Washington, January 28: Kamala Harris, the first American senator of Indian-origin, has officially launched her campaign for the 2020 presidential elections. At the event kickstarting her bid to the White House, the Democratic leader appealed the country to unite against the onslaught of President Donald Trump -- describing his tenure as an unprecedented "attack on the US democracy".
Harris, 54, who was elected to the Senate in 2016, announced her run for presidency last week. She has been voted on top of the list of Democratic leaders aspiring to defeat Trump in the November 2020 election.
"We are at an inflection point in the history of our nation. We are here because the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before," she said.
“When we have leaders who bully and attack a free press and undermine our democratic institutions, that's not our America,” she said, without mentioning Trump's name.
She criticised "the arrogance of power” she saw in wealthy bank executives after the foreclosure crisis, and said that Americans needed to be honest about the country's problems with racism, sexism, anti-semitism and transphobia.
She also emphasised unity, praising “the amazing spirit of the American people” and pledging her desire to be a president, echoing former president Abraham Lincoln's famous words, “Of the people, by the people, and for all people.”
Pointing to Trump's xenophobic rhetoric, his policies at the border, and his decision to shut down the government in a failed attempt to get funding for his controversial plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, she said, "People are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other."
"But that is not our story. That is not who we are...We are better than this," she added.
Recollecting the fighting spirit of her Indian mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who migrated to the US from Tamil Nadu for studies, Harris told a cheering crowd in her hometown of Oakland, California, that this was not going to be an easy election pitted against an incumbent like Trump.
Harris spoke of an America where "we welcome refugees” and denounced President Trump's plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border as a "medieval vanity project".
"If I have the honour of being your president I will tell you this: I am not perfect. Lord knows, I am not perfect. But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity. And I will tell the truth," she said.
"My mother used to say don't sit around and complain about things. Do something," Harris said in her impressive speech that lasted for more than 30 minutes.
"With the fighting spirit I got from my mother, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States. And I will tell you, I'm running for president, because I love my country," Harris told the crowd estimated to be around 20,000, a few blocks away from where she was born.
So far four women Democratic leaders have entered the presidential race. Apart from Harris, the three others are Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii.
All of them have to pass through a grilling presidential primary beginning next January, the winner of which would be announced in the Democratic National Convention in July 2020. The nominee would challenge incumbent Trump, a Republican, in the presidential election in November that year. Quoting the former presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, Harris said challenging an incumbent is not easy.
"Of course, we know this is not going to be easy guys. We know what the doubters will say is that they always say, they'll say it's not your time. They'll say, wait your turn. They'll say, the odds are long. They'll say, it can't be done.... But, America's story has always been written by people who can see what can be unburdened by what has been... that's our story."
"I say to you my friends, these are not ordinary times, and this will not be an ordinary election. But this is our America.... We can reclaim the American dream for every single person in our country. We can restore America's moral leadership on this planet," she added.
Asserting that she running to fight for an America where the economy works for working, Harris promised education and healthcare for all if elected as the 46th US president.
Harris was the first African-American and Indian-American attorney of California, before being elected as the US Senator. Already having many firsts in her name, Harris will be the first woman president of the country if she wins.
Alleging that too many black and brown Americans are being locked up for mass incarceration, she called for drastic repair of criminal justice system. "Let's also speak the truth that too many unarmed black men and women are killed in America."
Critical of Trump's foreign policy, Harris said under this administration, America's position in the world had never been weaker. "When democratic values are under attack around the globe, when authoritarianism is on the march, when nuclear proliferation is on the rise, when we have foreign powers infecting the White House like Malware, let's speak about truth our present danger," she said.
"And let's face the biggest truth, the biggest truth of all: In the face of powerful forces trying to sow hate and division among us, the truth is that as Americans we have so much more in common than what separates us," she added.
(With PTI inputs)