OAKLAND, Calif. — Kamala Harris officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign Sunday in her birthplace of Oakland, promising to be a fighter “for the people” and stating that it is time to restore what she views as the loss of American values under President Donald Trump.
“We are here because the American Dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before,” the California senator said. “We are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question. Who are we? Who are we as Americans? So, let’s answer that question to the world and each other right here and right now. America: we are better than this.”
In an allusion to Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, his policies at the border, and his decision to shut down the government in a failed attempt to get his wall, Harris said that “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,” Harris said without mentioning Trump’s name. “The United States of America is not about us versus them … I’m running to be a President of the people, by the people, for all the people.”
“If I have the honor of being your president, I will tell you this: I am not perfect. Lord knows, I am not perfect,” she said. “But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity. And I will speak the truth.”
She did not dwell on her own potential for a history-making candidacy with her background as a black woman seeking the Democratic nomination.
Instead she focused on the need for unity at a time when the nation is deeply polarized, arguing that while Americans have differences in ideology, race, and ethnicity, they should unite to tackle their common challenges.
Speaking before a giant American flag in front of Oakland’s City Hall, Harris was surrounded by giant screens that alternated images of the crowd with a picture of her campaign logo—”Kamala Harris for the People”—and a request that supporters text “Fearless” to a campaign number in order to show their support.
“My heart is full right now,” she said as she came on stage. “I am so proud to be a daughter of Oakland California,” she said referencing the Civil Rights activism of her parents — immigrants from India and Jamaica who came in “pursuit of a dream.” “The fight for justice is everyone’s responsibility.”
Harris’ campaign held the rally at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Harris spent her childhood with her mother and sister in Berkeley. The family moved in her middle and high school years to Montreal after her mother got her a medical research job there, but many of the speakers made allusions to her Oakland roots.
Among them was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who said she decided to endorse the California senator because “she has the most incredible strong character.”
In an interview with CNN before the rally, Schaaf, who shares the same political consultants as the California senator, called Harris “the right candidate for this moment in American history.”
“Oakland is a place that definitely tests people,” Schaaf said. “But it also has the right values, values that honor diversity… When you come up in Oakland, you’re a fighter, and you’re a fighter for the right things.”