New Orleans, Louisiana
6:24 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Congressman Richmond — see, that’s a bold move for Cedric to leave a microphone to somebody else after he speaks. (Laughter.) But I’m going to talk about you in front of your face. (Laughter.)
You know, I know that New Orleans knows what you have, as such an extraordinary leader in Cedric Richmond. But I’ll tell you, I was honored, for the time that I was in the United States Senate and an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus, to be there under Cedric’s reign in Congress.
I will tell you that in small rooms and in big rooms, no matter the seniority, members of the United States Congress would often huddle around Cedric Richmond to get his feedback, to get his perspective, and to get his strategic perspective on how we needed to address some of the most challenging issues that we were facing.
Then he, of course, was the co-chair of the campaign that elected Joe Biden president and me vice president. Then he was the Director of Public Engagement in the White House, helping us stand up and administration during the height of an historic pandemic and economic challenges facing our country.
And all the while, with a steady hand and a clear mind, Cedric has served our nation, served our vice president, and been an extraordinary friend through all of that. So, can we please applaud Cedric Richmond? (Applause.)
I want to thank Bill. Where’s Bill? There you are. I want to thank Bill and Janice, for I — it’s so good to be back here. I feel like you did something to the room. (Laughter.) I was here in spring of 2019, when you all hosted me with so many of the friends who are here. And it is so good to be back with you all.
And you just — as a couple; as individuals; as community, civic, and business leaders — always give of yourselves in such an extraordinary way.
And I know I speak for so many of us — Helena, who — we have spent a lot of time here together breaking bread, that — that the work that you both do as a couple and as leaders in this community has benefited the whole nation.
So, thank you. Can we please applaud our hosts? (Applause.)
Governor — the governor took the time to tell me backstage about how much he appreciates President Biden and me, because every time we come to Louisiana, we just bring all kinds of dough. (Laughter and applause.)
And — and the Governor and I were having a good laugh because, as he knows, I have extended family that lives in Palmetto and — and near Sunset. And we were talking about the work that we did and all of us did — and, Congressman, I’ll speak about your leadership in a moment as well — but to bring resources to Sunset, as an example, which means that we’re going to be digging fiber-optic cable — what’d you say? — six feet underground?
GOVERNOR EDWARDS: Yes, and 60 miles of it.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And 60 miles of it, which means that within three months, the families there, for the first time, will have access to high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
You’ve been a great partner, Governor. And on behalf of the President and myself, we thank you.
Troy Carter, I — you know, again, when we look at the role and the responsibilities, especially of our leaders in Congress, when we are in the minority, it’s extremely important that we have smart, committed people who always —
One of the things I love about you, Troy: You always have a sense of optimism. You really do. He always has the capacity to see the brightness in a moment of challenge. But also, you have the fight and the ability to also know what must be done.
I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate your leadership and, in particular, the support that you have given the President and our administration. I thank you, and I thank everybody for sending him to Congress to do that work. (Applause.)
And I think the mayor is here. I heard she might be here, but I want to thank her and — and then the congresswoman, Nikema Williams. Where are you? And — okay. And Shontel Brown. They were here, and I want to thank them as well. (Applause.) Oh, okay. Shon- — there she is in the back.
And Helena, I talked about, who has been a dear friend to me every time I’ve come to New Orleans. Always there and always supportive. And we’ve had so many conversations about how you have given perspective on how we should be thinking this region of the world, as a — as a gauge of how the country is doing as a whole. And I thank you for that.
And then, last, Jaime Harrison. Thank you. Because we are now — this is, by the way — everyone is here together for the last fundraiser of the first quarter after we announced our reelection to get back to the White House. So, this is the last fundraiser of the first quarter, nationally. (Laughter.)
And, Jaime, I want to thank you because you are hustling. I see you all over the country. And you brought your beautiful children and your wife here today to celebrate this last day of a very good and very strong first quarter where we’ve been traveling all around the country. I think, in June alone, we’ve done over 20 events and — and to create success.
So, can we please applaud our chairman, Jaime Harrison? (Applause.)
So, let me just first say, I — Troy, we — you and I — you were so kind to greet me on the tarmac when we landed in Air Force Two this afternoon. And the first thing you and I talked about was the Supreme Court’s decision.
And I, like so many, I’m sure, are — I’m deeply concerned about the implications of this decision to the future of our country, to the future of leadership of our country. This decision is going to have generational impact. I think everybody here knows the Supreme Court today, in a decision, basically got rid of affirmative action.
And so, I just wanted to start by saying that I think that when we look at what has been happening in the last few years in our country, there are many efforts to turn us backward — full-on attacks on hard-fought, hard-won gains that are about freedom, that are about equality, that are about justice.
And today is yet another day where we have been confronted with the reality that we can take nothing for granted and that we have to be vigilant and active, as everyone here is, in making sure that we fight for the ideals of our country and what we know to be good and right about how we approach the present and the future.
So, with that, let me just say thank you to everybody.
So — and I’m just going to use this microphone. I feel like we’re so far apart right now. (Laughter.) Is this microphone on? Can I get a mic? There it is.
So, let me just start by thanking everybody. There’s so many friends here. And — and I’ve seen you in this room before. And you are committed to our country.
You know, when I think about these fights, I’m really clear that we do it because we love our country. We love our country. We believe in our country. We believe in the foundational principles upon which we grew, upon which we are honored to know what we are and who we are — not only in terms of who we are to each other, but who we are around the world.
And in 2020, I want to thank everybody here because you showed up and did the hard work that led to the election of Joe Biden and me as vice president. You all, in the midst of a pandemic of historic proportion —
Let’s not forget when that election took place: six feet apart, masks. Our kids weren’t going to school. Businesses had closed. People lost loved ones. So much loss.
And yet, you all worked so hard to encourage people to know that if they could, in the midst of all that hardship, take the time to vote, that it would make a difference.
And because of your work in 2020 — your belief, your optimism in what was possible — even in the face of historic challenges, we turned out larger numbers than in previous elections, in particular younger voters — an historic number of young voters turned out.
Your work led to that, and your work will continue leading to those kinds of outcomes.
In 2020, your work was about saying — to our seniors, for example — “Hey, it is not right for those who have diabetes that they’re spending hundreds of dollars a month to pay for insulin, which a doctor prescribed because it will save their life. But our seniors who are going to then have to make a choice — so many of them — about whether they put food in the fridge or buy a doctor’s prescription for insulin.”
Because of your work — and we heard the voices — we have now capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month. (Applause.)
We are now allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for our seniors so that the cap of an annual cost of prescription medication will be $2,000. This is going to be lifechanging for so many people who have burdened with what we call medical debt.
Because of your work, Governor, you’re able to now build and spend that money we’re sending you to build back up the roads, the bridges of our nation — is what’s happening with our partners in state and local government.
Think about what that means. Remember the last guy talked about “Infrastructure Week”? We kept on waiting, like, “Okay, maybe next week will be Infrastructure Week.” It never happened.
But because of your work, we got in office, and we said, “You know what? This has to be more than a slogan. Let’s put the hard work into it.” And we got a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed, which is putting billions of dollars into upgrading and reinforcing America’s infrastructure that was about 150 years old.
That’s about the creation of jobs — good-paying jobs in construction. That’s about jobs in manufacturing to manufacture the products that go into upgrading the infrastructure. That’s about bringing down the cost of living for working people. Because here’s the deal: So many people in our country can’t even afford to live where they work. They’re commuting.
They’re driving over those potholes and those broken-down bridges. You know what that means? A flat tire. Well, guess what? Car insurance doesn’t cover that.
When most working people in our country are a $400 unexpected expense away from bankruptcy, understand what this means.
Because of your work, we brought down child poverty in America for the first year by half by the extension of the Child Tax Credit. What could be more important than addressing the issue of child poverty in America?
Because of your work, we dealt with lead in pipes. Communities — the grandparents have been for years talking about the fact — “Why should our children have to drink toxic water from lead pipes that is having a direct impact on their health — their physical health, not to mention their ability to learn?”
And now we are addressing it with a policy perspective that says, you know what, this is a public health matter and a public education matter, which means this is the role and responsibility of government, not these homeowners or the people who live in these places to have to try and foot the bill for.
It’s about us saying this is in the public good. And we are on track to eliminate lead pipes across our country within the next eight and a half years because of what you did.
And there is so much more. You know, the President recently gave a press conference and talked about it. Some — some Wall Street Journal folks, I think, have started to call it “Bidenomics.” (Laughter.) Well, there you go. That’s what Bidenomics looks like.
It means bringing down the cost of living for working families, investing in America, investing in our infrastructure, investing in our future.
It means addressing what we need to do. Remember during the height of the pandemic, all of a sudden people had in their everyday language this thing called “supply chains,” because we realized how much we were depending on foreign countries to give us basic products that we require every day to function, to live, and to be productive.
Well, because of the work you all did in 2020, we said we’re bringing manufacturing back to America, we’re going to invest in American jobs and the American workforce, and we’re going to build industries around things like semiconductor manufacturing. We’re going to invest in things like electric vehicles, electric school buses, which is what we’re doing, because we know 25 million children a day in America go to school on those diesel-fueled school buses, which is having a drink impact on their health.
We are looking at the future of America and investing in her future, all because of what you all have done. And this brings us to today, to also consider and be clear-eyed that we have a lot to be grateful for and to congratulate ourselves for, but we got a lot to do still. Because right now in our country, there are forces that have waged a full-on attack against fundamental foundational rights and freedoms.
I talked about what the Court just did. It was almost a year ago this week that the Court decided the Dobbs decision. Think about that. The United States Supreme Court — the highest court in our land, the Court of Thurgood and RBG — took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the women of America. Imagine.
America has always been about understanding that the way we strengthen our nation is to expand rights, and all of a sudden, there is this movement to restrict rights.
And on this subject, the vast majority of Americans agree we shouldn’t be taking rights from people, especially the right to make decisions about their own body and their own future.
And on this subject, it is important to note, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body. (Applause.) That’s between her and her priest or pastor or rabbi or whomever she chooses. The government should not be telling her what to do.
Look at what we are fighting in this year of our Lord 2023: book bans. Book bans. Some people are suggesting we shouldn’t say Rosa Parks was Black. You read about that.
Look at what’s happening in our country. Voting rights under full attack: Shelby v. Holder in 2013. But then, the more recent impetus was 2020, because people turned out in record numbers and that scared some folks.
And so we see laws being passed in our country that would do things like deny people the ability to offer food and water if people have been standing in line to vote.
Horrendous and hypocritical. What happened to “love thy neighbor”?
These are the things we are seeing happen in our country right now. And I — I do believe very strongly there is another thing that is occurring that we should really be clear about seeing, which is this suggestion from some of these extremists that it is a sign of strength to beat people down, when we know the true measure of strength is based on who you lift up.
I think it is important to recognize how they are trying to suggest that it is a sign of weakness to have some level of concern or compassion or care about those who have suffered or are in need of help, to suggest that somehow that is a sign of weakness, when we know the true sign of a true leader is one who has the ability to — to have empathy, to literally have some concern and care and desire to take care of those who are suffering.
So let’s see what’s happening in our country right now, because there is an undercurrent of this that really does evoke, I think, questions about morality. Where do you stand on basic notions about what is just right and wrong when you live in a civil society among others, when you live in the United States of America?
We’re in a moment where we are fighting for foundational concepts such as freedom on so many levels, just the freedom to be.
All of this is at stake right now in our country. But we’re up for this.
You — many in here have heard me — often, I paraphrase, and I’m going to keep doing it, Coretta Scott King. And Coretta Scott King famously said: The fight for civil rights — which is the fight for freedom, for equality, for justice — the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.
And when she said that, I think she had a couple of points in mind, the first being: It is the very nature of this fight that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent. It’s just the nature of it.
So the second point, then, is: Got it. It’s the nature of it. So do not despair. Do not be overwhelmed. Do not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves.
We love our country. We love our country. (Applause.)
And my final point on this is: This is about who we are as Americans, both in the context of how we treat and think of our fellow American, and this is also about who we are as Americans, in terms of our standing in the world. And here’s what I mean by that.
As your vice president, I have now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings. And I’ll tell you, when we walk in these rooms representing the United States of America, we walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back, with the self-appointed and, I believe, earned authority to then, in those rooms, talk about the importance of rule of law, human rights, democracy.
But here’s the thing about being a role model, which everyone here knows: When you’re a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. And one of my greatest fears is that some autocrat and dictator, presented maybe with women who are fighting for rights, will look at them and say, “You want to hold out the United States as an example of this and that? You be quiet. You want to talk about democracy? You other people, who — who don’t like the fact that there is corruption in elections, well, look at what is happening there.”
Understand: What is happening in our country is about us and has implications worldwide. But the thing about democracy is that the nature of it is there’s almost a dual nature.
On the one hand, when democracies are intact, they’re incredibly strong. When democracies are intact, they are strong in the strength they invest in their people, the protection of individual rights, rule of law, freedoms. Incredibly strong.
On the other hand, democracy, very fragile. It will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it. And when I look around this room, I know we’re good for the fight. We’re ready for the fight. We will fight for our country. (Applause.) We love our country, we believe in our country, and we recognize and understand what is at stake.
And by the fact that everyone is here this afternoon and all you have done, it speaks volumes about what we are each prepared to do and what we are doing collectively and together. And I thank you all so very much.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 6:49 P.M. CDT