Los Angeles, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, the first Second Gentleman of the United States. I do want to say a couple of things about my husband.
If any of you have been following the work that he has been doing — last year alone, he traveled, I think, over 35 trips on behalf of the administration, going around the country, talking about a variety of issues that have been priority areas for the administration.
But one of the things that Doug, as most of you know him, has been doing is really lifting up the voice of what it means to be a partner to someone, regardless of gender, but in this case, as the first Second Gentleman of the United States. And he’s been doing it in a way that is really very, I think, important and special.
There are so many young men and women who have been watching how he does it, as a model of how we can think about relationships and partnerships.
And so I hadn’t planned on saying all of this, but I just want to thank you for your service to our country and what you are doing on behalf of the administration. (Applause.)
THE SECOND GENTLEMEN: (Inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Yeah, I know.
Well, it’s good to be home. Dana and Matt, thank you, guys. Many of you may know there’s a — first of all, Dana and I have been friends for decades. And that’s all I will say. (Laughs.)
But there’s a connection here in terms of the order of the speaking because, you see — and many of you may know this — Dana and Matt introduced on a blind date Chrisette Hudlin and Reggie Hudlin, who then introduced on a blind date me and Doug. (Laughs.)
So, in many ways, Dana and Matt are responsible for my marriage. (Laughs.) But have always been extraordinary friends.
And so thank you, guys, for bringing us back together in your home once again.
And to Chrisette and Laura and all of the folks who have been so dedicated in your support of me and of the Democratic Party, I want to thank you.
There are friends that I see here that have been supporting me since I first ran for DA and through the years, and you have to know that that really means a lot.
So I want to thank you all for also what you are doing to support the DNC, because the work that you have done and the generosity you have shown really matters a great deal and is going to mean so much as we continue to talk with our country about the issues we care about.
With many of you, I had a chance to chat far too briefly, but one of the things I found myself saying a lot recently is: It’s important to know what you stand for. Because when you know what you stand for, then you know what you’re prepared to fight for.
And as we all know, there’s so much that we stand for that never has been nor will it ever be easy to achieve. In fact, I dare say, as a daughter of parents who met when they were active in the Civil Rights Movement, there has never been any substantial or significant progress that our country has made that did not involve a fight, did not involve hard work, did not involve extraordinary forces that seemed to be working against that progress.
So that’s the context in which we have, frankly, always found ourselves and in which we find ourselves again.
But as we all also know, everything we have fought to achieve has been fueled by our collective sense of optimism around what is possible, what can be, as I also like to say, unburdened by what has been.
And so, what do we stand for? Well, as Democrats, we stand for many things. We stand for our belief in those words that each of us is equal, regardless of gender, race, background, religion. We stand for the principle that, given that we are all equal, we should be treated that way. So, so much of our policies are fueled with that perspective, including being guided by not only the importance of equality, but of equity.
So, you look at the policies that we have been fighting for as an administration; equity has been one of the guiding principles. Equity, it’s basically — it’s a real simple concept. It takes into account not everyone starts out on the same base.
So if we are to end up equal, we might have to look at the distribution of resources to figure out who needs what to be able to be treated and actually have equal opportunity.
So we have focused on things like pay equity. As many of you know, we still have a lot of work to do in that regard, especially when it comes to equity based on gender
and race; and when you couple gender and race, even more so.
So that has been the work of our administration: focusing on what we must do — for example, during the course of the pandemic, it was highlighted — the specific needs of women in the workforce. Understanding that if it wasn’t clear before, we are now quite clear, as a nation, that women have, as a general matter, extraordinary burdens and responsibilities that when unmet mean they may have to leave the workforce.
So we focus, and it is a priority of ours and it will continue to be, to say, “Hey, childcare shouldn’t be so darn expensive, to the point that workers have to remove themselves from the workforce because it costs more for childcare than they would earn to go to work every day.”
So what do we stand for? We stand for pay equity. And we stand for the proposition that working parents should not have to pay more than 7 percent of their income in childcare. That’s what we stand for. That’s what we fight for: equality and equity.
We stand for equality when we say our transgender community and transgender youth should not be the subject of the kind of rhetoric fueled by hate that we are seeing around the country, and that we will address this issue in a number of ways, including having our State Department indicate that those who choose may fill out the box that says “gender” with an X.
What do we stand for? We stand for a healthcare system that is informed with the understanding that access to affordable healthcare should be a right, that access to healthcare should not just be a privilege of those who can afford it.
So we continue to do the work of expanding the Affordable Care Act. We do the work of standing for the proposition that prescription drugs should not be so expensive, because we have a significant population of people in our country, for example, that have diabetes, who in many cases have to spend hundreds of dollars a month for the thing that will save their life, called “insulin.”
We stand for the proposition no one should have to pay more than $35 a month for insulin. Because we believe that this is a matter that is not only about a right, it is also about dignity.
We stand for the proposition that people in the healthcare system who have endured, who have suffered acute illness and have therefore collected stacks of medical bills to the point that they are in medical debt; to the point statistically, by the way, that that debt is greater than — the medical debt that Americans are covering right now, that they’re burdened with, is greater than car loan debt and credit card debt combined.
We stand for the proposition that we need to — through our, for example, our VA — get rid of that debt, figure out ways to wipe that out, figure out ways to help people. Because it just makes sense to think about the fact that if you’ve acquired that much debt through medical bills — well, why do you acquire medical bills? Because you need healthcare. You need something to help extend your life or alleviate your pain.
And then we have this whole population of people with this debt who are also still attempting to recover from a serious health issue and are burdened by the fact that they may go bankrupt or become homeless.
These are the things we stand for that are an extension of what we believe is about fighting for the dignity of all people.
We stand for an economy that works for all people. We saw, during the course of the pandemic, so many small businesses that went out of business.
Well, we know that half of America’s workforce works for a small business or — or owns a small business. We know that in many communities, including our Black and brown communities, Asian communities, that these small businesses are part of the economic fabric and lifeblood of those communities, that those business leaders are not only leaders in business, they’re civic leaders. They’re community leaders. They’re role models. They hire locally.
So we stood for what we did in the American Rescue Plan to ensure that the PPP loans would get out to folks.
We stand for what we have been doing to expand the investment in community banks to make sure that those small- business owners that include minority- and women-owned businesses have access to capital so that they can grow and contribute to the economic wellbeing and lifeblood of their communities.
We stand for women’s rights when it comes to what should be a non-negotiable understanding and right that all women should have to make decisions about their own body, including their reproductive health and choice.
These are the things that we stand for. And so we are prepared to fight for these things.
And it is a difficult moment — many of us have discussed this — where we’ve come out of two years of a — of a pandemic. We’ve come out of — we’ve come out of more co- — more crises than we’ve seen in generations, in terms of the health issue, in terms of what we have seen in terms of the economy; we’re now looking at a war in Europe.
And so it is time for us then, as Democrats, to remind people of what we stand for, what we are prepared to fight for, and to also remind people of the optimism that we bring to everything that we stand for and everything we know is achievable. It means reminding people, as the Democratic Party, of what we have achieved and accomplished.
On the issue of foreign policy, remember, one of the things that we stand for is saying that we value relationships that we have around the world — that those relationships will be informed by trust, by an acknowledgement of history, shared principles, and values.
Which is why in spite of the fact that, not very long ago, people thought NATO was obsolete — through the leadership of Joe Biden and our administration, and the hundreds of hours of phone calls he and I and the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense and so many others have done, meetings that we have had with leaders around the world, so much so — so effective we’ve been that when I meet with them — I’ve been to Europe three times in the last four months — one of the first things those leaders will say when we sit down to talk, “Thank you to your administration for what you have done to bring the Alliance together and strengthen it in the midst of some of the worst aggression we have seen in generations.”
We have looked at, yes, an economy that, through no fault of most of the people who have suffered, took a deep dive during the course of the pandemic. But yet — people thought recovery would take years and years — we created 7 million new jobs just last year.
Now, yeah, it costs more money at the pump and we need to deal with that, we need to acknowledge that. But we also need to keep with our program around making it easier to get by day to day, which means — again, going back to the childcare issue — which means bringing down the cost of living, which means looking at what we can do and should do in terms of an investment in affordable housing, what we should do in terms of bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. This is the work that we are doing.
So, we are months away from an election, and it is going to be incumbent on all of us as leaders to remind people of what we stand for and what we have accomplished. And, you know, during an election, I think that we should all be prepared for the question we’ve heard every time: “Why should I vote?”
Well, let’s just look at the fact that in 2020, we had a historic turnout — more people voted than ever before. And I like to say to people, “You know, basically, when you stood in that line for hours, when you put them kids in the backseat and drove around to find the drop box, when you took the time away from all of the other demands of your life, you basically put in an order. You put in an order. You said, ‘I want certain things to happen. I want an extension of the Child Tax Credit,’” which you got, which has meant that, at least in the first year, we reduce child poverty by almost 50 percent.
You said you wanted the first Black woman to serve in the history of the United States Supreme Court on that Court. You got it. You want an administration that’s going to bring back the world community; you got that. You want the creation of jobs. You want a vaccine that’s going to be distributed to all people. You want the schools to be reopened. Check, check, check.
So, when you voted, when you made the effort, when you did the e-mailing and the calling and the texting and the knocking on doors, it mattered. Elections matter.
And so, as we go toward this next election, let’s remind people that it matters and that we are so well aware of the work that we still have yet to do. We did good work in the Infrastructure Bill, on climate, but there’s still so much more to do.
We did good work in terms of saying that there should be paid family leave, but we still got more work to do. More work to do to bring down the cost of home healthcare for seniors, and we’re on the path to getting that done.
Some of this stuff takes time, but we are seeing progress in a way that is giving a lot of people a sense of optimism.
Because I’ll tell you — and I’m going to close my comments — one of the benefits that I do believe has resulted from what we have achieved so far is it has empowered a whole lot of people to know that they have a right to demand certain things of their government, that they have a right to expect that we will do certain things, and that we will actually do those things. But there is more work to be done.
So let us move forward, understanding that it ain’t going to be easy; it never has been.
You know, I was saying to somebody — there’s an old adage, “You either run without an opponent or you run scared,” when you’re running an election. Right? So you know what that means.
But you run, and we run, meaning going toward this election with a sense of great optimism, fueled by what we have achieved thus far, and knowing we still have more to get done. And we don’t have any time to slow down. We don’t have any time to doubt ourselves. We got to get to work.
So, thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)