NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo will host the first 2020 presidential primary debate in June of 2019. This is the sixth in a series of BFIA’s coverage and commentary of the announcement speeches by the declared Democratic candidates for president for 2020 in no particular order. To view the previous candidate announcement posts type the candidate’s name in the search box on this page.
“Tough. Principled. Fearless”
Senator Kamala Harris made her announcement speech in January in her hometown of Oakland, California.
She opened by saying that she is the daughter of an economist who came from Jamaica and a scientist who came from India. “We were raised with a deep belief in the promise of our country. We were raised to believe public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is everyone’s responsibility. My mother taught me, don’t just complain, do something.”
“Nearly thirty years ago as a young district attorney I walked into the courtroom and said the five words that would guide my life’s work. Kamala Harris for the people.”
“In our system of justice we believe that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. That’s why when a case is filed it doesn’t read the name of the victim. It reads ‘the people.’ In my whole life I’ve had only one client: the people.”
Prominent themes of the speech included decency, moral integrity, speaking truth, fighting for the people, defining who we are as a people, and reminding us of the American story.
Harris took time to say what is not our America. Without mentioning names, she called out the current administration’s attack on the free press, public schools, our institutions, the American dream and our Democracy.
“Let’s understand what’s happening here. People in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other. But that is not our story. That is not who we are. That is not our America.”
A sizable portion of the speech focused on truth. Taking special care to enunciate each word clearly and slowly, she said, “We must seek truth, speak truth and fight for truth.” Harris did an original thing when she transitioned into the issues portion of the speech by prefacing each issue with “Let’s speak the truth about…”
She covered many of the issues Democrats care about: the economy, student loan debt, car debt, credit card debt, pay day lenders, unions, health care, veterans, cyber-security, reproductive rights, pathway to citizenship, the opioid crisis – a national public health emergency – climate change – real and happening now. Great line: “We’re going to act based on science fact not science fiction.” “Racism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia and transphobia are real in this country, age old forms of hate with new fuel.”
Speaking with the authority of someone with a career as a prosecutor, she finished the issues list with this. “Too many unarmed black men and women in America are being killed. From mass incarceration to cash bail to policing, our criminal justice system needs drastic repair.”
She also spoke of unity:
“I’m not talking about unity for the sake of unity. I’m not talking about some facade of unity… the word unity has often been used to shut people up or to preserve the status quo…when women fought for suffrage those in power said they were dividing the sexes and disturbing the peace…when abolitionists spoke out and civil rights worker marched their oppressors said they were dividing the races and violating the word of God.. When we have true unity no one will be subjugated to others. It’s about fighting for a country with equal treatment, collective purpose and freedom for all. That’s who we are.”
Chants of Kamala!
“I’m running for president because I love my country. I’m running to be president of the people, by the people and for all people. I am not perfect but I will always lead with decency, moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity and I will speak the truth.
“America’s story has always been written by people who can see what can be, unburdened by what has been. That is our story.”