Remarks by Vice President Harris at MI First Vote Event
Southfield High School for the Arts and Technology
3:16 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon! (Applause.) Good afternoon, everyone! Good afternoon. (Applause.) Hello. Oh, good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. It is — how’s the band doing? (Applause and laughter.) Good afternoon.
Let me — Joshua, it — look — I — I was backstage talking with Joshua. And I have to tell you, when I look at our young leaders like Joshua, I know our future is so bright. It’s so bright.
And so, Joshua, thank you for that introduction and you being such a role model around who we are and who we can be as a nation.
So it is good to be back in Michigan. It is good to be back in Detroit. (Applause.) And I just want to — we are in the district — the congressional district of an extraordinary American leader who is also a dear friend to me and has been someone that I have looked to for advice and for thoughts about how we can do better and be better in representing the needs of all Americans. And her name is Brenda Lawrence. (Applause.)
Where — there she is, over there. And I have to tell you, just personally, I was — I was really sad when she decided not to run for reelection. But I — I cannot thank you enough, Congresswoman Lawrence, Brenda, for all you have done in friendship and in service of our nation.
She truly is such a fighter for this district, and I know you’re not going to stop fighting for the folks who need to hear your voice for inspiration. (Applause.) So, thank you.
And we have another fierce advocate for Michiganders here — Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Thank you. (Applause.) There she is. Thank you for your leadership.
And, of course, the lieutenant governor of this great state, Garlin Gilchrist, where — (applause) — who is truly — I’ve seen him in all kinds of situations where he is always fighting for the people of this state, and a tireless fighter that — with an incredible partner in Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Applause.)
So, send them back to the statehouse, because we’re counting on their partnership.
But most of all, today, I am here to meet with you, the young leaders of Southfield — all of you who are here — because I’ve been hearing about you, and I know about the work that you all are doing and your role of leadership and how you are inspiring so many of us.
And so, when I think about you, I think about — so much about what our future will be and what it will require of each of us.
You know, I just left — I was at
project HOPE [Focus: HOPE] and talking with a bunch of folks there about an incredible training program that is happening to build up the skills of — of folks in the community, run — and the training by UAW and IBEW. And — and it’s extraordinary what is happening and what can happen when we invest in our God-given capacity, which means investing in the young leaders in our communities.
And so, to the young leaders here, I will say: I know you guys have been through a lot these last two years — a global pandemic which interrupted your education and many unfortunate and sad situations took loved ones from you and the community in which you live. It impacted your ability to form bonds and relationships when you so desperately and rightly wanted to know and believe you were not alone.
And in this whole period of time, so many of you were preparing to go to college or to start your career. It’s a lot. It’s a lot.
But here’s what I have learned in my life: People who have had to go through the most, who have struggled the hardest, are usually some of the most generous people you’ve ever met — the most generous people you’ve ever met — empathetic — and believe and know that the measure of their strength is based on who they lift up. And that is true of you, the young leaders who are here.
I know about what you’ve been doing. During the pandemic, you sewed masks and delivered groceries to your neighbors. You took to the streets to march and to rally and to bring attention to the issues of our time. You are leaders in the classroom, on athletic fields, in places of worship, and in so many other places in the community.
And now, for the first time, many of you can access the single most powerful tool you can have to lead and care for your community, and that is you can register to vote. (Applause.)
So I just met a young leader here today — Dayton Paige. Dayton, where are you? There you are. And Dayton is a senior at University High School Academy. And he is the captain of the tennis team. And he is a volunteer nursing aide at Beaumont Hospital. (Applause.) And now, a registered voter. (Applause.) Because as he put it, in his words, he said, basically, in this moment, quote, “People need to listen to our voice and our opinions.” And you are right. He is right.
And, you know, that is what happened in 2020, when young voters registered in record numbers. Here in Michigan, we saw a double-digit increase in youth turnout. (Applause.) Young voters made their voices heard, and it made a difference.
And so, I’m here to thank you and to recognize that, and to share with you that we need you to do the same thing again. I’ll tell you why.
As your Vice President, I have met with so many young leaders around our nation. So many of you faced challenges during the pandemic. And, in particular, one of the issues you are rightly demanding we address are the challenges related to mental health. (Applause.)
Because what you are telling us is, look, this is something we need to address, understanding that one of the failures of our healthcare system that we need to fix is: In the healthcare system, we seem to have decided that the body just starts from the neck down, but what about healthcare from the neck up? (Applause.)
You have said to us: There should not be disparities based on the wealth or the tax base of a community that determines which schools have a counselor and which students have access to mental healthcare. You have said that to us. (Applause.) And that every school and every student should have access to the care they need, which is why we heard you and we invested $300 million to help schools hire more psychologists and counselors and other mental health professionals — (applause) — to ensure that you get the support that you deserve and need.
After you graduate, you and your peers should be able to go to college without going broke. (Applause.) So our administration has increased Pell Grants by $400 per student per year, which is the largest increase in more than a decade. And we are still on the path to do better. It is our full intention to double Pell Grants by the end of this decade. (Applause.)
We also need to support the institutions and the educational institutions that train you to lead by investing in you and those schools.
I know that some of you will attend an HBCU next fall. (Applause.) As a proud graduate of Howard University, I am proud to tell you: We have invested an historic $5.8 billion — that’s with a “B” — in our HBCUs — (applause) — to ensure they will remain centers of academic excellence.
You, the young leaders of America, are also counting on us — and not only counting on us, demanding of us — rightly — that our country treat the climate crisis as the crisis it is. (Applause.)
So we made the largest investment in protecting our planet in history.
And because we know that, for generations, low-income communities, communities of color have borne the brunt of toxic air and water pollution, our approach is grounded in environmental justice and equity in places like Flint, Michigan — (applause) — as we intend to remove every lead pipe in our nation. (Applause.)
Because your leadership on this issue is what is going to accelerate us to meet the moment. It is your voices, as young leaders, that have been part of the conscience for this planet on what we need to do with a sense of urgency. It is you who are reminding the folks who can vote, the folks who are in charge that it is you who will pay the consequence if we don’t act.
And I encourage you to keep — keep it up and make those demands. And don’t hear, “No, it can’t be done,” because we can address this issue and be smart, but we must be swift. (Applause.)
And we are also dealing with the fact that when we deal with extreme cri- — crises, in terms of the climate crisis, when we are dealing with this issue, it should not just be the government coming in and telling communities what they need.
We must lead with an understanding that the communities must be the ones telling us what they need. And I will tell you, for the young leaders who are here, I’m counting on you to be part of that leadership around what your specific community will require in terms of mitigation, adaptation, what we need to do to invest in clean economies, what we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — because it has to be the community that leads it, not government leaders. (Applause.)
So we have made real progress. We have made real progress as a nation, but there is so much more work to be done. And I have seen that as I have traveled across our nation and across the world as your Vice President.
Basic rights and freedoms hang in the balance right now. And one of those is the right of every student and every citizen in our country to live free from the fear and terror of gun violence. (Applause.)
And while this violence touches all communities, it does not do so equally. We have to speak truth about that. Black Americans are 13 percent of our nation’s population and 62 percent of homicide victims of gun violence. On average, 11 Latino people in our nation die from gun violence every day.
You and students across our nation know the trauma and the toll that gun violence takes for you all to have to worry about any of that while you’re sitting in a classroom or just walking home from school.
But here’s the thing: You, again, as young leaders, have been leading this issue, demanding that we act. And I have met young leaders across our country who, on this topic, are organizing and activating, who have demanded bold action to save lives. And that is why we’ve done the work of expanding background checks for gun purchases for people under 21 years old. (Applause.)
But we need to do more. We need to do more, including renewing the assault weapons ban. (Applause.) They are weapons of war and have no place on the streets of a civilized society. (Applause.)
And there is more urgent work we must do.
So you all, as young leaders, have just witnessed the first time the highest court in our land just took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America.
But you all are clear: Women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies — (applause) — and not have their government tell them what they’re supposed to do. (Applause.)
You all are reminding us of the principles upon which our country was founded, including the importance of freedom and liberty. Because here’s the thing on that issue: One does not have to abandon their faith or their deeply held beliefs to agree that the government should not be telling her what to do with her body. (Applause.)
And I’ve talked with so many of our young leaders who have now been saying to me that they’re now even contemplating what state they may go to for college based on what’s happening around our country, and I know you don’t appreciate having to factor this into that very important decision.
So we will continue to fight to pass a federal law to protect reproductive care and guarantee the protections of Roe v. Wade. (Applause.)
So I’ll conclude with this point: The most successful movements in our nation, if you track them — those movements that have been about progress, that have been about expanding rights — not restricting them, but expanding rights — those movements that have been about believing in the ideals upon which we were founded, but fighting for us to realize those ideals — look at what those movements have been and who has been a part of it, and you will see they have been led by students.
Students have always been an integral part of the leadership of each one of those movements. Because you, as students, you know how to build coalitions. You don’t accept false choices. You understand that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us. You know how to bring folks together on that basis to help us see what we have in common.
And so, as we move forward, we understand that our nation’s history of progress includes the young leaders — let’s remember this — who sat at lunch counters and who marched for voting rights, including here at the Walk to Freedom.
Let’s remember young leaders who joined the labor movement to fight for fair wages and hours, including at the Battle of the Overpass in Dearborn. (Applause.)
Let’s remember our history to motivate the leadership that our country needs and relies on, which is all of you.
Today, it is you who are organizing and advocating to address the climate crisis, to end gun violence, to protect reproductive rights.
And I am here to say: Our nation needs you. We need you. We need your voices of clarity, of purpose. If anybody is invested in the future of our nation, it is you. If anyone is entitled to speak to what that future should look like, it is you. (Applause.) And so we are counting on you to use your voices, to know that your voice is critical to everything we will ever be.
And so, on this day, in this season, I will ask that you use that voice in all the ways you know how, including: Please do register to vote. (Applause.) Please do register to vote.
I came with a website address. (Laughter.) Vote.gov.
Please do register to vote, and then text your friends and make sure they do, too. Do what you do on Instagram and all that other stuff. (Applause.) Do what you do. And carry your voices, carry your commitment, carry your ambitions and your aspirations through your voice in every one of these ways.
And finally, just keep your head up and your shoulders back, knowing that we are counting on you, that we applaud you. And I will tell you, based on personal experiences, that it is important for you to always remember anything is possible. And therefore, don’t you ever hear, “No, it can’t be done.” (Applause.) Don’t you ever hear that.
I was saying earlier, “You know, I eat ‘no’ for breakfast.” (Laughter.) I don’t hear “no,” except maybe if you all hear from your parents. (Laughter.) But don’t ever hear it can’t be done.
You be motivated by your ambition, your aspirations, and continue to be invested in our nation, because it is you that will allow us to achieve our potential. (Applause.)
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
END 3:40 P.M. EDT