10:18 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone. Good morning.
Brandon, I want to say to you publicly what I said to you privately: Your courage, born out of such a violent tragedy, has been consistent and enduring. Long after the cameras left the scene of that horrific crime, you have used your voice to represent the voices of so many. Consistently you have been doing this work. You inspire so many of us, and I thank you for your leadership. You are a national leader. Thank you. (Applause.)
So, friends and family members of those we lost, civic and community leaders, and members of the clergy: Your collective resilience, your compassion, and your commitment to action inspires me, inspires our administration, and inspires our entire nation. So it is a deep honor to be with you today.
On this day 59 years ago, four white supremacists planted dynamite in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
The blast took the lives of four beautiful little girls and injured over a dozen more people, including Sarah Collins Rudolph, who is here with us today. (Applause.)
The bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church was a horrific act of violence meant to instill fear and terror in the people of Birmingham and in the people of our nation; meant to warn them against continuing in the fight for civil rights.
Instead, however, people across America of all races, all ages, all backgrounds joined in response and refused to yield in the face of this injustice. They refused to yield to violence and to hate, as we do now.
Less than a year later, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — signed it into law.
Today, America is again looking at and confronting the epidemic of hate-fueled violence — in Oak Creek, Orlando, Victoria, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, and in so many other communities.
We have seen our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones attacked simply because of who they are or where they pray.
In 2020, hate crimes in the United States surged to the highest rate in over a decade.
As you have heard — as a former prosecutor, as former United States Senator, and now as Vice President of the United States — I know the horror and the pain that these attacks cause.
Earlier this year, I visited Buffalo to attend the memorial service of Mrs. Ruth Whitfield. And yesterday, I returned there to meet again with the families — those families who lost loved ones in that tragedy.
During both of my visits to Buffalo, I saw heartbreak and pain, and I also saw incredible determination — the determination to find hope in the midst of despair; the determination to meet darkness with light, to meet division with unity.
It is a spirit that is shared by so many in this room, and it is the spirit our nation must summon today.
Today, we must rededicate to joining together to help our communities prevent, respond, and recover from acts of hateful violence. And our administration is committed to lead in this effort by investing resources in violence prevention programs to stop these horrific acts and by strengthening how we support communities after the unimaginable has happened.
Earlier this year, after speaking with families in Buffalo, I began working with leaders in our administration to identify ways the federal government can better provide coordinated and on-the-ground support in the wake of these tragedies.
Later today, our President will announce our work to develop and strengthen our coordinated federal response to support communities that have been touched, that have been hurt by this violence.
As we will discuss during the day, this federal support must be just one piece of a whole-of-society effort to address hate-fueled violence.
I strongly believe no one should ever be made to fight alone — not on this.
We must stand together — students, parents, educators, faith leaders, business leaders, and law enforcement officials. And we must clearly say that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us.
We are at an inflection point in our history and, indeed, in our democracy.
Years from now, our children and our grandchildren, they’re going to us ask, “What did you do at that moment?” “What did you do to help protect our communities, to fight hate-fueled violence, and to build a better nation?”
Well, I have confidence in what we’re going to be able to say. We will tell them we were all here together today. And we will tell that, in this moment, we stood united. We stood firm in our belief that we all have so much more in common than what separates us. We stood firm in our belief that out of many, we are one.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 10:26 A.M. EDT