Joe Biden and Kamala Harris deliver healing speeches

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made victory speeches, stressing unity and diversity, to the nation Saturday night in Wilmington, Delaware.

Harris, 56, the first woman and first woman of color to be elected vice president, was first to take the stage, savoring the solo moment in a suffragette-white pantsuit, waving to the crowd and smiling broadly as she approached the lectern.

She began with a tribute to the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, giving a nod to those who paved the way for a more representative democracy. Harris said, “Congressman John Lewis before his passing wrote ‘Democracy is not a state, it is an act.’ And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, and when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election with the very soul of America at stake and the world watching you ushered in a new day for America.”

She went on to thank the voters, organizers, poll workers and activists who she said delivered a clear message in what became a referendum election, choosing, she said, “hope and unity, decency, science, and yes, truth!”

“You chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. And Joe is a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand. A person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose that will help us as a nation reclaim our own sense of purpose,” Harris said, talking up her former opponent and now partner.

She gave credit to Biden for helping her ascend to the second highest office in the nation and said she hopes her place on the stage will inspire others to follow.

“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president,” Harris said.

Biden, after nearly 50 years in public and three tries for the White House, then took the stage and squarely focused on healing a divided nation — but first took a moment to tout his history-making win.

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Biden said to cheers and honking horns, “Folks, the people of this nation have spoken,” “They’ve delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for we, the people. We’ve won with the most votes ever cast on a presidential ticket in the history of the nation 74 million.”

Speaking to several hundred supporters in the parking lot of the Chase Center, standing and cheering amid their cars and waving giant and small American flags, Biden walked out — as he always does — to Bruce Springsteen’s We Take Care of Our Own and expressed surprise at celebrations taking place across the country.

“What I must admit has surprised me, tonight we’re seeing all over this nation, all cities in all parts of the country, indeed across the world, an outpouring of joy, of hope of renewed faith in tomorrow, bring a better day. And I’m humbled by the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me,” Biden said.

The president-elect acknowledged that bringing the nation together, given all Americans have been through, will be a daunting and unprecedented challenge.

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify. Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States,” Biden said. “I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, to make America respected around the world again, and to unite us here at home.”

Biden thanked the coalition his campaign put together to bring him to this moment, calling it the broadest and most diverse movement in history, and paid special acknowledgement to the demographic that has historically led him to victory.

“Especially in those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” Biden said, pounding his first on the lectern. “You always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

Biden addressed President Trump only once and indirectly in his remarks, noting he, too, had lost several times before making history in 2020.

“For all those of you who voted President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself, but now let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”

Saying he would win the “battle of the soul of nation,” Biden quoted the Bible, defining the next chapter as the “time to heal.”

He turned to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, pledging to get the virus under control, and said on Monday he would announce a task force of experts and scientists to oversee his administration’s efforts to stop its spread.

“Let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed,” Biden said in closing. “Spread the faith. God love you all. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you.”

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