Democratic National Convention Recap

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Photo By Alex Hanel DNCC

Chairman of the Democratic Party Tom Perez speaks to a mostly empty room prior to the convention’s virtual roll call. During his speech, Mr. Perez praised the American dream, which was a theme of the convention.

By Hannah Ashtari, Managing Editor

In a year hijacked by the coronavirus pandemic, public events and normal routines have been forced to reshape themselves, and the 2020 Democratic National Convention, held August 17-20, was no exception.

The convention, usually an event in which upwards of 50,000 people are in attendance, instead featured speakers addressing the nation virtually from different locations across the country. The Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee acted as the central location of the event, but delegates casted their votes virtually and few people were present. 

In another departure from tradition, the convention featured a video montage of 17 different “next generation party leaders” in place of a typical keynote speech. Other notable speakers included Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, President Jimmy Carter, Cindy McCain (the widow of Republican Senator John McCain) and General Colin Powell, who was secretary of state in George W. Bush’s administration.

First Lady Michelle Obama gave what has been hailed as one of the most powerful speeches of the convention, which focused on the importance of empathy and tenacity in today’s political climate. She also spoke about the qualities she believed make President Donald Trump an unfit leader for America.

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” Ms. Obama said. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.”

The convention also included segments of video in which everyday Americans spoke about how Joe Biden had impacted their lives. Standouts included Jacquelyn Brittany, a security guard at the New York Times. She was the first to appear in a short video to formally nominate Mr. Biden, who she met while operating an elevator in January.

“In the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me, that he really cared, that my life meant something to him,” Ms. Brittany said.

Another short segment featuring Brayden Harrington ‘24 saw him hailed as the “emotional star” of the DNC, after he spoke of how Mr. Biden had helped make him feel confident about his stutter when they met at a political rally in New Hampshire. Mr. Biden, who has been previously ridiculed by his opponents for his “slow” and “sleepy” manner of speaking, which stems from his stutter, gave Harrington advice on marking the text he reads to make it easier to say. 

“He told me that we were both members of the same club; we stutter,” Harrington said. “It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became Vice President… kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to.” 

In a less heartwarming segment, Kristin Urquiza, a woman whose father died of the coronavirus in June, gave a scathing criticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, saying that her father’s “faith” in the president cost him his life, after he ignored social distancing rules to go to a karaoke bar, believing the president’s claims that the virus was “under control.”

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old,” Ms. Urquiza said. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump. And for that, he paid with his life.”

In the second to last and last nights of the convention, Mr. Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, both spoke. Ms. Harris’s address, on Wednesday, was very personal, and she spoke about the values her mother instilled in her that she still carries with her today in the fight to “dismantle racial injustice.”

“[My mother] raised us to be proud, strong Black women,” Ms. Harris said. “And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage…She taught us to be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all people. To believe public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is a shared responsibility.”

Mr. Biden gave a speech that was both charismatic and insistent. He repeatedly emphasized the need for Americans to abandon partisanship and be united to heal from the country’s crises.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long,” Mr. Biden said. “Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division. Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst.”

Compared to the darker and more serious tone that the Democrats cast during their convention, the Republicans are expected to focus on the years under Trump before the pandemic, which is being held August 24-27. Speakers will include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Tom Cotton, members of the Trump family, and Melania Trump and Mr. Trump.

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