CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — With America dealing with multiple national crises, former Vice President Joe Biden told Iowa Democrats the country needs leadership that “strives to finally deliver on our founding principles.”

“I wish I were meeting with all of you under different circumstances, but instead, we’re separated by a deadly virus,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said Sunday evening during a virtual appearance at the Iowa Democratic Party’s virtual Hall of Fame Celebration.

In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, America still is “grappling with the legacy of systemic racism, which has kept far too many from realizing their full share of the American dream,” he said in a 3 1/2-minute message at the conclusion of the annual event that honors its activists, volunteers, leaders and rising stars. There were 1,400 tickets sold for this year’s event.

A year ago, Biden was not among the 19 presidential hopefuls to address the annual state party’s celebration in Cedar Rapids. On Sunday, he had the virtual stage to himself, and he used it to remind Democrats that the stakes are high and have never been higher.

“We need to work harder than ever,” Biden said. “We need to stand up as a nation, to stand with workers, to stand with every person who has ever been knocked down, counted out or left behind.”

From the outset of the campaign, Biden has characterized the 2020 election as a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

However, simply defeating President Donald Trump will not be enough. Democrats, he said, must provide the leadership needed to “deliver meaningful change for the millions of people who are hurting all across this nation.”

With more people in the United States infected with COVID-19 than in any other nation, he said America needs leadership “that recognizes the real threat of this pandemic and doesn’t just wave a white flag of surrender like the president has.”

“We need leadership that brings everyone to the table to rebuild an economy that works for working families, creates millions of good paying jobs for the future,” Biden said. “We need leadership that strives to finally deliver on our founding principles — ensure that all men are not only equal at creation, but treated equally throughout their lives.”

Trump’s campaign, which marked 100 days until the election with a MAGA — Make America Great Again — event Sunday in Waukee, agreed that it was a “special day” for Biden to have “finally found his way (virtually, anyway) back to the Hawkeye State” 173 days after finishing fifth in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

However, there is nothing special about his “disastrous” plans “that will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise taxes on middle-class families, and destroy Iowa’s expansive agriculture industry,” according to Republican National Committee spokeswoman Preya Samsundar.

One hundred days before Nov. 3, Biden enjoys a 9 percentage point lead in the RealClearPolitics poll average. In Iowa, polls show Trump with a slight lead — much less than his 10-point win here in 2016.

“Iowa’s a critical battleground state for our campaign,” Biden said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Democrats win up and down the ballot all across Iowa this November.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann predicted Iowans will reject Biden’s “radical, far-left agenda (that) leave those of us in America’s heartland behind.”

The virtual Hall of Fame Celebration followed the party’s first virtual state convention. Although “physically and socially distanced,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Mark Smith said Democrats are ready to “flip Iowa blue” by electing Senate nominee Theresa Greenfield.

He also paid tribute to two “social justice warriors,” retired Sen. Tom Harkin and the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Harkin is the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed 30 years ago. Introducing the legislation in the Senate was one of the proudest moments of his life, and passage with bipartisan support was one of the happiest.

“In those days, we actually worked together to get things done ... but it was led by Democrats,” said Harkin, who continues to work to “break down barriers” for people with disabilities.

Smith called on his online audience to be guided by Lewis’ admonition: “You are the light. Never let anyone, any person or any force damper, dim or diminish your light.”

“Our nation is at a turning point,” Smith said. “It is on us to honor the commitment of these two great Democrats and do what is good, just and right. Let your light shine in this election like no other.”

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