San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined local community leaders at the Rosa Parks Senior Center to mark the 87th anniversary of Social Security and call out Republicans’ renewed attempts to dismantle this essential program. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Dornesha, for your leadership of the Rosa Parks Senior Center. Rosa Parks was such a leader, so courageous and so – the one to do the job. And this is what she fought for. This is what she fought for. So wonderful and representing the beautiful diversity of our community as well. Thank you for your leadership, for your kind words – and my best regards to your daughter. It’s all about the future. It’s all about her.
I’m happy to be here with Cathy Davis – now, we have just met – but Cathy and I have been friends for decades. Where’s Cathy Davis? There she is, right in front of me. Cathy Davis. Thank you. I’ll introduce Cathy in a moment, but it’s always wonderful to see – I’m always inspired by her work. She and her husband George were my friends for decades, and I always drew strength – and actually nourishment – from the hospitality as they met the needs of so many of our seniors in the community.
I’m happy to be here with Cindy Kauffman, who is Deputy Director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. Thank you for being with us. Thank you – without the masks now.
And a real celebrity for us is Sascha Bittner. Sascha is President of Board of Directors of San Francisco In-Home Supportive Services. She has been, shall we say, a relentless, persistent advocate for people, persons with disabilities, and we just love her so much. It’s an honor for us to have you here.
But our real celebrity today, and I’m sure Sascha and others will agree, is Stephanie Hughes. She’s a Bayview Senior Services attendee.
Okay, let’s hear it. Thank you, because you are what this is all about, and your message is the one we’ve all come to hear as we salute this day: the 87th birthday of Social Security. Again, it’s appropriate at the Rosa Parks Senior Center, which is a model of strengthening community bonds, as we see, empowering our city seniors, as we know, and lifting up their voices.
And what a privilege it is to observe our Day of Action, our Social Security Day of Action – part of a national drumbeat of opposition to right-wing attacks on our seniors’ initiatives. And it’s something that we have – usually we just are here to celebrate Social Security, but as Republicans redouble their attempts to dismantle Social Security, this work has never been more important.
Nine decades ago, in the depths of the Depression, half of America’s seniors lived in poverty. Half the seniors lived in poverty. Instead of rest and fulfillment, retirement in their senior years – they had uncertainty and hardship. President Roosevelt passed this legislation, and when he did, he said: ‘There’s no tragedy in growing old, but there is tragedy in growing old without means of support.’
And that was what Social Security was designed to do. By signing the Social Security law, he established a pillar, a pillar – a strong pillar of financial stability that has stood for generations. Today, it safeguards the well-being of millions, whether retired or living with a disability. In our District alone, as you see with our Social Security card here, more than 109,000 residents receive hard-earned Social Security checks every month, to the tune of over $100 million every month. It’s remarkable.
Social Security is one of our nation’s greatest legislative accomplishments – and one of its most widely-supported. Yet Republicans want to end Social Security as we know it.
Some of you may remember that we had to fight this in 2006. When they wanted to privatize – President Bush wanted to privatize Social Security. We won then, and we will win now. Because we must.
House Republicans are openly fighting to hike the retirement age, slash benefits and push privatization. Again, I just remind – some of you have been in the fight with us on the protecting the Affordable Care Act. When they went after the Affordable Care Act to repeal it, at the same time, they said, ‘We’re doing away with Social Security Disability Insurance.’ So they were doing it even then on the Affordable Care Act.
One Senate Republican, Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, wants to go even further: putting Social Security on the chopping block every single year – he tries to do this – and endangering the financial security of millions of Californians. Tens of millions across the country.
Make no mistake: Republicans wants to turn back the clock to a time of instability and rampant senior poverty. Why would they do this? Why would they do this? They don’t believe in governance. They never really supported Social Security. They tried to stop Medicare.
Democrats will stop at nothing to stop their dark vision from becoming a reality. Our commitment to Social Security is absolute – unshakable and non-negotiable. The GOP only cares about its own power. Democrats are putting People Over Politics.
That is why we stood by, last week, and fought Big Pharma. Imagine, we had a bill on the Floor that would enable the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices for seniors for prescription drugs. Thank you, AARP, for being here. And the Republicans, not one of them voted to support making prescription drugs more affordable for our seniors. For us, it was an historic day, because we had been working for decades to be able to unlock the stranglehold that Big Pharma has on Congress when it comes to prescription drugs, and we won that day. Not everything we wanted, but a great, big, giant step forward for our seniors, for America’s working families – where this is a kitchen table issue.
We also had in that bill, language to protect the Affordable Care Act and, with subsidies, make it more affordable to many more families in our country. With slashing drug costs, I was – we had a victory For The People. There was a stranglehold, and we’ve loosened it – giving people opportunity to breathe as we fight, as we fight for more.
And that’s why, across the country today, House Democrats are sitting down with our seniors to say: ‘Hands off our Social Security!’
‘Hands off our Social Security.’ That’s our motto today. And thank you all for being here for a Day of Action. We’ll get – as I’ve said to some of you as we were chatting earlier – can only do so much with our inside maneuvering. The outside mobilization that you’re involved in makes all the difference in the world. Makes better policy, makes it more long-standing and easier to protect. So I thank all of you – whether it’s AARP or any of the organizations, our friends in the labor movement and the rest – who have made the outside mobilization such as success.
We always say when they come up with these things: we don’t agonize, we organize. And that’s what today is about.
So it’s my pleasure now to introduce a relentless advocate for seniors, a persistent voice for justice, a loving guardian of her late husband George’s remarkable legacy, my personal friend, someone I admire so much for her personal integrity, her complete commitment to our seniors in our community, Cathy Davis.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Stephanie. As you can tell from listening to Stephanie and Sascha’s stories, as Commissioner Kauffman and Cathy will agree, there’s nothing as compelling as the personal stories. To have the clarity in the story you told us as well Commissioner, the personal stories that people have.
So it is – it is about having navigators and those who can give you guidance as to how to avail yourself of what you had paid into. Remember this: this is a Social Security people have paid into. It is their benefit, and we do not want it taken away from them or diminished. So as we celebrate, imagine the courage it took for the President – President Roosevelt, and at the time of the Great Depression, to say: this is our priority for the people, for the poor people. And it is for the general welfare of our country, which we promise in our Constitution.
And so now, we’re going to cut the cake. We’re going to cut the cake, so that we can celebrate this birthday, as well as to say that we are – as we cut the cake and celebrate the birthday, we’re going to make sure that the Republicans keep their hands off our Social Security.
We must protect it for Stephanie, for Sascha, for so many people in our community. And as I talked about Cathy, I was reminded that when – the senior center that she and George Davis had been so much a part of, we were able – that was part of the Alice Griffith housing initiative, which we got $30 million under President Obama for that project. So housing, food, Social Security, health care, prescription drug benefits – all of it comes together to respect the dignity and worth of every person in our community. And that Stephanie and Sascha are giving back is something quite remarkable. They are – true sense of community. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you, Sascha. Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner. And thank you, Dornesha. And let’s get around here and cut this cake.
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