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Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders speak on Day 1 of the DNC

Former first lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders are among the high-wattage speakers who delivered prime-time remarks Monday.
Image: Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders against a background of lightbeams and stars.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Democratic National Convention kicked off Monday in what is shaping up to be a nominating convention unlike any other.

The first night of the almost all-virtual event featured keynote speaker Michelle Obama, as well as former Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Presumptive nominee Joe Biden's pick for vice president, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is expected to speak Wednesday night along with former President Barack Obama.

Jill Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other high-wattage headliners will round out the programming in days leading up to Biden's acceptance speech on Thursday.

NBC News will air a special report from 10 to 11 p.m. ET each night, and MSNBC will have convention coverage from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., with special coverage beginning at 9 p.m. NBC News Now will livestream the convention each day, with special coverage starting at 8 p.m. And follow us here on NBCNews.com for breaking news, analysis and fact checks.

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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading DNC news from August 18, 2020.

Michelle Obama's speech gets early praise

Michelle Obama scorches Trump, says to 'vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it'

Former first lady Michelle Obama, one of the most popular political figures in America, gave a speech Monday night that was part endorsement, part call to action, and a full-throated indictment of the Trump era.

She did not mention Trump by name until the end of her speech but mentioned a litany of controversies and policy failures during his first term. Obama also talked about all the pain and loss inflicted by the coronavirus and placed the blame squarely on the president. 

"Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy," she said.

In a more personal tone, she talked about how Biden knows how to deal with loss after losing a wife and two children. She said Biden "is not perfect" because "there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president," but he is someone who knows the job well, will listen to experts and tell the truth. She used the last part of her speech as a rousing call to action to vote in person or by requesting mail-in ballots early. 

She addressed the remarks she made at the 2016 convention: "When they go low, we go high."

"Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty," she said, adding, "Going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth."

"So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can," she added, calling out the president directly. "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us."

She added, "If you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it."

In powerful speech, Sanders says Trump leading U.S. toward 'authoritarianism'

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said all of the progressive movement's gains could be in jeopardy should Trump win re-election, adding that the president is "leading us down the path of authoritarianism."

"Our great nation is now living in an unprecedented moment," Sanders said. "We are facing the worst public health crisis in 100 years and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. We are confronting systemic racism and the enormous threat to our planet of climate change. And, in the midst of all of this, we have a president who is not only incapable of addressing these crises but is leading us down the path of authoritarianism."

"This election is the most important in the modern history of this country," he said. "In response to the unprecedented crises we face, we need an unprecedented response — a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency — and against greed, oligarchy, and bigotry. And we need Joe Biden as our next president."

Sanders thanked supporters of his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids, adding the campaigns "moved this country in a bold new direction" and turned ideas once considered "radical" mainstream.

"But, let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy," Sanders said. "During this president’s term, the unthinkable has become normal."

"As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat," he added.

Sanders bashed Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Trump golfs."

"His actions fanned this pandemic resulting in over 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people," Sanders said, adding, "Trump’s negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we are now experiencing."

Sanders pivoted to discussing how Biden will advance the progressive agenda, saying that Biden supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, 12 weeks of paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, among other crucial progressive linchpins.

"To everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake," Sanders said. "The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine."

Sanders was featured during the "unity" night of the convention — notable given how much better Sanders' post-primary relationship is with Biden compared to what it was with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Team of rivals: 9 former Democratic opponents support Biden in montage

Nine of Joe Biden's former rivals came together to trash Trump and support Biden in a video montage.

Featured in the video were Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, also made an appearance. 

The montage highlight the policy and personality differences between Trump and Biden. Characterizing Biden has an empathetic politician who has adopted many of their ideas, signaling unity within the party. It remains to be seen how useful it may be. 

Noticeably missing are Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, who have separate speaking slots at this week's convention.

Klobuchar talks voting rights, Post Office in DNC address

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., opened her remarks Monday night highlighting the importance voting rights and the Post Office this election year. 

"The president may hate the Post Office, but he’s still going to have to send them a change of address card in January," she joked.

Klobuchar also struck a more somber tone, making the case for a president who can unite the country after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this summer. 

"Now, more than ever, we need a president who will unite this country. We need a president who, in George Floyd’s memory, instead of using the Bible as a prop, will heed its words: to act justly," Klobuchar said. 

Vulnerable Democratic senator makes plea for unity

Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama used his convention spot Monday to highlight the advancement of civil rights in the South and promote Biden as the candidate who believes "Americans have more in common than what divides us."

"Alabama has shown me that even our deepest divisions can be overcome because each of us wants the same thing: to be treated fairly and given the same opportunities, and the freedom to live with dignity and respect," Jones said. "Now, some politicians try to pit us against each other, but I believe that Americans have more in common than what divides us. And in November we have a chance to elect a president who believes that, too."

"I’ve known Joe for more than 40 years. I met him as a wide-eyed law student, and he’s been my friend and champion ever since," Jones added. "The Joe I know is exactly the leader our country needs right now. He can bring people together to find common ground while standing up for what he believes is right."

Jones' speech hit on the major theme of Monday night — national unity. He is one of the most endangered Democratic senators up for re-election this year after having won a tight special election for former Sen. Jeff Sessions' seat in 2017. Biden campaigned for Jones in that race.

Kasich, a Republican, addresses DNC: 'These are not normal times'

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, gave one of the only speeches Monday night that wasn't trying to appeal directly to Democratic voters. 

Standing at a literal crossroads to talk about the future of America, Kasich's speech seemed designed to engage disaffected Republicans or doubtful Independents to widen the coalition that could get Biden into the White House and make Trump a one-term president. 

"I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country," he said. "That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times."

He did not mention the president by name, but said the administration has led the country down a path of "division, dysfunction, irresponsibility, and growing vitriol,” which is why he is backing Biden, who he called “a good man, a man of faith, a unifier.”

Earlier Monday, Trump addressed Kasich's presence at the DNC.

"He was a loser as a Republican and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat," Trump said. "Major loser as a Republican. I guess you can quote me on that. John was a loser as a Republican. Never even came close. And as a Democrat he’ll be an even greater loser."

Republican women throw support behind Biden

Three prominent female Republicans threw their support behind Biden on Monday in an unprecedented series of speeches at the convention.

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Meg Whitman, a businesswoman, and former New York Rep. Susan Molinari  — all Republicans — did just that on Monday evening. 

The three women spoke about how despite their lifelong affiliation with the Republican Party, they were unable to support Trump. 

“This isn't about a Republican or Democrat. It's about a person: a person decent enough, stable enough, strong enough to get our economy back on track; a person who can work with everyone, Democrats and Republicans, to get things done. Donald Trump isn't that person; Joe Biden is,” said Todd Whitman. 

Whitman, the CEO, said that as an executive she felt Trump “has no clue how to run a business, let alone an economy.” Biden, she said, “has a plan” and “for me, the choice is simple: I'm with Joe.”

During her time as a New York politician, Molinari said she had gotten to know Trump and described him as “so disappointing, and lately so disturbing.”

"Now I've also gotten to know and work with Joe Biden on issues related to women that are so important to all of us," Molinari said. "He's a really good man, and he's exactly what this nation needs at this time."

'That woman from Michigan' takes on Trump, praises Biden

"I'm Governor Gretchen Whitmer, or as Donald Trump calls me, that woman from Michigan."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday took on Trump's handling of coronavirus, comparing the pandemic to the auto industry crisis that ravaged her home state more than a decade ago.

Whitmer, speaking at a United Auto Workers union hall in Lansing, Michigan, credited Biden and former President Barack Obama with having "saved" jobs in the auto industry. Many of those same autoworkers, she said, were making protective equipment for health care workers in recent months.

"Democracy is a team sport," she said. "Especially now. It’s crucial that we rally together to fight this virus and build our economy back better." 

Whitmer was critical of the Trump administration, saying Trump "fights his fellow Americans rather than fight the virus that’s killing us and our economy."

"Just imagine if we had a national strategy: So everyone who needs a test — gets one for free. So everyone has access to a safe vaccine. So our kids and educators have the resources they need to safely get back to school," Whitmer said. "With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House, we will. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will lead by example. Science, not politics or ego, will drive their decisions."

A finalist to be Biden's running mate, Whitmer gained prominence this year as one of the leading Democratic governors heading a state hit hard by COVID-19.