The Biggest Moments From Kamala Harris’s First Campaign Speech

Kamala Harris. Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, Joe Biden made his first joint appearance with California senator Kamala Harris since announcing her as his running mate on Tuesday. The newly forged Democratic ticket selected a high school in Delaware as the site of this first public foray.

Biden introduced his running mate as “smart … tough … experienced, she’s a proven fighter for the backbone of this country, the middle-class, for all those who are struggling to get into the middle-class.” He also took a moment to scold Trump for being on the golf course while a pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country. Then Harris gave a rousing speech (although there didn’t seem to be any physical audience members, for obvious reasons), a worthy introduction to her vice-presidential candidacy. If the speech is any indication, Harris will serve as the charismatic, well-spoken, level-headed counterpart to Biden, whose campaign has been marred by occasional gaffes.

Here are the highlights of Harris’s speech (you can read the full transcript here).

On Trump

Harris took some swipes at Trump, focusing on the substance of his catastrophic leadership, and arguing that he’s simply “not up for the job” of president. In particular, she emphasized his catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that’s come in its wake.

“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 … 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.

On coronavirus

As we know from watching outcomes in other countries and having at least a rudimentary understanding of how coronavirus is spread, the Trump administration has been worse than negligent in handling the coronavirus outbreak which has now killed 165,000 Americans and scarred countless more. Harris pointed this out in her speech saying,

“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. It didn’t have to be this way.”

On her friendship with Beau Biden

On a more personal note, Harris also talked about her friendship with Joe Biden’s son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, saying she “came to know” Joe by working closely with him.

“I’ve been thinking … 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.”

Hanging out with her parents at marches for social justice

Harris touched on her parents, immigrants from India and Jamaica who met at Berkeley and ran in a circle of intellectuals and activists for a time (her mother is a cancer researcher, her father an economist). She recalled attending protests as a baby, and credited her mother with awakening her political consciousness.

“[W]hat 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.”

Highlights From Kamala Harris’s First Campaign Speech