President Joe Biden is calling for June to be a “Month of Action” – a full-court press to reach the goal of 70 percent of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4th. He outlined the unprecedented peacetime effort to make the vaccinations available for free, and even enticing incentives from governments, companies and sports organizations. New York State is awarding full four-year scholarships at a SUNY college; Ohio is picking $1 million lottery winners. The Biden Administration has created a website in order to find the nearest place to get a vaccination by texting your zipcode, organized free Uber lifts, free drop-in-day care and incentivized employers to give paid leave to get the shot.
“The more people we get vaccinated, the more success we’re going to have in our fight against this virus,” he said. “America is headed into the summer dramatically different from last year’s summer: a summer of freedom, a summer of joy, a summer of get-togethers and celebrations. An all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, long, dark winter that we’ve all endured.”
Here are his remarks:
In just four months, thanks to the American people, we have made incredible progress getting people vaccinated quickly, efficiently, and equitably. Nearly 170 million Americans of every party, every background, every walk of life have stepped up, rolled up their sleeves, and gotten the shot.
Fifty-two percent of adults are now fully vaccinated, including seventy-five percent of all seniors. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have achieved 50 percent of adults being fully vaccinated in their jurisdictions.
And it’s clearer than ever: The more people we get vaccinated, the more success we’re going to have in our fight against this virus.
Since January 20 — and we’re talking, now, about 15  months — the average daily cases are down from 184,000 to 19,000, below 20,000 for the first time since March of 2020. Average hospitalizations are down from 117,000 to 21,000. Death rates are down over 85 percent.
And this didn’t just happen by chance. We got to this moment because we took aggressive action from day one with a whole-of-government response. We used every lever at our disposal to get this done.
We experienced the production and expanded it in a significant way: in lifesaving vaccines available for every single American. They’re available, and we knew that was the case months ago.
We worked with cities and states to create over 80,000 vaccination sites. We deployed over 9,000 federal staff, including 5,100 active-duty troops to help get shots in arms. Now, as a result, we have built a world-class vaccination program.
I promised you we’d marshal a wartime effort to defeat this virus, and that’s just what we’ve been doing.
And now, tens of millions of Americans have been vaccinated. They’re able to return to closer to a — closer-to-normal life.
Fully vaccinated people are safely shedding their masks and greeting one another with a smile. Grandparents are hugging their grandkids again. Small-business owners are reopening storefronts and restaurants.
Because of the vaccination strategy, our economic strategy, we’re — experienced the strongest economic recovery this country has seen in decades.
There is a group called the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development — OECD — which includes most of the world’s largest economies in its membership. They’ve been one of those leading bodies analyzing economic growth across — around the world for 60 years.
Just this week, they increased their projection for the U.S. economic growth this year to 6.9 percent — 6.9 percent. That’s the fastest pace in nearly four decades. And that’s because of our vaccination program and our economic response, which, alone, are adding 3 to 4 percentage points to our growth; driving stronger growth not just there — not just this year, but in years to come.
In fact, America is the only major country where global forecasters have actually increased their five-year forecasts for economic growth since January of 2020.
And because of that, America is headed into the summer dramatically different from last year’s summer: a summer of freedom, a summer of joy, a summer of get-togethers and celebrations. An all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, long, dark winter that we’ve all endured.
But what happens after the summer? The data could not be clearer: For all the progress we’re making as a country, if you are unvaccinated, you are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying, or spreading disease to others, especially when Americans spend more time indoors again, closely gathered in the fall, as — and as we face the potential threat of a new, more dangerous variants.
Even now, if you look at the areas of the country where vaccination rates are the highest, the death — the death rates are dramatically falling. They — the vaccines are effective; they’re effective against the variants currently circulating in the United States. On the other hand, COVID deaths are unchanged in many parts of our country that are lagging behind in vaccinations.
And for young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life. It could have long-term implications for your health that we don’t even know about yet or fully understand yet.
It’s true that young people are much less likely to die from COVID. But if you do not get vaccinated, you could get COVID sooner or later. But you could get COVID still.
A substantial percentage of people with COVID, even young people, will suffer illnesses, and some will have long-term health impacts as a consequence.
If you’re thinking that the side effects from the shot are worse than the COVID, or that you can’t just take a chance, you are just dead wrong.
Do it for yourself. Do it to protect those more vulnerable than you: your friends, you family, your community.
You know, some people have questions about how quickly the vaccines were developed. They say they’ve been developed so quickly, they can’t be that good. Well, here’s what you need to know: Vaccines were developed over a decade of research in similar viruses, and they’ve gone through strict FDA clinical trials.
The bottom line is this — I promise you: They are safe. They are safe. And even more importantly, they’re extremely effective.
And if you’re vaccinated, you are protected. If you are not vaccinated, you are not protected.
Places with high vaccination rates will also see fewer cases of COVID moving forward. Places with lower vaccination rates are going to see more.
You know, we were elected to be President and Vice President for all Americans. And I don’t want to see the country that is already too divided become divided in a new way — between places where people live free from fear of COVID and places where, when the fall arrives, death and severe illnesses return.
The vaccine is free, it’s safe, and it’s effective. Getting the vaccine is not a partisan act. The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. Matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican President and widely developed by a Democratic President — deployed by a Democratic President.
All over the world, people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drug store at no cost, with no wait.
Every American over 12 years of age — no matter where you live, what you believe, who you voted for — has the right to get vaccinated. It’s your choice.
So, please, exercise your freedom, live without fear. We need to be one America, united — free from fear this fall.
Now, how will we keep beating this virus as we enter — as we enter the fall after summer? On May 4, I asked Americans to come together to get 70 percent of adults with one shot by July 4th — 70 percent at least with one shot. To date, 12 states have already reached this important milestone. We expect — we expect more to make this milestone this week.
Nationally, we are at 63 percent of adults with one shot. And we are getting closer, but we still have work to do. With 73 percent of Americans over the age of 40 with one shot, and as — we especially need people under 40 to step up. Over 40 is doing much better.
That’s why, today, we’re announcing a month-long effort to pull all the stops — all the stops to free ourselves from this virus and get to 70 percent of adult Americans vaccinated.
Now, I’m going to take everyone — you know, it’s going to take everyone — everyone — the federal government; the state governments; local, Tribal, and territorial governments; the private sector; and, most importantly, the American people — to get to the 70 percent mark so we can declare our independence from COVID-19 and free ourselves from the grip it has held over us — our lives for the better part of a year.
Each of you has the power to help us gain this freedom as a nation. If you get a shot this week, you can be fully vaccinated by July 4th — by the week of July the 4th. And you can celebrate Independence Day free from fear or worry.
This effort has five key parts. First, we’re making it easier than ever to get vaccinated. Ninety percent of you live within five miles of a vaccination site. The vaccinations are free, and most places allow walk-up vaccinations. No appointment needed.
You can go to Vaccines.gov or text your ZIP Code to 438829 to get a text back with the places you can get a shot that are close by.
And now, we’re going to make it even easier. In response to our call to action, businesses and organizations across the country have stepped up to help everyone get vaccinated.
Starting next week, many vaccination sites will be offering extended hours during the month of June, including pharmacies that will be open 24 hours every Friday night — for 24 hours they’ll be open — this month.
And if you’re too busy at work or school, you can get vaccinated around the clock on any Friday. Any Friday.
For parents who haven’t been able to get the shot because they didn’t have the childcare: Starting today, KinderCare, Learning Care Group, the Bright Horizons, alongside with hundreds of YMC- loc- — YMCA locations, are going to offer free drop-in childcare while the parents are getting vaccinated.
In addition, Uber and Lyft are both offering free rides to and from vaccination sites — vaccination centers. It’s easier than ever to get vaccinated.
So, again, text 438829 to find out what the nearest places you can get vaccinated are from your ZIP Code. And visit pharmacies with an extended-hour and walk-up shots that are available. Free childcare, free rides, free shots.
Second, we’re going to redouble our outreach and public education efforts. We’re going to relaunch them, in effect. We’re going to launch a national vaccination tour to encourage people to take the shot. The Vice President is going to lead that tour across the South and the Midwest, where we still had millions of people to vaccinate.
She’s going to be joined by Jill — by the First Lady and the Second Gentleman and Cabinet Secretaries along the way.
In the spirit of meeting people where they are, we’ll also be working with the Black Coalition Against COVID and other organizations to launch a new initiative called “Shots at the Shop.” Barbershops, beauty shops are hubs of activity and information in Black and brown communities in particular, but in many communities across the nation. Local barbers, stylists, they become key advocates for vaccinations in their communities, offering information to customers, booking appointments for them, even using their own businesses as vaccination sites. We’re going to work with shops across the country to make an even bigger impact over the next month.
We’ll also kick things off this weekend with a National Canvassing Weekend, where thousands of volunteers will be out knocking on doors and encourage their communities to get vaccinated.
And mayors — mayors will be stepping up even more over the next month and partnering with us on the City Vaccination Challenge to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the fastest — the most — by July 4th.
We need you to join these efforts. This is the kind of on-the-ground work that’s going to get the job done.
Third, we’ll be increasing our work with employers — employers. A lot of working people are holding back because they’re concerned about losing pay if they take time off to get a shot, or if they don’t feel well the next day. I’ve said before: For small- and medium-sized employers, if you give people paid time off to get a shot, you’ll get a tax credit to cover that cost.
Already, millions of workers across the country are eligible for paid time off and incentives from their employers. I’m asking all employers: Do the right thing.
And we’re making it easy for employers to set up on-the-job vaccination clinics to make it even more convenient for their employees to get a shot.
Fourth, we’re going to continue encouraging people to get vaccinated with incentives and fun rewards. The state of Ohio had a heck of a fun reward — a new millionaire last week — thanks to the creative idea of the governor for holding a vaccination — a vaccine lottery.
The grocery store, Kroger, announced that they’re going to give away $1 million each week to someone who gets vaccinated at one of their pharmacies.
The NBA, the NHL, NASCAR — NASCAR tracks — they’re offering vaccine- — vaccines outside playoff games and at races. Major League Baseball will be offering free tickets to people who get vaccinated at the ballpark.
And to top it off, Anheuser-Busch announced that beer is on them on July the 4th. That’s right, get a shot and have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus.
Fifth, and finally, we’re asking the American people to help. We need you. We need you to get your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers vaccinated. Help them find an appointment. Drive them to the site. Talk to them about why you made the choice for yourself. So many Americans have already stepped up to help get their communities vaccinated.
And over the next month, we’re going to need you more than ever. We need every American to commit to the five actions I’ve mentioned this month.
Take at least five actions to help in June. And you might even be invited to visit us at the White House in July to celebrate independence together.
I’ll close with this: We need everyone across the country to pull together to get us over the finish line. I promise you we can do this. Just look at what we’ve already done — we’ve already accomplished together in only four months.
We know it for a fact: Americans could do anything when we do it together. So, please, do your part. Give it your all through July the 4th. Let’s reach our 70 percent goal. Let’s go into the summer freer and safer. Let’s celebrate a truly historic Independence Day.
“The more people we get vaccinated, the more success we’re going to have in our fight against this virus,” he said. “America is headed into the summer dramatically different from last year’s summer: a summer of freedom, a summer of joy, a summer of get-togethers and celebrations. An all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, long, dark winter that we’ve all endured.”
In moving remarks, President Joe Biden, only the first sitting president to acknowledge the Tulsa Race Massacre of 100 years ago, tackled systemic, institutional racism and laid out a plan for economic justice including improving access to homeownership (the most significant factor in family wealth), investments in minority-owned small businesses and disadvantaged communities, and said he would act to preserve voting rights. He pointed to the most significant threat against domestic tranquility – White Supremacy and the rise of domestic terrorists – drawing a line from the Tulsa Race Massacre a century ago and today, and tackled the latest assault by right-wingers to whitewash history, rather than take responsibility.
“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides. And we’re a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild”
“Only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.”
Biden said, “And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner. “If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine.” And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.” (Applause.) We see that in Greenwood.
“This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosperity and possibilities that still reverberates today.”
He announced significant policies aimed at redressing generational discrimination:
“Today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community. The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family…
“I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses” from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Biden laid out a plan to use infrastructure investments to specifically improve lives in historically disadvantaged communities.
Then the President turned to voting rights, which Congressman john Lewis called “precious,” “almost sacred”… “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.
Biden declared, “This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen.. It’s simply un-American. It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented,” and vowed to ”today, let me be unequivocal: we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again.” He said june would be a month of action, called upon voting rights groups to engage in voter registration campaigns and designated Vice President Kamala Harris as the point-person in his administration to get Congress to pass critical voting rights legislation, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
But returning to the Tulsa Massacre of 100 years ago, he said that violence resonates again in the rise of White Supremacy, Neo-Nazism, the resurrection of the KKK – the rise of hate crimes and terror against blacks, Asian-Americans, Jews – as was on display in Charlottesville NC that inspired Biden to run for president to “reclaim the soul of the nation.”
“Hate is never defeated; it only hides,” Biden declared. “And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away. We must not give hate a safe harbor.”
“Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists” and promised to soon lay out “a broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.”
Here is a highlighted transcript:
I just toured the Hall of Survivors here in Greenwood Cultural Center, and I want to thank the incredible staff for hosting us here. And — (applause) — I mean that sincerely. Thank you.
In the tour, I met Mother Randle, who’s only 56  years old. (Laughter.) God love her. And Mother Fletcher, who’s 67  years old. (Laughter.) And her brother — her brother, Van Ellis, who’s 100 years old. (Laughter.) And he looks like he’s 60. Thank you for spending so much time with me. I really mean it. It was a great honor. A genuine honor.
You are the three known remaining survivors of a story seen in the mirror dimly. But no longer. Now your story will be known in full view.
The events we speak of today took place 100 years ago. And yet, I’m the first President in 100 years ever to come to Tulsa — (applause) — I say that not as a compliment about me, but to think about it — a hundred years, and the first President to be here during that entire time, and in this place, in this ground, to acknowledge the truth of what took place here.
For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness. But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous they can’t be buried, no matter how hard people try.
And so it is here. Only — only with truth can come healing and justice and repair. Only with truth, facing it. But that isn’t enough.
First, we have to see, hear, and give respect to Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, and Mr. Van Ellis. (Applause.) To all those lost so many years ago, to all the descendants of those who suffered, to this community — that’s why we’re here: to shine a light, to make sure America knows the story in full.
May 1921: Formerly enslaved Black people and their descendants are here in Tulsa — a boom town of oil and opportunity in a new frontier.
On the north side, across the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law, they built something of their own, worthy — worthy of their talent and their ambition: Greenwood — a community, a way of life. Black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers; running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools.
Black veterans, like a man I had the privilege to giving a Command Coin to, who fought — volunteered and fought, and came home and still faced such prejudice. (Applause.) Veterans had been back a few years helping after winning the first World War, building a new life back home with pride and confidence, who were a mom-and — they were, at the time — mom-and-plack [sic] — mom-and-pop Black diners, grocery stores, barber shops, tailors — the things that make up a community.
At the Dreamland Theatre, a young Black couple, holding hands, falling in love. Friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls; at the Monroe family roller-skating rink. Visitors staying in hotels, like the Stradford.
All around, Black pride shared by the professional class and the working class who lived together, side by side, for blocks on end.
Mother Randle was just six years old — six years old — living with her grandmom. She said she was lucky to have a home and toys, and fortunate to live without fear.
Mother Fletcher was seven years old, the second of seven children. The youngest, being Mr. Van Ellis, was just a few months old. The children of former sharecroppers, when they went to bed at night in Greenwood, Mother Fletcher says they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth — not real wealth, but a different wealth — a wealth in culture and community and heritage. (Applause.)
But one night — one night changed everything. Everything changed. While Greenwood was a community to itself, it was not separated from the outside.
It wasn’t everyone, but there was enough hate, resentment, and vengeance in the community. Enough people who believed that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal — Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Black Americans. A belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood and by noose.
And it speaks to that — lit the fuse. It lit it by the spark that it provided — a fuse of fury — was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager.
A white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held, ready to do what still occurred: lynch that young man that night. But 75 Black men, including Black veterans, arrived to stand guard.
Words were exchanged. Then a scuffle. Then shots fired. Hell was unleashed. Literal hell was unleashed.
Through the night and into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood. Torches and guns. Shooting at will. A mob tied a Black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off. A murdered Black family draped over the fence of their home outside. An elderly couple, knelt by their bed, praying to God with their heart and their soul, when they were shot in the back of their heads.
Private planes — private planes — dropping explosives — the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa.
Eight of Greenwood’s nearly two dozen churches burned, like Mt. Zion — across the street, at Vernon AME.
Mother Randle said it was like war. Mother Fletcher says, all these years later, she still sees Black bodies around.
The Greenwood newspaper publisher A.J. Smitherman penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night. And here’s the poem. He said, “Kill them, burn them, set the pace… teach them how to keep their place. Reign of murder, theft, and plunder was the order of the night.” That’s what he remembered in the poem that he wrote.
One hundred years ago at this hour, on this first day of June, smoke darkened the Tulsa sky, rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, razed and in rubble.
In less than 24 hours, 1,100 Black homes and businesses were lost. Insurance companies — they had insurance, many of them — rejected claims of damage. Ten thousand people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps.
As I was told today, they were told, “Don’t you mention you were ever in a camp or we’ll come and get you.” That’s what survivors told me.
Yet no one — no arrests of the mob were made. None. No proper accounting of the dead. The death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people. That’s all. Thirty-six people.
But based on studies, records, and accounts, the likelihood — the likely number is much more, in the multiple of hundreds. Untold bodies dumped into mass graves. Families who, at the time, waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendants who have gone 100 years without closure.
But, you know, as we speak, the process — the process of exhuming the unmarked graves has started. And at this moment, I’d like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers, the mothers, the sisters, sons, and daughters, friends of God and Greenwood. They deserve dignity, and they deserve our respect. May their souls rest in peace.
[Pause for a moment of silence.]
My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre — (applause) — among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history.
As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory — our collective memories — from the news and everyday conversations. For a long time, schools in Tulsa didn’t even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere.
And most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, a second Ku Klux Klan had been founded — the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded.
A friend of mine, Jon Meacham — I had written — when I said I was running to restore the soul of America, he wrote a book called “The Soul of America” — not because of what I said. And there’s a picture about page 160 in his book, showing over 30,000 Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia, Reverend — pointed hats, the robes — marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Jesse, you know all about this. Washin- — Washington, D.C.
If my memory is correct, there were 37 members of the House of Representatives who were open members of the Klan. There were five, if I’m not mistaken — it could have been seven; I think it was five — members of the United States Senate — open members of the Klan. Multiple governors who were open members of the Klan.
Most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, the Klan was founded just six years before the horrific destruction here in Tulsa. And one of the reasons why it was founded was because of guys like me, who were Catholic. It wasn’t about African Americans, then; it was about making sure that all those Polish and Irish and Italian and Eastern European Catholics who came to the United States after World War One would not pollute Christianity.
The flames from those burning crosses torched every region — region of the country. Millions of white Americans belonged to the Klan, and they weren’t even embarrassed by it; they were proud of it.
And that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture. We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or that it doesn’t impact us today, because it does still impact us today.
We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. (Applause.) We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides. And we’re a great nation.
The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild. I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence, wounds deepen. (Applause.) And only — as painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal. We just have to choose to remember.
We memorialize what happened here in Tulsa so it can be –so it can’t be erased. We know here, in this hallowed place, we simply can’t bury pain and trauma forever.
And at some point, there will be a reckoning, an inflection point, like we’re facing right now as a nation.
What many people hadn’t seen before or ha- — or simply refused to see cannot be ignored any longer. You see it in so many places.
And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner. “If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine.” And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.” (Applause.) We see that in Greenwood.
This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosterity [prosperity] and possibilities that still reverberates today.
Mother Fletcher talks about how she was only able to attend school until the fourth grade and eventually found work in the shipyards, as a domestic worker.
Mr. Van Ellis has shared how, even after enlisting and serving in World War Two, he still came home to struggle with a segregated America.
Imagine all those hotels and dinners [diners] and mom-and-pop shops that could been — have been passed down this past hundred years. Imagine what could have been done for Black families in Greenwood: financial security and generational wealth.
If you come from backgrounds like my — my family — a working-class, middle-class family — the only way we were ever able to generate any wealth was in equity in our homes. Imagine what they contributed then and what they could’ve contributed all these years. Imagine a thriving Greenwood in North Tulsa for the last hundred years, what that would’ve meant for all of Tulsa, including the white community.
While the people of Greenwood rebuilt again in the years after the massacre, it didn’t last. Eventually neighborhoods were redlined on maps, locking Black Tulsa out of homeownerships. (Applause.) A highway was built right through the heart of the community. Lisa, I was talking about our west side — what 95 did to it after we were occupied by the military, after Dr. King was murdered. The community — cutting off Black families and businesses from jobs and opportunity. Chronic underinvestment from state and federal governments denied Greenwood even just a chance at rebuilding. (Applause.)
We must find the courage to change the things we know we can change. That’s what Vice President Harris and I are focused on, along with our entire administration, including our Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Marcia Fudge, who is here today. (Applause.)
Because today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community. The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family. (Applause.)
And I might add — and I need help if you have an answer to this; I can’t figure this one out, Congressman Horsford. But if you live in a Black community and there’s another one on the other side of the highway — it’s a white community; it’s the — built by the same builder, and you have a better driving record than they guy with the same car in the white community, you’re — can pay more for your auto insurance.
Shockingly, the percentage of Black American homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago. Lower today. That’s wrong. And we’re committing to changing that.
Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own their own home and build generational wealth, we made it possible for them to buy a home and build equity into that — into that home and provide for their families.
Second, small businesses are the engines of our economy and the glue of our communities. As President, my administration oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts for everything from refurbishing decks of aircraft carriers, to installing railings in federal buildings, to professional services.
We have a thing called — I won’t go into it all because there’s not enough time now. But I’m determined to use every taxpayer’s dollar that is assigned to me to spend, going to American companies and American workers to build American products. And as part of that, I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses.
Right now, it calls for 10 percent; I’m going to move that to 15 percent of every dollar spent will be spent (inaudible). (Applause.) I have the authority to do that.
Just imagine if, instead of denying millions of entrepreneurs the ability to access capital and contracting, we made it possible to take their dreams to the marketplace to create jobs and invest in our communities.
That — the data shows young Black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding, given the chance, as white entrepreneurs are. But they don’t have lawyers. They don’t have — they — they don’t have accountants, but they have great ideas.
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off from the investments those people make? And I promise you, that’s why I set up the — a national Small Business Administration that’s much broader. Because they’re going to get those loans.
Instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, let’s give each and every child, three and four years old, access to school — not daycare, school. (Applause.)
In the last 10 years, studies have been done by all the great universities. It shows that, if increased by 56 percent, the possibility of a child — no matter what background they come from; no matter what — if they start school at three years old, they have a 56 percent chance of going all through all 12 years without any trouble and being able to do well, and a chance to learn and grow and thrive in a school and throughout their lives.
And let’s unlock more than — an incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Applause.) I have a $5 billion program giving them the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories and high-demand fields to compete for the good-paying jobs in industries like — of the future, like cybersecurity.
The reason why they don’t — their — their students are equally able to learn as well, and get the good-paying job that start at 90- and 100,000 bucks. But they don’t have — they don’t have the back — they don’t have the money to provide and build those laboratories. So, guess what? They’re going to get the money to build those laboratories. (Applause.)
So, instead of just talking about infrastructure, let’s get about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet, creating space — space to live and work and play safely.
Let’s ensure access to healthcare, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores — stock the fresh vegetables and food that — (applause) — in fact, deal with — I mean, these are all things we can do.
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off with these investments? The rich will be just as well off. The middle class will do better, and everybody will do better. It’s about good-paying jobs, financial stability, and being able to build some generational wealth. It’s about economic growth for our country and outcompeting the rest of the world, which is now outcompeting us.
But just as fundamental as any of these investments I’ve discussed — this may be the most fundamental: the right to vote. (Applause.) The right to vote. (Applause.)
A lot of the members of the Black Caucus knew John Lewis better than I did, but I knew him. On his deathbed, like many, I called John, to speak to him. But all John wanted to do was talk about how I was doing. He died, I think, about 25 hours later.
But you know what John said? He called the right to vote “precious,” “almost sacred.” He said, “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.
This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen — even though I got started as a public defender and a civil rights lawyer — with an intensity and an aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.
It’s simply un-American. It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented. The creed “We Shall Overcome” is a longtime mainstay of the Civil Rights Movement, as Jesse Jackson can tell you better than anybody.
The obstacle to progress that have to be overcome are a constant challenge. We saw it in the ‘60s, but with the current assault, it’s not just an echo of a distant history.
In 2020, we faced a tireless assault on the right to vote: restrictive laws, lawsuits, threats of intimidation, voter purges, and more. We resolved to overcome it all, and we did. More Americans voted in the last election than any — in the midst of a pandemic — than any election in American history. (Applause.)
You got voters registered. You got voters to the polls. The rule of law held. Democracy prevailed. We overcame.
But today, let me be unequivocal: I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again.
I will have more to say about this at a later date — the truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, an effort to replace nonpartisan election administrators and to intimidate those charged with tallying and reporting the election results.
But today, as for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters. (Applause.)
June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?” Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.
But we’re not giving up. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed For the People Act to protect our democracy. The Senate will take it up later this month, and I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.
The House is also working on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is — which is critical — (applause) — to providing new legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to vote.
To signify the importance of our efforts, today I’masking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities.
With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work. (Applause.)
And finally, we have to — and finally, we must address what remains the stain on the soul of America. What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with a through line that exists today still.
Just close your eyes and remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK coming out of those fields at night in Virginia with lighted torches — the veins bulging on their — as they were screaming. Remember? Just close your eyes and picture what it was.
Well, Mother Fletcher said when she saw the insurrection at the Capitol on January the 9th [6th], it broke her heart — a mob of violent white extremists — thugs. Said it reminded her what happened here in Greenwood 100 years ago.
Look around at the various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans. Hate that never goes away. Hate only hides.
Jesse, I think I mentioned this to you. I thought, after you guys pushed through, with Dr. King, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act — I thought we moved. But what I didn’t realize — I thought we had made enormous progress, and I was so proud to be a little part of it.
But you know what, Rev? I didn’t realize hate is never defeated; it only hides. It hides. And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.
And so, folks, we can’t — we must not give hate a safe harbor.
As I said in my address to the joint session of Congress: According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists. (Applause.) That’s not me; that’s the intelligence community under both Trump and under my administration.
Two weeks ago, I signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the House had passed and the Senate. My administration will soon lay out our broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.
But I’m going to close where I started. To Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, Mr. Van Ellis, to the descendants, and to all survivors: Thank you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being able to spend some time with you earlier today. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your commitment. And thank your children, and your grandchildren, and your unc- — and your nieces and your nephews.
To see and learn from you is a gift — a genuine gift. Dr. John Hope Franklin, one of America’s greatest historians — Tulsa’s proud son, whose father was a Greenwood survivor — said, and I quote, “Whatever you do, it must be done in the spirit of goodwill and mutual respect and even love. How else can we overcome the past and be worthy of our forebearers and face the future with confidence and with hope?”
On this sacred and solemn day, may we find that distinctly Greenwood spirit that defines the American spirit — the spirit that gives me so much confidence and hope for the future; that helps us see, face to face; a spirit that helps us know fully who we are and who we can be as a people and as a nation.
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future than I am today. I mean that. And the reason is because of this new generation of young people. They’re the best educated, they’re the least prejudiced, the most open generation in American history.
And although I have no scientific basis of what I’m about to say, but those of you who are over 50 — how often did you ever see — how often did you ever see advertisements on television with Black and white couples? Not a joke.
I challenge you — find today, when you turn on the stations — sit on one station for two hours. And I don’t know how many commercials you’ll see — eight to five — two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them. That’s not by accident. They’re selling soap, man. (Laughter.) Not a joke.
Remember ol’ Pat Caddell? He used to say, “You want to know what’s happening in American culture? Watch advertising, because they want to sell what they have.”
We have hope in folks like you, honey. I really mean it. We have hope. But we’ve got to give them support. We have got to give them the backbone to do what we know has to be done. Because I doubt whether any of you would be here if you didn’t care deeply about this. You sure in the devil didn’t come to hear me speak. (Laughter.)
But I really mean it. I really mean it. Let’s not give up, man. Let’s not give up.
As the old saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” I know we’ve talked a lot about famous people, but I’m — my colleagues in the Senate used to kid me because I was always quoting Irish poets. They think I did it because I’m Irish. They think I did it because we Irish — we have a little chip on our shoulder. A little bit, sometimes.
That’s not why I did it; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world. (Laughter.) You can smile, it’s okay. It’s true.
There was a famous poet who wrote a poem called “The Cure at Troy” — Seamus Heaney. And there is a stanza in it that I think is the definition of what I think should be our call today for young people.
It said, “History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave, but then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.”
President Joe Biden visited the US State Department to give his first major foreign policy speech in which he declared emphatically, “America is back.” He noted the importance – the obligation – of America to assert its global leadership, and said he would repair the alliances broken and weakened by the Trump Administration, along with reinforcing his respect and commitment to the people who serve in the diplomatic corps, often in dangerous and difficult circumstances.
He emphasized that diplomacy is not just because of the moral imperative, but also helps America and Americans prosper and live in peace.
And he said he would reassert American values in diplomacy: reinstating a refugee admissions program that would accommodate up to 125,000 in the first full fiscal year of his administration; would seek a ceasefire in Yemen and would send humanitarian aid; and would stand up for human rights.
He said he would assert American interests in Russia and China, and suggested there would be sanctions against the military leadership that fomented a coup in Myanmar. “In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” he declared, in a statement that had eerie resonance in the United States.
“Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world. We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest. When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.
“When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.
“When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy. “When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America.
“America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage. I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how America writes its own destiny.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:
It’s great to be here and stand alongside our most recent and senior diplomat, Secretary Tony Blinken. Mr. Secretary, thank you for welcoming us today. We’ve worked together for over 20 years. Your diplomatic skills are respected equally by your friends and our competitors around the world.
And they know when you speak, you speak for me. And so — so is the message I want the world to hear today: America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.
As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.
We must meet the new moment accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation — challenging the will only to be solved by nations working together and in common. We can’t do it alone.
That must be this — we must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.
That’s the grounding wire of our global policy — our global power. That’s our inexhaustible source of strength. That’s America’s abiding advantage.
Though many of these values have come under intense pressure in recent years, even pushed to the brink in the last few weeks, the American people are going to emerge from this moment stronger, more determined, and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy, because we have fought for it ourselves.
Over the past few days, we’ve been in close cooperation with our allies and partners to bring together the international community to address the military coup in Burma.
I’ve also been in touch with Leader McConnell to discuss our shared concerns about the situation in Burma, and we are united in our resolve.
There can be no doubt: In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.
The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence.
As I said earlier this week, we will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia — to being [begin] reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.
America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.
By leading with diplomacy, we must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically, where it’s in our interest, and advance the security of the American people.
That’s why, yesterday, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START Treaty for five years to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability.
At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people. And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.
The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community.
Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution. He’s been targeted — targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition.
And we’ll also take on directly the challenges posed by our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China. We’ll confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.
But we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so. We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost.
That’s why we’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally and earn back our leadership position, to catalyze global action on shared challenges.
On day one, I signed the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. We’re taking steps led by the example of integrating climate objectives across all of our diplomacy and raise the ambition of our climate targets. That way, we can challenge other nations, other major emitters,to up the ante on their own commitments. I’ll be hosting climate leaders — a climate leaders’ summit to address the climate crisis on Earth Day of this year.
America must lead in the face of this existential threat. And just as with the pandemic, it requires global cooperation.
We’ve also reengaged with the World Health Organization. That way, we can build better global preparedness to counter COVID-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.
We’ve elevated the status of cyber issues within our government, including appointing the first national — Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. We’re launching an urgent initiative to improve our capability, readiness, and resilience in cyberspace.
Today, I’m announcing additional steps to course-correct our foreign policy and better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership.
To begin, Defense Secretary Austin will be leading a Global Posture Review of our forces so that our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities. It will be coordinated across all elements of our national security, with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken working in close cooperation.
And while this review is taking place, we’ll be stopping any planned troop withdrawals from Germany. We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen — a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe. I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks.
This morning, Secretary Blinken appointed Tim Lenderking, a career foreign policy officer, as our special envoy to the Yemen conflict. And I appreciate his doing this. Tim is a life — has lifelong experience in the region, and he’ll work with the U.N. envoy and all parties of the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.
And Tim’s diplomacy will be bolstered by USAID, working to ensure that humanitarian aid is reaching the Yemeni people who are sufferinguunendurable devastation. This war has to end.
And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes, and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.
We also face a crisis of more than 80 million displaced people suffering all around the world. The United States’ moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades when I first got here. We shined the light of lamp on — of liberty on oppressed people. We offered safe havens for those fleeing violence or persecution. And our example pushed other nations to open wide their doors as well.
So today, I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need. It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do.
This executive order will position us to be able to raise the refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons for the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration. And I’m directing the State Department to consult with Congress about making a down payment on that commitment as soon as possible.
And to further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally. You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.
And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.
I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and consulates around the world to know: I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back. This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you. We want a rigorous debate that brings all perspectives and makes room for dissent. That’s how we’ll get the best possible policy outcomes.
So, with your help, the United States will again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.
That’s why my administration has already taken the important step to live our domestic values at home — our democratic values at home.
Within hours of taking office, I signed an executive order overturning the hateful, discriminatory Muslim ban; reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in our military.
And as part of our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability, we stated on day one — we started on day one with daily briefings of the press from the White House. We’ve reinstituted regular briefings here at State and at the Pentagon. We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential to the health of a democracy.
We’ve restored our commitment to science and to create policies grounded in facts and evidence. I suspect Ben Franklin would approve.
We’ve taken steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism and the scourge of white supremacy in our own country. Racial equity will not just be an issue for one department in our administration, it has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions.
All this matters to foreign policy, because when we host the Summit of Democracy early in my administration to rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back the authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.
There’s no longer a bright line between foreign and domestic policy. Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind. Advancing a foreign policy for the middle class demands urgent focus on our domestic economic renewal.
And that’s why I immediately put forth the American Rescue Plan to pull us out of this economic crisis. That’s why I signed an executive order strengthening our Buy American policies last week. And it’s also why I’ll work with Congress to make far-reaching investments in research and development of transformable technologies.
These investments are going to create jobs, maintain America’s competitive edge globally, and ensure all Americans share in the dividends.
If we invest in ourselves and our people, if we fight to ensure that American businesses are positioned to compete and win on the global stage, if the rules of international trade aren’t stacked against us, if our workers and intellectual property are protected, then there’s no country on Earth — not China or any other country on Earth — that can match us.
Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world. We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest. When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.
When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.
When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy.
When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America.
America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage. I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how American — America writes its own destiny.
For the diplomacy of Ben Franklin helped assure the success of our revolution. The vision of the Marshall Plan helped prevent the world from foundering on the wreckage of war. And the passions of Eleanor Roosevelt declared the audacious idea of universal rights that belong to all.
The leadership of diplomats of every stripe, doing the daily work of engagement, created the very idea of a free and interconnected world. We are a country that does big things. American diplomacy makes it happen. And our administration is ready to take up the mantle and lead once again.
Thank you all. And may God bless you and protect our troops, our diplomats, and our development experts, and all Americans serving in harm’s way.
On January 20, the Biden Harris Administration took the first steps in a broad, whole of government effort to finally reform our immigration system, including sending to Congress legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in and contributing to our country. On February 2, the Administration is announcing a series of additional actions it is taking to rebuild and strengthen our immigration system.
These actions build on executive actions the President took his first day in office, including steps to preserve and fortify protections for Dreamers, end the Muslim and Africa ban, halt border wall construction and protect Liberian nationals living and working in our country. On day 1, the President also sent the United States Citizenship Act to Congress, which seeks to modernize our immigration system and smartly manage our borders, while addressing the root causes of migration.
President Biden’s strategy is centered on the basic premise that our country is safer, stronger, and more prosperous with a fair, safe and orderly immigration system that welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people—both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations—to more fully contribute to our country. President Biden knows that new Americans fuel our economy, as innovators and job creators, working in every American industry, and contributing to our arts, culture, and government.
In signing the executive orders, President Biden said:
“Today, I’m going to sign a few executive orders to strengthen our immigration system, building on the executive actions I took on day one to protect DREAMers, and the Muslim ban, and to better manage of our borders. And that’s what these three different executive orders are about.
“And I want to make it clear — there’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I have signed — I’m not making new law; I’m eliminating bad policy. What I’m doing is taking on the issues that — 99 percent of them — that the President — the last President of the United States issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in the area of immigration.
“This is about how America is safer, stronger, more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly, and humane, and legal immigration system.
“And with the first action today, we’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally, not figuratively, ripped children from the arms of their families — their mothers and fathers at the border — and with no plan, none whatsoever, to reunify the children who are still in custody and their parents.”
As he signed the first order, the reestablishment of an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, he said, “this removes the stain on our reputation for what these separations caused.” The second order, “Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, [and] to Manage Migration Throughout the North and Central America, and to Provide [a] Safe and Orderly Processing Of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border,” he said, “addresses the root causes of a migration to our southern border.”
The third action, Restoring [the] Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,”orders a full review of the previous administration’s harmful and counterproductive immigration policies, basically across the board,” he said.
“As my grandfather would say: By the grace of God and the goodwill of neighbors, we’ll reunite these children and reestablish our reputation as being a haven for people in need.”
Today’s executive actions will:
Create a Task Force to Reunify Families. President Biden believes that families belong together. He has made clear that reversing the Trump Administration’s immigration policies that separated thousands of families at the border is a top priority. A key part of this effort is the creation of a task force to reunite families that remain separated. This task force will work across the U.S. government, with key stakeholders and representatives of impacted families, and with partners across the hemisphere to find parents and children separated by the Trump Administration. The task force will make recommendations to the President and federal agencies regarding steps that they can take to reunify families. Further, the task force will report regularly to the President and recommend steps to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. This Order also revokes the Trump Administration’s Executive Order that sought to justify separating children from their parents.
Develop a Strategy to Address Irregular Migration Across the Southern Border and Create a Humane Asylum System. The Trump Administration’s policies at the border have caused chaos, cruelty and confusion. Those policies have undermined the safety of our communities, penalized asylum seekers fleeing violence, and destabilized security across the Western hemisphere. Today, the Biden Harris Administration will begin to roll back the most damaging policies adopted by the prior administration, while taking effective action to manage migration across the region.
Specifically, the Biden Harris Administration will begin implementing a comprehensive three-part plan for safe, lawful, and orderly migration in the region. First, the Administration will address the underlying causes of migration through a strategy to confront the instability, violence, and economic insecurity that currently drives migrants from their homes. Second, the Administration will collaborate with regional partners, including foreign governments, international organizations, and nonprofits to shore up other countries’ capacity to provide protection and opportunities to asylum seekers and migrants closer to home. Finally, the Administration will ensure that Central American refugees and asylum seekers have access to legal avenues to the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security is also directed to review the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. The situation at the border will not transform overnight, due in large part to the damage done over the last four years. But the President is committed to an approach that keeps our country safe, strong, and prosperous and that also aligns with our values. This Executive Order also directs a series of actions to restore the U.S. asylum system, including by rescinding and directing agency review of a host of Trump Administration proclamations, rules, and guidance documents that have effectively closed the U.S. border to asylum seekers.
Restore Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Promote Integration of New Americans. President Biden believes that immigrants are essential to who we are as a nation and critical to our aspirations for the future. The prior administration enacted hundreds of policies that run counter to our history and undermine America’s character as a land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all who come here seeking protection and opportunity. This Executive Order elevates the role of the White House in coordinating the federal government’s strategy to promote immigrant integration and inclusion, including re-establishing a Task Force on New Americans, and ensuring that our legal immigration system operates fairly and efficiently. The order requires agencies to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have set up barriers to our legal immigration system. It also rescinds President Trump’s memorandum requiring family sponsors to repay the government if relatives receive public benefits, instructs the agencies to review the public charge rule and related policies, and streamline the naturalization process.
On January 20, soon after sitting in the Oval Office for the first time after his inauguration, President Biden stated he was sending to Congress a bill to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system.”
The bill provides hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship. The legislation modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution. The bill will stimulate our economy while ensuring that every worker is protected. The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, community leaders, friends, and loved ones—including Dreamers and the essential workers who have risked their lives to serve and protect American communities.
The U.S. Citizenship Act will:
PROVIDE PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP & STRENGTHEN LABOR PROTECTIONS
Create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes. Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.
Keep families together. The bill reforms the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps. It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart. The bill further supports familes by more explicitly including permanent partnerships and eliminating discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families. It also provides protections for orphans, widows, children, and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II. Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
Embrace diversity. The bill includes the NO BAN Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. The bill also increases Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000.
Promote immigrant and refugee integration and citizenship. The bill provides new funding to state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistance to individuals seeking to become citizens.
Grow our economy. This bill clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors; and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards. The bill provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
Protect workers from exploitation and improve the employment verification process. The bill requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to make recommendations for improving the employment verification process. Workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies will be granted greater access to U visa relief. The bill protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also protects migrant and seasonal workers, and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
PRIORITIZE SMART BORDER CONTROLS
Supplement existing border resources with technology and infrastructure. The legislation builds on record budget allocations for immigration enforcement by authorizing additional funding for the Secretary of DHS to develop and implement a plan to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and sea port of entry. This includes high-throughput scanning technologies to ensure that all commercial and passenger vehicles and freight rail traffic entering the United States at land ports of entry and rail-border crossings along the border undergo pre-primary scanning. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States. It authorizes the DHS Secretary to develop and implement a strategy to manage and secure the southern border between ports of entry that focuses on flexible solutions and technologies that expand the ability to detect illicit activity, evaluate the effectiveness of border security operations, and be easily relocated and broken out by Border Patrol Sector. To protect privacy, the DHS Inspector General is authorized to conduct oversight to ensure that employed technology effectively serves legitimate agency purposes.
Manage the border and protect border communities. The bill provides funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism. It also creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, provides more special agents at the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requires the issuance of department-wide policies governing the use of force. The bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of DHS’s authority to waive environmental and state and federal laws to expedite the construction of barriers and roads near U.S. borders and provides for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border. The bill authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
Crack down on criminal organizations. The bill enhances the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling and trafficking networks who are responsible for the exploitation of migrants. It also expands investigations, intelligence collection and analysis pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to increase sanctions against foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations and networks. The bill also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and DHS, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to improve and expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION
Start from the source. The bill codifies and funds the President’s $4 billion four-year inter-agency plan to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries. It also creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, including by establishing Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process displaced persons for refugee resettlement and other lawful migration avenues—either to the United States or other partner countries. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.
Improve the immigration courts and protect vulnerable individuals. The bill expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts. The bill also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals. Funding is authorized for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary to ensure the fair and efficient resolution of their claims. The bill also provides funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children.
Support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. The bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. The bill also expands protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops.
‘It’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs. It’s about workers building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy. It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice.’
President Joe Biden equated Climate Day with Jobs Day at the White House because he knows that confronting this existential crisis is also about jobs that will build a sustainable future. Think about it: workers populated Pennsylvania and West Virginia when technology was invented to turn coal into fuel; workers flooded Texas and Oklahoma when oil was discovered. Now we need new sources of energy to replace these archaic, destructive technologies and will redeploy those workers, re-purpose those sites and develop new industries. Long Island will lead a new off-shore wind industry, other places – including farmers and ranchers – will turn their land into a new source of wealth with solar panels and windmills.
Today, President Biden signed executive actions to treat the need to tackle climate change as the national security threat it is, while at the same time countering the Republican claim of a zero-sum game that climate action will cost jobs rather than create millions of jobs. And after Republican presidents and administrations did all they could to erase “climate change” from mission statements, agencies and policies, Biden signed an executive order restoring scientific integrity.
Here are President Biden’s remarks, highlighted: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Today is “Climate Day” at the White House which means that today is “Jobs Day” at the White House. We’re talking about American innovation, American products, American labor. And we’re talking about the health of our families and cleaner water, cleaner air, and cleaner communities. We’re talking about national security and America leading the world in a clean energy future.
It’s a future of enormous hope and opportunity. It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that we — that’s now facing us — climate change — with a greater sense of urgency. In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis and we can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act.
And I might note, parenthetically: If you notice, the attitude of the American people toward greater impetus on focusing on climate change and doing something about it has increased across the board — Democrat, Republican, independent.
That’s why I’m signing today an executive order to supercharge our administration ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change. And it is an existential threat.
Last year, wildfires burned more than 5,000 acres in the West — as no one knows better than the Vice President, a former Senator from California — an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey. More intense and powerful hurricanes and tropical storms pummeled states across the Gulf Coast and along the East Coast — I can testify to that, from Delaware. Historic floods, severe droughts have ravaged the Midwest. More Americans see and feel the devastation in big cities, small towns, coastlines, and in farmlands, in red states and blue states. And the Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two thirds of the military’s operational critical installations. Two thirds. And so this could — we could — this could well be on the conservative side.
And many climate and health calamities are colliding all at once. It’s not just the pandemic that keeps people inside; it’s poor air quality. Multiple studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19. And just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis because there is a climate crisis.
We must lead global response because neither challenge can be met, as Secretary Kerry has pointed out many times, by the United States alone. We know what to do, we’ve just got to do it.
When we think of climate change, we think of it — this is a case where conscious and convenience cross paths, where dealing with this existential threat to the planet and increasing our economic growth and prosperity are one in the same. When I think of climate change, I think of — and the answers to it — I think of jobs.
A key plank of our Build Back Better Recovery Plan is building a modern, resilient climate infrastructure and clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs — not 7, 8, 10, 12 dollars an hour, but prevailing wage and benefits.
You know, we can put millions of Americans to work modernizing our water systems, transportation, our energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme climate. We’ve already reached a point where we’re going to have to live with what it is now. That’s going to require a lot of work all by itself, without it getting any worse.
When we think of renewable energy, we see American manufacturing, American workers racing to lead the global market. We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.
And I want to parenthetically thank the Secretary of Agriculture for helping to put together that program during the campaign.
We see small business and master electricians designing, installing, and innovating energy-conserving technologies and building homes and buildings. And we’re going to reduce electric consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs in the process.
And when the previous administration reversed the Obama-Biden vehicle standard and picked Big Oil companies over American workers, the Biden-Harris administration will not only bring those standards back, we’ll set new, ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet.
We see these workers building new buildings, installing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations across the country as we modernize our highway systems to adapt to the changes that have already taken place. We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives, and the residents of our cities and towns breathing cleaner air, and fewer kids living with asthma and dying from it.
And not only that, the federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know. With today’s executive order, combined with the Buy American executive order I signed on Monday, we’re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero-emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.
With everything I just mentioned, this will mean one million new jobs in the American automobile industry. One million. And we’ll do another thing: We’ll take steps towards my goal of achieving 100 percent carbon-pollution-free electric sector by 2035. Transforming the American electric sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be a tremendous spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st century, not to mention the benefits to our health and to our environment.
Already, 84 percent of all new electric capacity planned to come onto the electric grid this is year is clean energy. Clean energy. Why? Because it’s affordable; because it’s clean; because, in many cases, it’s cheaper. And it’s the way we’re keeping up — they’re keeping up. We’re going to need scientists, the national labs, land-grant universities, historical black colleges and universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit clean electric — clean electricity across distances, and battery technology, and a whole range of other things.
We need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them. We need iron workers and welders to install them. Technologies they invent, design, and build will ultimately become cheaper than any other kind of energy, helping us dramatically expand our economy and create more jobs with a cleaner, cleaner environment. And we’ll become the world’s largest exporter of those technologies, creating even more jobs.
You know, we are also — we’re going to build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that are going to benefit communities three times over: one, by alleviating the affordable housing crisis; two, by increasing energy efficiency; and, three, by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to home ownership.
We’re also going to create more than a quarter million jobs to do things like plug the millions of abandoned oil and gas wells that pose an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our communities. They’re abandoned wells that are open now, and we’re going to put people to work. They’re not going to lose jobs in these areas; they’re going to create jobs. They’re going to get prevailing wage to cap those over a million wells. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions, and we know how to do this.
The Obama-Biden administration rescued the auto industry and helped them retool. We need solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy, weatherizing more — we made them cost-competitive, weatherizing more than a million homes.
The Recovery Act of our administration — the Democratic administration –made record clean energy investments: $90 billion. The President asked me to make sure how that money was spent, on everything from smart grid systems to clean energy manufacturing.
Now, the Biden-Harris administration is going to do it again and go beyond. The executive order I’ll be signing establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. And it’ll be led by one of America’s most distinguished climate leaders, former EPA Director Gina McCarthy. As the head of the new office and my National Climate Advisor, Gina will chair a National Climate Task Force, made up of many members of our Cabinet, to deliver a whole-of-government approach to the climate crisis.
This is not time for small measures; we need to be bold. So, let me be clear: That includes helping revitalize the economies of coal, oil, and gas, and power plant communities. We have to start by creating new, good-paying jobs, capping those abandoned wells, reclaiming mines, turning old brownfield sites into new hubs of economic growth, creating new, good-paying jobs in those communities where those workers live because they helped build this country.
We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation. We’re going to do right by them and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation and their own communities and getting paid well for it.
While the whole-of-government approach is necessary, though, it’s not sufficient. We’re going to work with mayors and governors and tribal leaders and business leaders who are stepping up, and the young people organizing and leading the way. My message to those young people is: You have the full capacity and power of the federal government. Your government is going to work with you.
Now, today’s executive order also directs the Secretary of the Interior to stop issuing new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters, wherever possible. We’re going to review and reset the oil and gas leasing program…We’re going to start to properly manage lands and waterways in ways that allow us to protect, preserve them — the full value that they provide for us for future generations.
Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We’re not going to ban fracking. We’ll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards, like controls from methane leaks and union workers in — willing to install the changes.
Unlike previous administrations, I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to big oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. And I’m going to be going to the Congress asking them to eliminate those subsidies.
We’re going to take money and invest it in clean energy jobs in America — millions of jobs in wind, solar, and carbon capture. In fact, today’s actions are going to help us increase renewable energy production from offshore wind and meet our obligation to be good stewards of our public lands.
It establishes a new, modern-day Civilian Climate Corps — that I called for when I was campaigning — to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.
Look, this executive order I’m signing today also makes it official that climate change will be at the center of our national security and foreign policy.
As Secretary Kerry — as our Special Presidential Envoy for Climate — with him, the world knows how serious I am about one of America’s — by appointing one of America’s most distinguished statesmen and one of my closest friends, speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time. John was instrumental in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement that we started to — that we rejoined — this administration rejoined on day one, as I promised.
And today’s executive order will help strengthen that commitment by working with other nations to support the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and to increase our collective resilience. That includes a summit of world leaders that I’ll convene to address this climate crisis on Earth Day, this year.
In order to establish a new effort to integrate the security implications of climate change as part of our national security and risk assessment and analysis will also be included.
With this executive order, environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color — so-called “fenceline communities” — especially those communities — brown, black, Native American, poor whites. It’s the hard-hit areas like Cancer Alley in Louisiana, or the Route 9 corridor in the state of Delaware.
That’s why we’re going to work to make sure that they receive 40 percent of the benefits of key federal investments in clean energy, clean water, and wastewater infrastructure. Lifting up these communities makes us all stronger as a nation and increases the health of everybody.
Finally, as with our fight against COVID-19, we will listen to the science and protect the integrity of our federal response to the climate crisis.
Earlier this month, I nominated Dr. Eric Lander, a brilliant scientist who is here today, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology. I also nominated another brilliant scientist, Dr. Frances Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber, to co-chair the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — so-called “PCAST” — that President Eisenhower started six weeks after the launch of Sputnik.
It’s a team of America’s top scientists charged with asking the most American of questions: “What next? What’s the next big breakthrough?” And then helping us make the impossible possible.
Today, I’m signing a presidential memorandum making it clear that we will protect our world-class scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely and directly to me, the Vice President, and the American people.
To summarize, this executive order — it’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs. It’s about workers building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy. It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and in the fa– on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice.
Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We’re bold. We are unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery. We can do this, we must do this, and we will do this.
Biden-Harris Administration Commits on Climate Change – Creating Jobs, Building Infrastructure, and Delivering Environmental Justice
President Biden took executive action to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad while creating good-paying union jobs and equitable clean energy future, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, restoring scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government, and re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
These Executive Orders follow through on President Biden’s promise to take aggressive action to tackle climate change and build on the executive actions that the President took on his first day in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and immediate review of harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities.
President Biden set ambitious goals that will ensure America and the world can meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis, while empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050. Today’s actions advance those goals and ensure that we are tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers, revitalizing the U.S. energy sector, conserving our natural resources and leveraging them to help drive our nation toward a clean energy future, creating well-paying jobs with the opportunity to join a union, and delivering justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.
President Biden also signed an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people. Additionally, and in line with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific advisory committees, President Biden signed an Executive Order re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
TACKLING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT HOME AND ABROAD EXECUTIVE ORDER
Today’s Executive Order takes bold steps to combat the climate crisis both at home and throughout the world. In signing this Executive Order, President Biden has directed his Administration to:
Center the Climate Crisis in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Considerations
The order clearly establishes climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security.
The order affirms that, in implementing – and building on – the Paris Agreement’s objectives, the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition. It makes clear that both significant short-term global emission reductions and net zero global emissions by mid-century – or before – are required to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.
The order reaffirms that the President will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021; that the United States will reconvene the Major Economies Forum; that, to underscore the administration’s commitment to elevating climate in U.S. foreign policy, the President has created a new position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, which will have a seat on the National Security Council, and that it will be a U.S. priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora.
The order also kicks off the process of developing the United States’ “nationally determined contribution” – our emission reduction target – under the Paris Agreement, as well as a climate finance plan.
Among numerous other steps aimed at prioritizing climate in U.S. foreign policy and national security, the order directs the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the security implications of climate change, the State Department to prepare a transmittal package to the Senate for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.
Take a Whole-of-Government Approach to the Climate Crisis
The order formally establishes the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy – led by the first-ever National Climate Advisor and Deputy National Climate Advisor – creating a central office in the White House that is charged with coordinating and implementing the President’s domestic climate agenda.
The order establishes the National Climate Task Force, assembling leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable a whole-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.
Leverage the Federal Government’s Footprint and Buying Power to Lead by Example
Consistent with the goals of the President’s Build Back Better jobs and economic recovery plan, of which his clean energy jobs plan is a central pillar, the order directs the federal agencies to procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.
In addition, the order requires those purchases be Made in America, following President Biden’s Buy American executive order. The order also directs agencies to apply and strictly enforce the prevailing wage and benefit guidelines of the Davis Bacon and other acts and encourage Project Labor Agreements. These actions reaffirm that agencies should work to ensure that any jobs created with funds to address the climate crisis are good jobs with a choice to join a union.
The order directs each federal agency to develop a plan to increase the resilience of its facilities and operations to the impacts of climate change and directs relevant agencies to report on ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities – helping facilitate public access to climate related information and assisting governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The order does not restrict energy activities on lands that the United States holds in trust for Tribes. The Secretary of the Interior will continue to consult with Tribes regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources, in conformance with the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.
The order directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.
Rebuild Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Economy
The order catalyzes the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Advance Conservation, Agriculture, and Reforestation
The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation.
The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.
The order directs the Secretary of Agriculture to collect input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how to use federal programs to encourage adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations and create new sources of income and jobs for rural Americans.
Revitalize Energy Communities
The order establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, to be co-chaired by the National Climate Advisor and the Director of the National Economic Council, and directs federal agencies to coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and natural gas, and power plant communities.
The order tasks the new Interagency Working Group to advance projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety – such as projects to reduce methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.
In addition, the new Interagency Working Group is also directed to explore efforts to turn properties idled in these communities, like brownfields, into new hubs for the growth of our economy.
Secure Environmental Justice and Spur Economic Opportunity
The order formalizes President Biden’s commitment to make environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.
The order establishes a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to prioritize environmental justice and ensure a whole-of-government approach to addressing current and historical environmental injustices, including strengthening environmental justice monitoring and enforcement through new or strengthened offices at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services. The new bodies are also tasked with advising on ways to update Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994.
The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard.
The order initiates the development of a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool, building off EPA’s EJSCREEN, to identify disadvantaged communities, support the Justice40 Initiative, and inform equitable decision making across the federal government
SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM
The Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking directs agencies to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of effective and equitable programs. Improper political interference in the scientific process, with the work of scientists, and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the public trust.
The memorandum charges the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with the responsibility for ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies. The OSTP Director is directed to review the effectiveness of agency scientific-integrity policies and assess agency scientific-integrity policies and practices going forward.
In addition, agencies that oversee, direct, or fund research are tasked with designating a senior agency employee as Chief Science Officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded and conducted with integrity. Because science, facts, and evidence are vital to addressing policy and programmatic issues across the Federal Government, all agencies – not just those that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research –must designate a senior career employee as the agency’s Scientific Integrity Official to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific-integrity policies and processes.
EXECUTIVE ORDER ESTABLISHING THE PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Leaders across the Biden-Harris Administration, including the President himself and his senior advisors in the Executive Office of the President, will seek input, advice, and the best-available science, data, and scientific and technological information from scientists, engineers, and other experts in science, technology, and innovation.
To that end, and in alignment with the scientific-integrity memorandum’s charge to reestablish scientific and technological advisory committees, this order re-establishes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The PCAST– co-chaired by the President’s Science Advisor – will advise the President on policy that affects science, technology, and innovation. The Council will also advise the President on scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics.
In just his seventh day in office, President Joe Biden announced new steps to dramatically increase vaccine supply and enable states to book appointments with greater assurance of knowing how many doses they will have three weeks in advance.
He announced the purchase of 200 million more doses, which with the doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna, would be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer. But he cautioned that it will take months before the nation achieves herd immunity, the situation will get worse before it gets better, with as many as 100,000 more deaths from COVID-19 by next month.
He emphasized that wearing a mask is still the best way for the foreseeable future to protect lives – as many as 50,000 could be saved by April. Wearing a mask is not just patriotic, he said, but will be mandated in federal property and in interstate transportation, such as airports and depots, and on airplanes, trains, and buses.
Here is more from the Biden administration:
Just over a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the nation has hit another grim milestone in the pandemic, reaching 25 million infections and counting. The pace in which this virus has spread throughout the U.S. is staggering and with new variants emerging, the spread is not slowing any time soon. That’s why it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
President Biden has a comprehensive National Action Strategy to put the pandemic behind us and he and the COVID-19 response team are aggressively implementing it. Today, the President is announcing bold steps that will help meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ramp up vaccine supply as fast as possible. As a result of these actions, the federal government will have enough vaccine supply for the entire U.S. population by the end of the summer.
The President is taking the following actions today:
An Increase in Weekly Vaccine Supply to States, Tribes and Territories: The Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. This increase of 1.4 million doses per week will allow millions more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks.
Increased transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories to Help Their Vaccination Efforts: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to provide states, Tribes and territories with a reliable three-week supply look-ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one week look-ahead that they previously received. This increased transparency will give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so that they can plan their vaccination efforts and administer vaccines effectively and efficiently.
Purchase 200 Million Additional Doses to Be Delivered This Summer, Double the Nation’s Vaccine Supply: President Biden directed his COVID-19 Response Coordinator to work with HHS to increase our total vaccine supply for the American people. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna. This increases the total vaccine order for the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer. With these additional doses, the U.S. will have enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of this summer.
This afternoon, President Biden outlined his vision and new elements of his agenda for advancing racial equity for Americans who have been underserved and left behind, signing four executive actions to advance racial equity and take the first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice.
“Equal opportunity is the fundamental promise of America. But systemic racism and discrimination in our economy, laws, and institutions have put the promise of America out of reach for too many families of color,” he stated.
President Biden renewed the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity from our economy and expand opportunities for communities of color and other underserved Americans.
His executive orders direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations; end the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of private prisons; recommitted the federal government to respect Tribal sovereignty and strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations; and combat xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
These orders build on actions the President took during his first week in office to advance equity, which historians have described as one of the most robust efforts to advance racial justice in the first weeks of any new administration. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an unprecedented Executive Order establishing a whole-of-government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws, and programs. He took immediate action to roll back harmful policies, such as President Trump’s 1776 Commission and ban on diversity and inclusion training for federal employees and contractors. In the days ahead, President Biden will reinvigorate the federal government’s role as a model employer by expanding and building on the efforts of the Obama-Biden Administration, by requiring all agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as by requiring accessibility.
President Biden committed to embedding racial equity across his Administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis. In his first week in office, he signed executive actions to provide relief to American families that will aid families of color that are being disproportionately impacted by this economic crisis. He directed the Department of Agriculture to address the growing crisis of hunger facing more than one in five Black and Latino households by increasing access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures, issuing new guidance to help an additional 12 million Americans access nutrition assistance, and beginning the process to increase the value of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits to better reflect today’s grocery costs.
The President extended the pause on federal student loan payments and collections, protecting borrowers burdened by educational debt, who are disproportionately Americans of color. He extended the federal government’s foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021, helping families who are more likely to be rent burdened to stay safely housed. President Biden directed the Department of Treasury to take steps to make the delivery of stimulus benefits more equitable to help the 8 million households, many of whom are families of color, who never received the first stimulus checks they were entitled to. And, the President began the process of requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers bringing financial relief to low wage workers.
These actions are just the start. The President is committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students. As the President has said, he is focused on ensuring that small businesses owned by people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged – many of whom were shut out of previous relief packages – receive support.
And President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide immediate, direct relief to communities and families bearing the brunt of the crisis – including communities and families of color. Economists estimate that the investments in the American Rescue Plan will lift over eight million Black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and will provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted in this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and child care. The President’s rescue plan will expand protections for frontline workers, 40 percent of whom are people of color. It will increase and extend Unemployment Insurance benefits, supporting the one in ten Black workers and one in eleven Latino workers who are unemployed. And, the plan will provide critical relief to Native American communities and Tribes.
Before signing the additional executive orders, President Biden remarked, “In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- — systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long.
“I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people. What many Americans didn’t see, or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.
“Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around — all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice…
“COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers — nurses, first responders, grocery store workers — are Americans of color, and many are still living on the edge. One in ten black Americans is out of work today. One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today. One in seven households in America — about one in four black, one in five Latino households in America — report that they don’t have enough food to eat in the United States of America.
“Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.
“One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and, yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.
“It’s just been weeks since all of America witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy. And so now — now is the time to act. It’s time to act because that’s what the faith and morality calls us to do…
“We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.
“For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. You know, we’ve — we’ve bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: ‘If you succeed, I fail.’ ‘If you get ahead, I fall behind.’ ‘If you get the job, I lose mine.’ Maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’
“We’ve lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And when we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up. You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we’re all held back. More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don’t think you need economic studies to see the truth.
“Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school — not daycare, school — and grow and thrive in school and throughout. When they’ve done that — the places it’s been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.
But, you know, does anyone — does anyone in this whole nation think we’re not all better off if that were to happen?
“Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth — who made it possible for them buy a home, their first home — and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation will be better off?
“Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities. Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn’t be better off?
“Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative — how much more creative and innovative we’d be if this nation held — held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities — and minority-serving institutions — that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that’s not true.
“But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal- — equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough. We need to open the promise of America to every American. And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.
“That’s why I issued, among the first days, my whole-of-government executive order that will, for the first time, advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions. It focuses on the full range of communities who have been long underserved and overlooked: people of color; Americans with disabilities; LGBTQ Americans; religious minorities; rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty.
“And I’ve asked Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the administration’s charge through the White House and Domestic Policy Council because I know she’ll see it through. Every White House, every White House component, and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone’s job….
“In the weeks ahead, I’ll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration. That’s why I rescinded the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission. Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies….
“I ran for President because I believe we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation. And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist. We can’t eliminate it if — it’s not going to be overnight. We can’t eliminate everything.
“But it’s corrosive, it’s destructive, and it’s costly. It costs every American, not just who have felt the sting of racial injustice. We aren’t just less of a — we are not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism; we’re also less prosperous, we’re less successful, we’re less secure.
“So, we must change, and I know it’s going to take time. But I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day — today, tomorrow, and every day.
Here’s a summary of the additional executive actions fostering racial equity that President Biden signed:
Advance Fair Housing. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum “Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies.” This memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts. The Fair Housing Act requires the federal government to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination, including disparate impact discrimination that appears neutral but has an unjustified discriminatory effect in practice. This Presidential Memorandum directs HUD to examine the effects of the previous Administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws. And, it directs HUD to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements.
Reform our Incarceration System to End the Use of Private Prisons. More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, and a disproportionate number of these individuals are people of color. Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and communities, while private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners in less safe conditions for prisoners and correctional officers alike. President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending DOJ’s reliance on private prisons. The Order directs the Attorney General not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.
Reaffirm the Federal Government’s Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation. The Biden Administration is committed to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities. This Executive Order reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.
Combat Xenophobia Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. While bullying and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) is a long-standing and unacceptable problem in our country, rates of harassment and violence against AAPIs have risen dramatically in the past year. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum acknowledging the harm that these actions have caused, and establishing that the policy of his Administration is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination. This Memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.
The Interior Department acted immediately upon President Joe Biden’s executive orders to restore public lands and waters:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Immediately following his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed Executive Orders that take critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies.
One of President Biden’s Executive Orders requires the Interior Department to conduct a review of the monument boundaries and conditions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons, and Seamounts Marine National Monuments. The order directs Interior, in consultation with other agencies and Tribal governments, to determine whether restoration of the monument boundaries and conditions would be appropriate.
The Executive Order also places a temporary moratorium on activities related to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pending legal and policy review. Pursuant to section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Executive Order also restores the original withdrawal of certain offshore areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling.
The Interior Department will immediately begin to implement the orders, and make recommendations to the President as directed.
The Interior Department has issued a Secretarial Order that temporarily elevates review of relevant agency decisions, including final agency actions, regulatory actions, and energy development. During the 60-day window that the Order may be in effect, decision-making over these matters will be reserved for Department leadership for the purposes of reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise. The Order does not impact existing ongoing operations under valid leases and does not preclude the issuance of leases, permits and other authorizations by those specified. In addition, any actions necessary in the event of an incident that might pose a threat to human health, welfare, or safety will continue.
The President also took swift action to begin an urgent, robust, and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. An additional Executive Order will help slow the spread of the virus by asking all of us to do our part and requiring masks and physical distancing. The Interior Department will have additional department-specific guidance in the days and weeks to come.
The inauguration of Joe Biden as America’s 46th president would have been historic – the first woman/Black/South Asian vice president, the man who was the youngest US Senator becoming the oldest US president – but it has taken place amid historic circumstances which twisted the traditions and pomp and circumstance that normally accompany the peaceful transition of power. Because for the first time, the transition of power was not peaceful.
The dignitaries, pared down because of the pandemic, and the onlookers exclusively confined to National Guard, Capitol Police and security personnel because of the threat of domestic terrorism, looked out on a sea of flags down the length of the National Mall, where people would have been. And there was no outgoing President on the podium, though there were three prior Presidents: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – and no cordial greeting at the White House, gracious tour for the first ladies, or sharing a limousine to the Capitol to demonstrate to the world the essence of democracy: that the loser accepts loss and hands off the office with an aim toward protecting the nation against enemies foreign and domestic.
Two Wednesdays ago, there was an armed insurrection of the Capitol intended to disrupt the certification of Biden as president, the first time the Capitol Building had been invaded since the War of 1812; one Wednesday ago, Donald Trump became the first president impeached for the second time for his part in inciting the insurrection and attempting to overturn a free and fair election, and this Wednesday, “democracy prevailed,” as Biden said in his inaugural.
In every way the man and the message were 180 degrees turned around from Trump’s inauguration four years ago when the theme of Trump’s inaugural address was “American carnage” – that turned out to be his agenda and as he departed, he left 400,000 dead and 24 million sickened by COVID-19; millions facing eviction or foreclosure; millions of jobless; hundreds of thousands of businesses shuttered; civil unrest and hostility not seen since the Civil War.
Biden is completely different, starting with his Inauguration-eve national Memorial to the 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19, with a dramatic lighting display at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Biden’s inaugural message was focused on “unity”, but not in a Pollyannish-way.
He cast unity as the key to survival – to end the pandemic, to restore economic prosperity, and to save democracy: “To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
He stressed the need for truth and the end of lies “told for power and for profit” (an actual applause line).
And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.
His speech was idealistic and uplifting, full of promise and possibility yet remarkably frank:
“Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy,” he said.
“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed…”
He listed the litany of unprecedented crises intersecting all at once, saying, “To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity…
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation…
“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”
He said, “This is a time of testing. We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. Now we must step up. All of us.”
In probably the starkest contrast to his precedessor, Biden said, “Take a measure of me and my heart..I pledge this to you: I will be a President for all Americans….I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities. Not of personal interest, but of the public good.”
But he returned to his theme that overcoming these crises will require all of us. “It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do…We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era…
“May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived. That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world…
“That is what we owe our forbears, one another, and generations to follow. So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.
“Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.”
Here is his inaugural address, highlighted:
Inaugural Address of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans.
This is America’s day.
This is democracy’s day.
A day of history and hope.
Of renewal and resolve.
Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.
Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.
The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.
We have learned again that democracy is precious.
Democracy is fragile.
And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.
So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.
We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.
I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.
As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.
I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.
But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.
On “We the People” who seek a more perfect Union.
This is a great nation and we are a good people.
Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.
We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.
Much to repair.
Much to restore.
Much to heal.
Much to build.
And much to gain.
Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.
A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.
It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II.
Millions of jobs have been lost.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.
A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.
A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.
And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.
It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:
In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”
My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:
Bringing America together.
Uniting our people.
And uniting our nation.
I ask every American to join me in this cause.
Uniting to fight the common foes we face:
Anger, resentment, hatred.
Extremism, lawlessness, violence.
Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.
With unity we can do great things. Important things.
We can right wrongs.
We can put people to work in good jobs.
We can teach our children in safe schools.
We can overcome this deadly virus.
We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.
We can deliver racial justice.
We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.
I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy.
I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.
But I also know they are not new.
Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart.
The battle is perennial.
Victory is never assured.
Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.
In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.
And, we can do so now.
History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect.
We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.
No progress, only exhausting outrage.
No nation, only a state of chaos.
This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.
And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.
If we do that, I guarantee you, we will not fail.
We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.
And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.
All of us.
Let us listen to one another.
Hear one another.
See one another.
Show respect to one another.
Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.
Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.
And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.
My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this.
America has to be better than this.
And, I believe America is better than this.
Just look around.
Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.
Yet we endured and we prevailed.
Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.
Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.
Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office – Vice President Kamala Harris.
Don’t tell me things can’t change.
Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.
There are some days when we need a hand.
There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.
That is how we must be with one another.
And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.
My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.
We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.
We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.
We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.
I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.
We will get through this, together
The world is watching today.
So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it.
We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.
Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.
We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.
We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.
We have been through so much in this nation.
And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.
To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.
Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.
This is a time of testing.
We face an attack on democracy and on truth.
A raging virus.
The sting of systemic racism.
A climate in crisis.
America’s role in the world.
Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways.
But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities.
Now we must step up.
All of us.
It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.
And, this is certain.
We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.
Will we rise to the occasion?
Will we master this rare and difficult hour?
Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?
I believe we must and I believe we will.
And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.
It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.
It’s called “American Anthem” and there is one verse stands out for me:
“The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day What shall be our legacy? What will our children say?… Let me know in my heart When my days are through America America I gave my best to you.”
Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our nation.
If we do this then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best.
They did their duty.
They healed a broken land.
My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath.
Before God and all of you I give you my word.
I will always level with you.
I will defend the Constitution.
I will defend our democracy.
I will defend America.
I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.
Not of personal interest, but of the public good.
And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.
Of unity, not division.
Of light, not darkness.
An American story of decency and dignity.
Of love and of healing.
Of greatness and of goodness.
May this be the story that guides us.
The story that inspires us.
The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.
We met the moment.
That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.
That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.
That is what we owe our forbears, one another, and generations to follow.
So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.
Sustained by faith.
Driven by conviction.
And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.
May God bless America and may God protect our troops.