Live, from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, after a day of rehearsal and making final edits to her speech, Kamala Harris introduced herself to voters on Wednesday night, hoping in her Democratic National Convention speech people will see something of themselves in her.
Not everyone looks in the mirror and sees a former San Francisco prosecutor, California attorney general or a senator. But people can reflect on a woman who is the daughter of immigrants — a Black father from Jamaica and a mother from southern India. Folks can relate to a woman whose folks got divorced when she was a youth, who married late in life to a man with two kids and who has some great dance moves.
Merely running for president, as Harris, 55, did before she dropped out of the crowded Democratic primary field last December, does not mean that people know her or her story.
Joe Biden, 77, — in his third presidential run and eight years as vice president — will be reintroduced when he accepts the Democratic nomination on Thursday.
On Wednesday Harris became the first Black and South Asian American to be on a major party ticket and before she spoke, she was profiled as a woman who is “for us” in a biographic video.
In this COVID-19 pandemic virtual convention, Harris’ sister, Maya Harris, her niece, Meena Harris, and her step-daughter, Ella Emhoff, celebrated her in a prerecorded piece.
If elected, Harris would also be the first female vice president.
She is married to entertainment lawyer Doug Emhoff — their sixth anniversary is Saturday. If the Biden/Harris ticket wins, Emhoff, as “second husband” would be the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. Her stepkids call her “Momala.” In Yiddish, mamaleh is an endearment, meaning “little mother.”
Harris had a daunting act to follow as Barack Obama set the stage for her, speaking live from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
“Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better,” said the former president, as he ripped into Donald Trump as a callow, reality-show president. “Build back better” is a major Biden campaign slogan.
Harris said she and Biden share “a vision of our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, no matter where we come from, or who we love.
“...Today, that country feels distant. Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”
When Harris ran for president, she was the first to organize in Illinois and early on had the best local political operation of any of the rival Democratic contenders.
Desiree Rogers met Harris through Maya and helped during her 2016 California Senate campaign. Rogers led the Illinois Harris presidential fundraising drive.
Rogers, the CEO of Black Opal Cosmetics and ex-chairman of Choose Chicago, former Johnson Publishing CEO and ex-Obama White House social secretary, said Harris has “a brilliant mind and is an amazing debater but she also has the gift of impromptu dance.
“I am sure she was the only candidate to dance along with her many supporters into the convention center for the Liberty and Justice Celebration,” Rogers said, a reference to a major Iowa Democratic Party event.
Besides Rogers, the Harris “Illinois Leadership Council” included City Clerk Anna Valencia, Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Democratic strategist Mike Kreloff, state Sen. Ram Villivalam and state Rep. Bob Morgan.
Harris has “swagger” and “can connect with people,” Valencia said. And some of the nation may have seen that on Wednesday night.