately. This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism.”
Harris then went for the jugular on the racism tip.
“Let’s be clear—there is no vaccine for racism,” she said. “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…
With that said, Harris said America is at a crossroads, almost at the point of no return.
“We’re at an inflection point,” said Harris. “The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more. We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. 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.”
Harris added that this election is not about neither her nor Biden, but more about the American people.
“It’s not about Joe or me. It’s about you,” she said. “It’s about us.”
Harris ended her speech by saying when all of the mess that is happening in this country clears, Americans will be able to tell future generations they just didn’t just sit idly and let this moment pass them by.
“Years from now, this moment will have passed,” said Harris. “And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? 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. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”