(August 15, 2023)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, everyone. Please have a seat. But do applaud for the first Second Gentleman of the United States of America. (Applause.)
And among the many wonderful things about my husband — and, Brad, you spoke so beautifully about Doug — he is kind, he is strong, he is funny, he is passionate, and — and he, too, is a fighter. In particular, most recently being, I think, a very, very critical and powerful voice to talk about what we must do collectively to fight against hate wherever it pops up. And — and so, I thank you, Doug, for all that you do.
So, it is just so good to be back in Seattle and to be with all the friends who are here — many longstanding friends, some new friends. But I can’t thank you all, again, for being here in the middle of the summer on an afternoon.
Beth and Yahn, I want to thank you for and — for all that you guys are doing and to open your beautiful home for all of us and all that this requires. So, thank you. You really — the kind of work that — that is the work that you have done really gives a lot of support in many ways that we can’t measure to what we must do as a community of people who understand the mutual connections, the interdependence, and the interconnection between us all. So, thank you. And if we can please applaud our hosts. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.
And I just have to say, Brad and I have known each other for so long, before you were president and I was vice president — (laughter) — and for the years that you have mentioned and — whether it was the work that we did together fighting to protect our children and, in particular, some of the most vulnerable children who needed a voice.
Many of you may know that Brad started an organization called KIND — Kids in Need of Defense. And we worked together on that. And then fast forward to most recently, the work that we’ll all do together, taking on a responsible role around some of the challenges and the benefits that that innovation has brought about. And I want to thank you, Brad. And, Kathy, thank you for all the work that you do as well.
So, to everyone, I say thank you. And that’s part of why I’m actually here is to thank you all. Because let’s be very clear as we reflect: In 2020, we were in the midst of an unprecedented moment in the world during the height of a pandemic, when there was an extraordinary loss of life. People lost their jobs, a loss of normalcy. We were literally asking people to isolate. People felt alone and out of control and wondering when would it all end and what would it be. And you all had the optimism and the strength to say to your friends and your neighbors and family members, “Get involved and stay involved. There’s an election coming up. Elections matter. And let’s not let the circumstances make us feel small. We are all in it together.”
And because of the work that you did in 2020, we had a record turnout of voters in that election in the midst of a pandemic. We had a record and historic number of young voters who voted because the leaders in this room believed in a system that says that the voices of the people matter and that it is in them that the power should rest to determine the future of our country.
That’s the spirit with which you all did that work then and with which you are here today. So I start by saying thank you, because it really matters, and because you knew that an election would have consequences and you did what you did.
Think about it. You elected Joe Biden president of the United States and me vice president of the United States. And in that office, I dare say and I proudly say — and it is not an exaggeration — we have achieved transformational work on a number of levels.
Think about it on the issue of what we did with the issue of healthcare. So many of us fought for the Affordable Care Act. And — but we knew there was more work to be done. We knew, for example, that so many of our seniors around the country were faced with the awful choice of making decisions about whether they could fill a prescription for insulin or afford to buy food to feed themselves or to pay rent.
And because of the work you did and what we believed is right, we have now capped the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. This is a game changer. (Applause.)
We have now capped the cost of prescription medication for seniors at $2,000 a year. One of the issues we were not talking enough about but was prevalent in our country was this issue of medical debt. What we have achieved because of your work to now finally say Medicare can negotiate drug prices to bring the cost down so it is affordable for the people who need it.
This is transformational, the work that we have done. When, together, we all agreed we needed to deal with the economy on a number of levels, including for years how we had been sending jobs overseas and what we must do to understand the importance of building up America’s workforce in a substantial way.
Because of your work, we have created 13 million new jobs and 800,000 manufacturing jobs right here in the United States. (Applause.) Because of your work. Because of your work.
And those jobs include the jobs that I was just talking with folks about at McKinstry where it’s about building up the private sector capacity to deal with issues — again, highlighted during the pandemic — issues like supply chain and create resilience in our supply chain and, at the same time, build up America’s workforce and the skills of America’s workforce. Because of the work you all did.
For years, there was an issue that grandparents in particular were — were crying out about, which is the issue of lead pipes. You know, when we talk about environmental justice, we should be thinking about that as being included, right? Lead pipes were, in particular, in low-income communities. Children were drinking water that was toxic, that had a direct impact on their health and learning ability. And for years, the families in those communities said, “We may not be doctors and scientists, but we know this stuff is toxic.”
Because of your work in 2020, we are on track to remove every lead pipe in America. (Applause.)
Small businesses, I — a particular passion of mine, what we need to do to grow up America’s economy, knowing that small businesses employ half of our workforce. Small businesses like the small business that my second mother ran when I was growing up. She lived two doors down, Ms. Shelton. My mother would work long hours, and we’d go and — go after school to Ms. Shelton’s and sometimes on the weekends when my mom was working.
Well, Ms. Shelton ran the nursery school, and we lived in the apartment above the nursery school. She was a small business owner, and she was a matriarch of the community, and she was a civic leader. And she mentored locally, and she hired locally. And as I travel our country meeting with our small business owners, that’s exactly who they are.
And under our administration, we have been increasing access to capital for our small businesses in a very intentional way such that we have grown more small businesses in two years than any administration has in any two-year time. (Applause.)
So, these are but a few examples. All of which is to say, elections matter. Elections matter. What you all do by being here and what you have done, so many of you for years, it really makes a difference in the lives of people you may never meet and people who may never know your name. But because of your investment in our country and, as Doug has said, based on love of country, it makes a real difference. So we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of the work we have done, but we know our work is not over.
So, I grew up the daughter — one of two daughters of parents who met when they were active in the civil rights movement. They were marching and shouting for equality and justice. I grew up in an environment where we were forced and required to be very clear-eyed about what is possible, but also what is happening and therefore what we must address.
So when I look at where we are now as a country, we must be clear-eyed in seeing what I believe to be an intentional, full-on attack on many hard-won freedoms and rights.
The highest court in our land last year just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America, the court of Thurgood and RBG. And almost immediately thereafter in states across our country, laws are being proposed and passed that would criminalize healthcare providers, punish women.
What we know is that — and Joe Biden has been very clear about it — to fight back against that, one of the most critical things we must do is to elect a Congress who agrees that 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.)
And Joe Biden has been very clear, when Congress passes a law that reinstates the protections of Roe v. Wade, he will sign it. Let’s be — (applause). There you go.
Let’s be clear-eyed about — on this issue. These extremist so-called leaders are willing to risk national security.
Let me tell you, every morning I read what’s called the PDB, the Presidential Daily Brief. Often with the President, in the Oval Office, we meet about that classified briefing, about threats to our national security and hotspots around the world.
The idea that this elected member of Congress and others who are his colleagues are allowing them to hold up nominations for the head of the Army and the Marines, and soon it’s going to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Understand what that means, because we are talking about the military. And so, like any organization without a head, that’s going to be a problem. But when you understand how the military works and chain of command, and there’s no one at the top who has the authority vested by Congress.
We congratulate ourselves rightly on the extraordinary turnout in 2020. But let’s also recognize, clear-eyed, that scared a lot of people. And almost immediately thereafter, in states across our country, they started passing laws making it more difficult for people to vote: reducing early voting times, eliminating drop boxes, passing a law making it illegal to give people food and water while they stand to vote and exercise their civic responsibility. By the way, what happened to “love thy neighbor”? The hypocrisy is abound. Attacks on freedoms and hard-won rights. A law, “Don’t Say Gay.”
You know, I was proud — I was mentioning it to some of the friends earlier. I was proud, as District Attorney of San Francisco in the Valentine’s weekend 2004, to perform some of the first same-sex marriages in our country. So next year, that’ll be a 20-year anniversary. Let’s — (applause). Okay?
But here’s how I think about. So, in Florida, “Don’t Say Gay” policy means that some young teachers who are in their 20s are going to be afraid — they are afraid to put up a photograph in their classroom of themselves and their loved one for fear they might lose their job — their job doing some of the most noble work any one human being could do, which is to teach our children. And, by the way, we don’t pay them enough as it is.
What’s happening in our country — and Doug mentioned it — the idea that there would be laws that are being passed and rules that are being promulgated saying we’re going to say that enslaved people benefited from slavery. Are you kidding me? Did you see recently, they’re also going to – they’re proposing banning some Shakespeare? Talk about much ado about nothing. (Laughter and applause.)
But it’s — again, it’s kind of — you know, what could otherwise be a comedy is a tragedy, right? This is what’s happening in our country, and we have to be clear-eyed about it. And we have to understand this is a very critical moment.
They’re banning books. All the while, they refuse to pass reasonable gun safety laws.
And I do believe that a part of this is an intent not only to attack hard-won freedoms and rights, but an intent to distract the American people from the fact that they actually don’t have an agenda that is about progress for our country. An attempt to distract. And what is most vicious, an attempt to divide — to divide our country around, in many cases, points that are not debatable.
So, this is the challenge that is before us. And I will tell you, all of that being said, I remain very optimistic. And I will tell you why. Think about the midterms. All the punditry, all the smart people in Washington said, “Oh, there’ll be this red wave.” There was no red wave. We elected governors. In every state in the midterms where the issue of reproductive freedoms was on the ballot, from Kansas to California, the voters voted in favor of rights and freedoms. Just last week in Ohio. Now, think about that.
So, these extremists decided, well, let’s put this one thing on the ballot on a random Tuesday in August. (Laughter.) People will be too busy they won’t pay attention. They thought they were going to pull the wool over the people’s eyes. And they did not get away with it because the people are smarter than they understand.
Speaking of guns, I was just — I was in Chicago at the annual meeting of a convening of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. Oh, it was fantastic. I’m in this huge conference center and over 2,000 people, mostly young leaders. And these young leaders, these students are organizing, and they are excited, and they are energetic, and they are optimistic. So good things are happening.
And so, I say all that to say we’ve got our work cut out for us. But I remain very optimistic. Because we all here know what’s at stake. And when we kick in, as you have over and over again and are doing right now, good things happen. But truly, this is about our democracy.
You know, I’ll tell you on that point, I have now, as vice president, met with 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 chin up, shoulders back with the self-appointed and earned authority to talk about the importance of democracy, rule of law, human rights.
But here’s the thing about that: When you are a role model in a room full of role models — when you are a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say.
One of my fears is not only the impact to the people of our own country, but that around the world where — for example, where women are fighting for their rights, some dictator or autocrat is looking at them and saying, “You want to hold up the United States as your example? Well, look what they’re doing. You be quiet.”
What is at stake right now is our country, and, by extension, this election will have global impact. And that is no exaggeration.
So, I’ll end on this: Coretta Scott King — so many of you have heard me paraphrase this all the time. I do it all the time. I’m going to keep doing it. So Coretta Scott King famously said the fight for civil rights — which is the fight for equality and for freedom, for justice — the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.
Two points there, the first being it’s the very nature of this fight. It’s the very nature of it that whatever gains we make, those gains will not be permanent unless we are vigilant. It’s just the nature of it. So when you understand the nature of something, you get it, right?
And therefore we say, understanding it’s the nature of it all, let us not despair. Let us not be overwhelmed. We will not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves. We’ll just get to work because we love our country, and it’s worth the fight. That’s all I’ve got to say. (Applause.)