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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."

Go deeper

Nov 17, 2020 - World

Biden speaks with Israeli leaders Netanyahu and Rivlin

Biden (L) with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Baz Ratner-Pool/Getty Images

President-elect Biden spoke on the phone today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as part of series of congratulatory phone calls with leaders around the world.

The big picture: The order in which these calls are returned by an incoming president is closely watched. Biden called Netanyahu and Rivlin after speaking with the leaders of nine other U.S. allies over the past few days.

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.