North Carolina A&T University
Greensboro, North Carolina
(September 15, 2023)
2:30 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Aggies! (Applause.)
You did it, Aggies! (Applause.)
Oh. Come on, let’s get into it. (Laughs.)
MR. JENKINS: Aggies, before we begin, we have to greet our guests the proper way. Can I get an Aggie Pride?
AUDIENCE: Aggie Pride!
MR. JENKINS: Welcome. We are so thrilled to have you. Madam Vice President, Administrator Regan, thank you guys so much for coming. How are you feeling?
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Feeling good.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Feeling good.
MR. JENKINS: All right. So, you have had an extremely busy summer, Madam Vice President. You’ve visited over 17 states, talking to young leaders across the country about issues that matter.
This summer alone, you’ve visited climate leaders in Colorado, gun safety advocates in Virginia, and now you’ve launched this College Tour so that we can discuss fundamental freedoms with our young people.
Can you tell us why doing this — it was important to you and why you’ve embarked on this journey?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as a proud HBCU graduate — (applause) — it was very important for me to start this tour at some of the most distinguished, exceptional higher education institutions in America. And that is why I’m here at A&T. (Applause.)
And let me also say that, together with Administrator Regan, you know, we have been traveling our country. And I have to tell you, all the young leaders who are here: We are counting on you. We need you. We need your ambition, your aspirations for the future of yourself and your country. I strongly believe that you have already decided to be leaders. That is why you are here at this school. And as you continue in your role of leadership, you are going to make a fundamental and profound difference for the betterment of our entire country and the world.
So, I am here on this tour to remind you of everything that you learn here, which is you stand on the shoulders of extraordinary Americans. You stand in the path of that legacy. They held the baton for the time they had it, and then they passed it to us and to you. And the challenge will be what we do while we carry the baton.
And I am here to remind you that what you are doing now and what you will do as the days, months, and years go by will be extraordinary and a testament to all that we take in terms of the pride of who we are as a nation.
So, that’s why I’m here. And I’m here because I also feel so strongly that you must have the freedom to live your best life. (Applause.) And that means the freedom to make decisions based on having — freedom to have access to the ballot when you want to vote, the freedom to make decisions about your own body, the freedom to love who you want to love, freedom from violence, freedom to have opportunity and access to opportunity.
All of that, I want for you. And I am here, then, to emphasize that you are going to be a part of making all of that real. That’s why I’m here. (Applause.) That’s why I’m here.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: A&T, she’s bringing that heat.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.)
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: So, Madam Vice President, in the height of the pandemic in 2020, we saw record voter turnout. In 2022, we saw near-record voter turnout for young people. And here today, we have the very students who voted in those elections. And we have students here who will vote for the first time in the 2024 elections.
So, you and the President have done so much. What did the voters get from voting in the last election? And what will they get when they vote in 2024?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let’s start with this. Can I see a show of hands — who was able to and did vote in 2020?
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Wow.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, let me just tell you something: You elected Joe Biden president of the United States and me vice president of the United States. (Applause.) You did that. You did that. You did that.
You elected the first HBCU-graduate vice president of the United States. (Applause.) You did that.
And so, when we talk about voting, there are many ways that you — each of you — will make a difference. And that is one of the very important ways that you have already and will continue to make a difference: by seeing and knowing that your voice is your vote, your vote is your voice.
And so, when you went to vote — let’s think about that in 2020. That was the height of a pandemic. For so many of you, the freshmen and sophomores in particular, you were probably in high school trying to figure out how are you going to even get your applications in to college, how are you going to get your finals done, how are you going to graduate, if you’re going to have a graduation. For those who were already in college, trying to figure out how are you going to graduate and where are you going to live and are the dorms going to be open.
Our country faced so much hardship during the height of that pandemic, so much loss: loss of life, people lost their jobs, loss of normalcy.
And in spite of all of that, you all got out there and stood in line, filled out a ballot, early voted, dropped it in a drop box, and exercised what we learn at HBCUs, which is the importance of self-determination —
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Yeah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — to make sure you were heard.
And as a result, in 2020, we had the highest young voter turnout in history. You all did that. (Applause.)
And, Michael, what I like to think about is that — that they put in — folks put in their order. And so, they said, for example, “Our HBCUs are centers of academic excellence but for too long have been underfunded. And so, pay attention to that.” And because you voted, we — Joe Biden and me and our administration — have put over $7 billion into our HBCUs. (Applause.)
You all said, “I’m going to vote because I know too many of the babies and too many of the communities in our country are drinking toxic water out of lead pipes, and it is time that is addressed because it is having an impact on their health and learning abilities.” And because you voted, we are now in process — to a great deal because of Administrator Regan — in the process of eliminating all lead pipes in America.
Because you voted and said during the height of the pandemic, “It’s not right that some people don’t have access to or cannot afford high-speed Internet. It is not a luxury; it is a necessity in life” — and because you voted, we are now on the path to ensuring all families and individuals will have access and be able to afford high-speed Internet.
You voted and said, “Y’all got to deal with these student loans.” Because — especially, we know, for HBCU students, we’re talking about a majority are on Pell Grants. Many are first in the family to go to college and should be able to study and not have to worry about whether they have to take a job based on their income alone versus what they want to do in terms of their passion. And so, we have been reducing payments for student loans.
And I’ll say to the juniors and the seniors who are here: Look up what we’re doing. It’s called SAVE — S-A-V- — it’s an acronym — that is for the reduction of student loan payments to zero with zero interest if you come out of school making less than $30,000 a year, which, for a lot of the types of jobs that are public interest, would be in that salary range.
So, these are some of the many examples of why, when you voted, it made a difference, because, be clear: You vote for something, but you’ve got to also look at, like, who’s on the ballot and, of the people who are on the ballot, who will best represent your needs.
And the other thing then you would understand — and we all are experiencing every day out of Washington, D.C. — is there are plenty of folks on the ballot who are not representing necessarily the needs of the leaders who are in this room.
MR. JENKINS: You know, it’s — it’s surreal when you talk about voting and access. I voted for the first time right here in this room. I’m a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T. And the — the voting — the voting booths were set up, and I remember how proud I feel — felt casting that ballot.
Now, there are so many laws that are attacking our right to vote. Like you said, young people came out in record numbers in 2020. And now, there are so many different bills that are being presented to try to stop that from happening. Can you talk to us a little bit about what we can do to combat those attacks on our right to vote?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Terrence, you couldn’t be more correct.
You know, listen, I — I — traveling this country, I’m fully aware: I do believe there is a national agenda, which is about a full-on attack against hard-won, hard-fought freedoms.
So, on the freedom to vote, you see laws — first of all, let’s also understand, back to 2020, one of the highest rates of young people voting. Well, that scared a lot of people. And so, you saw almost immediately thereafter laws being proposed and passed, like the one in Georgia that makes it against the law to give somebody food and water if they are standing in line to vote.
The hypocrisy abounds, because — you know, by the way, what happened to “love thy neighbor”? (Applause.) Right?
Laws like the ones that Governor Roy Cooper has been fighting against that would divide A&T into separate disticts –districts to — to dilute your power as a group to vote based on your collective interest.
We are seeing laws that are being passed that would say that student IDs are not sufficient to prove your identity to vote. Because when you all vote, it scares some folks. But when you vote, you have the ability to determine the future of our country in a way that might challenge a lot of people’s notions about what is possible and who can possibly do it.
And so, when we look at these attacks on voting, let’s understand that there is an effort to make it more difficult for you to vote so that you don’t vote. Not to mention those who would suggest that, “Oh, if you vote, it won’t make a difference.” Or those who would suggest, “Your vote is not going to count.” And, you know, they don’t want you to vote anyway.
And I think it’s really power that — it’s powerful when we understand when people are trying to suppress our vote and make us feel small and to make anybody feel like they don’t matter and don’t count. And don’t — don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for it. Because when you all vote in your numbers, so much is going to change about our world.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Well, Madam Vice President, you know, you’re no stranger to justice. And I believe that this administration has such a strong position on environmental justice —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: — because of what you bring to the table.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: I believe, as district attorney in San Francisco, you established one of the first environmental justice units of any prosecutor in the country.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: In addition to environmental justice, I think with your leadership, we are making historic investments in climate change to reduce the climate anxiety that so many of our young people are facing.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: When you think about environmental justice, when you think about climate change and the climate crisis, what goes through your mind? What are you thinking when people talk and approach you and say, “What is this administration doing to address the climate crisis?”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first, let me again acknowledge your leadership as the Administrator of the EPA, because you’ve been extraordinary, Michael Regan. (Applause.) You’ve been extraordinary and — and bold. Because, you know, it — when you get to Washington, D.C., you find that — that people are really happy with status quo. They’re happy with the way things are and have always been. And it takes a lot of willpower and determination and courage to change things. And that’s what you’ve been doing.
On the issue of environmental justice, you know, here’s the deal. If you look at, for example, the map of our country, in terms of where are the regions that have some of the poorest air quality, you would not be surprised to know it is low-income communities and communities of color. In the South, we have a whole span — a strand that we call Cancer Alley because we have so many Southern states, in particular on the Gulf and — and on the coast, that have been the subject of dumping and pollution.
And — and the — the children growing up in these communities, breathing toxic air, drinking toxic water — and I believe that, first of all, we must agree that it should be a right of every child and every person to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But sadly, in far too many communities in our country — and, in particular, communities of color and poor communities — that is not a right that people can take for granted.
So, the work we have been doing has been about addressing right now the extreme climate changes that we are seeing and paying attention to equity; paying attention to the fact that, when we address it around adaptation and resilience to the hurricanes and the floods, that we recognize these extreme climate occurrences, they affect everybody, but they don’t impact everyone equally.
And I’m just going to just diverge from this point to make another point. You know, in some states in our country, there are some extremist so-called leaders who are attacking DEI — diversity, equity, and inclusion — who are trying to sell something to suggest that — to talk about diversity and equity in — and inclusion is a bad thing; to suggest that we should not have a commitment to diversity, which is to understand that when we have people of every background in a position of leadership, the decisions that will come out of that group will be better than if the group does not reflect the diversity of who we are as a nation. People who would suggest on the E, equity, that we should not pay attention to the fact that although we all strive for equality, not everybody starts out on the same base.
So, when you talk about equality, that suggests sometimes, okay, everyone gets the same amount. But everyone doesn’t start out on the same place. So that means if everyone just gets the same amount, they’re going to end up with that — those disparities that they started with.
Inclusion — that we should be purposeful about paying attention to who’s not in the room and then figuring out a path and a way that they can enter.
And we are seeing extremist so-called leaders who are trying to say it’s a bad thing — it’s a bad word to talk about DEI — diversity and equity and inclusion. And I’m telling you, the young leaders here, this thing is an intentional thing to suggest that we should not pay attention to race, should not pay attention to gender, should not pay attention to where people start out and then make allowances for how they can compete equally.
When we talk about environmental justice, it’s an extension of this point. Let’s understand this extreme climate affects everybody, but not everybody equally. So, we need to put extra resources into poor communities, into communities that historically experience the worst effects of hurricanes and floods and the climate crisis.
And so, that’s what environmental justice is. It’s about, for folks who come from an urban community, knowing what we talk about in terms of, in so many of our cities where there is low-income housing, there are no trees and a lot of concrete. And so, as the temperatures start to go up around the globe, that concrete will generate and reflect heat in a way that that community will actually suffer more consequences from this heating planet than communities that have trees.
That’s what we talk about when we talk about environmental justice. And it is rooted in the importance of equity and fairness.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Well, thank you for that. And I think it’s important for the folks out here to know that she speaks this passionately at a Cabinet meeting, to the President, and to world leaders all across the world. It matters. Leadership matters. So, thank you —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: — for that perspective and representing that perspective.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: I want to build on it a little bit, because we have Terrence, myself, and you — three proud HBCU graduates —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.)
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: — sitting on — on the stage on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the largest Black HBCU in the country.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: And when we think about the shoulders that we stand on —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
ADMINISTRATOR REAGN: — and all of the people it took to get us here, there are some forces across the country that are trying to remove that history from our schools. And we all saw you down in Jacksonville, Florida. We were cheering you on.
When you see those attacks that even go further beyond DEI, environmental justice, and begin to get into our history books to erase the very essence of who we are, what do we do with that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We elect them out of office. (Laughter and applause.) Let’s start with that.
So, let’s just start with something everybody here knows: Black history is American history. (Applause.) Period. And America’s full history must be taught.
And what — again, I — let me just back up to say about your generation. You all have been born at a time where your whole — in your whole entire life, you have known the climate crisis. In your whole life, you have known the significance of gun violence. In your lifetime, you have seen the Supreme Court take a constitutional right that has been recognized. And in your lifetime, there are people that are trying to turn the clock back in such a bold and unapologetic way to suggest that we should not teach America’s full history.
My godmother was one of the first people to start a Black studies department at a school in California called San Francisco State. And that was back in the ‘60s.
And we now see people who walk around talking about themselves as though they should be considered national leaders suggesting that enslaved people benefited from slavery. (Applause.) And what I said when I went down there is, “Do not try to gaslight us…” — (applause) —
MR. JENKINS: Preach.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — “…as you insult us.”
But this is happening, where, again, elected extremist so-called leaders are pushing this agenda.
We cannot sit passively by while this happens.
You know, there’s this — there’s this story about two frogs and two pots of water. Okay. So, here’s how it goes.
Two pots of water, two frogs. In the first pot, you drop the frog in the pot of water, and you slowly turn up the heat, and that frog will just kind of hang out and, “Oh, it’s getting a little warm in here.” And then the water starts to boil, and that frog perishes.
In the second pot of water, you start the water boiling, and then you drop the frog in it. That frog jumps out.
Let’s not be that first frog. Let’s not be that first frog.
And so, the other point that I would make is then they talk about, “Well, let’s debate the point about whether enslaved people benefited from slavery.” Are you kidding me? That is not a debatable point, and we’re not falling for the okey-doke.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: That’s right. That’s right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re not falling for it, because there is an attempt — and we have to see what’s at play — they’re attempting to distract us from what they are not doing and from a lack of true leadership that would also be about trying to unify our country instead of divide our country.
On the point of leadership, you know, HBCUs and — and all of the — the extraordinary men and women who came here over the years have taught us something about the attributes of real leaders.
The attributes of true leaders are not measured based on who they beat down but who they lift up. The attribute of a real leader is someone who has some curiosity, concern, and care for the suffering of other people, as opposed to overlooking or belittling people who have suffered.
And so, when we talk about these attempts to erase our history, let’s be alert, conscious, and — and active about making sure that folks don’t get away with what they’re trying to do, which, by the way, is the antithesis of what we teach at HBCUs, which is the importance of learning our history so that those — those moments where crimes were committed against people and a people — where those atrocities occurred, to make sure they don’t happen again.
MR. JENKINS: Absolutely. Well, one of the — the best parts of this tour is the fact that it’s not just about talking; it’s about listening and having that dialogue as well.
And so, you wanted to talk directly —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MR. JENKINS: — to the students.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I want to hear from them.
MR. JENKINS: We have some students with some incredible questions. So, I want to open it up first to — do I have a Charles-Anthony Woodfork here? Where are you? (Applause.) Where is Charles sitting?
Charles, what’s happening? You know how to do it in Aggieland. I want to know what year you are, and I want to know what school you’re in.
Q (Inaudible.) My name is Charles-A- —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let’s get that mic working. (Laughter.) There we go.
Q Greetings. My name is Charles-Anthony Woodfork. I am a third-year Food and Nutritional Science student on the pre-med track from San Francisco, California.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. (Laughs.) (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Right. Love to see it.
And what is your question for the Vice President?
Q So, my question for the Vice President is: I saw that the Biden-Harris administration worked to pass historic gun safety legislation. And so, I really just want to know: What else can we do to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our communities? Thank you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for your leadership.
Let me start with this. I’m going to ask again for a show of hands. And my question is this: How many of you, starting in elementary school or sometime K through 12 had to have a drill or a training at school about how to save yourself from an active shooter? And I’d like the older adults to see — go — put your hands back up. I’d like the older adults to see this.
All right. I don’t think a lot of people understand —
MR. JENKINS: We were just worried about —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — what you just showed us.
MR. JENKINS: — school — school bullying.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t think a lot of you — I don’t think a lot of people understand what you just showed us and what your life experience has been.
I’ve talked with young people who have talked about — you know, especially elementary, middle, high school students — you know, the first day of school, we grew up where the first day of school, you learn your teacher’s name and where the bathroom is and where your cubby is.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: That’s right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, for these young leaders, their first day of school includes how to hide from an active shooter. I’ve talked with young people in K-through-12 schools who have told me about how — you know, on this subject, we’ll talk about it, and they’ll say, “You know, I don’t — I don’t — I don’t like going to fifth period.”
And I’ll say, “Why, sweetheart?”
“Well, because in fifth period, there’s no closet to hide in.”
You all have gone through so much on this issue. And the idea that you would have to sit in a classroom or go to church or just be somewhere and have to worry about a shooting — and, by the way, I’m not only talking about mass shooting; I’m talking about everyday gun violence in America.
Gun violence is now the number one cause of death of children in America. Not cancer. Not anything else. Gun violence.
One in five Americans has a family member who has died because of gun violence. The trauma that this results in — the — the fact that our young people have to live in fear —
In North Carolina, we have had recent examples of this. And so, when I think about this issue, it’s very real.
You know, you got folks in — in Congress, which is where this solution would be, who are pushing this false choice, which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.
Look, I’m in favor of the Second Amendment. But there is no reason that there are assault weapons on the streets of a civil society. We need an assault weapons ban. (Applause.)
Assault weapons were literally designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly. It is reasonable to say we have background checks, because you just might want to know before someone can buy a gun if they’ve been found to be a danger to themselves or others. You just might want to know. These are reasonable laws.
So, the President and I have been able to — to put in place the first in 30 years of reasonable gun safety laws, but we need to do more. And that means we need the people in Congress to have the courage to act.
And again I say — and I’m going to repeat myself on this — when you all vote in your numbers, this is going to be handled. This is going to be handled. We need an assault weapons ban, we need universal background checks, we need red flag laws as very important steps that don’t require a lot of creativity to figure out that it actually is part of the solution.
MR. JENKINS: Yeah. And like we talked about yesterday, it’s not just about voting for the presidential elections. Those state elections, those elections every two years — very, very important.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. That’s right.
MR. JENKINS: So, please, make sure you continuously exercise your right to vote. (Applause.) Very important.
Kylie Rice. Kylie Rice. (Applause.) Okay.
Q Hi. Good afternoon, Madam Vice President. I am Kylie Rice. I’m a junior honors political science student here. And my question for you is: Considering decisions are being made to obstruct our reproductive rights as women, what steps as college individuals can or should we take in advancing our personal opinions, especially when they’re not accepted in higher spaces? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s right. Well, soror — (laughter) — listen, again, in your lifetimes, 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. You all will know fewer rights than your mother or grandmother.
And what are we talking about? Well, first of all, on this issue, which is access to abortion, let us all 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.)
If she chooses, she can talk to her priest, her pastor, her rabbi, but the government should not be claiming and posturing that they’re in a better position to tell you what’s in your best interest than you are to know what’s in your best interest. (Applause.)
And — and right after the decision came down — it’s called the Dobbs decision — just over a year la- — just over a year ago, states around our country started proposing and passing laws that literally provide for jail time for medical health professionals, for physicians. Jail time.
We’re talking about laws that are being passed — and everyone’s grown here, so I’m going to talk about some of the detail of it, because this detail matters — passing and proposing laws that say there’d be no exception, even for rape or incest.
Now, I know this is a difficult conversation to have, but we got to keep it real. So, let’s have it.
Part of my background on this issue is, when I was in high school, one of my best friends, I learned that she was being molested by her stepfather. And I said to her, you got to come live with us. I called my mother. My mother said, “Yes, she has to come live with us,” and she did.
And, in fact, that — that was one of the reasons I decided to be a prosecutor. And I specialized, when I was, in crimes against women and children.
So, on this issue of no exception for rape or incest — because the details matter — basically, these extremist so-called leaders are saying that after an individual has survived a violation to their body, an act of violence, they’re saying to that survivor, “And you don’t have a right to make a decision about what happens to your body next.”
That’s immoral. And that’s what’s happening around our country.
This is not just an intellectual academic discussion. There are women around our country who are silently suffering. Not to mention, I’m sure, so many of you — I know my goddaughter, who was talking with me about how, of her generation of high school students, they’re looking at where to apply to college based on what the laws of those states are now — boys and girls, of every gender, everybody.
So, on this issue, again, your vote is going to matter, because here’s the thing: What the Court took away, Congress can put back in place. Congress can pass a law that puts back in place the protections of a case called Roe v. Wade, which gives you the right to make decisions for yourself.
Congress can put that back in place. So, we need to make sure that in this upcoming election in November, we send people to Congress who agree that they have a right to their personal opinion about it, but they should not be telling other people what to do with their body. The vote is going to matter. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Thank you so much, Kylie, for your question. And thank you for sharing those personal anecdotes.
I think we have time for one final question. Do we have Brandon — Brandon Daye? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There he is.
MR. JENKINS: What’s up, Brandon? Brandon, if you wouldn’t mind, please tell us your name, what school you’re in, what year you are, and your zodiac sign. I’m just playing, I don’t need — (laughter) —
Q It’s all right.
MR. JENKINS: I don’t need the zodiac, but the rest —
Q Good afternoon. I am Brandon Daye, a fifth-year supply chain management and agricultural business student here from Burlington, North Carolina.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right.
MR. DAYE: And my question for you is: What measures do you support to combat environmental racism and its impact on vulnerable populations? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There — there is so much there. I mean, we talked about it in terms of equity and inclusion and diversity, right? We need to, first of all, agree and acknowledge that there are systems that have been long in place that need to be reformed.
So, for example, our criminal justice system and the work that we need to do to recognize the disparities that exist there, the disparities that exist both in terms of the cause and the effect.
There is the work that we need to do that is about fighting against policies that are now rolling out after the Court took away affirmative action, which, again, is about a denial of America’s history.
And, in fact, I would encourage everybody who’s interested to read the opinion of Ketanji Brown Jackson — Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — (applause) — who, in that case, laid out so brilliantly the history of racism in America and how that has had consequences on public health, public education, who has access to capital, the criminal justice system, and on and on.
So, these are some of the issues that we need to address.
And then, there is, in terms of, Michael, some of the work that you’re doing — and you want to talk about that?
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: Yeah, I think I’m very proud that the Vice President and the President have decided to just attack structural racism head on and not be afraid. And it’s no coincidence that when we look at our Black and brown and Tribal communities, they’re the ones that are on the frontlines of pollution. And so, we are looking at how we can use all of our powers to begin to roll that back, to make sure that our communities have a seat at the table.
But for the first time, this administration has said, “EPA Administrator, if we see violations of environmental justice or Title VI, you should withhold federal funding and punish those states and bring those states into line.” So, for the first time, we’re looking at using tools that really speak to some of our states, especially our Southern states. They really value their transportation dollars. They really value those federal dollars.
But if we find them in violation, this Vice President and this President has said, “Let’s make sure that you hold the line.”
And so, we’re letting our money talk. We’re putting in great policies.
And through the President and Vice President’s leadership, under historic legislation, for the first time in history, we now have $3 billion — billion with a “B” — dedicated to environmental justice and equity.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
ADMINISTRATOR REGAN: So, we’re hitting them on every level. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Putting your money where your mouth is.
What an incredible discussion. I mean, we’ve taken time to talk about climate change. We’ve taken time to talk about gun safety laws. We’ve taken time to talk about women’s health and reproductive rights. There’s so much going on in the world right now.
Madam Vice President, before we leave, I want to know: How do you stay optimistic in times like the ones that we’re facing right now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, it starts with just looking at all these Aggies. (Applause.) And I mean that. I mean that. I truly mean that. When I look at the number, the excellence, the beauty, the brilliance of everyone who is here, I know the future of our country is bright.
And I would just say to you that what I want for you is that you have the freedom to live your best life. And you are going to play an active role in making that happen.
And I would also say to you that you are going to have many experiences — you probably already had some — where people are going to tell you what is not possible and what cannot be done. And I am here to tell you, don’t you listen. Don’t you listen. Don’t you hear “No.” Don’t hear “No.” (Applause.)
I eat “No” for breakfast. (Laughter and applause.) Serious.
And I’d also — I’d also share with you this: Having been where you are a long time ago and traveled a lot in the world and life since then, I would ask you to understand and know, as much as you can right now, how special this moment is in your life.
When I was in an auditorium like this at Howard University my freshman year, I didn’t realize that day I met people for whom I would be godmother to their children. I sat next to people whose weddings I would be in. I was with people who, I kid you not, I’ve seen around the world.
I mean, one time I was in Paris, and I was at the subway. And I’m on one side waiting for the train, and the other side of the train is supposed to go the other way. And I looked across, and there was another Howard graduate.
You have no idea yet. I hope you have some sense of it, how special this moment in your life is.
And one of the things it is doing for you — and I’d ask you to look around — is it will remind you as you go in the world, you are not alone. You come from people.
Because, in your life, you’re going to have many times when you’re going to walk in a board room, a courtroom, a meeting room, and you’re going to be the only one that looks like you or has had your life experience. And what I want for you is you never walk in those rooms feeling alone, that you remember a moment like this to know that when you walk in those rooms, we all walk in that room with you, cheering you on, and expecting that you will carry the voice of all who are not in that room but are counting on your leadership.
You were born to lead. That’s why you’re all here right now.
And so, just get out there, own your power, tell your truth right now, because your country needs you.
And I say that as Vice President of the United States. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Well, you guys are not alone as you go out into the world, but, Madam Vice President, we want you to know we got your back as well. Thank you so much.
One more time: Aggie Pride!
AUDIENCE: Aggie Pride!
MR. JENKINS: And, of course, we have to end this college tour off the right way. If you wouldn’t mind, let’s take a selfie. (Laughter.)
END 3:14 P.M. EDT