Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Washington, D.C.

11:03 A.M. EDT

MR. YANG:  Thank you, Alisha.  And, Madam Vice President, welcome to the APAICS Leadership Summit.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And happy 30th anniversary, everyone.  (Applause.)

Jimmy, before we get started, I just have to talk about Alisha. 

MR. YANG:  Yeah, she’s amazing. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And she’s just so — such an incredible representation of our young leaders. 

I — Alisha, I’m so proud of you.  She has been — I know there are many members of Congress here.  She has been going up to the Hill to talk about how we can coordinate all of the work we’re doing on mental health. 

When I look at our Gen Z leaders, they have so many talents and they’re so courageous.  And she is an incredible organizer among the young people in my office, but around the issues that we really need to focus on if we care about the future of our country. 

Can we please applaud Alisha for her work?  (Applause.)  Please.  Really.   She’s wonderful. 

Okay.  Hi, Jimmy. 

MR. YANG:  Hello, how are you?


MR. YANG:  Good seeing you.  I have no idea why you guys called me to do this.  (Laughter.)  Lisa Ling must have been not available.  (Laughter.)  You know, went down the list.  Connie Chung, not available.  Now here I am, you know.  (Laughter.)

But it’s an absolute honor to be here with you and all these amazing leaders.  I’ve been listening to a lot of the talks.  You know, the first mayor of Cincinnati and, like, everyone — it’s a lot of firsts.  A lot of groundbreaking trailblazers of our community.  And, of course, you are the first AANHPI vice president of the United States. 

So, I want to ask you: What does it mean to you to be the first?  And how has your heritage, you know, informed your views and your roles as a leader?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, as Alisha said, my mother gave my sister and me a lot of advice.  And one of the things that she said to me that has had a lasting impact is she said, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things.  Make sure you’re not the last.”

My mother was 19 years old when she arrived in the United States by herself.  She was the eldest of my grandparents’ four kids.  And she said — and this is in —

She was one of — she was part of one of the first waves of Indians to come in relative modern history to the United States in the ‘50s.  Right?  So, anybody with a South Asian background, you’ll know that this was early, early, early.  There were not many Indian Americans or Indians who had come in at that point. 

And my mother said to her father when she was 19 years old, “I want to cure cancer.”  And I want — and so, what I learned later is she secretly applied to UC Berkeley.  And she got accepted. 

MR. YANG:  Wow. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, she went to my grandfather and said, “I want to go.”  And my grandfather was very progressive.  His eldest child — we know, in Asian culture, what birth order means.  (Laughs.)  Right?  I am the first grandchild too, I’ll say.  And my grandfather said, “Go.” 

And so, she arrived in the United States by herself because she had a passion and she had a goal.  And she — basically, her life was committed to two things: raising her two daughters and ending breast cancer. 

And my grandfather was probably one of the favorite people in my life, especially during my childhood.  We were pen pals.  So, any of you of my generation, you may remember those blue envelopes with all the stripes on them, you know — right? — that you’d send back and forth.  And you open them — you’d have to open it with a letter opener and unfold it.  And my grandfather and I were pen pals.

And we would go back to India every two years growing up.  So, basically, trying to avoid monsoon season.  So, it was sometime between October and December around the Christmas holidays, usually. 

And I, as the eldest grandchild, had the honor among anyone in our family of being invited my — by my grandfather to take his morning walk with his retired buddies.

MR. YANG:  Wow.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And they would, every morning, gather — these, you know, old men, who were very smart and very knowledgeable, and they would take their walk.  And I would hold my grandfather’s hand, and I was the one who was able to go on the walk with him. 

And my grandfather and his friends would passionately debate the importance of democracy and a government that treated people equally and with fairness and was — and a government that was not corrupt.  And — and that’s — that influenced my life in more ways than I can ever explain, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.  And all of that had an impact, then, on what I decided to do with my life. 

My mother — when she arrived in the United States, she automatically, given who my grandfather was and about the fight for independence in India, my grand- — my mother, then, of course — you might kno- — know this in retrospect took to the streets to march for civil rights in her sari.  (Laughs.) 

MR. YANG:  Wow.THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  And that’s how she met my father.  And — and all of that has had a profound influence. 

But I — I will also add to this, about being the first — because there are so many firsts here, and there are so many who — we, who are the first, have decided, “We will mentor you and we will support you and we will remind you of what it involves and also that you have an incredible community of people that — that are encouraging you every step of the way.”

So, here’s the thing about breaking barriers.  Breaking barriers does not mean you start on one side of the barrier and you end up on the other side.  There’s breaking involved.  And when you break things, you get cut and you may bleed.  And it is worth it every time.  Every time. 

And so, to especially the young people here, I say to you: When you walk in those rooms being the only one that looks like you, the only one with your background, you walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back.  Be it a meeting room, a boardroom, a courtroom, a hearing room, you walk in those rooms knowing that we are all in that room with you, applauding you on and expecting certain things from you, including that you will not be silent in those rooms and that we expect that from you because we also expect that you will internalize and know we’re there with you.  And so, your voice can be strong.

It is — as Alisha said my mother would say to me, “Don’t you ever let anybody tell you who you are.  You tell them who you are.”  Don’t ever carry as a personal burden your capacity to do whatever you dream and aspire to do based on other people’s limited ability to see who can do what.

This is part of what’s involved is that we have to know that sometimes people will open the door for you and leave it open.  Sometimes they won’t.  And then you need to kick that fucking door down.  (Laughter and applause.)  Excuse my language.  (Laughter and applause.)

MR. YANG:  We got to make T-shirts with that saying, “Kick the fucking door down.”  (Laughter.) 

I — I mean, I literally just got emotional listening to that.  Like, I — I think all of us in this room have that experience. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Of course.  Of course.

MR. YANG:  You know, like me, as an actor, you know, whether you’re in political office or any job you walk into, oftentimes we are the only Asian person there and how to navigate that.  And — and, for me, it’s always, “Hey, I understand.  You know, it’s — it — I’m fortunate to be here.  I — it — thank you for opening the door.” 

But I — I — it’s never like — I try to not blame it on anything, like if I miss an audition or whatever.  I just got to be a better actor.  Forget about Asian, not Asian.  I just got to be better than everyone else, like you said, so I won’t be the last, you know. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  And it’s a — and it is — you know, I think it is very much part of Asian culture — I think many cultures, but — that we are taught duty. 

MR. YANG:  Yes. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And duty is something — it’s not about whether you have the luxury or the — the will.  It’s your responsibility.  It’s your duty.  And you don’t question it.  It just is. 

And part of that is the duty that we feel when we are the — and when we are the first, in particular, to understand what that means to people who are not us — meaning everyone else.  You know, we — we learn a lot culturally about the fact that it’s not about us.  Right?

MR. YANG:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  It’s about family, it’s about community, it’s about country, it’s about values. 

You know, someone once described it to me as if you think of it — the culture — and I’m oversimplifying, obviously — but as an onion.  The individual is at the core of the onion.  And then there is the family, and there is the community, and there is, and there is.  And all of those things are bigger. 

And that’s part of how we are conditioned to think in many ways, which sometimes leads to probably a willingness to — to minimize the importance of the individual, and we have to be careful about that.  But — but duty is an important part of it, to your point. 

MR. YANG:  Yeah.  And I think what you said earlier, just being raised by immigrants, I think, gives us that perspective and the gratefulness to be here in a great democracy, because that can’t be taken for granted, especially in a lot of other places in the world. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right. 

MR. YANG:  And which leads me to my second question.  I should prep the cards.  I’m sorry.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  But I — but here’s the thing I want to add, while you’re —

MR. YANG:  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — while you’re pulling out whatever is coming out of your pocket.  (Laughs.)

MR. YANG:  Questions.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  It also should — it sh- — look, my experience — I’ll talk about my lived experience.  It — that also taught me that you have to fight for — for rights for everybody.  And you have to be in the fight.  You can’t — you can’t sit it out.  Right? 

And that’s — that’s part of what I — that’s certainly how I was raised: You can’t sit it out and — because you know how inequity happens, you know what happens when systems create displaced power or when systems are — are suppressing the rights of other people.  You know?  And — and so, that’s part of how I was raised as well. 

MR. YANG:  Yeah, and I think we’ve seen that in very recent history.  You know, like, since the Dobbs decision —


MR. YANG:  — a lot of our rights are under attack, like what we took for granted as — as basic rights, you know.  And you have led the charge on protecting the reproductive freedom for this administration, and we thank you for that. 

So, as — what are you hearing from Americans as you talk about protecting reproductive freedom?  And how has it been the fight on restoring Roe v. Wade?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  So, again, you know, I look at it in terms of the fact that — you know, one of the — I never met him, but one of the mentors for me in terms of the career that I chose was Thurgood Marshall, who understood the importance of translating the passion from the streets to the courtrooms of America to make real the promise of America. 

And when I think about the Dobbs decision, which was just about two years ago, the highest court in our land — the court of Thurgood and RBG — just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America.  And thereafter, in state after state, laws are being proposed and passed that will criminalize healthcare providers, punish women.  Some make no exception even for rape or incest. 

And so, there is, about this issue, the fact that over the last two years, this issue and the way it has played out has resulted in real and profound harm to real people on a daily basis. 

You’ve all heard the stories of a woman who goes to the emergency room as she’s experiencing a miscarriage and denied care because the — the physicians there are afraid they’ll be jailed — goes back, still denied.  It wasn’t until she developed sepsis that she’s treated. 

And there are horrendous stories.  And these are only the stories we know about.  So many people silently suffering.  There’s the harm component of this that is profound and real. 

There is also the fact that in now, 2024, a decision has been made that takes from the American people a fundamental freedom to make decisions about one’s own body.  Think about what that’s taken us back to — that one does not have the right to exercise authority over issues that I call heart and home, issues that are fundamental to what should be your right to decide to start a family or not. 

And where does this go?  Because for the lawyers in the room and those that just are interested in reading Supreme Court decisions — (laughs) — Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud: Other rights may be very much at stake. 

And when there is an ero- — when you start to see an erosion of rights, where does it end if the people don’t stand up, right? 

And, you know, demographically among the various groups, the last numbers I saw, 80 percent of the AANHPI community is in favor of freedom and choice.  And, again, because it’s — it’s a simple point, which I often make: For many people, you know, y- — one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do.  She will make that decision based on her ability to actually exercise good judgment. 

And can you imagine these legislators that are supposing their judgment is better than the ability of that individual woman to know what’s in her own best interest?  It’s profound — profound when you think about the layers of what is involved here.

MR. YANG:  Yeah. 

And another, you know, very important issue is — is guns in our — in our country.


MR. YANG:  And President Biden tapped you to oversee the first-ever White House [Office] of Gun Violence Protect- — Prevention.


MR. YANG:  So, what is the administration doing to address gun violence in the communities?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, let’s start with the very tragic fact that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in America — not car accidents, not cancer — gun violence.  Number one cause of death for children in America right now.  One in five Americans has a family member that was killed by gun violence. 

As I travel the country, you know, I talk with mothers and fathers who say a silent — maybe not so silent — prayer when they drop their kid off at school or as they walk to the school bus that they’ll come home safe.

I started a college tour last fall.  Again, I just have to say: I love Gen Z.  I really do.  I — you know, I know it’s complicated if you have a Gen Z member in your family.  But they’re so spectacular. 

You know, Gen Z, they’ve — think about, first of all, the fact that — this might be humbling for some — somebody who is 18 today was born in 2006. 

MR. YANG:  That’s when I graduated high school.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I knew it was going to be humbling.  (Laughter.)

And — and, for Gen Z, for the most part, they’ve only known the climate crisis.  They have coined a term, “climate” — “climate anxiety,” to describe their fear of having children or — or are aspiring to buy a home for fear it will be wiped out by extreme weather.

They witnessed the killing of George Floyd.

They lost fundamental phases of their education during the pandemic — and socialization. 

They, in the height of their reproductive years, saw the Court take this right. 

And — and I would ask this question when I did my college tour every time — and over 15,000 kids showed up, by the way.  I mean, in a packed auditoriums and often overflow rooms, which also tells you: They were standing in line for hours, in some cases, not for a rock concert but to literally witness something like this, right? 

And I’d ask every time, “Raise your hand” — I’d ask the students — “if at any point between kindergarten and 12th grade you had to endure an active shooter drill.”  Almost every hand went up.

And I’d often say to the press all the time — I’d ask — I’d say, “Press, please take a look at this.”  I’d ask the students, “Keep your hands up.”  I’d ask the older adults.  It’s bone-chilling.

So, all of that to say that: When I believe that, first of all, there has been a false choice that been — has been perpetuated, including in this town, that suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.  I’m in favor of the Second Amendment.  And I believe we need an assault weapons ban.  We need universal background checks.  We need red flag laws, right?  (Applause.)

And given how our young leaders have experienced this — I mean, growing up in California, the closest thing I had to an active shooter drill was an earthquake drill or a fire drill.  Right?

And, by the way, fire drills happen, like, consistently.  And, thankfully, we rarely see any fire in a school.  Gun violence, very different issue. 

When our young leaders start voting in their numbers on so many of these issues, I believe we’re going to see a sea change in terms of how we address it, because our young leaders, in particular, are very practical and they want to see things done.

And what I love about them is they’re not going to wait for us to figure it out.  They’re going to do it.  They’re going to do it. 

MR. YANG:  Thank you.  Thank you, Madam Vice Pr- — that was great.  I mean, it’s — it’s — these are two very, very tough issues, subjects.  And — and I think, hopefully, we can, you know, see more hope and inspiration coming from not just us, not just you, but the younger generation as well.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And — and on the subject, I mean, we know that it visited — it visits itself on the Asian community across the country.  I mean, whether it be Atlanta — the President and I went down after those horrific killings of — of young women there. 

Monterey Park: Judy Chu is here.  I spent — and she has been an extraordinary leader for her constituents.  I — I visited Monterey Park and the — and the families. 

Not to mention, not only has it visited itself upon Asian communities, but when you couple that with the anti-Asian hate that has been spewed, especially in recent years, the fear is everywhere — and including, of course, in the Asian community.

MR. YANG:  Yeah, absolutely.  And — and we have great leaders that have done great things for our community. 

So, w- — with my last question, I want to kind of look into the future —


MR. YANG:  — a little bit.  Like, you’ve done a lot with the leaders here to, you know, protect our freedom, to create opportunity, to strengthen our democracy, like we’ve talked about.  How are you thinking about the work ahead?  And what can we do as a community —


MR. YANG:  — to strengthen our future together?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, the first thing is to know our power.  And I think it’s critically important to not ever let anybody silence your voice and to know that it is not about asking permission to speak.  (Laughs.) 

MR. YANG:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s not — that’s not going to get it.  One needn’t and shouldn’t wait for permission to speak.

There are so many issues that are facing us as a country. 

Not to mention this, I mean, I — I have now, as Vice President, met over 150 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings — many multiple times. 

The last three international trips I took — so, at the end of last year and the beginning of this year — were Dubai for — I — I presented our — for the United States on — at COP28, the global climate conference. 

I went to the UK.  Rishi Sunak invited me to come and speak about my theories on the safety that we need in AI.

And then, this year, at the Munich Security Conference, where I spoke about America’s position as it relates to many global issues and security issues. 

Almost to a one — I’ve now met many of these leaders multiple times; we’re on a first-name basis — they came up to me, “Kamala, I hope you guys are going to do all right in this election.”

Understand that the power that we have right now that we must own and exercise will have an impact on people in our own country and people around the world.  People who are fighting against autocracy and corruption around the world will be impacted — not can be; I believe will be.

You know, we, as the United States — we walk into these rooms around the globe with the self-appointed and earned authority to talk about the importance of democracy, rule of law.  But I say to a r- — a roomful of role models: When you’re a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. 

I imagine some young women fighting for the right to be educated and an autocrat saying, “You want to talk about the rights of women?  Look at what the United States is doing.”

So, right now, in particular, I say that, Jimmy, this issue is about what’s going to happen in the next 170-something days.  And everyone has got to be heard and — and demand that you be heard. 

And — and remind our families and our friends and our community of their right and responsibility and duty, dare I say, to answer a fundamental question at this point: What kind of country do we want to live in?  As much as anything, that’s what’s before us. 

And I will, though, end my point, again, with great optimism, based on everything I described about who our young leaders are, but also what I know this group of leaders to be.  We — our parents, our children, our grandparents — we here believe in the promise of America.  We believe in the promise of America. 

And this, then, becomes a moment where that belief has to spur us into action, knowing that we can determine its future.  And that is our power.  That is our power. 

MR. YANG:  Thank you very much, Madam Vice President.  And one more time —


MR. YANG:  — that was truly amazing.  (Applause.)

END                 11:28 A.M. EDT

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