Speakers at this year’s convention include party leaders, Republicans urging their party to vote against Trump, and regular people who are affected by policy differences every day.
As Democrats kick off their virtual convention this week, there is a clear emphasis on issues that matter to Americans no matter where they live, ranging from voting access to gun violence to unemployment to health care. That includes former and current Republicans who are throwing their support behind the Biden-Harris ticket this year. Below we break down the speakers to watch, based on the issues you might care about most:
Michelle Obama will be one of two major headliners speaking on Monday night. She has prioritized voting rights in her post-White House life, founding the nonprofit When We All Vote. Given President Trump’s recent lies about the validity of voting by mail and attacks on the Post Office, it is likely that she will encourage people not to get discouraged and to make a plan to vote. Her 2016 DNC speech was one of the most memorable of that event, and her speech could capture that energy again.
Jeff Jeans is a former conservative Republican from Arizona who switched parties thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He is slated to talk about his experience getting diagnosed with a treatable kind of throat cancer while living without health insurance. Because of the ACA, Jones was able to get the treatment he needed to survive.
Ady Barkan, a health care activist living with ALS, is also expected to speak at the convention. Barkan previously backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and has been a major proponent of providing health care for all people, regardless of cost.
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Race and Gun Violence
DeAndra Dycus from Indianapolis, Indiana, will be speaking about her experience with gun violence. Dycus’ 13-year-old son was shot and sustained major injuries at a birthday party he was attending. Since the incident, Dycus started her own non-profit dedicated to helping the families and survivors of gun violence. She also volunteers with Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
When it comes to the pandemic, there are perhaps no better speakers than the governors who bore the brunt of responsibility in handling COVID-19 in their states. Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) are both scheduled to speak, and both made headlines this year by responding quickly to major coronavirus outbreaks in their states. They were also not shy about calling out President Donald Trump for his continued lack of leadership during the crisis.
The pandemic has led to historic unemployment in the United States, with tens of millions of people looking for work. Gerald Lang of Lake Orion, Michigan, is a speaker who can talk about bringing those jobs back. Lang is a member of United Auto Workers, and a team leader at the General Motors assembly plant in his town. He can talk about the transition from making cars that run on gas to clean electric vehicles. For Lang, it’s important to have a president that will work to keep American manufacturing jobs and fight for workers like him.
Sen. Sanders will also be a part of the DNC kickoff on Monday night, While he started the race to the White House as Biden’s opponent, the two have since worked together on Democrats’ policy platform. In March, Biden adopted some of Sanders’ policies, like free tuition for some students. Sanders is expected to encourage unity within the party in his speech, explaining to more progressive (and often, younger) voters how a Biden presidency could deliver on many of the progressive ideals he outlined in his own campaign.
On the other side of the political spectrum comes former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who opposes Trump, will call on voters to put their “country over party” and elect former Vice President Joe Biden. Kasich isn’t the only Republican who will be speaking. Former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY), who was a keynote speaker at the 1996 Republican Convention and a member of House GOP leadership, will be speaking about supporting Biden, as will former New Jersey Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who also served as the secretary of the EPA under President George W. Bush.
Teachers are at the forefront of the challenges that schools face in reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Luz Chaparro Hernandez teaches a bilingual program for second and third graders in Milwaukee, and is a member of the local teachers’ union. Chaparro Hernandez is expected to speak about her experience as an educator, and how the pandemic has changed education and the importance of this year’s election.
And Jill Biden is a lifelong educator who taught throughout her time as Second Lady. Biden has a doctorate in education, and has focused much of her attention on making community colleges accessible, and ensuring students successfully graduate from their programs.