The actress recalled how, when she was in grade school, students memorized the preamble to the Constitution, which begins with 15 important words: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union."
"We say 'more perfect' because our union is not without flaws," Washington shared. "When our Constitution was written, women couldn't vote. Black people were considered three-fifths of a human being. But therein lies the work. No one is perfect. Nothing is. But it is the striving toward justice, equality and truth that distinguishes us."
"We fight for a more perfect union because we are fighting for the soul of this country," Washington added, "and for our lives. And right now, that fight is real."
Evoking the words of the preamble once more, Washington shared, "If we are going to repair the damage that has been done, if we are going to finally realize the dream, we, the people, have to get involved."
"Each and every one of us is the 'we.' You are the 'we.' It's going to be your voice, your service, your act, that helps us create that more perfect union," she added.
Harris opened the convention Wednesday with a live appearance in which she stressed the importance of voting and civic participation.
"I know many of you plan to vote this year, but amidst the excitement and enthusiasm for this election, you heard about obstacles and misinformation and folks making it harder for you to cast your ballot. So I think we need to ask ourselves, why don't they want us to vote? Why is there so much effort to silence our voices?"
"The answer is because, when we vote, things change," she continued. "When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect in our country."
"On my father's side, I am descended from African Americans who came from slave ships that landed in South Carolina and who were part of the great migration north that has played such a defining role in who we are as a nation," Washington shared. "On my mother's side, my grandparents came here as immigrants, part of a rich history that has also defined America. They immigrated to this country from the West Indies, through Ellis Island, in the 1920s."
"My family's story is not unique. Unless you're Native American, your family likely came here from somewhere else, whether it was five years ago or 200 years ago, whether it was by choice or by bondage," she continued. "Etched into the DNA of who we are as a nation is the very idea that, though you may be from somewhere else, you can find your home here."
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