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The 2020 Democratic National Convention’s speaker lineup and how to watch

Joe Biden, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Bernie Sanders are among the speakers for this week’s virtual convention.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden wave to the crowd onstage at the end of three days of the Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images

The Democratic National Convention has gone fully virtual this year.

Rather than days of full programming, the convention has been condensed into two hours of televised speeches a day spread out from Monday, August 17, to Thursday, August 20. Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to accept his party’s nomination on Thursday night from his home in Delaware, rather than the original planned location of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Fears about the Covid-19 outbreak and the potential to spread the virus even with a severely reduced crowd caused the Democratic National Committee to scrap its in-person Milwaukee convention.

Starting at 9 Eastern each night, the Democratic convention has been broadcast on all major television networks, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and streaming services such as Apple TV and Roku. The convention will also be streamed live from the DNC’s website.

In its first three nights, the DNC lineup featured big Democratic names including former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. Monday, the convention also featured former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who delivered an appeal to his fellow Republicans to support Biden for president. The week will culminate with Biden accepting his nomination to be president on Thursday, one day after Sen. Kamala Harris accepted her vice presidential nomination.

The lineup has not been without controversy. Ocasio-Cortez was given just one minute of speaking time on Tuesday; she served as one of the officials symbolically nominating Sanders, who crossed the delegate threshold for nomination to the ticket.

Many progressives criticized the decision — Ocasio-Cortez is one of the highest-profile members of the Democratic Party and among its brightest young stars, and she is a compelling speaker. But Politico reported moderate Democrats worried giving her too high a profile would allow Republicans to paint Biden as a “vessel” of the left.

The New York Congress member responded by tweeting out a poem by Benjamin E. Mays, “I have only just a minute,” which the late Rep. Elijah Cummings recited in his first speech to Congress in 1996, and ultimately used her limited time to make a compact case for sweeping progressive reforms.

There has also been outcry that former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate in the 2020 primary field, was not invited to deliver an address during the event. Initially, former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang was left off the list of speakers, but the entrepreneur said he has since been added — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been given a slot as well. Both are expected to speak Thursday evening. Throughout the proceedings, some progressives have expressed dismay at the DNC’s apparent prioritization of figures like Bloomberg and Kasich over Castro and Ocasio-Cortez.

But the show goes on, with these bigger names giving speeches Monday through Thursday, alongside American business owners, teachers, factory workers, and front-line health care workers.

Here’s the lineup of speakers at this year’s Democratic National Convention (which is still subject to change).

The DNC speaker schedule and lineup

There will be a slate of speakers each night, including former presidents and sitting US senators, governors, and US representatives. The themes for each day (and links to our coverage):

Here’s the list of Thursday night’s speakers:

The fourth and final night of the 2020 convention has the theme of “America’s Promise,” and will feature former Vice President Joe Biden officially accepting the nomination for president. Full run-of-show is listed below, with descriptions from the Democratic National Convention’s media guidance.

  • “This Time Next Year:” A short presentation from a diverse group of Americans on how they imagine their lives one year into a Biden presidency
  • Remarks by Andrew Yang, American businessman
  • Introduction by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, American actress
  • Pledge of Allegiance, led by Rep. Cedric Richmond Jr. (D-LA)
  • National anthem, performed by the Chicks
  • Invocation by Sister Simone Campbell, American Roman Catholic religious sister
  • Remarks by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Remarks by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • A tribute to John Lewis directed by Dawn Porter, director of the film John Lewis: Good Trouble
  • Performance by John Legend, American singer-songwriter, and Common, American rapper, actor, and writer
  • Remarks by Jon Meacham, American writer and author
  • Remarks by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)
  • Remarks by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
  • Remarks by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  • “You Built America”: A conversation between Biden and a panel of union workers from around the US
  • Remarks by former Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy
  • Remarks by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • A presentation on Biden’s plan for supporting military families
  • Remarks by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • A video tribute to Biden’s late son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden
  • Remarks by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • “United We Stand:” A presentation on Biden’s candidacy from his Democratic primary rivals, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and businessman Andrew Yang
  • Remarks by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • A short film on the Biden family, focused on Biden’s grandchildren
  • Remarks by Biden’s daughter and son, Ashley Biden and Hunter Biden
  • A brief video biography of Biden
  • Remarks and acceptance speech by Joe Biden

Why the DNC is virtual this year

In previous years, the national party convention would be a moment for unity and celebration. But amid a once-in-a-century pandemic that’s claimed more than 163,000 American lives and counting, Democrats are hoping their virtual convention sends a larger message about how their nominee plans to govern in a time of national crisis.

With an absence of federal leadership from President Donald Trump, the Biden campaign and national Democrats are portraying themselves as the party of responsibility.

“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Biden said at a recent virtual fundraiser, speaking about the virtual convention. “From the start of the process, we’ve made it clear. ... Science matters.”

Democrats have known for months that the coronavirus meant the normal throng of thousands of cheering delegates was out of the question. A recent public health order from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett would have limited the convention’s in-person capacity to 250 people, but coronavirus cases in Wisconsin are also still on the rise, and interstate travel comes with risk.

Even with stringent safety measures like mandatory masks and daily temperature checks already in place, some Democrats feared even the sparsest indoors convention could still potentially spread Covid-19. After Trump’s June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, coronavirus cases in that city surged, and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died of Covid-19. Democrats didn’t want to risk any new cases emerging from their national convention.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House.”

Democrats wanted one message to dominate their convention: Where Trump has failed, Biden will lead America out of its current crisis.

“People care about one thing: They care about being safe,” former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told Vox. “It’s a totally different dynamic; we have one message to come out of that convention.”

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