By Damian Burchardt and Will Andronico Jr.
BU News Service
WILMINGTON, De. – Fireworks brightened the sky and a red-and-blue constellation of drones formed Joe Biden’s name as the president-elect vowed to heal and unite America in a speech following his victory in the 2020 presidential election.
“The people of this nation have spoken,” he said to thousands of people gathered outside of the Chase Center in Wilmington, just five miles away from his Greenville home.
Biden began his victory speech by emphasizing the legitimacy of his mandate to govern after exceeding Barack Obama’s record number of votes garnered in the 2008 election. He then lauded the diverse coalition that stood behind his campaign, pointing out it also included many Republicans who defied President Donald Trump.
Biden then consoled Trump voters and asked to mend fences in order to restore the country’s status on the global stage, saying America is “a beacon for the globe” when at its best.
“Let’s give each other a chance,” he said, addressing Trump supporters. “To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Biden, and the country, waited four days for election results as workers in key swing states counted in-person and mail-in ballots, securing narrow wins for the former vice president in Wisconsin, Michigan and, eventually, Pennsylvania.
That last triumph, called by major news outlets before midday on Saturday, pushed him beyond the threshold of 270 electoral votes required to win the election.
But the four-day wait was just a drop in the ocean considering that his victory comes 32 years after Biden launched his first presidential bid. That first campaign infamously ended in a plagiarism scandal after Biden was accused of using another politician’s speech without attribution.
The victory in 2020 was a long time in the making for Biden, but his speech was also given during an extremely unprecedented time, both in the U.S. and across the globe.
The former vice president won the election in a year that a pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans and widespread unrest rooted in racial injustice and social inequality also frequently made headlines.
His victory is also underlined by the historic election of Kamala Harris, the first woman, first Black woman, and first woman of South Asian descent to take the position of second-in-command to the most powerful position in the country.
“It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded tonight of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen,” Biden said. “But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
Harris, who was 24 and earning a law degree at Hastings College when Biden ran for the office the first time, took the stage before the former vice president. The excitement was palpable, with the crowd cheering every few sentences of her speech.
Harris emphasized the magnitude of the moment for American women, who have had to fight for over a century to secure and protect their voting rights. Harris said she “reflected on their struggle” and praised Biden for his commitment to the fight for women’s rights.
“And what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his vice president,” she said. “But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.”
When major networks finally called Pennsylvania and its twenty electoral votes for the Democratic Biden-Harris ticket, Biden supporters could finally breathe a sigh of relief after many days of uncertainty.
“It’s like a huge burden that has been lifted off of our shoulders,” said Peggy Beck, who attended the event.
For supporters gathered outside of the Chase Center, relief was the word most often used to describe their feelings at the result on Saturday.
“Best day of my life,” Shirley McKinney said, adding she was now calm about the future of her children and grandchildren.
“I feel like the sun came out after the results came out, and it’s been a great day,” said Sidney Abili, celebrating by sipping on a plastic flute of rosé with her family.
Biden supporters that spoke to BU News Service reporters acknowledged the president-elect has flaws, but also agreed he is the right person to unite and lead the country forward, highlighting his political experience, empathy, and respect for political plurality.
“[Biden is] everything Trump is not,” Beck said.
Christine Paige, sitting with her family and dog, Hudson, in the back of a red pick-up truck, said Biden’s election was a victory for women and educators, referring to the president-elect’s wife, Jill, and her teaching background.
“He truly represents what our country is,” Paige said.
Many Delawareans who attended the rally said they were proud to see Biden, who calls the state his home and represented it in the U.S. Senate for 36 years.
“He brings people together,” said Remi Poindexter, who attended Biden’s alma mater, the University of Delaware, and wore the state’s flag as a cape.
For Chris Tjaden, also from Delaware, Biden’s election means “a return to decency for all and opportunity to progress.”
Tantonai Kennedy, a 12-year-old at the event with her aunt, said she would “most likely” learn about the day Biden was declared president-elect in high school or college.
“This historical event really means something to me because today you haven’t really [seen] any protestors or any violence at this place right now,” Kennedy said.
At one point, supporters could also look up to see drones form the outline of America’s borders as Coldplay’s “Sky Full Of Stars” blasted from the speakers.
Eliciting crows of admiration from the crowd and a wide grin from Biden, the drones rearranged themselves into an encircled number 46.
That number, from January onward, will signify Biden’s chapter of history as the forty-sixth president of the United States. Biden is scheduled to take the oath of office in 73 days, on Jan. 20, 2021.
Josee Matela contributed to the story.
Due to a reporting error, and earlier version of this story misidentified the family member who accompanied Tantonai Kennedy to the event. She attended with her aunt.