Read Kamala Harris's First Speech as Vice President Nominee

Chelsey Sanchez
·12 mins read
Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY - Getty Images
Photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

  • Joining Joe Biden in Delaware, Kamala Harris made her first address as the Democratic nominee for vice president.

  • "We're experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country," said the California Senator.

Today, Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, made their first joint appearance since he announced her as his vice presidential pick. Speaking at a high school in Delaware, the duo highlighted their shared values and Harris's political qualifications for the job.

"This is a moment of real consequence for America," the California Senator started. "Everything we care about–our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in–it's all on the line. We're reeling from the worst public health crisis in a century. The president's mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we're experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change. America is crying out for leadership."

Read on for her full speech.

As I said Joe, when you called me, I am incredibly honored by this responsibility and I'm ready to get to work. I am ready to get to work. After the most competitive primary in history, the country received a resounding message that Joe was the person to lead us forward. Joe, I'm so proud to stand with you, and I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me whose sacrifice, determination and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.

This is a moment of real consequence for America. Everything we care about–our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in–it's all on the line. We're reeling from the worst public health crisis in a century. The president's mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we're experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change. 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. But here's the good news: We don't have to accept the failed government of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. In just 83 days, we have a chance to choose a better future for our country.

So Joe, Dr. Biden, thank you for the trust you've placed in me. Jill, I know you will be an incredible first lady and my husband, Doug, and I are so grateful to become a part of your extended family.

Ever since I received Joe's call, I've been thinking, yes, about the first Biden that I really came to know. And that of course is one of his beloved sons, Beau. In the midst of the great recession, Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day, sometimes multiple times a day, working together to win back billions of dollars for homeowners from the big banks of the nation that were foreclosing on people's homes. 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 do you get that? Where did this come from?' He'd always talk about his dad. And I will tell you that the love that they shared was incredible to watch. It was the most beautiful display of the love between a father and a son. Beau talked about how Joe would spend four hours every day, riding the rails back and forth from Wilmington to Washington, so he can make breakfast for his kids in the morning and make it home in time to tuck them in bed each night. All of this so two little boys who had just lost their mom and their sister in a tragic accident would know that the world was still turning. And that's 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. And Joe and I–yes, we are cut from the same cloth. Family is everything to me, too. And I cannot wait for America to get to know my husband, Doug, and our amazing kids, Cole and Ella. Because whether I'm cheering in the bleachers at a swim meet or setting up a college room dorm or helping my goddaughter prepare for her school debate or building Legos with my godson or hugging my two baby nieces or cooking Sunday dinner, my family means everything to me. And I've had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly 'vice president' will be great. But 'Momala' will always be the one that means the most.

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 parents would bring me to protests strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching. She'd tell us, 'Don't sit around and complain about things. Do something.' So I did something.

I devoted my life to making real the words carved in the United States Supreme Court: "Equal justice under law." And 30 years ago, I stood before a judge for the first time, breathed deep, and uttered the phrase that would truly guide my career and the rest of my career: Kamala Harris for the people.

The people, that's who I represented as district attorney fighting on behalf of victims who needed help. The people, that's who I fought for as California's attorney general when I took on transnational criminal organizations who were trafficking guns and drugs and humans beings. And it's the people who I have fought for as a United States Senator where I've worked every day to hold Trump officials accountable to the American people. And the people are who Joe and I will fight for every day in the White House.

And, let me tell you as somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut. Just look where they've gotten us. More than 16 million out of work. Millions of kids who cannot go back to school. A crisis of poverty, of homelessness, afflicting Black, Brown, and indigenous people the most. A crisis of hunger afflicting one in five mothers who have children that are hungry. And tragically, more than 165,000 lives that have been cut short, many with loved ones who never got the chance to say goodbye.

It didn't have to be this way. Six years ago, in fact, we had a different health crisis. It was called Ebola. And we all remember that pandemic, but you know what happened then? Barack Obama and Joe Biden did their job. Only two people in the United States died. Two. That is what's called leadership. But compare that to the moment we find ourselves in now. When other countries are following the science, Trump pushed miracle cures he saw on Fox News. While other countries were flattening the curve, he said, the virus would just–poof–go away. Like a miracle.

So when other countries opened back up for business, what did we do? We had to shut down again. This virus has impacted almost every country, but there's a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It's because of Trump's failure to take it seriously from the start, his refusal to get testing up and running, his flip-flopping on social distancing and wearing masks, his delusional belief that he knows better than the experts. All of that is the reason that an American dies of COVID-19 every 80 seconds. It's why countless businesses have had to shut their doors for good. It's why there is complete chaos over when and how to reopen our schools. Mothers and fathers are confused and uncertain and angry about childcare and the safety of their kids at school. Whether they'll be in danger if they go, or fall behind if they don't.

Trump is also the reason millions of Americans are now unemployed. He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground. Because of Trump's failures of leadership, our economy has taken one of the biggest hits out of all the major industrialized nations with an unemployment rate that has tripled as of today. This is what happens when we elect the guy who just isn't up for the job. Our country ends up in tatters. And so does our reputation around the world.

But let's be clear: This election isn't just about defeating Donald Trump or Mike Pence. It's about building this country back better. And that's exactly what Joe and I will do. We'll create millions of jobs and fight climate change through a clean energy revolution, bring back critical supply chains so the future is made in America, build on the Affordable Care Act so everyone has a peace of mind that comes with health insurance, and finally, offer caregivers the dignity, the respect, and the pay they deserve. We'll protect a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own body, root out systemic racism in our justice system, and pass a new Voting Rights Act–a John Lewis Voting Rights Act–that will ensure every voice is heard and every voice is counted.

The civil rights struggle is nothing new to Joe. It's why he got into public service. It's why he helped reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and restore employment discrimination laws. And, today, he takes his place in the ongoing story of America's march toward equality and justice as the only who has served alongside the first Black president and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate.

But as Joe always points out, this election is about more than politics. It's about who we are as a country. And I'll admit, over the past four years, there have been moments when I have truly worried about our future. But whenever I think that there is a reason for doubt, whenever I've had my own doubts, I think of you, the American people: The doctors and nurses and frontline workers who are risking your lives to save others; the truck drivers and the workers in grocery stores, in factories and farms, working there, putting your own safety on the line to help us get through this pandemic; the women and students taking to the streets in unprecedented in numbers; the dreamers and immigrants who know that families belong together; the LGBTQ Americans who know that love is love; people of every age and color and creed who are finally declaring in one voice that, yes, Black lives matter.

All across this country, a whole new generation of children is growing up, hearing the cries for justice and the chance of hope on which I was raised, some strapped into strollers of their own. And trust me, it's a song you'll never forget. So to everyone keeping up the fight, you are doing something. You are doing something great. You are the heroes of our time. And you are the reason I know we are going to bring our country closer to realizing its great promise. But to do it, we'll need to work, organize, and vote like never before, because we need more than a victory on November 3rd. We need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be.

Joe likes to say that character is on the ballot–and it's true. When he saw what happened in Charlottesville three years ago today, he knew we were in a battle for the soul of our nation. And together with your help, that's a battle we will win. Earlier this year, I said, "I'll do whatever Joe asked me to do." And so now I'm asking you to do the same.

So, visit JoeBiden.com to get involved in this campaign and vote, because electing Joe Biden is just the start of the work ahead of us. And I couldn't be prouder to be by his side, running to represent you, the people. Thank you. And may God bless the United States of America.

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