East Room

2:29 P.M. EST THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Dr. Biden.  Thank you.  Please have a seat, everybody.

Well, good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  It is so good to meet so many folks and to see so many folks.  It’s nice to be together, under one roof together, isn’t it?

And, of course, it is an honor to be here with our incredible President, Joe Biden — (applause); First Lady Dr. Jill Biden — (applause); and the first Second Gentleman of the United States, my husband, Doug Emhoff.  (Applause.)

It is wonderful to be here this afternoon, joined by the members — the most esteemed members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  (Applause.)  And as a former member of the CBC, I know firsthand that the members of the CBC are truly the conscience not only of the Congress but of our country.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Thank you, also, to all the clergy joining us today, who continue to lift the spirits and the condition of so many people in our country.  And to the community organizers, who work day in and day out to make a difference in the lives of all people in our nation.  We are so grateful for you.

And we are gathered, then, at a critical moment in the history of our nation and our world — a moment in which our democratic principles have come under threat.

Today, the eyes of the world are on Ukraine and the brave people who are fighting to protect their country and their democracy.  And their bravery is a reminder — a most recent reminder — that justice, equality, and freedom must never be taken for granted by any of us.

So, friends, Black History Month was established to teach the history that too often has not been taught: the history of Black excellence and leadership in America — (applause) — and also the history of resistance and resilience in America.  

And we are clear: Black history is American history.  It is living, breathing history — history we create every day. 

And today, of course, our nation faces many great challenges.  Among the greatest is the assault on the freedom to vote — the freedom from which all others flow. 

It will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to safeguard and strengthen the freedom to vote.  And the President and I are committed to securing that freedom, as is everyone here.  (Applause.)

And that is why I felt such pride and such hope — understanding how votes lead to action through elections, it is why I felt such pride and such hope this past Friday when President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — (applause) — when he nominated her to sit on the United States Supreme Court.  (Applause.)

Because, as we all know, elections matter.  And when folks vote, they order what they want.  And in this case, they got what they asked for.  (Applause.)

I went off script a little bit.  (Laughter.)

And Judge Jackson, of course, will make a phenomenal Justice.  She is brilliant.  She has a brilliant mind and a record of excellence — a record that proves she will administer equal justice.  And I don’t have to tell everybody here, she has been confirmed on a bipartisan basis three times and deserves, therefore, a swift confirmation now.  (Applause.)

And Judge Jackson will be the first Black woman to sit on our nation’s highest court.  And as Dr. Jill Biden mentioned, it is with that spirit also that we know she will not be the last.  (Applause.) 

So, there is a lot to celebrate.  There is a lot to look forward to.  There is a lot to work toward.  And in remembering our history, we remember those great American heroes who continue to inspire and motivate us, who continue to remind us through our memory of them and their contribution and sacrifice what our role and responsibility is at this moment in history.

And speaking of that, then, when everyone walked in to the White House today, I’m sure that you may have seen an exhibit celebrating great Black Americans.

On display is a campaign poster from Shirley Chisholm — Barbara Lee, I saw you here today — books by Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Maya Angelou; and a display honoring Dr. Mae Jemison, who I just talked with last week — you know I’m the head of the Space Council — (laughter) — about her life and her work and her enduring commitment to helping young people find their own path to the stars.

In the exhibit, there is also an Ella Fitzgerald vinyl — we used to call it an “album”; and a Jacob Lawrence painting, which hangs right here in this White House on a permanent basis; and, especially significant in this moment, a judicial oath signed by Justice Thurgood Marshall, whose life’s work influenced my own.  In fact, his portrait hangs currently in the official office of the Vice President of the United States.  And — (applause) — and a bust of his figure sits in my ceremonial office as well.

So, as we gather here today, and as we prepare to confirm
another historic first to our nation’s highest court, let us always remember: We stand on the shoulders of giants — giants in our history, giants in American history, and giants right here in this room. 

This Black History Month, let us recommit to honoring
their legacy with action.  Let us continue their fight and our fight for justice and equality and opportunity for all so that generations to come may stand on our shoulders and reach even greater heights.

And history, as I have said many times before, I do believe it to be a relay race.  We have been each passed a baton with which we run our part in our pursuit of progress and we will then pass the baton to the next generation. 

And in that spirit, it is now my pleasure to introduce a young, brilliant leader who is leading our nation forward with bravery, creativity, and grace, and excellence.

Please welcome Cateo Hilton.  (Applause.) 

END                  2:38 P.M. EST

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