The Chef Jeff Project
Las Vegas, Nevada 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, let me start by saying it is wonderful to be back in Nevada.  And, Chef Jeff, I want to thank you for so warmly welcoming us and sharing with us the success of your dream of investing in the community and the capacity of everyone.  I’ve been reading about and hearing about the work that you are doing here for quite some time, so it’s been my joy to be here in person.

I do believe in a very fundamental principle — and it transcends religions, but it is an age-old concept — and it is the concept of redemption, which is the notion and the understanding that all people will make a mistake.  And, yes, there must be accountability, especially when it involves the commission of a crime, when it involves anything that might hurt another person; of course, there must be accountability.  But is it not the sign of a civil society to allow people the ability to come back and earn their way back?

And so, when I look at the spirit, I believe, behind the work that is happening here and the work that should be happening everywhere, it is about understanding that all people have some skill or gift or capacity to do good things.  And often, it is a function of whether we as a society put the resources into that possibility.

Do we and are we committed to access — meaningful access to opportunity for all people?

And that is the beauty of the work that is happening here and in many other places, and especially because of the Administrator and who — we have, in Administrator Guzman, the ability to understand, through the SBA, how we can make these opportunities real, in terms of giving businesses like this one access to capital to then create access to opportunity for all the young leaders who are here. 

And so, I applaud the work that is happening here.  I — I recognize it.  Many, many years ago — in fact, now almost two decades ago, when I was District Attorney of San Francisco, I created one of the first reentry initiatives of any place in the country focused on just this notion and idea, which is to give folks an opportunity to come back with the skills and the skill development that are necessary for the people to reach their capacity and achieve their dreams.

And I do believe this is work that we need to reinforce through the structures of our systems, including recognizing where the structures of some of our systems have been an obstacle to these possibilities.

So, on that point, I am pleased to announce today that what we are doing is ensuring that the millions of Americans who have served time or have a criminal record will soon be able to receive small business loans in a way that, before now — (applause) — they were not able to.

And when we look at this, right now, before this announcement, we are looking at millions of Americans who could not access loans for the Small Business Administration — loans that, on average, are about $40 billion a year — because they served time. 

And, again, they paid their — they — they have paid for the accountability that — that they needed to pay.  They have done their time.  They have served their time.  And the point is, if we are to be a society that understands their capacity to earn their way back, we have to remove the obstacles that will prevent them from doing that.

And so, I want to acknowledge and thank the Administrator for your leadership.  The President and I are so proud of the work you have done to make these ideals real.

I especially want to thank the Congressman, Steven Horsford.  He and I have had these conversations for years.  Everyone here in — in Las Vegas and in Nevada knows his background.  But this is a lifelong commitment he has had.  And a lot of the work that we have done as an administration in this regard has been with him as a partner and often as someone who is championing it in the United States Congress in a way that we can facilitate it and see it through.

So, I’ll close where I started: by saying that every person in America should have access to opportunity.  And we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about — and clear-eyed about where there are obstacles to just that end.  And let’s remove those obstacles so that we can have success stories like we have with the young men and women who are here.

And with that, I’m going to turn it over to the Administrator.  Please. 

Thank you.  (Applause.)


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