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Highlights and analysis from Democratic National Convention Day 3

Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi were among those who spoke.
Image: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Hillary Clinton
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The third night of the Democratic National Convention featured a must-see lineup of former and would-be presidents and a historic acceptance speech.

Sen. Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American on a major party ticket, delivered her vice-presidential acceptance speech Wednesday night, and former President Barack Obama spoke shortly before her. Former 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also took the virtual stage during a night that was heavy on policy specifics.

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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading DNC news from August 20, 2020.

Climate change prominently featured on Day 3 of DNC

Joe Biden's record on climate change took center stage in the opening of Day 3 of the Democratic convention. 

It opened with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico talking about how her state is a blueprint of what can be done nationwide on climate policy. She said Trump, who has called global warming a "hoax," represents "environmental annihilation." 

"While the Trump administration has been eliminating environmental protections, we’ve expanded them. While they’ve been rolling back regulations on oil and gas companies, we’ve taken on polluters and held them accountable," she said. "We’re laying a roadmap for a just 21st century America, one where we lead with compassion."

She said Biden will take us all the way will rejoin the international climate agreement so the U.S. can build a "clean, green 21st century." 

It also featured former climate scientists and researchers who worked in the Trump administration. The officials said the administration did not care about climate policy and in one case wanted to change a government report that concluded humans are one of the drivers of global warming. 

In a nod to the party's younger, progressive wing, the segment also featured young activists who are organizing youth around climate change, such as 15-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor. 

"Joe Biden won't solve this crisis in four years, not one can but he will put us back on track so our generation can have a fighting chance," she said.  

The segment was punctuated with singer Billie Eilish, who has been outspoken about climate change, performing her new song "My Future." 

Emotional reactions to DNC gun control segment pour in

A quick climate change segment, but Biden's plan is deep

Next up at the convention were a series of videos and an address from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tackling climate change, the first significant part of the convention dedicated to the topic.

Climate activists would almost certainly want more time, but Joe Biden's climate plan has received plaudits.

Biden's $2 trillion plan could create the kind of change necessary to avert the more catastrophic consequences of climate change, activists and scientists told NBC News' Denise Chow.

"We're talking about major investments in every corner of the country and every ZIP code," said Steve Capanna, the director of U.S. climate policy and analysis for the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based advocacy group. "That's a great way to put people of diverse income levels and diverse skill sets back to work in a way that will be rebuilding better than just going back to the way things were before."

Gun control takes center stage at Democratic convention

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, capped off a segment on gun control at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, saying "we are at a crossroads" on guns.

"I’ve known the darkest of days, days of pain and uncertain recovery. But confronted by despair, I’ve summoned hope," Giffords said. "Confronted by paralysis and aphasia, I’ve responded with grit and determination. I put one foot in front of the other. I found one word and then I found another. My recovery is a daily fight, but fighting makes me stronger. Words once came easily; today I struggle with speech."

"But I have not lost my voice," she continued. "America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words. We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue or we can act. We can protect our families, our future. We can vote. We can be on the right side of history. We must elect Joe Biden. He was there for me; he’ll be there for you, too."

Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, is the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona this fall.

 

Giffords followed speeches from gun activists including Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland, Florida, high school student who survived the 2018 school shooting, and DeAndra Dycus, whose son was left paralyzed after being shot with a stray bullet at 13 years old.

Dycus, wearing a Mom's Demand Action shirt, said, "Yes, I can touch DeAndre, I can hold his hand, but the child that I birthed is not able to live his dreams, and that hurts."

"Every day we’re reminded that he may never be the same," she said. "We are not alone. In every town across America, there are families who know what a bullet can do. That’s why I’m a mom who volunteers to stop this."

"President Trump? He doesn’t care," she continued. "He didn’t care about the victims after Parkland, Las Vegas, or El Paso. I want a President who cares about our pain and grief, a president who will take on the gun lobby to ban assault weapons and close the loopholes to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Joe Biden has taken on the NRA twice and won. And he will do it again as president."

What was not heavily noted tonight was the shooting in El Paso, Texas, just over a year ago that left 20 dead. The accused shooter, who is facing the death penalty, confessed to targeting people of Mexican descent, according to court documents. 

Washington poses for a selfie with Harris' family

Kerry Washington hosts third night of DNC

Actress Kerry Washington is the emcee for tonight's program, which is themed "A More Perfect Union."

"No one is perfect, nothing is, but it is the striving towards justice, equality, and truth that distinguishes," she said in remarks kicking off the evening and introducing the line-up, which features prominent female leaders like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren. "We fight for our perfect union because we are fighting for the soul of this country, and of our lives."

Washington, 43, has been a vocal critic of Trump and has compared his administration to "Scandal," the political TV drama series she starred in. 

Washington is not a newcomer to Democratic politics. She gave a speech at the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, N.C., and she appeared in a 2016 video endorsing Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats have enlisted different Hollywood actresses to host each night of the DNC. Eva Longoria kicked off the convention Monday and Tracee Ellis Ross hosted Tuesday. "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus will close out the program Thursday night. That all four emcees are women and three are of color is not a coincidence given the party's hope to win female voters by historic margins.

DNC opens with video montage of Republicans supporting Biden

For the third night in a row, the DNC kicked off the program with a video montage of Republicans who supported Donald Trump in 2016 who are now voting for Joe Biden.

The people in the videos have shared bits and pieces about why they are voting for Biden throughout the week. 

The message seems to be clear: The DNC is going to bat for undecided or disillusioned conservatives and independents.

'When we vote, things change': Harris opens Night 3 with call to plan ahead

Kamala Harris opened the beginning of the third night of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday a call for people to plan their vote.

"Why don't they want us to vote? Why is their so much effort to silence our voices?" Harris asked. "And the answer is: because when we vote, things change. When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with respect and dignity." 

"So each of us needs a plan," she said. "A voting plan." 

She will also give the traditional acceptance speech at the end of the two-hour virtual convention. A convention planning official said the additional appearance is part of Democrats' "unconventional convention." 

"There is incredible excitement around Senator Harris joining the ticket, and we want people to hear from her as much as possible," the official said. 

Democrats canceled their in-person convention and have worked to find ways to make the production of the virtual event more engaging for viewers watching at home without crowds cheering or the visuals of a large arena of supporters.

Everything you need to know about mail-in and early in-person voting, including the first day you can cast your ballot in the 2020 election.

Obama has stayed out of the Trump fray since leaving office. Tonight might be different.

In the years since he left office, former President Barack Obama has abided by political convention and stayed relatively quiet about his successor.

That's about to end, with growing anticipation that Obama will hold nothing back in criticizing President Donald Trump on the third night of the Democratic National Convention. 

Obama's broader silence has at times led to some questions and criticism. As GQ noted in 2018, Obama's absence spawned a New York Magazine feature article as well as a parody song on "Saturday Night Live" from Chance the Rapper. 

In the past couple of years, he's been a bit more present, particularly around the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests.

That makes what Obama is preparing to say Wednesday night all the more significant. The American people have spent four years hearing plenty of people rail about Trump. They haven't heard Obama, who remains quite popular in retirement

How Harris' Indian heritage and pioneering mother propelled her

The political journey of Kamala Harris, the first vice presidential candidate of Indian origin, has inspired millions of Indians, many of whom lofted banners of congratulations in her ancestral city of Chennai after learning that she had been named the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

The admiration goes both ways. The senator's extended Indian family, particularly her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an inspiration for Harris as she rose to the pinnacle of American politics, her uncle Gopalan Balachandran said in an interview at his home in India's capital, New Delhi.

"That is the value — the value that you treat everybody equally. Don't worry about where you are from, where do you go, what do you eat, what dress do you wear, what languages they speak. It all doesn't matter," Balachandran said. "That's what my father told me and my sister. That's what Shyamala told Kamala and [her sister] Maya. That's the values they have."

Those values will be on display Wednesday night when Harris will address the Democratic National Convention to introduce herself as the first Black and Indian American vice presidential nominee.

Read more about her heritage here.