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Historian Jon Meacham invoked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Democratic National Convention Thursday, saying that "bending the arc of the moral universe" toward justice "requires all of us" — and a "president of the United States with empathy, grace, a big heart and an open mind."

Why it matters: Meacham's task during his address was to define "The Soul of America" — the title of his 2018 bestseller. He said the soul is "animated by the proposition that we are all created equal and by the imperative to ensure that we are treated equally."

What he's saying: "This is a grave moment in America. A deadly virus is ravaging us. Our jobs are evaporating. Our democracy is under assault from an incumbent more interested in himself than he is the rest of us," Meacham said.

  • "If we live in hope, we open our souls to the power of love. We've been taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. As individuals and as a nation, however, we fail at following that commandment more often then we succeed."
  • "But when we fail, we must try again and again and again, for only in trial is progress possible. From Jamestown forward, our story has become more full and fair because of people who share the conviction that Dr. King articulated on that Sunday half a century ago."
  • "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. Bending that arc requires all of us. It requires 'We the People.' And it requires a president of the United States with empathy, grace, a big heart and an open mind. Joe Biden will be such a president."

The bottom line: "With our voices and our votes, let us now write the next chapter of the American story — one of hope, of love, of justice. If we do so, we might just save our country. And our souls."

Go deeper

Updated Aug 21, 2020 - Vetted Contributors

DNC dashboard

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

🗓 What happened: Joe Biden officially accepted the Democratic nomination in a speech that skewered President Trump for his "unforgivable" COVID response. Watch.

🗣 More speech highlights:

Aug 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden accepts nomination, tears into Trump for "unforgivable" COVID response

Joe Biden officially accepted the Democratic nomination in a speech largely centered on the coronavirus crisis — from the economic devastation and mass death it has caused, to the inequalities it has laid bare, to his campaign-defining argument that President Trump "has failed in his most basic duty to the nation: He's failed to protect us."

Why it matters: After three presidential runs, 36 years in the U.S. Senate, and eight years in the White House as vice president, tonight marked the most important speech of Biden's career — kicking off a 74-day sprint to what will be, in his words, a "life-changing" election.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  3. Education: Devos extends federal student loan relief to Jan. 31
  4. States: New Mexico to allow hospitals to ration coronavirus medical care
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.