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Alumni take stage at Democratic National Convention

Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor
Actress Kerry Washington, who delivered a Commencement address in 2013, was among the speakers at this year’s virtual Democratic National Convention.

Five speakers with ties to GW took the virtual stage at last week’s Democratic National Convention.

The DNC, which was held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic, featured four former students: Michigan State Rep. Mari Manoogian, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and actress Kerry Washington. The speakers – which also included Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., a former School of Media and Public Affairs Terker Distinguished Fellow – joined dozens of politicians and celebrities who spoke in support of Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, respectively.

On the second night of the convention, Manoogian – who earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and security policy in 2014 and a Master of Arts in global communication and international organizations in 2017 – spoke as one of 17 “rising stars” identified by the party as soon-to-be prominent politicians in a keynote address.

“Joe knows we can never let hard times turn us against each other,” she said.

Manoogian also discussed Biden’s role in bailing out the auto industry as vice president, adding that he will fight for “the people who built this country.”

“That’s a big effing deal,” Manoogian said, sparking a viral GIF that circulated on social media.

Boyle, who served as one of SMPA’s Terker distinguished fellows, during the 2017-18 academic year, also participated in the rising star address Tuesday night. He said Democrats must fight against a lawsuit brought on by the Trump administration to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

“Let’s remember: Donald Trump is suing to take health care coverage away from more than 20 million Americans and eliminate protections for over 100 million with pre-existing conditions,” Boyle said.

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He added that Biden knows what it’s like to work for “everything you’ve got.”

“You deserve health care you can afford, a job that pays you fairly,” Boyle said. “You deserve childcare and paid sick leave while you work, and when you pay into Social Security and Medicare, you deserve to know it will be there when you retire.”

The next night, alumna Kerry Washington moderated a two-hour speaker lineup culminating in an acceptance speech by Harris.

“No one is perfect – nothing is – but it is striving toward justice, equality and truth that distinguishes us,” Washington, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and sociology in 1998, said at the convention. “We fight for a more perfect union because we are fighting for the soul of this country and for our lives. And right now, that fight is real.”

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Warren, who attended classes at GW from 1966 to 1968, delivered an address Wednesday during the convention, calling America’s economic system “rigged” to give bailouts to billionaires and “kick dirt in the face” of everyone else.

She said Biden would make high-quality childcare affordable and raise the wages of childcare workers.

“I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans,” Warren said.

She also condemned Trump’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he was unfit to manage the country’s response.

“Donald Trump’s ignorance and incompetence have always been a danger to our country,” Warren said. “COVID-19 was Trump’s biggest test – he failed miserably.”

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On the final night of the convention, Warren spoke alongside six fellow 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates in support of their former opponent. Warren said she saw Biden’s character the “clearest” when he came to Boston for the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

“At some point in that speech, he shifted to the parent that had lost a child, to the man who had lost a wife, to someone who experienced loss very personally,” Warren said. “And he spoke to each of the families from the heart.”

Duckworth, who graduated with a Master of Arts in international affairs in 1992, called Trump a “coward-in-chief,” adding that Biden “understands” the sacrifices made by military families in a reference to his late son Beau Biden, who was deployed to Iraq in 2008.

“Unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency,” she said at the convention Thursday night. “He has common sense. He can command from both experience and from strength.”

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Duckworth, an Army veteran, also condemned Trump’s relationship with the military, including a June photo-op in front of St. John’s Church, located blocks away from GW’s campus.

“As president, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet, Duckworth said. “He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego. He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right, stand tall for our troops and stand strong against our enemies.”

At least two speakers with ties to GW will take the stage at this week’s Republican National Convention. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who taught a class on dystopian visions in fall 2017, will speak Tuesday, and Kellyanne Conway, who earned a Juris Doctor from GW Law in 1992, will speak Wednesday, according to a Trump campaign release.

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