The Best Quotes from Kamala Harris’s First Speech as Vice Presidential Candidate

August 14, 2020

On Wednesday, August 12, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and former vice president Joe Biden appeared together in Biden’s home state of Delaware to make their first public statements as a team. After Biden introduced Harris as the person who would help him win “the battle for the soul of America,” Harris, who was Biden’s opponent in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, went on to share her own story with Americans. She spoke of her immigrant parents’ commitment to fighting for justice through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She said her parents raised her and her sister, Maya, to never sit around and complain but rather to work for the change they wish to see.

Harris praised the frontline workers who are helping Americans during a global pandemic and the people organizing in the streets to fight for Black lives, while promising to build a better America. In her closing remarks, she added that the only way this country can move forward from a Donald Trump presidency is if its residents “work, organize, and vote like never before.” She quoted Biden when she said “character is on the ballot.”

 Here are several highlights from her speech. 

On making history as the first Black woman and first Indian-American woman to run for Vice President on a major party ticket: 

“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.”

On the impact of Black Lives Matter on the upcoming election:

“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’s 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.”

On her parents’ influence on her fight for social justice: 

“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.’

On COVID-19: 

“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…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…This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job. Our country ends up in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

On what she and Biden aim to accomplish:

“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 the 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 own 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.”

On the stakes of November’s election:

“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 people who are risking your lives to save others. The truck drivers and the workers in grocery stores, in factories, in 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 numbers. The Dreamers and immigrants who know that families belong together. The LGBTQ Amiercans 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…You are doing something great. You are the heroes of our time.”

Watch the full speech here.