Water Mill, New York
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Hi, everyone. Good evening. Good evening, everyone. It is so good to see so many friends and new friends and young leaders.
So, Karen and Dennis, thank you both for doing this. And where is Dennis? And —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: He’s (inaudible).
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah? I bring them greetings also from our President, Joe Biden, who I was just talking with a little while ago. But thank you both for just —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don’t we look alike?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, there you go. (Laughter.)
But you all have been really extraordinary in terms of the way that you continue to just put yourselves out there to keep giving, to support the work that I think we all care about, which is why we’re all here together. So, thank you all very much.
I spent today — I just arrived here from Brooklyn. I was in Brooklyn today, in Bed-Stuy, because there’s some work that we’ve been doing — that our administration has been doing. I’m building off of some work I did during my years at the Senate that is about access to capital for folks who have traditionally not had the relationships that allow them to fuel their ambitions, to fuel their innovation, and to allow us then as a nation to really take advantage of the incredible capacity that we have in all communities.
And so I was there talking about the work that we’ve done to put billions of dollars as an administration into CDFIs, which are essentially community banks, to spur the innovation that comes from our small businesses.
And when I think about today as an example of the work that we have been doing — and some of us were talking about it earlier — it is the work that recognizes with clear eyes the challenges that we face as a nation, but also the work that is absolutely fueled by our optimism about the incredible nation in which we live and the nation we love, and what we all have an ability and a responsibility to do to contribute to the best of who we are.
And so that is some of the work that I’ve been doing recently and just today. But I will say as a — here as a — as a discussion about what and who we are as Democrats that I think we have a lot to talk about. So let’s do that. (Laughs.)
I have a saying, which is that: I think when you know what you stand for, then you know what to fight for. And so when I think about who we are as Democrats, I know that we stand for very noble and important principles — the principles upon which our nation was founded.
Recently, I find myself, after the Dobbs decision, talking a lot about one of those important principles — that principle being freedom. Freedom. And the freedom individuals should have and we should guarantee for them to make decisions about their lives and their family and their future.
Liberty. The importance of being able to enjoy the liberties that should be guaranteed by our nation, by its laws, and that we should, as a civil society, protect and defend for each other.
These are some of the issues that I think are, right now, front and center, in terms of also the challenges we face as a nation. When we look at attacks on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body; when we are looking increasingly at attacks against our LGBTQ community, and the rights of individuals in that community to love who they love, marry who they love; when we look at a tax on voting rights in America, and the right all people who are entitled legally to vote — that they should have then to actually have access to the polls and the ballot.
This is the context in which we exist right now. And so the challenges are many. But I know that we as Democrats stand for the idea that we will fight for these principles always, understanding that when we think about our democracy, we know that there is great strength in a democracy.
But the duality of it all is that while there is strength, it coexists with a definite amount of fragility, meaning that if we don’t fight to preserve and sustain it, it can perish. And so therein lies the coexistence between the strength of what we fight for, but also understanding if we are not vigilant, if we take any of it for granted, it may go away.
So that’s how I think about this moment in terms of where we are in a country — as a country, in terms of what we must do together, collectively to stand for the principles on which we were founded and to fight for the best of who we are.
And so, our administration, as you know, has been doing a lot of work based on those principles, based on what Democrats stand for in saying that we should prioritize the children of our nation because if we are to be strong, currently and in our future, we must focus as a priority on the children, which is why our administration fought for an extension of the Child Tax Credit, for example. Where, in the first year of our administration alone, we reduced child poverty in America by over 40 percent. We fought for a tax cut for families raising children wherein for the cost of clothing and food and medication and school supplies, working families would get a tax cut of up to $8,000. Because we know that families need that support to do the work they naturally want to do but often struggle to do: to take care of their children.
We believe that all communities should be able to exist in a way that they live without fear, including not only our children, but our seniors and everyone in between.
It was a tragedy when — we all witnessed what happened — for example, in Buffalo, New York. I attended with my husband, Doug, the funeral of an 86-year-old grandmother, who was simply going to buy groceries after a day spent with her husband, who is in a nursing facility. And a whole community was terrorized.
I was looking at what we are facing, in terms of our nation, where our children are so afraid to go to school, and they are learning drills in case there is a mass shooter. And over and over again, this happens: Uvalde being just the latest example.
And so we stand for the principle that we need still reasonable gun safety laws. We support the Second Amendment. But when it comes to an issue like assault weapons on the streets of America, we must be practical and understanding that if we value the freedom to live in a safe community without fear, this is an issue we must confront and we must resolve, and have the courage to do it.
And so the President has signed an executive order that relates to what we should do around smart gun safety law, but we stand also for the principle that we need an assault weapons ban. Because we understand that the very design of an assault weapon is to kill a lot of human beings quickly.
We stand for the principle that all people should be able to live and love without government interference, which is why we stand with members of Congress who have been fighting to codify those rights out of fear that Clarence Thomas — said the quiet part out loud in the Dobbs decision — when he then wrote, as a concurrence, that all of these other issues may be up for debate.
There is so much at stake in our country right now. You know, I’ve been traveling the world. I’ve met with and had conversations with — my team tells me — at least 100 conversations with presidents, prime ministers, and kings about who we are as a nation. And when we have these conversations — historically, we, as America, have been able to walk in these rooms, chin up, shoulders back as a representative of what we have rightly considered ourselves to be, which is the greatest democracy in the world. And within that authority, we engage and encourage conversations about the importance of human rights, civil rights, rule of law.
Understand, when these issues are being attacked in our own country, it not only affects individual rights, it affects our standing in the world.
I’ll tell you, the first bilateral meeting that I hosted at, now, my residence — at the official residence of the Vice President — was early in our administration when I invited then-Chancellor Angela Merkel to have breakfast with me. We had a wonderful conversation, extensive conversation. We talked about Russia. We talked about China. We talked about a number of things.
And then she looked at me from across the table, and she said, “What is going on with voting in your country? It seems there are attacks on voting.” Because you see, when you hold yourself out as a role model — we all know this in our personal lives — it means people watch what you do, often to assess whether it connects with what you say.
So here we are in a situation where those things that we thought were settled are increasingly unsettled. And this has profound ramifications for the stability of our own nation, much less our standing in the world.
So, I’ll now bring it back to what we’re doing this evening. Elections matter. Elections matter. Who is President matters.
When we have a President of the United States, for example, who said, “I’m going to work in a way that is fueled by a sense of bipartisanship when it is possible,” and then is responsible for one of the most significant infrastructure laws being passed in our nation. Elections matter. Because he cared — we care about doing the heavy lifting of paying attention to the detail of what makes a nation function.
Elections matter when we have a President of the United States who says, “Well, in 2013, the Court put a real harm in the Voting Rights Act with a case called Shelby v. Holder, but yes, we need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And, “Okay, if we don’t have enough Republicans supporting it” — of which none did — “the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” then our President says, “I will not let the filibuster stand in the way to see that through.” Elections matter. He said the same thing about the Women’s Health Act.
Elections matter in terms of who is in Congress. We need two more senators. We need two more senators to see these things through. Elections matter.
I’ve been traveling the country convening state legislators on this issue of the Dobbs decision, which obviously overturned Roe v. Wade. Because now, since the Supreme Court said, “Oh, we’re going to send it to the states. The states now get to make decisions,” state legislators matter.
I’ve been traveling to states where the legislature are majority Republican, but there’s a Democrat as governor. My friend Roy Cooper, the Governor of North Carolina, is an example of this. Where he has the courage to say, “No, I’m going to veto,” but he’s concerned about whether he’ll have a veto-proof majority.
Elections matter. When I go to a place like Pennsylvania and there’s a governor’s race happening right now. Josh Shapiro, I think, is an outstanding candidate and a friend, and he will stand.
Elections matter. You go to New Jersey. Well, they’ve got Democrats in the legislature and a governor, but New Jersey is thinking of itself, rightly, as an oasis in that geographic region because of the challenges and the attacks in neighboring states. Elections matter.
Many of you know I started my elected career as the elected District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. Well, across our country, there are states that are criminalizing public health professionals’ positions — doctors. Who is the county prosecutor will matter in terms of who’s going to take up those cases.
So, we are here today, as Democrats, joined by, I know, a common belief in the strength and beauty of our country, joined by an understanding that we can take nothing in our country for granted. We must always be vigilant and stand in defense of the best of who we are. And we are joined with a sense of optimism, knowing we are fighting for something and not against something.
And so that’s how I think of this moment, in terms of just where we are and what is at stake.
But I will tell you, traveling our country, I am meeting some extraordinary people that I’ve never met. You know, it’s good to get out of D.C. (Laughs.) Extraordinary people who you all are supporting with the work you were doing this evening, not to mention the folks who are fighting the good fight in D.C.
So, let’s continue to do this work. It matters. We see the results. And we can take nothing for granted, we know. But we’re up for it. We’re up for doing the hard work of defending all that we hold dear.
So, with that, I thank everyone very much. Thank you. (Applause.)