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How the DNC reconnected Kerry Washington with her 8th-grade teacher

Kerry Washington
Actress Kerry Washington moderated the third night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
(Evan Agostini / Invision)

Before Kerry Washington hosted the 2020 Democratic National Convention or played a White House communications specialist on the TV show “Scandal,” she was a middle-school student enrolled in constitutional law.

The “Little Fires Everywhere” star drew upon that formative educational experience while delivering powerful opening remarks Wednesday — catching the attention of her 8th-grade teacher, who immediately congratulated her former pupil on her success.

“When I was in 7th or 8th grade, we memorized the preamble of the Constitution, and I’ve never forgotten it,” the 43-year-old actress began her monologue. “The first 15 words of our Constitution are, ‘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.

“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,” Washington added. “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. And for our lives. And right now, that fight is real.”

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Several viewers applauded Washington’s poignant speech Wednesday on Twitter — including the woman who unknowingly prepared her for it decades earlier.

“I nearly fell off the couch when @kerrywashington mentioned her 8th grade constitutional law class,” Vermont politician Tiff Bluemle tweeted. “I was her teacher. And so proud of her professional accomplishments and political advocacy.”

Minutes later came Washington’s enthusiastic response, spurring an entire Twitter thread of ex-students expressing gratitude for their favorite teachers, and vice versa.

“OMG!!!!” the 2020 Emmy nominee wrote back. “Hi ... Thank you for watching!!!!! And thank you for inspiring me and sooo many other students!!!”

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On a night when Kamala Harris accepted the nomination to be vice president, former President Obama delivered his harshest attack in years against President Trump.

Washington also garnered praise for her passionate commentary on immigration and racial justice while introducing a segment spotlighting the contributions of immigrant and refugee families in America.

“Now we’re going to talk about something close to my heart,” Washington said. “The Black community in this country is hugely diverse. 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. 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. I often think about how my grandmother must have felt when she first saw the Statue of Liberty and her raised torch,” she continued. “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. 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. But that idea is in danger now more than ever before.”

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Actresses Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Tracee Ellis Ross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus join an already star-studded lineup for the Democratic National Convention.

Hosted by “Veep” actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the final installment of the 2020 Democratic National Convention takes place Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Pacific. Livestreams of the event will be available on DemConvention.com and latimes.com. Accessible viewing options include CART live captions and ASL picture in picture, ASL full image, StreamText CART live captions and audio description versions of the livestream.


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