Aug 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Harris previews dual role in debut speech: Attacking Trump and humanizing Biden

Sen. Kamala Harris began her first speech as Joe Biden's running mate excoriating President Trump for his "mismanagement" of the coronavirus and scorn for the racial justice movement, before quickly pivoting to how she came to know Biden: through her friendship with his late son Beau.

Why it matters: The debut speech on Wednesday underscored the dual roles that Harris will take on for the rest of the campaign — humanizing Biden during a moment of national crisis and "prosecuting" the case against Trump as a failed president.

What she's saying:

  • "America is crying out for leadership. Yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him. A president who is making every challenge we face even more difficult to solve. ... As somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut."
  • "Ever since I received Joe's call, I have been thinking about the first Biden I really came to know. And that of course is Joe's beloved son Beau. ... And let me just tell you about Beau Biden. I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves."
  • "He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, where did you get that? Where did this come from? He'd always talk about his dad. And I will tell you the love that they shared was incredible to watch. It was the most beautiful display of the love between a father and a son."
  • "That is how I came to know Joe. He's someone whose first response when things get tough is never to think about himself, but to care for everyone else. He's someone who never asks, why is this happening to me? And instead asks, what can I do to make life better for you? His empathy, his compassion, his sense of duty to care for others, is why I am so proud to be on this ticket."

Harris went on to discuss her unique upbringing as the daughter of two immigrants, which has put her in the historic position of being the first Black woman and first South Asian woman selected to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

  • "My mother and father, they came from opposite sides of the world to arrive in America. One from India, and the other from Jamaica, in search of a world-class education. But what brought them together was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
  • And that's how they met, as students in the streets of Oakland, marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today. And I was part of it."
  • "My mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe it was up to us, and every generation of Americans, to keep on marching."

The bottom line: "We need more than a victory on Nov. 3," Harris said as she began to wrap up her speech. "We need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be."

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