Visions of America in 2020 Convention Acceptance Speeches

Biden Trump acceptance speeches

I watched Joe Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democrats’ convention. It was unusually and pleasantly brief, and because there was no live audience, it wasn’t interrupted dozens of times by applause. So it was watchable for me. Later I went back and read it for this blog post.

I read but didn’t watch President Trump’s acceptance speech. I mostly avoid watching and listening to him, and I usually prefer to read such speeches anyway. His was long-ish, with many interruptions for applause. Life’s too short.

I thought it might be interesting to compare what the two rivals said about the United States of America — specifically our heritage and our historical and current place in the world.

Some of you now want to point out that the candidates may not completely believe everything they said.

I’ve voted since 1984, managed political campaigns, and worked as a speech writer. I get that what candidates say may not be sincere. It may be what their respective bases want to hear, or intended to nudge fence-straddling potential voters without angering the base too much. Questions of sincerity aside, most likely the words aren’t fully the candidates’ own.

But I’m not completely cynical. I think these speeches are often a mix of sincerity and poll-driven politics. We’ll generally want to weigh candidates’ words against their actions and inaction. But today we’re looking at their words.


I won’t try here to rate the sincerity of either candidate on any point. I have my own thoughts, after observing President Donald Trump for years and Senator, Vice President, and candidate Joe Biden for decades.

As for my own views of my country (documented elsewhere), here I’ll only confess that this line from President Trump’s speech resonated with me. He asked, “How can the Democratic Party ask to lead our country when it spent so much time tearing down our country?”

You’ll have your own view, and that’s okay. If you think I’ve been unfair in selecting excerpts here, you can always consult the speech transcripts themselves. (Here is Mr. Biden’s speech. Here is President Trump’s.)

You’ll see that I included some bits about God too. They’re not altogether off topic. More than a few folks, including some key Founders — and me — have believed God has had something to do with America’s founding, survival, and place in the world.

I present the two candidates’ excerpts here in the order in which the speeches occurred, and without comment or analysis.

(Care for a peek inside the my blogging process? I originally wrote this post to end with a look at NPR’s fact-checking and other annotations of both speeches. Theirs wasn’t any better or worse than most fact-checking these days. The reason all that’s not included below is … it’s boring. Look it up if you want, and draw your own conclusions: Fact Check: Biden’s Address To The DNC, Annotated” and Fact Check: Trump’s Address To The Republican Convention, Annotated. Both are more “Annotated” than “Fact Check.”)

Biden Acceptance Speech Excerpts on US Role and Heritage

Here’s what Mr. Biden said in his 2020 acceptance speech about the United States of America:

Joe Biden
Photo by Gage Skidmore at WikiMedia Commons

“As God’s children each of us have a purpose in our lives.

“And we have a great purpose as a nation: To open the doors of opportunity to all Americans. To save our democracy. To be a light to the world once again.

“To finally live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation that all men and women are created equal. Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“However it has come to be, America is ready … to lay down ‘the heavy burdens of hate at last’ and to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.

“America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress. That we’ve found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again. That we can find the light once more.

“I have always believed you can define America in one word: possibilities.

“That in America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.”

“This is a great nation.

“And we are a good and decent people.

“This is the United States of America.

“And there has never been anything we’ve been unable to accomplish when we’ve done it together.”

Trump Acceptance Speech Excerpts on US Role and Heritage

Here’s what President Trump said in his 2020 acceptance speech about the United States of America:

Photo by Voice of America

“The [party] goes forward united, determined and ready to welcome … anyone who believes in the greatness of America and the righteous heart of the American people.”

“America is not a land cloaked in darkness. America is the torch that enlightens the entire world. … We cannot help but marvel at the miracle that is our great American story.”

“What united generations past was an unshakable confidence in America’s destiny and an unbreakable faith in the American people. They knew that our country is blessed by God and has a special purpose in this world. It is that conviction that inspired the formation of our union, our westward expansion, the abolition of slavery, the passage of civil rights, the space program and the overthrow of fascism, tyranny, and communism.”

“In this country, we don’t look to career politicians for salvation. In America, we do not turn to government to restore ourselves. We put our faith in almighty God.”

“America is the greatest and most exceptional nation in the history of the world. … We are not a nation of timid spirits. We are a nation of fierce, proud, and independent American patriots. We are a nation of pilgrims, pioneers, adventurers, explorers, and trailblazers who refuse to be tied down, held back, or in any way reigned in. Americans have steel in their spines, grit in their souls, and fire in their hearts. There is no one like us on Earth. I want every child in America to know that you are part of the most exciting and incredible adventure in human history. No matter where your family comes from, no matter your background in America, anyone can rise with hard work, devotion, and drive. You can reach any goal and achieve every ambition.”

“Our American ancestors sailed across the perilous ocean to build a new life on a new continent. They braved the freezing winters, crossed the raging rivers, scaled the rocky peaks, trekked the dangerous forests, and worked from dawn till dusk. These pioneers didn’t have money. They didn’t have fame. But they had each other. They loved their families, they loved their country, and they loved their God. When opportunity beckoned, they picked up their bibles, packed up their belongings, climbed into their covered wagons, and set out West for the next adventure.”

Up to You

I leave it to you to draw any conclusions you think are warranted here — about candidates, parties, or history.

Thanks for reading.

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Thanks for reading!

Comments are always welcome, within the bounds of common civility and relevance.

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2 thoughts on “Visions of America in 2020 Convention Acceptance Speeches”

  1. Alison says:

    Just wondering if a lot of Trumps comments would be seen as Imperialist/Colonialist, things that are hot button topics these days. Interesting the number of similar POV from your excerpts.

    1. David Rodeback says:

      By some, I’m sure they would be, like similar expressions by others over the decades. They’ve been hot-button topics in academia for a that long, just less publicly.

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