July 23, 2019
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning! It’s wonderful to be here! Thank you Yvonne, thank you Yvonne White for your wonderful introduction but mostly for your strong leadership in Michigan!
Let us all salute Derrick Johnson for his leadership to advance civil rights and equality across our country – from sea to shining sea.
It is always a pleasure to see Chairman Leon Russell, a persistent and effective force for change, and to be here with each and every one of you.
Let me just say, is anyone here from California?
I know from San Francisco, Amos Brown is here.
And I know Maryland is here, and Baltimore is here and represented.
I represent San Francisco but I was born in Baltimore, and for my whole childhood, my father was the Mayor of Baltimore and my brother was the Mayor of Baltimore after that, so the names of Enolia McMillan, Parren and Clarence Mitchell and the Murphy family were revered in our home. These were names I knew when I was growing up.
And then ten years ago, imagine getting the honor – at the NAACP’s Centennial anniversary, I was honored to speak at the National Convention in New York City and become a golden heritage lifetime member.
And now it is a great pleasure to be with you in Detroit for the NAACP’s 110th anniversary! Thank you, Governor Whitmer for bringing us hope, and Mayor Mike Duggan, championing ‘One Detroit for Everyone,’ for hosting us.
This week, we celebrate the progress forged over eleven decades of organizing and mobilizing – and we prepare for the victories ahead. Because, we know: ‘When we fight, we win. When we fight, we win.’
I bring greetings to you from the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Congress – the most diverse and dynamic Congress in history!
In our new House, the House Congressional Black Caucus is the largest ever, an historic 53 Members in the House of Representatives, led by Karen Bass. Our fuller Committee, our fuller Caucus, of the entire Democratic Caucus led by Hakeem Jeffries, of New York. And of course, we’re very proud of the great leadership of our House Democratic Whip, Jim Clyburn.
So, here we are, with this House Democratic Caucus, 60 percent people of color, women and LGBTQ community members. Sixty percent. And in the Congress, our Members just don’t serve, they lead. Again, I talk about Mr. Clyburn.
Here in Detroit, we celebrate an iconic hero of the civil rights fight – and a beloved member of this community and of our country: Rosa Parks.
I was proud to work with Senate Leader Harry Reid and the entire Michigan delegation to ensure that Rosa Parks would make history again: as the first woman to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol.
Eight years later, Rosa’s greatness would be recognized again with a bronze statue, now joining Sojourner Truth and Dr. King in the Capitol of the United States.
Rosa Parks made the decision to demand her rights. You know that. And she later said, on that bus, ‘The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’
We, too, must continue to be tired of giving in! We, too, must continue to stand firm for fairness, for genuine equality and for justice.
The Democratic House stands with the NAACP in this mission, as a proud partner in progress. We are here to listen and to learn from you – and so that, together, we can lead the way to a better future for all.
The men and women, I thank you, I bring – thank you, because so many men and women of the NAACP helped elect a Democratic Majority that would be there For The People.
That is why, on Day One, on Day One with the For The People agenda, we [introduced] the For The People Act, to make government work for the public interest, not the special interests.
A key part of H.R. 1 is protecting and restoring the sacred right to vote – which is under serious, sustained threat today,
Our vote, as we know, is our voice and must be protected. That is why a key pillar of H.R. 1 is Congressman John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act, which ensures equal access to the ballot, modernizes voter registration, and fights voter suppression.
And that is why the House is advancing H.R. 4, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores the Voting Rights Act’s ability to combat voter discrimination. Voter discrimination.
The Judiciary Committee and the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, led by Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, who is here with us today, will continue to hold its hearings in the months ahead.
We must create an ironclad constitutional basis to restore the Voting Rights Act – and that’s being done under the leadership of Marcia Fudge – and when we do: the House will swiftly pass the Voting Rights Act to protect the ballot!
Once we restore the vote; once we break the grasp of special interests; once we put the power back in the hands of the people, the American people can finally and fully achieve justice in America.
And justice is something I want to spend a couple of minutes on right now.
Seventeen centuries ago, Saint Augustine said, ‘Any government that is not formed to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves.’
He said that. It is what he said. He said, and then others have said, sometimes it is hard to achieve justice, but you – to do so you must avoid the dazzling, blinding – blindness of special interests and money who are there to exploit the people.
We must achieve economic justice, end the disparity of income in America and reverse the damage of the Republican special interest agenda. That is why the House passed Paycheck Fairness Act, equal pay for equal work for women in the workplace.
And just last week, we passed the $15 minimum wage. $15 minimum wage. The first time in a decade. 30 million people in America will receive a raise, 20 million of them women, many of them women of color.
A pay raise that is so – that is – in the work place.
We must achieve justice in health care, understanding, as Dr. King, said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in death.’ That is what Dr. King said about that. House Democrats have now sent ten bills to the Senate to lower the cost of prescription drugs in health care, reverse the GOP’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, and strengthen the preexisting condition benefit.
We must also achieve environmental justice so that all children, no matter where they grow up, can breathe clean air and drink clean water.
In May, the House, the Democratic House, passed the Climate Action Now Act to take the first steps to protecting our planet for our children. This year, we advanced robust funding for the EPA to ensure clean drinking water, and we will continue to fight for justice for families in Flint.
We must achieve justice in education. As we observe the 50th anniversary of putting a man on the moon just this past weekend, the vision of President Kennedy, we remember his words, ‘Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.’ Because, as the NAACP knows, education is the key to success, no matter what your race or where you live.
And safe schools and communities demand that we prevent gun violence once and for all.
That means we will not take ‘no’ for an answer on background checks. That is why the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Check Act and Whip Jim Clyburn’s bill to close the Charleston Loophole. And Congresswoman McBath has been a leader in this fight for us. We must and we will keep working until our children are safe in their schools, and their homes and in their neighborhoods.
And we must achieve real justice in our criminal justice system. We cannot accept a system in which the wealthy people with high-paid lawyers can plead ignorance of the law and not go to jail, while children born not in privilege, when they even assert their rights, are accused of resisting arrest. We cannot have that.
We cannot tolerate a system that holds them to a different standard of law. The two-tiered system of justice is discriminatory at every step, from policing to sentencing to imprisonment and beyond.
It is unfair. It is unjust. And it must – it cannot stand.
At the birth of our nation, in the dark days of the revolution, Thomas Paine said, ‘the times have found us.’ We do not place ourselves in the category of our founders, but we do know the urgency of now that Dr. King talked about. And the times have found us.
Each and every one of us in this room, all of us in Congress – the two Senators: Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters; my colleagues: Congresswoman Lawrence, Congresswoman Talib – the times have found all of us to make the difference that our country is crying out for now.
Again, Dr. King, when he talked about the fierce urgency of now, he said, ‘This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.’
We all know we must act boldly. 110 years ago, the times found your leaders to forge the NAACP and to fight for your rights in the wake of the Springfield Riots. I hear this all the time from Shelly, from our good friends in DC.
And today, the times have found us to achieve a future, to achieve a future full of justice worthy of the sacrifice of our Founders, that fight they made – thank God they made the Constitution amendable – worthy of their vision, worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and let us salute them.
And have liberty – we make that pledge every day – liberty and justice for all. With your outside mobilizing and our inside maneuvering, we can achieve a more fair, free and just future, making the real dream of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and all who have fought for progress, many of them in this room.
Let us all, when we leave here, remember: when we fight, we win. When we fight, we win. When we fight, we win. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you all very much for the honor to be here. Thank you so much.
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Author: Will McCollough