Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Can we hear it for Jaime Harrison — (applause) — and my husband — (laughs) — Doug Emhoff?  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)

Hello, Martha’s Vineyard.  Please have a seat.  Hello, everyone.

Oh, it’s good to be on the island.  It’s good to see all the friends — so many longstanding friends.  And thank you all, everyone, for taking time out of your vacation, your holiday, your — your restful moments to be here.  And I think that the fact that you are here really does speak volumes about who we are as a country. 

This is an incredible group of folks who understand what’s at stake in our country and understand, most importantly, that one of the biggest measures of our strength is based on our sense of responsibility to each other, understanding that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us, and we must stand unified as a community. 

And so, I thank you all for taking the time to be with us today.  (Applause.)  Thank you. 

I want to recognize Jaime Harrison, because, Doug and I, we’ve been traveling around the country, and almost everywhere we go, Jaime Harrison is there, leading the Democratic Party and the work that we need to do to remind folks that their vote matters.

Jaime, you are doing such an extraordinary job.  Thank you for your work.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank my husband, the first Second Gentleman of the United States — (applause) — for all that he has been doing on so many issues and, most recently and very importantly, the work he is doing to fight against hate, antisemitism, and hate in all of its forms.  Doug, thank you for that.  (Applause.)

And, Carol Fulp, Bernie, where are you?  Thank you for all of the — just the longstanding support.  And — and I also just have to thank everyone who is here for understanding that — like Robin Leeds — that we really cannot do this work if we don’t do it together.  And so, I thank you for that.

Before I get started, I do just want to take a moment to speak the name “Charles Ogletree” — (applause) — because he is so present.  I know that for so many of us.  And Tree, as many of us knew him and know him, was an extraordinary American.  He always spoke truth to power. 

You know, one of the reasons that — many of you know — I became a lawyer was because I was raised as a child of parents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement.  And many of the heroes of that movement for me were folks like Thurgood Marshall and — and Charles Hamilton Houston and Constance Baker Motley.  And they were the ones, like Charles Ogletree, who understood the power of the law to translate the passion from the streets to the courtrooms of our country.

Tree understood the importance of fighting for the promise of America based on all that we articulated in our founding documents and principles. 

And I must say, also, there are many who are on this island today who were mentored and — and were friends of his and for whom he gave his friendship, and I among them.  And so, I know we all miss him, and we thank him.  And his presence on this island in particular will always be there. 

So, thank you all for — let’s — let’s remember Charles Ogletree.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

So, with that, I thank you all for what you did in 2020, on — in the days before then, and in the days since.  But I first of all just want to thank you for what you did in 2020.  Because, if we reflect on that, in the height of a pandemic of historic proportion — countless loss of life, people lost their jobs, the loss of normalcy — it was the leaders in this room, and leaders like you, who remained optimistic about the importance of activism and participation, who held firm in a knowledge and understanding that if we are to uphold our democracy, we must uphold the importance of the voice of the people, and reminding folks that — in the midst of a moment where we literally told people to isolate, you reminded folks that they are not alone. 

And because of your courage, activism, and love of country, in 2020, we had an historic turnout in a presidential election, an historic turnout of young voters.  And it is because of that work — (applause) — that Joe Biden was elected President of the United States and I was elected Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)  Because of your work.

And think about what we’ve been able to accomplish since then.  We have been able —

(A protestor disruption can be heard.)

— to accomplish so much in terms of thinking of —

(A protestor disruption can be heard.)

Let’s — I’m speaking.  I’m speaking.  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)

And think about — we live in a democracy; everyone’s voice matters.  But when —

(A protestor disruption can be heard.)

Let’s not interrupt.

So, let’s think about where we were before the election in 2020.  Where we were is that there were jobs being shipped overseas.  We were looking at a time where we were losing American manufacturing. 

Because of what you did and because of the turnout and because Joe Biden was elected President and I was elected Vice President, we have now created 13 million new jobs in America — (applause) — over 800,000 manufacturing jobs in America — (applause) — and historic unemployment. 

Before that election, we were looking at small businesses — I know we have many small business leaders here — small businesses leaders who were saying, “We need greater access to capital.  We need more investment.  Don’t overlook the importance of investing in community, understanding our small business leaders are also civic leaders, community leaders.  They hire locally.  They mentor.” 

And because you elected Joe Biden and me to come into office, seeing and understanding part of the backbone of America’s economy being our small businesses, we have created more new small businesses in any two-year period in history because of an investment in capital.  (Applause.)

Before the election, in particular, our young people were saying, “Please address this climate crisis, understand what it means.”  Young people were telling us that they self-diagnosed and came up with a term that they have shared with me, and it’s called “climate anxiety,” where our young people are literally wondering whether they can be able to start a family, whether it is worthwhile for them to think about even dreaming about buying a home for fear of what will be happening in this world within the next 10 years.

And where there seemed to be no hope that there would be a sense of urgency around that, you all activated folks.  We had record turnout.  And now the President and I are in the process of dropping $1 trillion on the streets of America to invest in a clean energy economy — (applause) — to reinforce what we must do in terms of resilience and adaptation.

I was just reading recently, for example — many of us have been coming to and many of those here live on the Vineyard full time — Menemsha, the concern that there is about whether the docks in high tide will be overrun because of what’s happening in terms of erosion.  This is a real issue.  Elections matter. 

For years, our seniors have been saying, “Pay attention to the issue of medical debt,” because so many of our seniors were presented with the awful choice about whether they would either be able to fill a prescription a doctor recommended because it will save their life — for insulin, for example — or be able to afford to fill the fridge with food.  Seniors, who were making impossible decisions about whether they could simply afford their medication. 

And because you did the work of activating in 2020, we have now capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for our seniors.  (Applause.)  This is a game changer. 

How many people here — raise your hand — have a family member or know somebody that has diabetes?  It is a — you see?  Look around the room.  This is a very big issue for our country. 

And what we did on top of that to deal with the real issue of medical debt is we are now allowing Medicare to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies for drug prices for the average American consumer — (applause) — and capping the cost of prescription medication for our seniors at $2,000 a year. 

Real people are benefiting because of the work that you have done.

The work that we have done on an issue, that is a very serious issue for so many parts of this country, called “lead pipes.” 

For years, families have been talking about the fact that, “Hey, we may not be doctors or scientists, but we know the water coming out of those pipes is harming our children and leading to learning difficulties and disabilities.  Do something about it, because we can’t, as working people, afford to replace those pipes on our own.” 

And because you turned out and did the work you did, we are now in the process and on track of removing every lead pipe in America.  (Applause.)

Because of your work, we are in the process of acknowledging for the first time in too long that having access to high-speed Internet in the 21st century should not be a luxury, it is a necessity, and we are on the path — (applause) — to ensuring every family in our country has access to affordable high-speed Internet. 

So, I’ve gone through this list mostly to just remind us all: Elections matter.  And we, as a community of people, I think, understand that it can’t just be about fancy speeches, it has to be about getting stuff done.  And when we organize, we get things done.  (Applause.)

And we have more work to do, especially as we are clear-eyed about the moment we are in, where I believe there is a national agenda afoot to purposely attack hard-won freedoms and rights in America.  (Applause.)  And we must be clear-eyed about what is afoot. 

And, you know, I think of this just based on my background, as a child of parents who met when they were active in the Civil Rights Movement, when I think about the generations of folk that understood the promise of America, and then fought, marched, organized to make it real. 

I think of it, then, through that lens, seeing what is happening by these extremist so-called leaders.  Clear-eyed.

A national agenda that was afoot for decades, that led to the highest court in our land — the court of Thurgood and RBG — to take a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America. 

And then, after that decision — the Dobbs decision — came down, in states across our country, these extremist so-called leaders passing laws that would criminalize healthcare providers, punish women — laws that would make no exception for rape or incest.

Now, many of you know I started my career as a prosecutor.  And for a variety of reasons, I chose to specialize in crimes, in particular, against women and children. 

The idea that someone who touts themselves as a leader would say, to a survivor of a crime that violated their body, that thereafter, you don’t have the right to choose what happens to your body next is immoral — is immoral.  (Applause.)  Immoral.

And on this subject, let us agree: 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.)  Attacks hard-won freedoms and rights. 

So, in 2020, again, we applaud each other for historic turnout.  But here’s the thing that also happened: There were a lot of people that that scared — a lot of folks got scared about that, and then started passing laws to restrict drop boxes, to shorten voting time. 

There were supposed leaders who passed laws that actually made it against the law to give people food and water as they stand in line. 

By the way, what happened to “love thy neighbor”?  (Laughter and applause.) 

These hypocrites — (applause) — hypocrites making it intentionally more difficult for people to exercise their civic duty to use their voice to determine the future of their country.  Attacks on fundamental freedoms and rights. 

We’re seeing laws like the “Don’t Say Gay” law. 

Now, here’s the thing, when I was District Attorney of San Francisco, I was proud, in 2004, to perform some of the first same-sex marriages.  Next year, that’s going to be 20 years ago.  (Applause.) 

But here’s how I look at that — and then you’ve got what’s happening with these “Don’t Say Gay” laws, and think about it: So, there are teachers — many of the young ones in their 20s — who, if they are in a same-sex relationship, are afraid to put up a photograph of their family for fear they might lose their job.

Book bans in this year of our Lord 2023?  Book bans?

I was working out this morning in D.C. before I — before I flew down, and — and I saw on TV that they’re even starting to ban Shakespeare.  (Laughter.)  I mean, talk about “Much Ado About Nothing.”  (Laughter and applause.)

If it weren’t so terrifying, it would be a comedy. 

This is what’s happening in our country.  And we must be clear-eyed about this. 

As your Vice President, I have now met over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings.  And here’s the thing about that: When we walk in those rooms representing the United States of America, we walk in those rooms with the self-appointed and earned authority to talk about the importance of democracies, rule of law, human rights. 

But here’s the thing, as we all know, about being a role model: People watch what you do to see if it matches what you say.  (Applause.)  And one of my deep concerns is that in places around the world where, for example, women are fighting for basic rights and freedoms, where there may be a dictator or an autocrat, they — those autocrats and dictators — will look at those women and say, “Well, you want to hold out the United States as your example?  Look at what they’re doing now.  You sit down and be quiet.”

Understand the implication, not only to the people of our country but people around the world, because of what is happening right now. 

And so, to all the leaders here, I say, let us not be distracted by an undebatable point, such as whether the enslaved people benefited from slavery, because they’re trying to distract us.  They are intentionally trying to divide us as Americans. 

There is an agenda afoot to make us think it is one against the other.  So, in fighting for our democracy, we must do it with a sense of duty and responsibility to understand we are strongest when we are unified around the common principles and values that were the basis for the founding of our country — the importance of freedom and liberty and justice and equality. 

And I say, as we are clear-eyed about these threats to our democracy, let us also be optimistic.  And I will offer you empirical examples of why: Ohio this week.  (Applause.)

Think about that.  Think about that. 

So, these extremist so-called leaders thought they were going to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes, right?  And they said, “We’re going to put one thing on the ballot only on some random Tuesday in August, and nobody will notice.”  The people will not be fooled.  And they turned out.  And they said, “We are not having it.”

Think about the midterms.  Remember?  The pundits, so smart, said, “Oh, there’s going to be this red wave.”  That didn’t happen. 

And on the issue of choice and access to reproductive health and freedom, wherever it was on the ballot during the midterms, from Kansas to California, the voters voted in favor of freedom.  (Applause.)

Doug was talking about the fact that we were both in Chicago yesterday.  So, I was in Chicago to meet with over 2,000 young activists who were convened by Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.  (Applause.)  And these young leaders were there because they are organizing, and they are active, and they are exercising self-determination on the issue of gun violence and the need for smart gun safety laws. 

They are rejecting a false choice that says you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.  And they’re saying, “No, we demand reasonable laws,” like the renewal of the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, red flag laws.  (Applause.)  And they are organizing. 

As an aside — so, Doug mentioned I went down to Tennessee.  You know I went down to Tennessee because, as you all probably saw, in Tennessee, in their statehouse, while the — the legislature was convened officially in a room that — if the architects are here, you can — you can talk to this — that certain rooms are designed specifically for the purpose of that place, so it is designed for debate, because that’s what happens in democracies among legislators. 

And the two young Justins, in their 20s, and then Gloria, got on the microphone to channel the voices of their constituents — it’s a democracy — about the importance of addressing the issue of gun violence.  And the incredible thing is — and I’m not going to offer — it’s not symbolic or a metaphor — literally, the extremists turned off their mics — literally turned — not — this is not a metaphor — literally turned off their mics. 

But let me tell you why I have optimism.  So, those two in particular, they said, “All right, you want to turn off our mics?  Anybody got a bullhorn?”  (Laughter.)  And they used that bullhorn, and they would not be silenced.  They would not be silenced.  (Applause.)

So, I’ll close my points with this.  We are up for this.  We know what is at stake.  And we love our country.  And we believe in the promise of our country.  And we know that it has always been a sign of our strength that we fight for an expansion of rights, that we do not allow those to deprive the people of their rights. 

And we also know that moments like this have occurred in our history and compel us, then, to not sit passively by but to activate.  All of the progress in our country has been because of leaders like those here in this gym, who understand we have to step up, speak up, organize, and unify around the best of who we are. 

And so, my last point would be to paraphrase, as I often do, Coretta Scott King, who famously said the fight for civil rights, which of course is the fight for freedom and liberty and equality and justice — the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation. 

And I think she had two points in mind.  One, it is the very nature of it all that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent.  It’s the nature of it, and therefore we must be vigilant. 

And the second point is this: It’s the nature of it, so do not despair.  Do not be overwhelmed.  Do not throw up our hands.  No, let’s just roll up our sleeves. 

Thank you all.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


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