DNC Highlights: AOC, Jill Biden, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and More

The surreal nature of the virtual proceedings this week did not fade on the second night of the Democratic National Convention.

But it became clear that, for all that’s lost in the absence of an in-person convention, some things are gained: The roll call vote, normally a raucous but somewhat tedious affair, was transformed into a montage of the vast geographical and cultural diversity of America.

Here is a look at some of the moments that stood out.

Jill Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s wife, delivered her speech from a classroom at Brandywine High School in Delaware, where she used to teach.

She began by describing the silences that Americans have come to know during the coronavirus pandemic. The silence of an empty classroom that should be filled with students. The silence of a hospital room after a ventilator has been turned off.

Then she turned to resilience, a theme of Mr. Biden’s life and of his campaign message. She spoke about meeting Mr. Biden after his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident, and about not knowing how to “make a broken family whole.” She spoke, too, in wrenching detail, about the couple’s grief after Mr. Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer.

“Four days after Beau’s funeral, I watched Joe shave and put on his suit,” Dr. Biden said. “I saw him steel himself in the mirror, take a breath, put his shoulders back and walk out into a world empty of our son. He went back to work. That’s just who he is.”

And she drew a parallel between making a broken family whole and making a nation whole after a devastating pandemic and an economic collapse: “You show up for each other, in big ways and small ones, again and again,” she said.

“There are those who want to tell us that our country is hopelessly divided, that our differences are irreconcilable,” she said, coming back neatly to the theme that dominated the night — a return to “normality” and to what the Biden campaign has long presented as a bygone era of bipartisanship. “But that’s not what I’ve seen over these months.”

A large portion of the night was dedicated to what one might describe as the “Remember When Things Were Normal?” segment.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who left office nearly 40 years ago, spoke briefly off camera, and former President Bill Clinton said Mr. Biden was “committed to building America back again.” A video described Mr. Biden’s across-the-aisle friendship with Senator John McCain, who died in 2018. John Kerry, the former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic nominee for president, painted a picture of stability under the Obama-Biden administration.

And Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, called viewers’ attention implicitly to calmer times by listing the norms President Trump had broken before and after he fired her for refusing to defend his ban on travel from several Muslim countries.

“His constant attacks on the F.B.I., the free press, inspectors general, federal judges — they all have one purpose, to remove any check on his abuse of power,” she said. “Put simply, he treats our country like it’s his family business — this time bankrupting our nation’s moral authority at home and abroad. But our country doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to all of us.”

One of the most emotionally resonant moments of the night — one that would have been impossible in a packed arena in normal times — involved Mr. Biden speaking via video with several Americans who had dealt with or were dealing with health challenges.

It was accompanied by a segment on Ady Barkan, an activist who has campaigned fiercely for “Medicare for all” since learning he has A.L.S. The segment included footage that Mr. Barkan recorded for his young son when he was still able to speak without assistance, as well as a new message that he recorded using a computer.

These discussions were a chance for Mr. Biden to display one of his strongest qualities: empathy. It was also a chance to emphasize an issue that served Democrats well in the midterm elections: health care.

Through its focus on Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the segment implicitly highlighted the ideological differences between Mr. Biden and the progressive wing of the party — it was about preserving the Obama administration’s gains rather than exchanging the health law for Medicare for all.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent progressives, gave a symbolic speech nominating Senator Bernie Sanders, the runner-up in the Democratic primary race.

She said she was doing so in “fidelity to a mass people’s movement working to establish 21st-century social, economic and human rights, including guaranteed health care, higher education, living wages and labor rights for all people in the United States.”

And a security guard at The New York Times, whose brief exchange last year with the former vice president went viral — she told him that she loved him in a Times elevator — nominated Mr. Biden. No, the elevator she was shown standing in front of on Tuesday night was not in the Times building.

Normally, the roll call at a party convention — the series of votes, state by state, that finalize the nomination — is a raucous affair on the floor of the hall, full of state-specific regalia and frequently interrupted by long rounds of cheering.

This one was just a little different.

Through a series of video clips, viewers saw the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; the giant saguaros of Arizona; Mr. Biden’s childhood home in Scranton, Pa.; and the Amtrak station named after him in Wilmington, Del.

Against the backdrop of a cornfield, they saw Tom Vilsack, the former agriculture secretary, and his wife, Christie Vilsack, call attention to the storm that devastated Iowa last week. They saw the parents of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998. They also saw Rhode Island being, well, very Rhode Island, with a prominently displayed plate of fried calamari.

And at the end of it all, Mr. Biden got to drop “presumptive” from his title. It’s official: He is now the Democratic nominee for president.