Wilmington, Del.

Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination with a vow to be a unifying “ally of the light” who would move an America in crisis past the chaos of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

In his strongest remarks of the campaign, Mr. Biden spoke Thursday night both of returning the United States to its traditional leadership role in the world and of the deeply personal challenges that shaped his life. Virtually every sentence of his 22-minute speech was designed to present a sharp, yet hopeful, contrast with the Republican incumbent.

“Here and now I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. l’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness,” Mr. Biden said. “Make no mistake, united we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”

For Mr. Biden, the final night of the Democratic National Convention was bittersweet. He accepted a nomination that had eluded him for over three decades because of personal tragedy, political stumbles, and rivals who proved more dynamic.

But the coronavirus denied him the typical celebration, complete with the customary balloon drop that both parties often use to fete their new nominees. Instead, Mr. Biden spoke to a largely empty arena near his Delaware home.

Afterward, fireworks lit the sky outside the arena, where supporters waited in a parking lot, honking horns and flashing headlights in a moment that finally lent a jovial feel to the event.

The keynote address was the speech of a lifetime for Mr. Biden, at age 77, would be the oldest president ever elected if he defeats Mr. Trump in November. Mr. Trump, who is 74, publicly doubts Mr. Biden’s mental capacity and calls him “Slow Joe,” but with the nation watching, Mr. Biden was firm and clear.

Still, the convention leaned on a younger generation earlier in the night to help energize his sprawling coalition.

Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois senator who lost her legs in Iraq and is raising two young children, said Mr. Biden has “common decency.”

Cory Booker, only the ninth African American senator in U.S. history, said Mr. Biden believes in the dignity of all working Americans.

And Pete Buttigieg, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and a gay military veteran, noted that Mr. Biden came out in favor of same-sex marriage as vice president even before President Barack Obama.

“Joe Biden is right, this is a contest for the soul of the nation. And to me that contest is not between good Americans and evil Americans,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “It’s the struggle to call out what is good for every American.”

Above all, Mr. Biden focused on uniting the nation as Americans grapple with the long and fearful health crisis, the related economic devastation, a national awakening on racial justice – and Mr. Trump, who stirs heated emotions from all sides.

Mr. Biden’s positive focus Thursday night marked a break from the dire warnings offered by Mr. Obama and others the night before. The 44th president of the United States warned that American democracy itself could falter if Mr. Trump is reelected, while Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, a California senator and daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, warned that Americans’ lives and livelihoods were at risk.

Mr. Biden’s Democratic Party has sought this week to put forward a cohesive vision of values and policy priorities, highlighting efforts to combat climate change, tighten gun laws, and embrace a humane immigration policy. They have drawn a sharp contrast with Mr. Trump’s policies and personality, portraying him as cruel, self-centered, and woefully unprepared to manage virtually any of the nation’s mounting crises and policy challenges.

Vice President Mike Pence, interviewed Friday on several morning talk shows, criticized Democrats as presenting “a very grim picture of the United States” and said the Republican National Convention next week will focus on what Mr. Trump has accomplished, including the economy and his coronavirus response.

Voting was another prime focus of the convention on Thursday as it has been all week. Democrats fear that the pandemic – and Trump administration changes at the U.S. Postal Service – may make it difficult for voters to cast ballots in person or by mail.

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