Indian Treaty Room
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:41 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)

Dr. Chico!  (Applause.)  Really.  Really.

Please have a seat.  Please have a seat. 

Good afternoon, everyone.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Good afternoon.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, Dr. Chico and I were talking in the back about — last time I saw you was during the holidays.  You came to my house —

MR. TILLMON:  Yes.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — talking about this and about what we’re going to do to follow through on our commitments to the community —

MR. TILLMON:  Yes, ma’am.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — to each other, and to our country, right? 

Because the work of community work and, in particular, violence intervention, is about investing in the community, understanding our capacity, understanding the greatness, and then being motivated with that knowledge to do what we can to reduce harm, but not for the sake only of reducing harm but in- — investing in the potential and the greatness.  That is the essence of this work. 

I want to thank the governor of Maryland, Governor Moore —  (applause) — for his leadership.  Wes Moore and I have had so many conversations about this work, and I know he’s going to replicate this in a big old way in Maryland and — and put everybody to shame in terms of showing what states can do when you have people at the top who understand, again, the capacity and the brilliance that is in the community.  And it just takes the resources to support the good work to make it real. 

So, I thank everybody who is here for all that you have done and, in particular, the graduates.  Where are the graduates?  There we are, right here.  (Applause.)  The inaugural class — the inaugural class.  Look at this. 

So, this is, I — I would say, an historic day —


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — because these role models, being the inaugural class to graduate, are going to now be the ones who can show folks how it gets done. 

You know, the thing about being a role model — it’s a room full of role models, right? — people watch what you do, to say, “Okay, that’s how you achieve success.  And if that’s being done there, I’m inspired by their life story and how they did it, and I’m going to do the same thing, because now what people perhaps had never seen before can be seen to know what’s possible.” 

But the brilliance of this inaugural class and its leaders is the ability to see what can be unburdened by what has been and then to make it real — and now to make it real in a way that it will be replicated around our country. 

So, I congratulate everyone here and the graduates for all you have put into this and all you do.  It’s hard work. 

And I think some people really underestimate the hard work that comes with caring about folks.  It’s easy to look away, to overlook, to think about other things instead of the things that are difficult to think about. 

It takes a very special person to, with clear eyes, see the pain in other people, to see the need in other people, and then to take it as your life’s work to do something that is about healing and uplifting the condition and the spirit of other people. 

And I’ll say that, you know, Governor, you and I have talked about this.  I think there’s a certain perversion that has taken place over the last few years in our country that would suggest that the measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you beat down instead of what we know, which is that the true measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you lift up.  That the characteristic of real leaders is the character that has some level of curiosity, concern, and care about the suffering of other people, and then takes it upon themselves, as part of their life’s work and mission, to uplift the condition of other people. 

And that’s how — who you are.  And that’s how you do what you do in a way that is going to inspire so many people. 

The spirit behind this work is also the spirit of understanding the significance of a principle I grew up with called self-determination.  Self-determination, which we all have and should value in each other. 

And — and, Doctor, you talked about redemption, which is an age-old concept that transcends religions.  But the notion and the idea that, look, everybody is going to make a mistake.  For some, that might rise to the level of being a crime, but is it not the sign of a civil society that we allow people a way back and to embrace them and join together as a community of people. 

All of that is the spirit behind this work.  It is the spirit of understanding that — and I say this as a former prosecutor — that when we are dealing with violence in the community, understand there are an extraordinary number of factors that have nothing to do with who an individual is that will help you predict whether violence will occur in a community or not: Are those public schools well-funded?  What is the level of homeownership in the community?  Access to capital for small businesses, access to healthcare, access to mental healthcare that is also culturally competent.  (Applause.) 

What is happening in that community to support young parents, knowing all young parents have a natural desire to parent their children well but not necessarily the skills or resources, but when given that support, they do it beautifully? 

And see, this is the other thing about this work that I love because it is understanding that we must see people through the complexity of everybody’s life.  We all live a multifaceted existence.  And so, it’s about intervention in a way that we understand the full dimension of who people are.  And we respect it, and we understand it. 

All of that is the spirit that is behind the work that you all are committed to doing.  And, again, I say, it takes a very special person to truly see other people — to truly see them — and to say to them, and have the courage to be able to do it, “I see you.”  It takes a very special person.

And so, for all of those reasons, I congratulate the graduates.  We are here because we also know that when it comes to gun violence, we’ve got a lot of work to do. 

And — and it is about everything from what happens in this town — I’m pointing to the direction of what I believe is the Capitol — (laughter) — and what needs to happen in terms of people, who otherwise have evidenced themselves being — having a feckless quality, to show some courage to reject the false notion that suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away, when, in fact, it’s just reasonable.  I support the Second Amendment, but it’s reasonable to say we need an assault weapons ban.  (Applause.)  It’s reasonable to say we need universal background checks, that we need red flag laws. 

It’s reasonable to say that if you want to deal with violence in the community, you also got — got to understand it’s not only about mass shooting situations, which are horrific.  And it’s about everyday gun violence.  It’s about understanding that any life lost is a life too many. 

It’s about understanding what we all know: that one of the residual effects of the violence that we witness and see and that the community experiences is an extraordinary level of trauma, which is inherited — not genetically, but it is inherited.  And unless there is significant intervention that includes putting the resources into diagnosis and treatment, that the trauma will continue to be inherited and perpetuate itself in behaviors that are often unproductive.

It is about understanding, if we are to deal with the effects and the cause of violence, we need to consider the fact that — look, there is the piece of it that also is about what we need to do to acknowledge pain.  And underlying that point, it’s kind of normal that most people don’t like to feel pain.  And they’re either going to figure out a way to relieve themselves of feeling that pain through productive or unproductive vehicles.

And that, again, is the point of emphasizing, in this work, the mental health component, which is part of the model that you all are modeling for the rest of the country. 

So, I say all of that to say that I see leaders from law enforcement who are here — Charlie Beck — who have understood — (applause) — that if we want safe communities, all of these issues must be addressed. 

I — I again want to thank Dr. Chico because it’s about then having the leaders who can pull together the coalition of all the folks who are here to actually make this real.

And so, all of that to say it is my great honor to address, to recognize, and to congratulate the inaugural class of this most extraordinary initiative. 

Congratulations, everyone.  (Applause.) 

Congratulations.  Come take a picture with me!  Come on.

(A group picture is taken with the Community Violence Intervention Leaders.)


Q    Vice President Harris, as a former prosecutor, do you think the special counsel’s report is fair?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I’m glad you asked.  Listen, I have been privileged and proud to serve as Vice President of the United States with Joe Biden as President of the United States.  And what I saw of that report last night, I believe, is — as a former prosecutor, the comments that were made by that prosecutor: gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate. 

October 7th, Israel experienced a horrific attack.  And I will tell you, we got the calls, the President and myself, in the hours after that occurred.  It was an intense moment for the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.  And I was in almost every meeting with the President in the hours and days that followed. 

Countless hours with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the heads of our intelligence community — and the President was in front of and on top of it all, asking questions and requiring that America’s military and intelligence community and diplomatic community would figure out and know: How many people were dead?  How many are Americans?  How many hostages?  Is the situation stable?

He was in front of it all, coordinating and directing leaders who are in charge of America’s national security — not to mention our allies around the globe — for days, and up until now, months. 

So, the way that the President’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and, clearly, politically motivated — gratuitous. 

And so, I will say that when it comes to the role and responsibility of a prosecutor in a situation like that, we should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity than what we saw. 

Thank you.  Thank you for the question.  (Applause.)

END                 12:54 P.M. EST

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