Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center

Dallas, Texas

11:18 A.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Oh, my goodness.  Hello, everyone.  (Applause.)  Good morning, my sorors.  (Applause.)  Good morning.

Oh, my goodness.  Please have a seat.  Please have a seat.  Oh, my heart is full. 

To our supreme basileus, Danette Anthony Reed, thank you for your leadership, your kind words, your friendship, and all that you do.  To the members of the Directorate, to my dear friend Dr. Glenda Glover, and to all (inaudible) supreme basilei, thank you for your years of leadership and mentorship.  (Applause.)

To my line sisters, the 38 Jewels of Iridescent Splendor — (applause) — oh, you are such an incredible part of my journey.  And I love you, guys.  Thank you for being here.

And to all those who serve Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, it is an honor — (applause) — and a joy to be with you today.

Before I begin, I will say a few words on Hurricane Beryl.  Our hearts, of course, are with the millions of Texans who are facing the devastating impact of the storm and all those who lost loved ones and the first responders who have worked around the clock to keep people safe and the line crews, who are working as fast as possible to restore power.

President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration.  And we will continue to stand with the people of Texas as we rebuild and recover.

And with that — (applause) — I will address the topic at hand.

Sorors, as many of you know, this sisterhood has been a part of my life since my earliest days, starting with my aunt, Ms. Christine Simmons, who was initiated in 1950 at Howard University.  (Applause.)  And from 1978 to 1981, she served as basileus of Alpha Nu Me- — Nu Omega Chapter in Wa- — in Oakland, California.  (Applause.)

And, in fact, one summer, Auntie Chris hosted one of our revered founders, Ms. Norma E. Boyd, who was then 93 years old.  And Ms. Boyd gave me her book, “A Love That Equals My Labors,” which she signed, “To Kamala.  With love, Norma E. Boyd.”  (Applause.)

And that cherished book now sits in my West Wing office at the White House — (applause) — as a testament to our enduring legacy, a legacy that began 116 years ago when Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, was founded to create desperately needed social and legal change and to build networks of support for Black college women.

Our sisterhood was also founded, as we know, in the face of profound challenges in our country.  Think about it.  In 1908, women were not guaranteed the right to vote.  There was not a single Black person in the United States Congress.  And that year, 89 Black Americans were lynched, and that was just the number that was documented.

And yet, despite all of this, and perhaps because of it, our founders believed in the power of sisterhood and service.  And our founders believed in the promise of America — a promise of freedom, opportunity, and equality not for some but for all.  (Applause.)

For generations, in furtherance of the vision of our founders, we have fought, then, to realize that promise.  From our creation of the Mississippi Health Project in the 1930s — (applause) — to job training and literacy programs in the 1960s and ‘70s — (applause) — and then, most recently, of course, the work on voting rights and economic opportunity and child hunger.

Throughout our history, the leaders of Alpha Kappa Alpha have stood up, spoken out, and done the work to build a brighter future for our nation, including, of course, in 2020, when, during the height of a pandemic, you helped elect Joe Biden president of the United States — (applause) — and me as the first woman elected vice president of the United States.  (Applause.)

And it is because of your work and your support that we have been able to then fill our administration with incredible leaders, such as Shalanda Young — Soror Shalanda Young — (applause) — who is the head of the most powerful Office of Management and Budget — she controls the money — (applause) — and, of course, a member of our sorority.

The promise of America: the promise of freedom, opportunity, and equality for all people. 

You know, when we first took office, the president and I knew that to realize that promise, we must address long-standing issues — some issues that people just don’t like to even talk about. 

We decided we must, for example, make health care more affordable because the reality is that access to health care should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it.  (Applause.)

We decided to look at specific communities that have been long suffering on specific issues, then, including diabetes.  So, we decided to address the cost of insulin with the knowledge that Black people are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.  (Applause.)  And we took on Big Pharma and capped the cost of insulin for our elders at $35 a month.  (Applause.) 

We knew, to realize the promise of America, we must address the issue of student loan debt.  (Applause.)  And I know there are many here who have benefitted from that work.  (Applause.)  Please testify.  (Laughs.)  And we have forgiven debt for nearly 5 million people so far — and twice as much for our public servants, including our nurses and our teachers and our firefighters.  (Applause.)

The president and I have also taken on the issue of medical debt, finally making it so that medical debt, which is usually the result of a medical emergency — it’s not something you plan; it’s not something you invite — but we have made it now so that medical debt can no longer be used against your credit score.  (Applause.) 

Because that credit score, of course, is supposed to measure whether you are responsible financially or not.  The fact that you have endured a medical emergency is not a measure of that.  And so, it was just wrong, and we have corrected that.

To realize the promise of America, we have addressed the long-standing crisis of maternal mortality — (applause) — something, as you know, I’ve been working on since I was in the United States Senate. 

Why?  Because women in America die at a higher rate in connection with childbirth than women in any other wealthy nation in the world, and Black women are three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth.  (Applause.)

So, to address this crisis, among the work that I’ve done, I challenged every state in our nation when we first came in.  I challenged every nation in our — every state in our nation.  And I challenged them and said, “Extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum coverage from the measly two months a year that you’ve been doing to a full year.”  (Applause.)  And I am proud to report that, when I issued the challenge, only 3 states offered a full year of coverage; now 46 states offer a for year — full year of coverage.  (Applause.)

And today, I am announcing, for the first time, we have created national health and safety standards for maternal care — for the first time, national standards — (applause) — which means nearly every hospital in our country will soon be required to provide new mothers with delivery rooms that are fully stocked with lifesaving medical equipment.  (Applause.)  It’s the first time.

So, sorors, all of us here are clear: While we have come a mighty long way, we have more work to do.

Across our nation, we are witnessing a full-on assault on hard-fought, hard-won freedoms and rights: the freedom to vote, the freedom to be safe from gun violence, the freedom to live without fear of bigotry and hate, the freedom to love who you love openly and with pride, the freedom to learn and acknowledge our true and full history as America — (applause) — and the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body and not have her government tell her what to do.  (Applause.)

And these are not only basic freedoms and rights.  These are the pillars of our liberty, the essence of our democracy, and the promise of America.

On that last point about the attacks we see on reproductive freedom, understand how we got here.  Then-President Donald Trump hand-picked three members of the United States Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood — because he intended for them to overturn Roe v. Wade.  And as he intended, they did.

Now, two years later, in the South, where the majority of Black women call home, every state except Virginia has a ban — many with no exceptions even for rape or incest. 

Now, we all know: 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 will talk with her priest, her pastor, but it should not be the government replacing her good judgment with its own.  (Applause.)  Faith and freedom can coexist.

And understand, the former president wants to pass a national abortion ban to outlaw abortion in every single state, but we will not let him.  (Applause.)  We will not let that happen.  We have worked too hard and fought too long to see our daughters grow up in a world with fewer rights than our mothers.  (Applause.) 

America must trust women.  America must honor individual choice.  America must defend freedom.

And when Congress passes a law that restores the reproductive freedoms of Roe, our president, Joe Biden, will sign it.  (Applause.)

And there is so much at stake in this moment — including last week, when the Supreme Court basically told this individual, who has been convicted of fraud — (applause) — that, going forward, he will be immune for activity we know he is prepared to engage in if he gets back into the White House.

Consider: Donald Trump has openly vowed, if reelected, he’ll be a dictator on day one, that he will weaponize the Department of Justice against his political enemies, round up peaceful protesters and throw them out of our country, and even, and I quote, “terminate” the United States Constitution.

What’s more, Trump advisors have created a 900-page blueprint of their agenda for the second term.  They call it “Project 2025.”  It includes a plan to cut Social Security, to repeal our $35 cap on insulin, to eliminate the Department of Education and end programs like Head Start.

So, let us be clear: This represents an outright attack on our children, our families, and our future.  (Applause.)

And all of this is to say, I do believe this is the most existential, consequential, and important election of our lifetimes. 

Sorors — (applause) — sorors, this is a serious matter.

AUDIENCE:  Serious matter.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, in this moment, once again, our nation is counting on the leaders in this room to guide us forward; to energize, organize, and mobilize; to register folks to vote and to get them to the polls in November.

Because we know, when we organize, mountains move.  (Applause.)  When we mobilize, nations change.  And when we vote, we make history.  (Applause.)

So, I’ll conclude with this.  For 116 years, the members of our sorority have been on the front lines of the fight to realize the promise of America.  This year, let us continue that work.

Let us fight for freedom, opportunity, and equality.  Let us, as always, fight with optimism, with faith, and hope.  And let us see it through, because when we fight, we win. 

God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                  11:37 A.M. CDT

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