Biden officially nominated on second night of virtual DNC as wife, Jill, gives upbeat speech

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday August 18, 2020
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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared in a video with his wife, Jill, during Tuesday's convention. Photo: Screengrab via DNC
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared in a video with his wife, Jill, during Tuesday's convention. Photo: Screengrab via DNC

Joseph R. Biden Jr. was officially nominated as the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nominee during the second (virtual) session of the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, which was followed by a speech delivered by his wife, Jill Biden.

Jill Biden, a teacher, delivered her remarks from an empty classroom that symbolized all of the classrooms around the nation empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways. There's no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors," Jill Biden said. "The rooms are dark and the bright young faces that should fill them are confined to boxes on a computer screen."

Jill Biden compared making a broken family whole with healing a broken nation.

"How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole," she said. "With love and understanding — and with small acts of compassion. With bravery. With unwavering faith."

Jill Biden discussed the death of her adopted son, Beau Biden. Once the attorney general of Delaware, Beau Biden died in 2015 of brain cancer. She also discussed her husband's faith in God and other people.

"We need leadership worthy of our nation, worthy of you. Honest leadership to bring us back together. He and Kamala [Harris] will work as hard as you do every day to bring this nation together and if I have the honor of serving as your first lady, I will too," she said, referring to the presumptive vice presidential nominee. "And with Joe as president, these classrooms will ring out with laughter and possibility once again."

At the end of the speech, Joe Biden hugged his wife and said she is the love of his life.

"For all of you out there across the country, just think of your favorite educator who gave you confidence in yourself," he said. "That's the kind of first lady Jill Biden will be."

Former General Colin Powell, a Republican who served in the administration of President George W. Bush as secretary of state and who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, made a speech before Jill Biden.

"Joe Biden will be a president we will all be proud to salute," he said. "You will never doubt that he will stand with our friends and stand up to our adversaries. ... They will know he means business.

"Today, we are a country divided, and we have a president doing everything in his power to make it that way and keep us that way. What a difference it will make to have a president who unites us, who restores our strength and our soul. I still believe that in our hearts, we are the same America that brought my parents to our shores, an America that inspires freedom around the world," he said.

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain (who ran for president in 2008 when Biden first ran for vice president), briefly spoke in favor of Biden shortly thereafter as part of a prerecorded message.

LGBTQs take part in keynote address

Seventeen elected officials from around the nation began the second session of this year's quadrennial gathering of Democrats with a joint keynote address urging a vote for Biden.

These included LGBTQ leaders Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Pennsylvania state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and Matthew Wilson, who last year became the second openly gay man elected to the Georgia Legislature.

Each speaker spoke a few lines of the keynote, some in unison. Wilson mentioned his election victory.

Kenyatta spoke alongside his partner and discussed Biden's support for same-sex marriage. In 2012, Biden came out in favor of same-sex marriage before President Barack Obama, at the time becoming the highest-ranking U.S. government official to do so.

"When I wanted to marry the man I loved, Joe Biden was the first national figure to step up for me and my family," Kenyatta said.

"Appreciate you, man," Kenyatta's partner, Dr. Matthew Miller, added.

Garcia said one reason to vote for Biden is because "we're facing the biggest economic and health crisis in generations [and] our president didn't and still doesn't have a plan."

"You deserve more than the constant chaos that Donald Trump delivers," he added.

Garcia recently lost his mother and stepfather to COVID-19.

Convention nominates Biden for president

Convention chair Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) began the traditional roll call of the states and U.S. territories. Only two names of the two-dozen who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination were entered into nomination: Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who was his runner-up in the primaries.

Bob King, a labor activist and former president of the United Auto Workers union, entered Sanders' name into nomination.

"I'm honored to nominate Bernie Sanders for president," he said. "For decades, Bernie has led the fight for working families."

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), a rising star in the party and a democratic socialist like Sanders, seconded the nomination and said her remarks were "in fidelity and gratitude to a mass people's movement for human rights" and a "historic grassroots campaign to reclaim our democracy."

That movement is "striving to recognize and repair the wounds of racial injustice, colonization, misogyny, and homophobia, and to propose and rebuild reimagined systems of immigration and foreign policy that turn away from the violence and xenophobia of our past."

The former vice president was nominated by a 31-year-old Black New York City security guard named Jacquelyn Brittany, who said that she met Biden in an elevator. She was filmed in the New York Times building.

Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) who held the Senate seat once occupied by Biden, seconded.

"Joe has tacked gun violence and climate change. He stood up to dictators and supported our troops," he said. "Through it all, Joe Biden has never forgotten where he's from and has been sustained by his faith and his family in the toughest of times."

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware) also spoke.

Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D) joined former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, currently serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, in casting California's votes.

"Joe Biden's plan to crack down on pollution to protect our air and water is about environmental justice and economic justice," Lee said. "California, home of our next vice president, casts 231 votes for Bernie Sanders and 263 votes for our next president, Joe Biden."

Indiana's votes were cast by gay former South Bend mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out to endorse Biden, as did several other candidates, earlier this year.

"Here in South Bend we once thought our best days were behind us," he said. "Joe Biden's plan gives us the blueprint to rebuild our rural and industrial areas alike."

Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, announced the vote tallies from Wyoming.

Dennis Shepard praised Biden for his role in making killing LGBTQ people a federal hate crime.

"After our son Matt was murdered, Joe Biden passed legislation to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes," he said. "We've seen in Joe so much of what made Matt special."

Judy Shepard announced four votes for Sanders and 11 for Biden from the Equality State.

Biden was officially nominated when the Delaware delegation took him over the threshold of 1,991 votes. Biden then appeared live with his wife, saying "thank you from the bottom of my heart."

The final delegate total was 3,558 delegates for Biden (about three-quarters of all the delegates) and 1,151 delegates for Sanders, with five delegates voting to abstain and 35 not voting at all.

LGBTQ delegates weigh in

Kaylah Williams, a bi woman who is the co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, is a delegate to the convention from San Francisco who voted for Sanders.

"I became a delegate because during the campaign I hosted — every Sunday at my house in the Outer Sunset — canvasses for Bernie," Williams told the Bay Area Reporter August 18 before the session began. "I made a homemade quiche every Sunday."

Williams began her work in San Francisco politics during Sanders' 2016 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, after having done work in Louisiana.

"It felt very fitting to get in there, host phone banks and after the primary was over I decided to run for delegate," Williams said.

Sanders won San Francisco County with 34% of the Democratic primary vote to Biden's 24%. Sanders also won in the Outer Sunset.

"I don't want to take all the credit but I like to think it partly came from the canvassing we were doing and our presence in the neighborhood," Williams said.

Williams said she has had the opportunity to speak with other delegates through the chat functions available to virtual conventioneers and through tweet storms. She said Sanders delegates are making (virtual) noise, asking the Democratic National Committee to let Congressman Ro Khanna (D-San Jose) — national co-chair of the 2020 Sanders campaign — speak, as well as putting pressure on politicians to defund the police and provide aid to the Black and trans communities.

Williams said that Sanders' supporters are not a "fringe part" of the Democratic Party.

"There are candidates endorsed by Bernie, who are strong Berniecrats, making waves, and we want the Democratic Party to recognize we are not a fringe part of this party," she said. "We want to make sure our voices are heard. To defeat Trump and to be effective, our party is going to have to make some changes."

Juan D. Cerda, a gay man who lived in San Francisco where he was an aide to current Mayor London Breed, is a pledged delegate for Biden. He also spoke to the B.A.R. by phone August 18 from Vienna, Austria, where he currently resides.

Cerda is a delegate representing Democrats Abroad, which joined 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia in casting ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination. Cerda said that these votes were transmitted virtually to the chairs of each delegation over a period of two weeks. These votes were tallied and read during the Tuesday roll call of the states.

"As a pledged delegate I voted for Biden — which was an honor — and the party platform," Cerda said.

Cerda lives in Austria for work. He said that while San Franciscans are seeing the convention beginning at 6 p.m. (Pacific Time), the sessions begin for him at 3 a.m. local time.

"I took the whole week off of work," he said.

Cerda said that casting ballots is not the only thing that separates delegates from people watching the proceedings on television or the internet.

"It's different because we get to be in caucuses, comment on what's going on," he said. "We had Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] and his husband speak with us today so we do get more interaction with other delegates. We're invited to webinars, and we get swag that comes to us from Milwaukee [where the convention was originally slated to occur]: T-shirts, masks, tickets — something we can keep."

Cerda praised Michelle Obama's speech Monday night.

"I couldn't imagine how moving it must have been in person," he said.

Cerda urged all Americans to vote, especially those living abroad such as himself.

"Any American abroad can vote," Cerda said. "The LGBT vote is very important and we in the 'gay mafia' propelled [Buttigeg] in the primary but now we can have two big advocates in the White House in Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, who was the first elected official of that rank to come out in favor of gay marriage."

Party elders endorse Biden

Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton gave brief addresses.

Carter, 95, delivered his remarks jointly with his wife, Rosalynn. There was no video component, unlike many of the other addresses.

"Joe has the experience, character, and decency to bring us together and restore America's greatness," Carter said. "We deserve a person with integrity and judgment, someone who is honest and fair, someone who is committed to what is best for the American people."

Clinton, 74, has spoken at every Democratic convention since 1988. Of course, it was his wife, Hillary, who was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. Many commentators in both parties blamed his legacy as president, and numerous allegations of improper sexual behavior against him, for her defeat.

"Donald Trump says we're leading the world. Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple. At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it's a storm center," Clinton said. "Our party is united in offering you a very different choice: a go-to-work president. A down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy. A man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame; concentrate, not distract; unite, not divide. Our choice is Joe Biden."

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president 16 years ago, said that Trump would not keep the country safe from a resurgent Russia.

"Donald Trump pretends Russia didn't attack our elections. And now, he does nothing about Russia putting a bounty on our troops, so he won't defend our country," Kerry said. "He doesn't know how to defend our troops. The only person he's interested in defending is himself."

Kerry spoke after Sally Yates, who was acting U.S. attorney general during the first 10 days of the Trump presidency. Yates was fired by Trump for refusing to have the Justice Department defend his initial version of a travel ban affecting migration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in court.

"Speaking at a political convention was the last thing I expected to be doing. ... Public servants promise to defend our Constitution, uphold our laws, and work on behalf of the American people. But from the moment President Trump took office, he has used his position to benefit himself rather than our country. He's trampled the rule of law, trying to weaponize our Justice Department to attack his enemies and protect his friends," Yates said. "We need a president who respects our laws and the privilege of public service. Who reflects our values and cares about our people. We need a president who will restore the soul of America," she continued, echoing one of Biden's campaign slogans.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) spoke with the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor behind him.

"This is the same statue that greeted humble immigrants like my grandparents: a symbol of freedom for the whole world," Schumer said. "[Trump] ... has degraded everything that statue represents.

Schumer said that a Biden administration and a Democratic Senate will lead to immigration reform.

"Beckoned by this lady behind us we will reform our immigration system so that immigrants yearning to breathe free can become American citizens," he said.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, spoke with her son, John Schlossberg.

"I've admired Joe Biden since I was a Senate intern in 1974," she said. "He was a senator who cared, helped and inspired. ... When I was U.S. ambassador to Japan I got to see Vice President Biden in action. Joe Biden's lifetime of public service reflects his unwavering commitment to our highest ideals."

Tuesday's theme was "Uniting America," which followed Monday's theme of "We the People."

John Legend rounded up the night with a musical performance. Episcopalian Bishop the Reverend Mariann Budde gave the benediction before Thompson gaveled the convention into recess until Wednesday.

The third session of the convention will feature presumptive vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, as well as former president Obama.

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