FULL TEXT: Joe Biden’s 2020 Democratic National Convention Speech

Joe Biden has accepted the Democratic nomination for president.

August 21, 2020, 12:28 AM

Below is the full text of Joe Biden's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on Aug. 20, 2020.

Good evening.

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement left us with this wisdom: Give people light and they will find the way. "Give people light": Those are words for our time. The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long.

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. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness. It is time for us, for we, the people, to come together. And make no mistake, united we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.

We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege. I'm a proud Democrat and I will be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election.

So it's with great honor and humility, I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America. But while I'll be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I'll work hard for those who didn't support me, as hard for them as I did for those who did vote for me.

That's the job of a president, to represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment. It's a moment that calls for hope and light and love, hope for our future, light to see our way forward and love for one another. America isn't just a collection of clashing interests, of red states or blue states. We're so much bigger than that, we're so much better than that.

You know, nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged the new deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty and fear, stricken by disease, stricken by a virus. FDR insisted that he would recover and prevail, and he believed America could as well -- and he did, and we can as well. This campaign isn't just about winning votes. It's about winning the heart and, yes, the soul of America -- winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the time. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of a knee on the neck, for all the young people who have known only America being rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve the experience of America's promise. They deserve to experience it in full.

You know, no generation ever knows what history will ask of it. All we can ever know is whether we're ready when that moment arrives. And now history has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America's ever faced. Four, four historic crises all at the same time: a perfect storm.

The worst pandemic in over 100 years, the worst economic crisis since the great depression, the most compelling call for racial justice since the '60s and the undeniable realities and just the accelerating threats of climate change. So, the question for us is simple: Are we ready? I believe we are. We must be.

You know, all elections are important, but we know in our bones this one is more consequential. As many have said, America is at an inflection point, a time of real peril but also extraordinary possibilities. We can choose a path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, more divided, a path of shadow and suspicion or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to reform, to unite. A path of hope and light.

This is a life-changing election. This will determine what America's going to look like for a long, long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They're all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and most importantly, who we want to be, that's all on the ballot. And the choice could not be more clear. No rhetoric is needed.

Just judge this president on the facts: 5 million Americans infected by COVID-19, more than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on Earth. More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment this year. More than 10 million people are going to lose their health insurance this year. Nearly one in six small businesses have closed this year. And this president, if he's re-elected, you know what will happen. Cases and deaths will remain far too high. More mom and pop businesses will close their doors, and this time for good.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 20, 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 20, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Working families will struggle to get by, and yet the wealthiest 1% will get tens of billions of dollars in new tax breaks. And the assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until it's destroyed, taking insurance away from more than 20 million people, including more than 15 million people on medicaid. And getting rid of the protections that president Obama worked so hard to get past for people who have -- 100 million more people who have pre-existing conditions.

And speaking of president Obama, a man I was honored to serve alongside for eight years as vice president, let me take this moment to say something we don't say nearly enough. Thank you, Mr. President. You were a great president, a president our children could and did look up to. No one's going to say that about the current occupant of the White House.

What we know about this president is if he's given four more years, he'll be what he's been for the last four years: a president who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division. He'll wake up every day believing the job is all about him, never about you. Is that the America you want for you, your family, your children?

I see a different America, one that's generous and strong, selfless and humble. It's an America we can rebuild together. As president, the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that has ruined so many lives, because I understand something this president hasn't from the beginning: We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back in school, we will never have our lives back -- until we deal with this virus. The tragedy of where we are today is it didn't need to be this bad. Just look around. It's not this bad in Canada or Europe or Japan or almost anywhere else in the world. And the president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle.

Well, I have news for him. No miracle is coming. We lead the world to confirm cases. We lead the world in deaths. Our economy's in tatters, with Black, Latino, Asian-American, Native-American communities bearing the brunt of it. And after all this time the president still does not have a plan. Well, I do. If I'm your president on day one we'll implement the national strategy I've been laying out since March.

We'll develop and deploy rapid tests with results available immediately. We'll make the medical supplies and protective equipment that our country needs. We'll make them here in America, so we will never again be at the mercy of China or other foreign countries in order to protect our own people. We'll make sure our schools have the resources they need to be open, safe and effective. We'll put politics aside.

We'll take the muzzle off our experts so the public gets the information they need and deserve, honest, unvarnished truth. They can handle it. We'll have a national mandate to wear masks not as a burden but as a patriotic duty to protect one another. In short, we'll do what we should have done from the very beginning. Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He's failed to protect us. He's failed to protect America. And my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable. As president, I'll make you a promise. I'll protect America, I will defend us from every attack, seen and unseen, always, without exception, every time.

Look, I understand. I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now. On this summer night let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I have some idea how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in the middle of your chest and you feel like you're being sucked into it. I know how mean, cruel and unfair life can be sometimes. But I've learned two things. First, your loved one may have left this Earth, but they'll never leave your heart. They'll always be with you. You'll always hear them. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose. As God's children, each of us have a purpose in our lives. We have a great purpose as a nation to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans, to save our democracy, to be a light to the world once again, and finally to live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation. That all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You know, my dad was an honorable, decent man. He got knocked down a few times pretty hard, but he always got back up. He worked hard, and he built a great middle class life for our family. He used to say, "Joey, I don't expect the government to solve my problems, but I sure as hell expect them the understand them." And then he'd say, "Joey, a job is a lot more than a paycheck, it's about your dignity, it's about respect, it's about your place in the community, it's about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, 'Honey, it's going to be OK,' and mean it." I've never forgotten those lessons.

That's why my economic plan is all about jobs, dignity, respect, and community. Together, we can and will rebuild our economy. And when we do, we'll not only build back, we'll build back better. With modern roads, bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth, with pipes that transport clean water to every community, with 5 million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America, with a health care system that lowers premiums, deductibles, drug prices -- by building on the affordable care act he's trying to rip away -- with an education system that trains our people for the best jobs of the 21st century. There's not a single thing American workers can't do, and where cost doesn't prevent young people from going to college and student debt doesn't crush them when they get out, with a child care and elder care system that makes it possible for parents to go to work and for the elderly to stay in their homes with dignity, with an immigration system that powers our economy and reflects our values, and with newly empowered labor unions. They're the ones that built the middle class. With equal pay for women, with rising wages you can raise a child on, a family on. And yes, we're going to do more than praise our essential workers. We're finally going to pay them. Pay them.

We can and we will deal with climate change. It's not only a crisis, it's an enormous opportunity, an opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new good paying jobs in the process.

And we can pay for these investments by ending loopholes -- unnecessary loopholes and the president's $1.3 trillion tax give away to the wealthiest 1% and some of America's biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which do not pay any tax at all -- because we don't need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work.

I'm not looking to punish anyone, far from it, but it's long past time the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations in this country paid their fair share. And for our seniors, social security is a sacred obligation, a sacred promise made they paid for.

The current president is threatening to break that promise. He's proposing to eliminate a tax that pays for almost half the social security without any way of making up for that lost revenue, resulting in cuts. I will not let that happen. If I'm your president, we're gonna protect social and medicare. You have my word. One of the most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people. They're speaking to the inequity and injustice that has grown up in America: economic injustice, racial injustice, environmental injustice.

I hear their voices. If you listen, you can hear them, too, and whether there's an existential threat posed by climate change, the daily fear of being gunned down in school, or the inability to get started in your first job, it will be the work of the next president to restore the promise of America to everyone. And I'm not going to have to do it alone because I'll have a great vice president at my side.

Sen. Kamala Harris, she's a powerful voice for this nation. Her story is the American story. She knows about all the obstacles thrown in the way of so many in our country, women, Black women, Black Americans, South Asian-Americans, immigrants, the left out and the left behind. But she's overcome every obstacle she's ever faced. No one's been tougher on the big banks and the gun lobby.

No one's been tough in calling out the current administration for its extremism, its failure to follow the law, it's failure to simply tell the truth. Kamala and I both draw from our families. That's where we get our strength. For Kamala, it's Doug and their families. For me, it's Jill and ours. I've said many times: No man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two, but I've known two.

After losing my first wife in that car accident, Jill came into my life. She put our family back together. She's an educator, a mom, a military mom, an unstoppable force. If she puts her mind to it, just get out of the way. She's going to get it done. She was a great second lady, and I know she'll make a great first lady for this nation. She loves this country so much. And I'll always have the strength that can only come from family.

Hunter, Ashley, all our grandchildren, my brothers, my sister. They give my courage, they lift me up. While he's no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day. Beau served our nation in uniform, a year in Iraq, a decorated Iraqi war veteran. I take very personally and I have the profound responsibility of serving as commander in chief.

I'll be a president that will stand with our allies and friends and make it clear to our adversaries the days of cozying up to dictators is over. Under president Biden, America will not turn a blind eye to Russian bounties on the heads of American soldiers. Nor will I put up with foreign interference in our most sacred democratic exercise: voting. And I'll always stand for our values of human rights and dignity.

I'll work in common purpose for a more secure, peaceful and prosperous world. History, history has thrust one more urgent task on us. Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of racism from our national character? I believe we're up to it. I believe we're ready.

Just a week ago yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. Close your eyes, remember what you saw on television. Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of fields with lighted torches, veins bulging spewing the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the '30s.

Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And remember what the president said when asked? He said there were, quote, "very fine people on both sides." That was a wake-up call for us as a country and for me a call to action. At that moment I knew I'd have to run. My father taught us that silence was complicity, and I can never remain silent or complicit.

At the time, I said we were in a battle for the soul of this nation, and we are. You know, one of the most important conversations I've had this entire campaign, it was with someone who was much too young to vote. I met with 6-year-old Gianna Floyd the day before her daddy, George Floyd, was laid to rest. She's an incredible little girl.

And I'll never forget it. When I leaned down to speak to her, she looked in my eyes and she said, and I quote, "Daddy changed the world. Daddy, changed the world." Her words burrowed deep into my heart. Maybe George Floyd's murder was a breaking point. Maybe John Lewis' passing the inspiration, but however it's come to be, however it's happened, America's ready, in John's words, to lay down, quote, "the heavy burden of hate at last," and then the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.

You know, American history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress, that we found the light. In this dark moment I believe we're poised to make great progress again, that we can find the light once more. You know, many people have heard me say this but I've always believed you can define America in one word: possibilities. The defining feature of America: Everything is possible.

That in America everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given an opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them. We can never lose that. In times as challenging as these I believe there's only one way forward: as a united America. A united America, united in our pursuit of a more perfect union, united in our dreams of a better future for us and for our children, united in our determination to make the coming years bright.

Are you ready? I believe we are. This is a great nation. We're a good and decent people. For Lord's sake, this is the United States of America. There's never been anything we've been unable to accomplish when we've done it together.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney once wrote, "History says don't hope on this side of the grave, but then once in a lifetime, the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme." This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme with passion and purpose. Let us begin, you and I together, one nation under god, united in our love for America, united in our love for each other, for love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear, and light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness begin here tonight as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win, and we'll do it together. I promise you.

Thank you and may God bless you, and may God protect our troops.


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