WILMINGTON, Del.—Former Vice President Joe Biden cast himself as a capable leader prepared to steer the nation out of the coronavirus pandemic, as he formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and asked the American public to elect him in place of President Trump.
“United, we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America,” Mr. Biden declared Thursday from an auditorium in his hometown of Wilmington. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.”
“This is not a partisan moment, this must be an American moment,” he added. “This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks, three decades after he first sought the Democratic nomination, capped a first-of-its-kind virtual convention during which his allies, including former President Obama, spent the week portraying Mr. Trump as failing to meet the challenges of his job and mismanaging the U.S. response to the pandemic. They depicted Mr. Biden, 77, as empathetic and thoughtful and someone who would be a more conventional leader of the country.
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In his address, Mr. Biden portrayed the nation as resilient in the face of the pandemic and ready to move forward after racial unrest and economic losses. “I have always believed you can define America in one word: Possibilities,” he said.
Mr. Biden, who lost his first wife and infant daughter in 1972 and his son Beau Biden in 2015, spoke directly to the families of those who have died during the pandemic, telling them that he understood “how hard it is to have any hope.”
“I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose,” Mr. Biden said. “As God’s children, each of us have a purpose in our lives. We have a great purpose as a nation.” He also credited his wife, Jill Biden, and members of his close-knit family with giving him courage.
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Mr. Trump had sharp words for Mr. Biden Thursday afternoon in an appearance at Old Forge, Pa., near the former vice president’s childhood hometown of Scranton.
“At stake in this election is the survival of our nation. We’re dealing with crazy people on the other side. They’ve gone totally stone-cold crazy,” said Mr. Trump, adding that Mr. Biden was a “puppet of the radical left movement.”
Mr. Biden spoke inside a darkened auditorium with a backdrop of American flags and the party’s convention logos, after the pandemic prompted Democrats to cancel their planned gathering in Milwaukee. He never referred to Mr. Trump by name, calling him “this president” or the “current president” in his remarks.
In the parking lot of the Chase Center in Wilmington, about 100 vehicles gathered for a drive-in watch party for the final night of the convention.
The party has used the convention to showcase past leaders, including Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton, and to spotlight what it sees as its next generation, chief among them Mr. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Following his speech, Mr. Biden joined Ms. Harris and their spouses for a fireworks display. They stood on an outdoor stage before massive American flags. Wearing masks, they locked hands and raised them to the crowd.
The final night of the convention also saw former presidential hopefuls Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Yang deliver separate speeches that focused on the human and economic consequences of the pandemic.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know the dignity of all working Americans; they know the urgency and the demand of our dream,” Mr. Booker said. “But working people are under attack, the wealth gap grows, our middle class shrinks, and poverty persists.”