Memorable moments from the Democratic convention

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Images of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden are shown on a screen outside the venue where Biden will speak later tonight, during the final day of the Democratic National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Joe Biden was nominated for president, but some of the most memorable moments came from the supporting cast. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

The 2020 Democratic National Convention is over, and it will be most memorable for what it wasn't. Certainly not a thronging affair in Milwaukee, where it was ostensibly held. There were no funny patriotic hats, no madding crowds of Democratic delegates.

The coronavirus pandemic drove it online, where the party, as a socially distanced collective, appeared remotely via video from across the nation's states and territories in a political convention unlike any other in the nation's history to formally nominate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the party's presidential and vice presidential nominees.

Here were some of the convention's most memorable moments. Biden was the candidate chosen to become president, and he gave a well-received acceptance speech at the close of the convention, but the supporting cast offered many of the most memorable moments.

Michelle Obama on Donald Trump: 'It is what it is'

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is one of the Democratic Party's most popular figures, despite having shown no interest in seeking higher office. But she delivered one of the party's most scathing rebukes of President Trump in a low-key, patiently delivered and stately fireside chat (minus the fireside) that the New Yorker called "something unprecedented, the invention of a form: the civilian State of the Union speech."

"Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can," she said. "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us."

Her voice hardened: "It is what it is." Those were the words Trump used in a recent interview about deaths from COVID-19, a disease that has killed more than 174,000 people in the U.S.

It's a tribute to her own formidable talents as a public speaker that she arguably overshadowed the speech given a night later by her husband, former President Barack Obama, who also laced into Trump's record.

A COVID-19 victim's 'preexisting condition': believing Trump

In this image from video, Kristin Urquiza, whose father died of COVID-19, speaks on the convention's first night.
(Associated Press)

Democrats invited Kristin Urquiza of California — who wrote a scathing death notice in the Arizona Republic after her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, died in June of COVID-19 — to criticize Trump's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life," Kristin Urquiza said.

“The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas: the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in.”

Gabrielle Giffords speaks, and perseveres

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords almost died in 2011 when a she was shot in the head during a meet-and-greet event with constituents in Tucson. The gunman killed six people. In the years since, Giffords has become one of America's most prominent gun-control advocates despite losing the ability to speak easily, a condition called aphasia.

But during this week's convention, Giffords gave the longest speech that her staff says she's made since she was shot.

“Words once came easily. Today I struggle with speech," Giffords said. "But I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words.

"We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue or we can act. We can protect our families, our future. We can vote. We can be on the right side of history. We must elect Joe Biden. He was there for me; he’ll be there for you, too. Join us in this fight. Vote, vote, vote."

Yes, that's a calamari platter, and 34 votes for Joe Biden

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There was no floor drama from state and territory delegations as they overwhelmingly handed their votes to Joe Biden to formally enshrine the former vice president as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

What replaced it was totally different — a montage of remotely recorded videos of the state and territorial delegations casting their votes, with backdrops of beaches, farmland and famous municipal landmarks. Native American activists particularly applauded the on-camera use of several indigenous languages by Native delegates before they cast their votes.

Though the roll call ended up as a surprisingly engrossing tour of the nation's enormity of places and peoples, in the end it was Rhode Island that stole the show. State party chair Joe McNamara stood on a beach alongside a beefy masked chef dressed in black, holding out a platter of calamari, the state's official appetizer, like it was a ransom video.

“The calamari comeback state of Rhode Island casts one vote for Bernie Sanders and 34 votes for the next president, Joe Biden," McNamara said, explaining that the state's restaurant and fishing industries had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kamala Harris makes history

Sen. Kamala Harris of California made history as the first woman of color to be featured on a major party ticket by becoming Biden's vice presidential nominee. The daughter of a cancer researcher who emigrated from India and an economist who emigrated from Jamaica, Harris has energized many Black women and Indian American voters who identify with her as a "first" whose candidacy has broken a historic barrier.

And in her acceptance speech, Harris, a former prosecutor, signaled that she would be strong in confronting Trump, telling listeners, "I know a predator when I see one."

What Joe Biden and a New Hampshire 13-year-old have in common

A stutter.

In front of an audience of millions, 13-year-old Brayden Harrington gave a speech about how he and Biden learned after meeting at a New Hampshire event that they "were members of the same club — we stutter."

Brayden then powered through troublesome consonants to deliver an endorsement for a candidate he's too young to vote for.

“In a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me feel more confident about something that was bothering me my whole life. Joe Biden cared," Brayden said. "Imagine what he could do for all of us. Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to. Someone who cares.”

Obama: 'Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t'

Trump long ago shattered the norm of presidents avoiding criticism of their predecessors, and he’s targeted none more caustically than Obama.

The former president, in a solemn speech Wednesday from Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, warned that Trump has shown he “will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.”

“We can’t let that happen,” Obama said. “Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy.”

Obama said he’d hoped Trump “might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did.”

Instead, Obama said, Trump treated the presidency as “one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed. Our proud reputation around the world badly diminished. And our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”

Biden's appeal to American voters: 'A chance to heal'

The former vice president used his convention speech to return to the overarching theme of his campaign since he launched it 16 months ago: The 2020 election is about reclaiming the soul of America.

“History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced,” Biden said. “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 accelerating threats of climate change.”

After months of Trump and Republican attacks on his mental acuity, Biden, 77, forcefully laid out a rhetorical indictment of the president’s leadership.

With 5 million Americans infected with COVID-19 and more than 170,000 dead, it’s “by far the worst performance of any nation on Earth,” he said, adding that 50 million people had filed unemployment claims.

Americans “know in our bones” that this election is more consequential than usual, he said.

“We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful and more divided, a path of shadow and suspicion — or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light.”

“Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be.”

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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