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‘Time to restore America’s soul’: Joe Biden delivers message of hope, attacks Trump’s COVID-19 response in Durham speech

On Sunday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden encouraged Durhamites to vote in what he called the “most important election in our lifetimes.”

“The very soul of this nation is at stake,” he said. 

At the campaign event, which took place at Riverside High School in Durham and was regularly punctuated by a cacophony of car horns, Biden addressed the daunting challenges facing the country while also delivering a message of hope—his promise to help America embrace its better self. 

“There’s nothing beyond our capacity. … There’s no limit on our future,” he said. “The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself.”

Early voting began on Thursday in North Carolina. Thousands have also cast mail-in ballots in a state coveted by both parties: Trump carried North Carolina in 2016 with 49.8% of the vote, but the latest polls show Biden with a slight lead

About 40 cars pulled up to the school’s parking lot to hear the speech, according to ABC11

“We can't let up. You can vote early in person until the 31st, but don't wait, go vote today,” Biden said. “And don't just vote for me and Senator [Kamala] Harris, you've got a governor's race, the Senate race, a record number of black women on the ballot.” 

Democrats have repeatedly skewered Trump for his response to the coronavirus, and Biden’s speech on Sunday was no exception. 

“More than 217,000 Americans dead because of COVID-19. … All because this president cares more about his Park Avenue perspective on the world, the stock market, than he does about you,” Biden said. 

“How many chairs were empty at the dining room table last night because of this negligence?” he added. 

The nominee also addressed the need for racial justice, better healthcare and economic growth, particularly for communities who suffer from the country’s deep-rooted inequalities. 

“It was right here in Durham on Perry Street, a century ago, that an oasis of black-owned businesses thrived, even in an era of Jim Crow,” he said. “Perry Street was one of the first examples of Black middle-class community in America, a place that offered the country a glimpse of what we could become if we chose to live up to our founding values.” 

That last phrase—about America becoming true to its ideals—was a refrain throughout the speech: yes, America is divided, plagued by fear and falsehood. But America could and would do better, Biden said.

“It’s time to restore America’s soul,” he said. 

Kara Lawson, the coach of Duke’s women’s basketball team, also spoke at the event. She emphasized that leadership is more than a job description in a speech at the event. 

“What are the things that make you a leader?” she asked. “The first step you have to have is you have to be able to build authentic and meaningful relationships with people.”

She said she was proud to endorse Biden for president.

“When I look at this election through the prism of leadership … it’s an easy decision right here,” she said. 

Rep. David Price, a Democrat representing a U.S. House district that includes part of Durham County, also spoke at the event. 

“This community, Durham, has suffered during this pandemic, has suffered from the health effects of the pandemic among hundreds of our fellow citizens, from economic hardship, from these difficult decisions about school reopening, from pressures on housing and even homelessness,” he said. “All crying out for leadership.” 

Zack Hawkins, state house representative for North Carolina’s 31st District, emphasized the need for economic recovery. 

“For voters, especially black men, we have the power to grow economic wealth, grow black business and improve our community. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris absolutely are going to help all of us build back better.”

He also riled up the crowd for the Democratic nominee. 

“When I say fired up, I want you to say ready for Joe,” he said. “Fired up! Fired up!” 

According to ABC11, other speakers included Yvonne Holley, state house representative for the 38th district and candidate for lieutenant governor, Jessica Holmes, Wake County commissioner and a candidate for N.C. commissioner of labor, Duke junior Blake Faucher, Rep. G.K. Butterfield and field organizer Michael Alston III.

For more election coverage from across North Carolina, visit One Vote N.C., a collaborative between The Chronicle and six other student newspapers that aims to help college students across the state navigate the November election.

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