THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, it is so good to be back. Let me just say, it’s always warm, because Desirée always packs the apartment — (laughter) — every time I have been here.
Desirée is a dear, dear friend of mine and, I know, so many here. And I just want to thank you in front of everyone, because, truly, I actually cannot count the number of times I have stood either here or it was over at that window or it was in that room — (laughter) — in various parts of your apartment where you have brought in your friends and colleagues to support the work that I have done over the years.
And so I want to thank you in front of everyone, Desirée, because it’s so wonderful — I think we all know that in our personal lives and careers — when people are on the journey with you through all of the cycles. And — and you have been that friend. Can we hear it for Desirée? (Applause.) Thank you.
And I want to thank John. Where are you? (Laughter.) John, who is always and has equally been supportive over all these years, and including hosting me at the office. I want to thank John.
I want to thank Les Coney. And then he is also here with his son and daughter and their friend. And I want to thank him.
Elzie Higginbottom, where are you? Thank you for — thank you. Elzie came over to my house for dinner recently. We had a wonderful discussion with a number of business leaders. And I really do appreciate your friendship.
Trish Rooney, where are you? (Applause.) Okay, we’ll applaud Trish. And Jane Saks. Thank you again — (applause) — and for your longstanding support. There you are. Okay.
I also want to recognize — I think he has been recognized — but Jaime Harrison, the chair of the DNC. There you are, Jaime. (Applause.) I saw him in the back room. And I just — I wanted to thank him, also, for the incredible first quarter, that the President and I were able to announce, of fundraising. That takes a lot of work behind the scenes. That’s a lot of traveling around the country. And, Jaime, I think that you deserve an extraordinary amount of credit for what you do behind the scenes every day to lift up the Democratic Party and all we stand for. (Applause.) Thank you for that.
And then, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, I want to thank you. (Applause.) And he has not only his son, but his parents are — who are here. Auntie, Uncle, it’s good to see you as well. (Applause.) (Laughs.)
So, with that, I really am here for a couple of reasons, but first and foremost, to thank everyone.
You know, when we think about where we are right now — and we are looking, of course, at the ‘24 election, in terms of what’s ahead of us — I think it’s very important to also reflect on what we have accomplished to get us to this point. And so I want to start by thanking everyone here for what you did in 2020.
You know, I just left giving a speech at — Unidos is having its annual conference. And there were, I don’t know, almost 2,000 people there where we talked about building the coalition and what we do to support each other. And when I think about what the people in this room did in 2020, it was extraordinary, and it bears reflection for a moment.
During the height of a pandemic, when people were upended in terms of the personal loss they suffered, the loss of life, loss of normalcy, loss of jobs; when people were overwhelmed by what it required in terms of just figuring out how to educate their own children at home — with all of that happening, you all kept pushing and doing the work of encouraging your neighbors and your colleagues and your friends and family to stay involved and be involved to understand what was at stake and that they could actually do something about it and it would matter.
And it is because of your belief in our country and your optimism and, dare I say, your grit that we were then able to accomplish what we did in 2020, which was record turnout in terms of voters, and in particular, young voters.
And because of that work, we can stand here today, two and a half years later, and talk about transformational accomplishment. We can talk about, for example, an infrastructure bill. You know, that previous guy talked about “Infrastructure Week,” “Infrastructure Week.” (Laughter.) Kept marking it on my calendar; it never came.
And what we have done to transform our country and upgrade our infrastructure — infrastructure that, in many cases, is over 150 years old. And I want to stress what that means. It’s not only about the jobs that it created — extraordinary jobs for our building trades brothers and sisters — for what we need to do in terms of the small businesses. Seventy percent of small manufacturers have 20 or fewer employees. Right? So, small businesses who we are bringing manufacturing back to the United States to help build up our infrastructure.
All of that — and then let’s not forget what that means to the individual. Understand that across our country, how many people cannot afford to live where they work and have to commute to work, sometimes hours at a time, driving over bridges and roads that are falling apart — what that might mean in terms of a flat tire, what that means in terms of coming out of pocket because your car insurance doesn’t cover it. And the average American is a $400 unexpected expense away from bankruptcy.
Understand from the macro to the, arguably, micro how this work has been transformational. Think about it in the — on the context of the climate crisis.
You know, Doug and I have two 20-somethings. And when we talk about our young leaders — I have been convening college students and college-age young people around the country. They are scared to death about the climate crisis. They have shared with me a term I hadn’t heard before. I said, “Tell me how you all are talking with each other about it.” They use the term “climate anxiety,” their fear to even think about having a family or buying a home because they don’t know what the world will be like in the next 10, 15, 20 years.
Because of your work, our administration, by my calculation, is dropping over $1 trillion over the course of the next 10 years in building a clean energy economy, which is about — it’s about resilience, it’s about adaptation, it’s about jobs, and it is about investment in a new economy where America and the United States will be a leader in the context of the globe.
Think about the work that we have done as it relates to continuing our focus on healthcare. Well, many of the people here are the reason and were part of the reason that there was a President Barack Obama. (Applause.) You are — and your work there then led to what people thought could never be achieved, which is reform of America’s healthcare system through the Affordable Care Act.
Well, Joe Biden and I came in and said, “We’re going to pick up the baton where that left off and continue on that path of reforming America’s healthcare system.” So, we addressed issues like medical debt and how many of our seniors in particular have to make a decision about whether they will put food on the table or fill the prescription a doctor has said will save their life.
The issue of diabetes. Who here knows or has a family member who has diabetes? Everybody, right? A Latino is 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Black folks, 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Yet, our seniors have been on the verge of bankruptcy just trying to figure out how to afford their insulin.
Because of your work in 2020, we have now capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for our seniors. (Applause.) This is transformational.
We have now said, finally — we’ve been fighting it — for it for years — and finally, because of Joe Biden, me, and our administration, we are now allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and we will cap the cost of prescription medication for our seniors at $2,000 a year.
Transformational — transformational what we have done.
Highlighted during the pandemic about saying everyone should have access to high-speed Internet and it should be affordable. We are in the process of laying the wire, doing the work. Like there was a plan years ago around electrification of America, that is our plan for high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
We are doing the work of responding, because of the work you did in 2022, to grandmothers and grandfathers that forever have been saying, “There is lead in those pipes. It is toxic and it is hurting not only the health of our children, but their learning ability.” Because of your work in 2020, we are now on the path in the next eight years to get rid of all of the lead pipes in America. (Applause.)
And then just today, on the economy, well, you’ve been hu- — hearing us talk about Bidenomics. You’ve been hearing, you know, the Wall Street Journal, “Well, there’s talk about Bidenomics.” Well, Bidenomics is working. And what you are now hearing today even: “Morgan Stanley credits” — I’m quoting — “the Biden-Harris economic policies with an unexpected surge in the economy.” How about that? (Applause.)
Because of the work you did in 2020, we came in during the height of a pandemic and nonetheless have created over 13 million jobs while we have been in office. We have created 800,000 new manufacturing jobs. We have created more small businesses in any two-year period in the history of our country
because of the work you did.
And so, we are back at it again. (Applause.) Because our job is not done, and we have more to do. And you all get that, and you know it. You know how you are making a difference. And we know we have more work to do.
We have more work to do when we know and witnessed last year the highest court in our land — the land of the court of Thurgood and RBG — take a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America.
And, by the way, on that subject, I think we’re all clear: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to understand the government should not be telling her what to do with her body. (Applause.)
The Court took that constitutional right. Congress has the ability to put it back in place. And Joe Biden has been clear: When that piece of legislation is proposed and passed, putting back in the law the protections of Roe v. Wade, Joe Biden will sign it.
What do we need to do? We need to win. And we need to win the House and the Senate. And then we can restore those protections, which, right now, as a result of what has been taken away, is causing countless people to suffer across our country.
The work that we have to do is about continuing to say that we are going to stand up against these extremist so-called leaders, who would do the kind of thing that I had to travel to Florida on Friday to deal with —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — where they present — they present policy in a way that is about denying America’s full history, and understanding — I see Arne Duncan here — understanding what we must do to teach the children of America the truth and fact.
We are looking at extremism, where they are attacking voting. One of the byproducts of your hard work in 2020 is that we had higher turnout than anybody had seen a long time. Well, that scared some people.
And almost immediately thereafter, they started passing laws: banning drop boxes, trying to restrict early voting, passing laws that make it a crime to give people food and water while they are standing in line to exercise their civic responsibility to vote. These are just some examples of what we are up against.
And the work we have yet to do is to have a Congress and a Senate in place so we can pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and Joe Biden will sign it. (Applause.)
The mayor is here. Mayor Johnson, I want to thank you for your leadership and your friendship. He came to visit with me in Washington, D.C., in my West Wing office. We had an extensive conversation. And he has the full support of our administration around what he is trying to do here, around building up the city and understanding the connections between — between issues like economic health and wellbeing and reducing violent crime.
The work that we have to do that also is about saying that we’ve got to get to a point where we reject a false choice on gun crime that says you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take away everyone’s guns. Let’s have reasonable gun safety laws, which means passing an assault weapons ban, background checks that are universal. (Applause.) This is still the work that we have to do.
So all of that to say: Elections matter. All that to say that what we are doing right now is about continuing on the path that we started together many, many years ago, but most recently in 2020, which is about investing in our country, attempting to unify our country in the midst of those who would try to divide us; and doing the work of strengthening our country, knowing that we all have so much more in common than what separates us.
So I want to thank everyone here. There is so much at stake in this upcoming election.
And I’ll close with this point. As your Vice President, I have now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings. The thing about it all is this: When we walk in those rooms representing the United States of America, we walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back, with the earned and self-appointed authority to talk about the importance of democracy, rule of law, human rights.
But here’s the thing about being a role model: People watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. And one of my greatest concerns amidst all that is obvious is that the impact of those who would fight against our democracy is not only directly focused on the people of our country, but, by extension, people around the world — people around the world who are fighting against a dictator and autocrat, to say: human rights, women’s rights, freedoms. And those autocrats and dictators look at them and say, “Well, you want to hold out the United States as your model? Look what they’re doing. You shut up.”
The fight that we have in front of us now is not only about the people of Illinois and the people of America. By extension, the impact of our work will be global in its expanse. So we know the responsibility we have — dare I say, our collective duty — born out of love of our country and a true and sincere belief in its promise. And that is what is before us this time.
I thank you all so very much. Thank you. (Applause.)