The Carter Center

Atlanta, Georgia

2:14 P.M. EDT

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.

     AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon.

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And to all the Bison in here: You know.  (Laughter.)

     MR. JACKSON:  Wow.  Y’all, give it up one more time for Quavo and the Vice President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)  This is amazing.  This is nothing short of amazing.  But I want to get out of the way and hear from our amazing speaker.

     So, first, Madam Vice President, you travel the country connecting with communities and young leaders.  Just this past fall during the “Fight for Our Freedoms” college tour, you engaged over 15,000 students on college campuses across the country on the most urgent issues of this moment — in particular, the fight for our most fundamental freedoms.

     One freedom you are focused on is the freedom to be safe from gun violence.  And so, it’s no surprise that you oversee the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. 

     Now, what can we do, from your perspective, to end this senseless violence?  And how is the administration leading on this issue?

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Greg.  Let me just start by talking about Quavo.  (Laughter.)  So, Quavo and his mother and his aunt — Takeoff’s mother —

     QUAVO:  Sister.

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — sister — came to my office in the West Wing of the White House to talk about this issue.  And it was a difficult conversation that day because the issue is such a difficult one.  And I know there are — there are a lot of families here and survivors.  And the pain that is associated with gun violence in America is almost unspeakable.  And it is everywhere. 

     And what Quavo has been doing with The Rocket Foundation to — to translate that pain and that grief into something that is about creating strength and empowerment in the community, including among our young people, is really extraordinary.  And as I said to you that day, Quavo, in my office, that you have chosen to use your celebrity, the gift that you have as an artist to talk about and actually work on with action this issue is really extraordinary.

     You are an incredible leader and a national leader on this.  And I thank you for that, as the head of the first White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and as Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.) 

     QUAVO:  Thank you, thank you.

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Really.  Really.

     And so, this issue is — well, let me just start with this: It doesn’t have to be this way.  And we have to hold on to and remember that.  It does not have to be this way.  We cannot ever normalize this.  We cannot ever get used to it.  And we certainly cannot accept it.

     We need to understand that everyday gun violence is as serious as mass shootings — that any life lost, any life that has been impacted by gun violence is one life too many.  We have to think about this in the many ways that the injury occurs, which includes, of course, the — the tragedy of life that is lost but also the trauma that is a additional form of injury that can exist for a lifetime if we don’t put resources into calling it what it is and putting the resources into diagnosis and treatment.

     Let’s think about it in terms of the tragedy that gun violence in America is the number-one killer of the children of America — not car accidents, not cancer — gun violence.  One in five Americans has a family member that was killed by gun violence.  Gun violence — Black victims of gun violence — 10 times more likely to be a victim of gun violence.

     So, it’s a real issue that requires everybody’s priority in terms of addressing it.  And there are many ways to do it that include also what we need to do around election time, which is about recognizing that too many people, who I will call “cowards,” have been pushing this false choice to suggest you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.  That’s a false choice. 

     I’m in favor of the Second Amendment.  I also believe there is no reason why we have assault weapons on the streets of America.  (Applause.)  They are weapons of war.  We need an assault weapons ban.  I’m in favor of the Second Amendment. 

     I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, and we need universal background checks.  I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, and we need red flag laws.  (Applause.)

     And we need the people in the United States Congress to have the courage to stand up to the gun lobbyists and take action around what is just reasonable. 

     Universal background checks — you just might want to know before someone can buy a lethal weapon if they’ve been found to be a danger to themselves or others.  You just might want to know.  (Applause.)  That’s reasonable.

     Assault weapons — assault weapons are designed to kill a lot of people quickly.  There’s no place for them in the neighborhoods and the streets where people live and go to school and worship.  We’ve seen what they do.

     So, there are solutions.  And that’s part of the work that I’m doing with the Gun Violence Prevention Office at the White House is to work on those solutions, including what we have recently done through that office, which is to put a billion dollars into hiring mental health counselors in our public schools to help address — (applause) — the mental health aspect of this.  Yes.

     MR. JACKSON:  Amazing.  Madam Vice President, you spoke of courage.  And there’s nothing more courageous than losing someone and stepping up and taking action.  And — and, Quavo, you did one of the bravest things with your family by coming to Washington and advocating for change.  And so, I’m just curious if you can share a little bit about why is this issue so important to you, you know, and why is it so important for you to take action after suffering such loss.

     QUAVO:  I’m a victim.  I got a second chance.  I feel like I wouldn’t be here if everybody — you know what I’m saying?  It would have — I just look at myself as, like — when I saw him laying there, I feel like I saw me laying there.  So, I feel like if — when I’m — when I’m doing something like The Rocket Foundation, I just want to uplift his legacy and make sure to keep his name alive.  So, that’s why we here.  (Applause.) 

     MR. JACKSON:  It’s alive and well. 

     Speaking of legacies, Madam Vice President, gun violence causes trauma and deeply impacts our mental health and especially true for young folks who are going through active shooter drills, that are losing their friends and families at such a young age.  And you have spent your career — I would argue, most of your life — working on this issue — as District Attorney, 20 years of pouring into efforts to be smart about how we prevent violence —


     MR. JACKSON:  — and really elevating the national model for how we deal with stress and trauma amongst our youth. 

     I also just want to mention, as California Attorney General, you created the Bureau of Children’s Justice to shape the state’s response to the crisis of childhood exposure to trauma. 

     And as the Vice President, you continue to emphasize the importance of addressing the trauma that too many of have — of us have faced with gun violence.

     And so, would love for you to talk a little bit more about how you’ve been fighting to prioritize mental health and, really, resources and support to help those who have been impacted by trauma.

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mm-hmm.  Well, gun violence in the neighborhood, in the community, without any question, results in trauma.  And you — just think about trauma as being an invisible wound but a wound nonetheless.  And like any wound, if it does not heal in a healthy way, it will continue to be a problem.

     I will say that there are many sources of trauma.  Poverty is trauma-inducing.  (Applause.)  When you start compounding sources of trauma, then you can just imagine how the trauma is even more severe.  So, let’s speak truth about that as well.

     But, you know, on the issue of — of what I’ve seen in particular about the trauma that — that comes from exposure to violence, you know, some people will simplify the point of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.  And — and one of the ways that I’ve heard it simplified — but it makes sense — is imagine every day you’re walking across a very busy street and, out of nowhere, some — a Mack truck comes barreling down.  Without reflection, you’ll — you’ll produce what’s called a cortisoid [cortisol].  You — your body will i- — will absolutely just react without reflection, and you’ll jump back.

     But if every day, at different points in times, that — that Mack truck comes, you’re going to overproduce that thing — to th- — that — that is the thing that your body is designed to do to help you deal with stress. 

     But when you overproduce it, one day, as this — this example goes, you’re walking across the street, you look up, you see that Mack truck coming, and you keep walking.  Because you’ve so overproduced this thing that it makes you numb. 

     It’s really important to understand that that is one of the symptoms of exposure to trauma-inducing things.  Because, you know, when we talk about how especially our young people are misdiagnosed — when people will look at our young people and say, “Oh, they don’t have any emotion or feelings.  That response to this thing doesn’t seem like a healthy response.”  Well, when people have been overexposed to trauma-inducing events, that’s physiologically what happens. 

     So, we have to also elevate the conversation about what trauma looks like and the effects — what the effects of trauma look like. 

     It includes that a young person — or any — of any age, by the way — will have trouble sleeping at night; will have depression; will have flashbacks; if they’re in class, will act out and then get labeled the “bad kid,” which just produces a whole other cycle of then getting — right? — put on detention, getting kicked out of school.

     So, this issue of early diagnosis and treatment of trauma has profound impacts on everyone from our youngest to of any age.  And part of, then, the work that — that, Quavo, you’ve been doing with the foundation and what we’ve been doing is to elevate the importance of dealing with mental health.

     And it’s something that all communities need to address, but we, in particular, have to remind people.  When we talk about healthcare, for too long people have acted as though the body starts from the neck down.  Well, what about the healthcare we need from the neck up?  That’s healthcare.

     And so, mental health care is important, but we got to put the resources into it.  And the thing that we know is we need to have culturally competent mental health care providers.  (Applause.) 

     You mentioned, Greg, I did the college tour last fall.  And I went to a number of schools, including our HBCUs, of course.  And I would — I would challenge the young people — you know, like there was, back in the day, challenging people to go into public service — I’m challenging our young leaders: Think about a calling for yourself in the profession of mental health, whether it be from being a therapist to — to being — you know, going to medical school.  But we need more people doing this stuff.

     And — and the one thing that I find with our younger leaders is they are more willing to talk about mental health than people of older generations.  And I think — I see that as a sign of opportunity.

But to meet them where they are — where they are and what they’re asking for, we need more resources going into the treatment.  And — and I think we can — we can get there.  And we’ve already — for the work that we’ve done — over 300 mental health counselors in the public schools of Georgia as a result of the work the President and I have done.  (Applause.)

And — and I will add one more thing.  Please pass the word.  There’s a crisis line that we’ve set up: 988.  And here’s the thing to let people know about that: You can be anonymous.  You can text it.  You can call it.  You can have a conversation.  Sometimes, it’s just about creating safe places for people to talk — just to be able to talk. 

And so, 988 is something that we should get the word out where it’s anonymous, you can just call and talk with somebody about how you are feeling in a safe place.

MR. JACKSON:  Thank you.  I want to ask the room real quick: Raise your hand if you’ve lost someone to gun violence. 

And so, I just think it’s fair of me to speak from the room, Madam Vice President, just thank you for seeing us.  Thank you for seeing how deep this is cutting our community.  I know, for me, I couldn’t sleep for months.  I think our first few conversations, Quavo, you were going through the same thing.

QUAVO:  Yeah.

MR. JACKSON:  And for too often, our trauma is overlooked.


MR. JACKSON:  And it just means so much.  It really does.  So, just thank you.  Thank you for seeing us.


QUAVO:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR. JACKSON:  Quavo, you have been an inspiration to me and — look at this big room — (laughs) — of so many people from Atlanta — but not just an inspiration o- — musically but in your community and really on the entire culture — Black culture in America. 

And I just want to thank you, because you’ve been fighting for resources for our communities and — and for youth all over the country.  And Rocket Foundation is such a huge, transformative organization.  And I just want to give you some space to talk more about why this is important and — and the vision that you have for this foundation.

QUAVO:  I mean, like I said, it — it didn’t hit hard until it hit home with me.  So, we founded The — The Rocket Foundation honoring my nephew’s legacy.  And just seeing the progress and seeing the support and seeing — we got the Vice President; we got all y’all in here that actually had the same experience that I have. 

And it’s just — like, once again, like, me being on this stage is — is very, very tough for me.  At the end of the day, it’s like I’m — I’m already, like, a year missing with my — my nephew. 

So, just seeing some type of progress — we launched the Spark Grants.  And, you know, we want to make sure that we get these organizations that want to do something about it, you know, funded.  We want to make sure we support them.  I feel like everybody need, like, a plug.  (Applause.)  I feel like — in mu- — in music, we say — in music we say a “plug.”  (Laughter.)  And so, I just — I just want to be the plug to the community and — and help change.

MR. JACKSON:  Hey, let’s go.  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Keep it real.  (Laughter.)


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I said, “Keep it real.”  (Laughter.)

MR. JACKSON:  Speaking of the plug — (laughter) —

Well, Madam Vice President, we would love to — to close with one more question from you.  I mean, there’s so many amazing young leaders here that are streaming from all over the country: survivors, activists, frontline providers, violence intervention, mentors — so many leaders. 

And I’m just curious, what would you say to the young leaders of the future of how they can be a part of the change and really help turn this issue around?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll start with this.  You were born a leader.  And for the young leaders who are here now, you have clearly decided to activate that as early and as soon as possible.  And that inspires all of us. 

Our country needs you.  Our country needs you.  (Applause.)

And so, here’s — here’s — so, I — I got plenty of advice.  Okay, here you go. 

MR. JACKSON:  Let’s go.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, let’s start with this.  You’re going to hear many times in your life, “Oh, nobody like you has done that before.”  “Oh, you’re too young.”  “Oh, it’s not your time.  Wait your turn.”  This is one I love: “Oh, it’s going to be hard work.”  Don’t you ever listen to that.

Let me tell you.  I — I have a saying: I eat “no” for breakfast.  I don’t hear “no” until maybe the 10th time, and I don’t hear it then either.  (Laughter.)

So, don’t ever listen when someone tells you that the thing that you have passion about that you know can be done — don’t ever listen when somebody tells you it’s not possible. 

The other piece of advice I have is this.  Don’t ever be burdened by other people’s limited ability to see who can do what.  (Applause.)  That’s not your problem.  That’s not your problem.  That’s their problem. 

I’ve got more advice.  (Laughter.)  There will be many times when you’re going to be in a room — a meeting room, a boardroom — where you’re going to be the only one that looks like you in that room, the only one who’s had the experiences that you’ve had. 

I want you to look around this room and hold this image in your heart and in your mind.  And you remember, when you walk in those rooms, we are all in that room with you. 

And so, we expect and require that you walk in that room with your chin up and your shoulders back, knowing you are carrying the voice of so many people who are so proud that you are there. 

Don’t ever let anyone suggest to you that you are alone, because that’s one way to make somebody feel like they don’t have people.  You have people.  You have people who stand with you. 

And so, these are some of the things that I think is so important for our young leaders to remember — and, in particular, our young leaders right now.

You know, you talked, Greg, about the active shooter drills.  You know, when I was growing up, the closest thing we had was fire drills. 

MR. JACKSON:  Mm-hmm.  Yep.


Our children, our young people — when I was doing the — the college tour — and I was doing it with college-aged people, so I was doing trade schools as well as universities and stuff.  And I would ask the young people, “Raise your hand if at any point between kindergarten and 12th grade you had to endure an active shooter drill.”  Almost every hand went up.

This one young person said to me — younger than the college students — and said to me, “Yeah, that — that’s why I don’t like going to fifth period.”  I said, “Why, sweetheart?  Why don’t you like going to fifth period?”  And they said, “Well, because, in fifth period, there’s no closet to hide in.”

So, we talk about trauma.  It includes — especially when you’re talking about children who are exposed to everyday gun violence and they’re doing active shooter drills, worrying about who might bust through the classroom door, think about what — what — what our children are carrying in terms of the fear, when their — their beautiful big brains should be open to the wonders of the world and being taught about the wonders of the world and excited about that. 

And so, back to our young leaders.  Your voices on so many issues, including this one, are based on a lived experience, which gives you the authority and the right and the entitlement to go out and speak your truth and require that people listen to you — and don’t stop talking until people listen to you. 

We are counting on you.  And, you know, when — I think when our young leaders start voting in their numbers on issues like this, we’re going to see a sea change, because they’re not going to wait.  They’re not going to wait, and they are not falling for the okey-doke. 

So, that’s — that’s my advice.

And then, I guess my last piece is this.  So, I was proud, when I was in the United States Senate, to be one of the sponsors to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, which — and Juneteenth — (applause) — yes.  And — and Juneteenth is tomorrow.

So, you know, a lot of people have said, “Well, how should we be celebrating?”  And, you know, we have the traditions, of course, but how should we think about it now as a federal holiday? 

So, one of the things that I’ve — I’ve issued is a call to action.  So, I would invite everyone to participate.  Is — among the many ways that you celebrate Juneteenth, think about how you can ask just your neighbor or your cousin or somebody to make sure they’re registered to vote.  Let’s think of it as a day of action to register people to vote as well for Juneteenth.  (Applause.)  So —

QUAVO:  (Inaudible.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — there we go.

MR. JACKSON:  I just want to add one quick thing for — for all the young folks out there.  We have our great partners at AmeriCorps that are here as well.  And so —


MR. JACKSON:  — please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And —


MR. JACKSON:  And there are over 500 sites of AmeriCorps where you can sign up and join the team officially to help us address the issue of gun violence.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And don’t we have some paid jobs in the connection with AmeriCorps?

MR. JACKSON:  Oh, yes, ma’am.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Let’s talk about that.

MR. JACKSON:  Yes, ma’am.  The average program pays $2,914 a month.  But, you know, who’s counting?


     MR. JACKSON:  But they are great programs to get you started.  And we — we would love to have you — be a part of your service work and being paid for that effort.

So — and one last thing I’ll just share —

QUAVO:  I want to shout out —

MR. JACKSON:  Oh, yes.  Please, sir.

QUAVO:  I just want to shout out, shine a light on the Rocket Camp and go back to how she said everything started with the youth.  So, what we will be doing — we — we’re going to open up the Rocket Camp and have — where all my Rocket Camp kids at?  Where they at?  They in here?  (Applause.)  Okay, cool.  Yeah, so — yeah.  Right there.


QUAVO:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — my goodness!

QUAVO:  We’re going to keep them — we’re going to keep them boys —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Oh, my goodness.

QUAVO:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ohh — (laughs) —

QUAVO:  So, I’m going to make sure I pull up to the camp.  And, you know, we’re going to make sure we play basketball, some — have some fun things.  And at the same time, we — it’s — it’s gun prevention programs and — and many other programs in there.  So, I’m hands-on.  I will be coming to see y’all boys at Rocket Camp.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  Oh, that’s wonderful.

     MR. JACKSON:  So, Madam Vice President, would you like to share the last word?

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  We have more work to do, but good work is happening. 

And let’s not let — let’s not let anybody make us think that we cannot make a difference.  There’s so many people here who — with — that raised their hand.  You’ve been through so much.  And it’s never-ending, in some ways.  But we can’t let these circumstances take away our purpose and our knowledge that we can make a difference. 

And I look at this leader, Quavo, as an example of that.  You inspire so many people, including me.  (Applause.)

QUAVO:  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Because this is exactly what leaders do.  They figure out a way to turn pain into purpose in a way that benefits so many. 

And I’ll — and I’ll just end with this.  You know, th- — I think that there’s been something kind of backward that’s been happening in our country in the last few years that is to suggest that the strength of the — of a leader is measured based on who you beat down, when, in fact, the real strength of a leader is measured on who they lift up.  And that’s what you are doing.  (Applause.)

MR. JACKSON:  Yes.  Please give it up one more time, y’all, for Quavo and the Vice President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                  2:41 P.M. EDT

# # #

Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top