Blunt Rochester: DNC speech ‘very special’

As she gave the second nomination for Joe Biden’s presidency during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester invoked children’s future history classes.

Lisa Blunt Rochester

“They’re learning about our pain, our grief, our worry,” she said. “They’re learning about us, too: about the resolve and the unity we showed against the forces of hatred and division, about the work we will do over the next 11 weeks and about the night when, despite our distance, we came together to nominate Joe Biden for president of the United States.”

Looking back on the speech, delivered remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rep. Blunt Rochester called it a “very special” honor.

The moment reflects a culmination of historic significance: Rep. Blunt Rochester, who made history for Delaware in 2016, was co-chair of the vetting committee that led to the nomination of Sen. Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to run for the role of vice president.

“The process itself was so inspirational to me personally, to see such incredibly qualified public servants that stepped forward to go through that process,” she said. “(Mr. Biden’s) selection of Kamala Harris, I think, is important because of, No. 1, her lived and work experience.”

The DNC continues virtually today and Thursday, with Sen. Harris speaking this evening and Mr. Biden on Thursday, in Wilmington.

Sen. Harris, she noted, has served in all aspects of government and, in Mr. Biden’s words, is “simpatico” with him.

“There’s Kamala, the running mate. But then, there’s just the historic nature of her nomination and her selection,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “The fact that she represents so many facets of who we are as a country. She is literally making history. I think that’s important for all Americans to see, and especially important for women, for young people and for Black women in particular, as well.”

Rep. Blunt Rochester made history herself, when she was the first woman and first Black candidate to be elected to Congress in the First State.

“The focus is always on the work,” she said. “To be able to be in Congress and actually have passed bipartisan legislation has been important to me, to be able to help our constituents on a day-to-day basis with some of the problems they may face with the IRS or Social Security — it’s really important.”

In the four years since Rep. Blunt Rochester was first elected, there have been a number of gains, she said, looking particularly to the 2018 election. In Delaware, there were a “record number of women” elected, from attorney general, to auditor, to the insurance commissioner, she said. That extended to Congress. Pew Research in 2019 shows that “more than one-in-five voting members (22%) of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities, making the 116th Congress the most racially and ethnically diverse in history.”

With the gains, though, Rep. Blunt Rochester said she was cognizant of the fact “we still have a ways to go.”

“I think the murder of George Floyd presented an eye-opener for some that didn’t recognize some of the challenges we still face as it pertains to race in this country. And the same with COVID-19 — it shined a light on inequities and disparities that existed but many people just did not see,” she said.

The theme of the DNC Tuesday, she added, was “Leadership Matters.”

“Leadership does matter on all of these issues we talk about, whether it’s the climate crisis or national security or health care. But it also is, I thought, telling that leadership is not just one person,” she said. “Even the first speech of the night, which was an unconventional convention speech, was representative of leaders across the country — not just one person, but people across the country that are standing up and stepping up to serve in this moment.”

She noted the roll call during Tuesday night’s event, where the delegates officially made Mr. Biden the Democratic nominee. The virtual roll call — the first to do so in this format — took viewers across the country (and its territories).

“Just to see that roll call and see that beauty and majesty and diversity of our country was a very, very special moment,” she said. “I think it was a reminder to us of who we are. I think we needed that moment.”