San Francisco, California
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me thank Carol and Shelby and Reid for just — for so long being such dear friends and for all that you have done to support me personally and the Democratic Party. It’s extraordinary.
And there are people in this room — I look at you — who have been on the journey with me since the very, very beginning of my career. And so it’s so wonderful to be home, and I thank you all, always, for showing up and doing so much.
You’re probably wondering what Carol is talking about when she’s talking about the tomatoes — (laughter) — so I will tell you.
So, of course, with all of you, I started here in San Francisco. We all have friendships that go back decades, based here. And then I become a senator; you all sent me to D.C. And then — so I’m in the Senate, and this is 20- — this is the beginning — January — around January 2020, early 2020.
And Carol has, during COVID, been living in their place in Virginia. And they grow these beautiful garden tomatoes. And as many of you know, I like to cook. (Laughter.) And so Carol says, “I’m going to be…” — “I got to go and see the kids at Georgetown. I’m going to — I’ve got all these tomatoes; I’m going to bring you the tomatoes.”
So Carol shows up at the apartment that Doug and I have in — had in D.C. with, I mean, boxes and bags full of tomatoes. (Laughter.) Full of tomatoes. And I had all these plans for these. I was going to make marinara; I was going to make this and this. I had all these plans for all these tomatoes.
And then later that day, I get this call that I need to do a Zoom with Joe Biden, who asked me to join the ticket. (Laughter and applause.) And I got all these tomatoes! (Laughter.) And so — and I get the call. I said, “Yes, of course,” as you all know. And within, I think, not even an hour, a parade of people show up at the apartment with binders — a parade of binders. They take over, like a SWAT team, our little apartment. (Laughter.)
And I’m like, I just (inaudible) — “You got to move to Delaware tomorrow — blah, blah, blah.” And so I sent them all out after this meeting with the tomatoes. (Laughter.)
That’s the story of the tomatoes and Carol Bonnie and our friendship.
MS. BONNIE: (Inaudible) tomatoes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Oh, they were beautiful (inaudible). I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to do anything with them.
We are built for this — this moment. I’m going to repeat something you all have heard me say a thousand times when I paraphrase Coretta Scott King, who said: The fight for civil rights — which is the fight for justice, which is the fight for liberty, which is the fight for equality, which is the fight for fairness — the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.
Two points. One, it’s the nature of it all that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent — which is the irony of it, I suppose, which is: The success of that — right? –demonstrates the strength we have to lift people up. But in the strength of that, of those rights, there is also a fragility, meaning we cannot take it for granted that it was this without our vigilance in the fight.
And I think the second point that she’s making then: It’s the nature of it, so it’s the nature of it. So do not despair. Do not be overwhelmed. Do not give up.
So I was sharing earlier, and I’ll share with the friends here, when and how I learned about the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.
So as many of you know, as Carol said, I’ve spent the vast majority of my career doing a number of things, but particularly fighting for the safety and the wellbeing of women and girls and children.
And so when — so, on that day, when the decision came down, I was actually on Air Force Two. On the plane, I had Dick Durbin, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He and I worked together on so many things. He’s a great champion for so many issues. And he was traveling with me to his home state of Illinois. And we were going to Aurora, Illinois, to meet Lauren Underwood, who is a member of Congress — really outstanding leader — because Lauren and I and Dick — but Lauren and I, when I was in the Senate — she on the House side, me on the Senate side — pushed for what we call the Momnibus, which was a package of bills that are designed to support mothers.
And as you all know, I take as a point of great pride that as Vice President, and as our administration having a commitment to this issue, we have elevated the issue of maternal health to the front stage of the White House.
So I was traveling to Aurora, Illinois, to go with Dick, our partner in this, to meet Lauren to talk about a roadmap that we were unveiling in furtherance of our work, which includes, for example, we are now pushing the states to extend the Medicaid coverage for postpartum care for women from 2 months to 12 months. (Applause.) We are (inaudible). Seems like a no-brainer, right? (Inaudible) only 2 months, and it should be 12 months. (Inaudible.)
So I’m in my cabin doing the work, and my team comes in — knock, knock, knock — and so then, I just — I know instinctively — I looked at CNN: The Court rendered this decision.
So the irony of it all: that we’re on our way to do an event on maternal health — because, by the way, so many of these people who have been in power for so long have not done this work that is about supporting a woman who has given birth and all that she requires and needs to have a healthy life and a healthy child and, before that, a healthy pregnancy.
And a decision comes down. And we all knew when the leaked decision came out that it was very likely. But I think — I’ll speak for all of us in saying that when it actually came down, the decision, it was like a body blow.
And so we have to fight, knowing that there’s no other choice and knowing that we actually have within our toolbox — we have levers that include one of the reasons that we’re here today to support the DNC, which is to impact elections, because elections matter.
MS. BONNIE: A lot.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Think about it. Think about how elections matter. In 2020, people around the country stood in line for hours in the midst of a pandemic. We had a greater turnout than we’ve ever seen.
And what ended up happening? Well, maternal health is on the forefront of the agenda. We instituted an extension of the Child Tax Credit, which was — for the first year, has meant a reduction of child poverty in America by somewhere around 40 percent.
We passed an infrastructure law. That means that we will actually be able to do something that I’ve been traveling around the country talking about, which is remove lead pipes from communities where the children in those communities are drinking toxic water, which is having a direct impact on their ability to learn, much less their physical health.
Because that happened, that we passed that infrastructure law, we are also about to lay down Internet and high-speed Internet, ensuring that all communities not only have access but that are — that they are able to afford access to high-speed Internet, an issue that was absolutely highlighted during the pandemic as directly related to the education of the future of America, our children — not to mention what it is required to do in terms of supporting the infrastructure of a small business; not to mention what it is able to do to give people in rural areas, people who live far from a hospital access to their doctor or their healthcare provider through telemedicine.
These things happened. Because people stood, because you did what you did, we were able to put over $5 billion into minority-serving institutions and HBCUs, which means investing in those universities that are investing in communities that need the support.
Because we did so many of these things, including what everyone in this room demanded — which is to refocus and redirect America’s relationship with our friends and neighbors around the world — President Joe Biden was able to, together with so many of us in the administration, make clear America’s leadership in the context of NATO and the EU on the issue of Ukraine.
Elections matter. Elections matter.
So when we look at where we are today with these extraordinary events that have occurred — not to mention Uvalde; not to mention Buffalo, where Doug and I went to the last funeral, which was the funeral of an 86-year-old grandmother who was just grocery shopping — what we are looking at — and then — but, thankfully, thanks to Chris Murphy and others in the Senate, legislation was passed that’s going to make a difference on that issue.
But elections matter.
And so we are facing big challenges right now. And there are things that we can do, including in the next 131 days: Do as Jaime said and focus on the federal races, and that means the Senate. Focus on state races. Or — and then the House, of course, holding on to our majority there. State races. Governors matter. Where is she? There. (Laughter and applause.)
Eleni Kounalakis. Governor Newsom. What California is doing, in terms of — you know, with that hefty budget surplus — (laughter) — making California a place that is welcoming and supportive of people around the country who need abortion care. (Applause.) Yes.
Secretary of States. Attorneys General. All those positions matter. Local races matter. DAs — especially in the states that are criminalizing healthcare providers and potentially women.
So, elections matter. And right now it is within our ability to do something about it.
You know, some people will say, “Okay, well, you know, is that it?” No, absolutely not.
I was very, very proud of our President and our administration when the President said today that the filibuster is not going to get in the way of preventing us from pushing for legislation to codify, meaning to put into law, Roe v. Wade. That is very important.
We need to take executive — (applause) — we need to take executive action in terms of what we need to do, a lot of it on interstate commerce theories, but ensuring that women have freedom of travel and also have the ability to have access to abortion medication.
So there are things that we will do from the executive branch, knowing that the Court has acted. And now, the other two branches of government need to act in turn — Congress and the executive branch.
But elections matter, because if we have the numbers in Congress, then issues like this, issues like voting rights, issues like the Equality Act, we can get passed.
I asked my team to do a — I often think of conflict in the context of a Venn diagram. Don’t ask me why; I just do. And so I asked them, “Chart it out for me on a Venn diagram which states are attacking choice, voting rights, and LGBTQ.” It’s fascinating.
MS. BONNIE: I want to see that Venn diagram (inaudible).
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I’ll share it with you. (Laughter.)
And so on the issue, for example — okay? — because, again, the hypocrisy must be pointed out of an ideological perspective. On the issue of, for example, attacks on voting rights and attacks on choice, there are 11 states.
So, hypocrisy — “Why do you say hypocrisy?” Because those same people who are — who are proposing and passing legislation to restrict a woman’s right to choose are saying — and applauding the Dobbs decision — are saying, “Because this is fantastic because the states can decide, and the voters of the states will then decide.”
“Oh, is that right? You who also are restricting voting rights in your state.” Where is that leading?
So it’s really, I think, interesting to think of it from that perspective, which is where this is coming from, literally, and to turn it into another point, which is our strength. And look what then we have in common.
And remember that our greatest movements that have produced progress in this country have been fueled by coalitions — people who seemingly have nothing in common who have everything in common.
So I’m looking at my voting rights folks. I’m looking at my LGBTQ activists. I’m looking at my pro-choice folks. And I’m looking at all of them in one room, and I’m seeing a whole lot of power. Right?
So let’s roll up our sleeves. This is not a time to throw up our hands. Let us roll up our sleeves. And that’s why I say we were built for this. Because the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is this: When you know what you stand for, then you know what you fight for.
In that way, the simplicity of it all is actually in our favor. We know what we stand for, therefore we know what we’re fighting for. Do not despair.
We got a lot of work to do. So, thank you all. (Applause.)