Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, Long Island, New York, has long been an social justice and civil rights activist, and for more than 25 years, has hosted a Martin Luther King Shabbat Service. Indeed, Martin Luther King Jr., himself, addressed Temple Beth-El congregation from this pulpit 56 years ago.
“We do this service every year not merely to remember an historical event—as though it were a moment, or a series of moments, that occurred once and are now fossilized in time,” said Rabbi A. Brian Stoller. “If that were the case, we could simply read about it in history books as a matter of curiosity. We come together at sacred moments like this, year after year, to translate history into present and future.”
It is fitting that the MLK Shabbat Service happens to come when the Torah reading for Jews everywhere begins reading the book of Exodus, the story of how Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Milk and Honey.
Attorney General Letitia James gave the keynote. Here are highlights from her remarks:
The greatest honor and sign of respect is to be invited into another’s place of worship – this is a holy place. So many others have spoken here. I am honored and privileged to say a few words this evening, and be welcomed to your sanctuary. You can never take that for granted – many places in world, even in this country to have Jews, Christians, blacks, whites, young, old, coming together for most basic ritual we do.
That we are all together tonight, cannot be overstated – to pray, for spiritual enrichment, to summon God, to commemorate freedom from bondage and commemorate creation.
We all know someone who gave up something to be here – who sacrificed lives – parent/grandparents, survived Holocaust, pograms – perhaps we have some here this evening.
Our ancestors enslaved in Egypt, Europe and here in America – our ancestors fought for our right to be here- standing up to their oppressors, taking risks, protesting injustice.
It feels fitting that we receive that message from Torah this week, the week we honor the life, legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – the person we most credit for the fight for civil rights, the quest for freedom.One of the most influential figures to enter history.
There were two midwives who engaged in the first recorded instance of civil disobedience: the new pharaoh decreed Jewish people were now slaves, midwives should kill their baby boys when they were born. But Shiphrah and Puah refused, feared doing something immortal more than they feared the pharaoh – midwives do what they do because that’s what a human being is supposed to do.
Pharoah continued to enslave the Jewish people for  years to come – but acts paved the way for Pharaoh’s daughter to take Moses from the river to nurture. Moses, who ultimately freed the Jewish people and lead them to the promised land.
We should learn from these midwives and pharoah’s daughter that when faced [with evil], even if means disobeying the rules, angering those who are powerful, [when called to do the right thing] the answer is simple, the answer is yes.
Dr. King led movement of ordinary people fed up with the injustices of society, savage inequities, who refused to move to the back of the bus, refused to leave the lunch counter, attend inferior schools, live in uninhabitable housing, but who could not exercise most basic right, right to vote.
He had hope for a better society [and that people would come forward like] Shiphrah and Puah, who marched with Dr King.
56 years ago Dr. King was here at this congregation, speaking of his vision that one day would live in harmony. He had two versions: “One is a beautiful America, where there is the milk of opportunity and the honey of equality. There is another America where the daily ugliness has transformed the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair.”
We made progress but much more to do – there are many pharaohs who stand in our way, who try to push us down, drag us backwards – too many who would take advantage of the most vulnerable to line their pockets, who spread hate, who separate us by race and artificial constructs.
It can feel like we are in the eye of moral crisis. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by hate and bigotry that continues to spread in America. I am sure I am not alone.
It is overwhelming when we read of acts of antisemitism every day, see shocking videos of bigoted, deadly assaults against our fellow citizens, even worse, when we see children commit these acts of hate. Children should know better, should be taught to respect and love. . These individuals who engage in these deadly assaults simply because of racial, ethnic, religious differences, we must confront them, even if they are our neighbors, even if they look like us, we’ve got to confront them.
It can be all consuming to know white supremacists and their ideas are allowed to breed, fester in darkest corners of internet and basements, leading to Nazis in Charlottesville, and evil individuals targeting our houses of worship, like Mother Emanuel in Charleston, Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, a grocery store named Topps in Buffalo.
We can feel paralyzed by widespread attacks on fundamental rights, not knowing how to turn and respond, even as I stand before you, watching nationwide effort to deny us our voting rights, wystemic dismantling of hard fought civil rights gained at the Supreme Court, and efforts around the country to erase the Black and Jewish experience from textbooks, Diversity, inclusion at elementary schools, college campuses, workplaces.
Through it all, we find comfort that those who have seen ugly face of hate – women, Jews, Blacks, Asian, LBGTQ – understand we all carry the responsibility of standing up to it, have a special charge to show up and stand up for one another.
As an African American, I have responsibility to speak out against antisemitism, not just allow only the Jewish community to speak out, just as Martin Luther King reminded us that though it was illegal to aid and comfort Jews in Hitler’s Germany, but had he lived in Germany then, he would have aided Jewish brothers and sisters, even if it were illegal.
We have a responsibility to stand up taller, speak louder, act more deliberately, and if history is any guide for the future, we have so much to be hopeful about.
Jews and blacks have a long history that is intertwined – hands that made bricks without straw, joining with the hands that picked cotton, the hands of drum majors for justice, righteousness, all of us.
So many times in history, there were Jews who disobeyed the rules because they knew how wrong the rules were – this is what should be taught.
Far back, it was Jewish merchants in the South who would address Blacks as Mr. and Mrs., who would allow Black customers to enter the front door, not the back.
And when the fight for freedom hit the Supreme Court, it was research by American Jewish Committee and the Anti Defamation League, and American Jewish Congress that helped prevail – and all that was done in the halls of Howard University, where Blacks and Jews together came up with the winning legal strategy to overcome segregation in this nation.
Blood scattered all over the South. No one said Black blood, Jewish blood, just blood of those who died for what was right.
They worked voter registration drives because they believed the color of your skin didn’t make you more or, less of a person. Everyone’s voice should be equal.
It would have been easier, safer to follow the rules, stay home, stay silent, but no, the Torah teaches you that the moral imperative is to act – far greater than following the rules.
[As one who rarely follows rules I know] they knew consequences in face of such hateful aggressors but they acted anyway.
In 1963, at the March on Washington, before MLK delivered the “I have dream” speech, Rabbi [Joachim] Prinz [President of the American Jewish Congress] spoke, saying, “When I was the Rabbi of the Jewish community of Berlin under Hitler, I learned many things, most important was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem, the most urgent and the most disgraceful, shameful, tragic problem is silence.”
Just months before, while Martin Luther King was sitting in a Birmingham jail, arrested for participating in civil rights demonstration, he wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for theappalling silenceof the good people.”
Some 60 years later, the good people are making their voices heard. The moral arc of universe is long but bends toward justice.
Continue to carry Dr King’s fight through 2023 and beyond.
Stand up for what we believe in, fighting back against those forces that seek to deny and divide us, committing to forward progress and being responsible to do right thing even when the odds are stacked against; breaking the rules that never should have been rules in the first place.
MLK had the audacity to stand up for the moral compass of our society.
Even though I may have my moments of doubt, sadness, I remain overwhelmingly hopeful, buoyed by progress we have made.
Just think: regardless of your politics tonight, when you see the son of a black woman who picked cotton, and the grandson of Jewish immigrants, standing together [as U.S.Senators] in a state in the cradle of Deep South, that’s progress.
When leaders of Democratic party in the Congress are Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries that’s progress.
And I am hopeful the cries for justice and equality are too loud, too strong and too diverse to be silenced or ignored, we march with millions of feet for progress cannot be ignored not now, or ever.
I am hopeful love, acceptance, inclusion will always push out hate, darkness, that these will be the ideals you pass along to your children…Teach them the beauty of all God’s children, that silence in face of hate and discrimination simply cannot be.
And God’s love, ah, god’s love knows no race, or ethnicity, that we are all covered by his grace and mercy.
I am hopeful because of people like all of you in this room – seeing that spark that ignites the fires of change, always simmering but never fully flamed throughout our nation’s history.
I am thankful this temple would embrace this woman, who believes in change, and fights each and every day for progress..
56 years ago you welcomed Dr King to your congregation at a time when people still feared each other and when many questioned Dr King’s intentions.
This congregation knew painfully well what was at stake and the heavy toll of silence…
In the beautiful words of your executive director, Stuart Botwinick, “Jews have a special responsibility to hold up and support those who are held down, and we continue till this day to look towards equality and civil rights, do our part to lift people up.”
All of you are essential to make progress possible, when it comes to fight the ugly face of discrimination…
I will stand with you …there is no space between us, to move our nation closer to the vision that Dr King had for all of us, because we, my friends, are all children of his dream, and that dream must live on. His legacy deserves it, we deserve it, so do our children…Let’s pray and keep the dream alive.
Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets, writes the organizers of a Shine a Light event in which Jews were called upon to proudly display their identity in lighting the menorah at Times Square. Leaders from President Joe Biden and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul and on down have declared that antisemitism, bigotry and hate will no longer be tolerated.
Antisemitism is on the rise across the United States. The Anti-Defamation League which tracks antisemitic behavior nationwide, found 2717 incidents in 2021, a 34 percent rise over 2020 – accompanied by unabashed rise and weaponization of fascism and political violence, the attacks more brazen, more violent, more deadly and more politically strategic.
Charlottesville (where a woman was murdered, after which Trump said there were “good people” on both sides). The Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh.
“This is the highest total we have ever tracked in more than 40 years of doing this work,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League said on Newshour on PBS. “And we should keep in mind that antisemitic acts were going down in the United States for almost 15 years, and then, in 2016, they started to move up. And we’re now at the point where we have nearly triple the number of incidents today that we did in 2015.” In 2022, assaults increased 167 percent, with increases in incidents of vandalism and harassment.
“So I think antisemitism really isn’t just a Jewish problem. It’s an American problem,” he asserted. “[Antisemitism] is typically the canary in the coal mine. And so, as things are beginning to unravel more broadly, the Jewish community is often the target of scapegoating and victimized in that way.”
Antisemitism is not new in America, but Greenblatt noted, “We have never seen a situation like this before. You had Jews being beaten and brutalized in broad daylight, say, in the middle of Times Square or Los Angeles or the Strip in Las Vegas, where people who were simply identified as Jewish came under assault and attack. That was new. And I think what you’re seeing is a kind of normalization of antisemitism and extremism.”
Taking a cue from Trump, whose entire political career has been built upon fear-mongering bigotry, politicians who once would never have dared profess support for Hitler and Nazism will actually be in positions of power in Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Greene (who charged that Jewish space lasers were to blame for California’s wildfires and who embraces QAnon, which has repackaged the Jewish Blood Libel conspiracy from the Middle Ages to incite attacks on Jews), while others, like Speaker Wannabe Kevin McCarthy and incoming Congressman George Santos, stand by instead of denouncing attacks.
Celebrities like Kanye West, who command the following of millions use social media to incite attacks on Jews. Only last week, a 63-year old man was attacked in Central Park by a man who shouted anti-Semitic slogans and had a sign, Kanye 2024.
In just the few weeks since the recent takeover of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk, who fired moderators and brought back those who were thrown off for inciting violence, hate-filled tweets have increased fivefold.
“The Holocaust didn’t begin with systematic murder of 6 million Jews, it began with rhetoric, normalization of rhetoric that the average person picked up on and ran with; it began with attacks on individuals, businesses, communities, perpetrated by citizens with permission by rhetoric,” Rabbi Michael Knopf, Temple Beth-el, Richmond, told “All Things Considered’ on NPR.
“We ought not to wait around for another Charlottesville, another [Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in] Pittsburgh. “When it manifests, it requires calling out.”
The Jewish community, he said, has a propensity to dismiss anti-Semitic rhetoric, and not draw too much attention. “That is really dangerous. Not just celebrities, but celebrities endorsed by and in relationship with incredibly powerful figures, the former president, refuse to distance themselves from that ideology, welcome and embrace it”. Indeed, they embrace them as their voting base.
But the time is passed for dismissing, or ignoring, or minimizing.
Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets, writes the organizers of a Shine a Light event in which Jews were called upon to proudly display their identity in lighting the menorah at Times Square. Antisemitic incidents and attacks have mushroomed on college campuses, even at City University of New York – indeed, the menorah was lit by four CUNY students who have been victims of antisemitism. Washington DC-area high schoolers, interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered, how they are made to feel like outsiders, diminished, less equal, and have new fears of being attacked.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, chairing the first-ever White House summit to combat antisemitism and hate-fueled violence, cited “an epidemic of hate, a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts. Let me clear, words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are literally screaming them.”
President Biden is taking action, establishing an inter-agency group led by Domestic Policy Council staff and National Security Council staff to increase and better coordinate federal government efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination. The President has tasked the inter-agency group as its first order of business to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism by raising understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, and addressing antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline. The President also has secured the largest increase in federal funding ever for the physical security of non-profits, including synagogues and Jewish Community Centers.
One can almost process antisemitism in rearing up in places where there are few Jews and therefore so easy to fabricate the fantastical conspiracies and caricatures. But New York City? Long Island? New York State, which has the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, which is the most richly filled melting pot of nationalities, religions, races on the planet? What does that say?
Governor Kathy Hochul, who came out to the Shine a Light on Antisemitism event in Times Square on Monday, days earlier announced the launch of a new statewide Hate and Bias Prevention Unit, within the state’s Division of Human Rights. The unit is charged with leading public education and outreach efforts, serving as an early warning detection system in local communities, and quickly mobilizing to support areas and communities in which a bias incident has occurred.
“New York State will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities,” Governor Hochul said. “We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home.” Among the issues she raised during the Shine a Light event was the need to teach about the Holocaust with substance, not passing lip service. Holocaust education is mandated in the state’s curriculum.
The Governor announced $96 million in state and federal funding to safeguard nonprofit, community-based organizations at risk of hate crimes and attacks; and directed $10 million in state grant funds to support county governments as they develop domestic terrorism prevention plans and threat assessment and management teams.
The Hate and Bias Prevention Unit will be responsible for establishing and implementing a statewide campaign promoting acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of diversity, as required by legislation signed last month by Governor Hochul, The campaign will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations, and foundations and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media, and other platforms to reach the public. The Division also works with the New York State Police to educate New Yorkers on the State’s hate crimes laws.
The Shine a Light event – which drew New York Attorney General Letitia James (who called antisemitism “a malignant cancer” that must be wiped out) in addition to Governor Hochul and was organized by UJA Federation New York, AJC New York, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, ADl-New York/New Jersey– was aimed at giving Jews an opportunity to proudly display their identity and commitment to their faith and heritage and raise awareness more broadly of antisemitism.
The MC of the event, comedian Ariel Elias, who grew up in Kentucky (very few Jews there) related how a video of her performing in a comedy club went viral after someone threw a beer can at her. She only connected it to antisemitism after noting the timing of the incident: it coincided with Kanye West’s “defcon3” tweet.
“What I was talking about [before the beer can was thrown] was being Jewish and growing up in Kentucky,” Elias said. “But because antisemitism doesn’t always look the way it used to, it took a long time for me to connect the dots when it first happened.”
“Antisemitism is intensifying. Our efforts to fight it must be even stronger.Nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. experiences antisemitism. It’s become normalized across our culture — on social media, in pop culture and politics, and on the streets,” the Shine a Light organizers stated. Shine a Light comprises more than 80 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations which are committed to addressing rising antisemitism.
Antisemitic incidents and attacks have mushroomed on college campuses, even at City University of New York – indeed, the menorah in Times Square was lit by four CUNY students who have been victims of antisemitism. Washington DC-area high schoolers, interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered, how they are made to feel like outsiders, diminished, less equal, and have new fears of being attacked.
UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein, who spoke at the Shine a Light event, told the New York Jewish Week that putting on an event like this in a public place is important in order to show that Jews are standing up to antisemitism. “A really important piece of this is to live [a] proudly public, happy Jewish life.”
Around Manhattan, there were numerous trucks manned by Orthodox Jews, playing festive music. “Are you Jewish,” someone would ask, and offering a Hanukkah kit in a box.
We are here. We are here to stay.
“We live in a very challenging world, and the only thing we can use to overcome hatred, intolerance, prejudice and antisemitism is light – because light overcomes darkness and hatred,” Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) said at a “Latkes and Lights” celebration at the county executive building.
Drucker, a member of the county’s Task Forceto CombatAntisemitism which was formed in May, said “The biggest problem is education. The task force intends to meet with school district administrators to get input –from faculty, student body – as to the root cause of antisemitism “rearing its ugly head. We are seeing symptoms throughout the country. We don’t want it to happen here. One example is too many.” He said he has reached out to Hochul’s office to being named as a Long Island representative on the satellite offices she is setting up throughout the state.
But in fact, there are been many instances, now, of antisemitism on Long Island, including leaflets left in neighborhoods suggesting a Jewish cabal controlling government, and only weeks ago, a Long Island man arrested at Penn Station with weapons who had made threats against the Jewish community.
Just this month, Municipal Leaders Against Antisemitism was formed to counter an uptick in antisemitic incidents in Long Island. There were 28 incidents in Nassau County so far this year, up from 24 in 2021.
At a Hanukkah reception at the White House, Biden stated that in the face of emboldened antisemitism in the US and around the world, “silence is complicity and we must forcefully say that all forms of hate, antisemitism and violence can have no safe harbor in America.”
Still, the question must be despite all these positive pronouncements and announcements and initiatives, whether it is just lip service or actual action, and whether these programs will be sustained long enough to reverse course again, making antisemitism culturally deplorable.
Happy Hanukkah for all those who celebrate – proudly.
President Joe Biden delivered a speech on July 8 on actions he is taking to protect access to reproductive health care services in light of the Supreme Court overturning the constitutional protections afforded by Roe v. Wade and multiple states immediately implementing bans on abortion rights, in most cases even in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. But the President noted that there is only so much he could do by Executive Order or that his administration can do, and exhorted women to take action at the ballot box, elect representatives to local, state and federal office who will protect their personal freedom, liberty and autonomy. Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks: — Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Now, with the Vice President, Secretary Becerra, and Deputy Attorney General Monaco, I want to talk about an executive order I’m signing to protect reproductive rights of women in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s terrible, extreme, and, I think, so totally wrongheaded decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
[It] both formalized actions I announced right after the decision, as well as adding new measures today.
Let’s be clear about something from the very start. This was not a decision driven by the Constitution. Let me say it again: This was not a decision driven by the Constitution. And despite what those justices in the majority said, this was not a decision driven by history.
You’ve all probably had a chance to the read the decision and the dissent.
The majority rattles off laws from the 19th century to support the idea that Roe was historic- — was a historical anomaly because states outlawed abortion in the 1880s, toward the end. But that’s just wrong.
The truth is today’s Supreme Court majority that is playing fast and loose with the facts. Even 150 years ago, the common law and many state laws did not criminalize abortion early in pregnancy, which is very similar to the viability line drawn by Roe.
But the Dobbs majority ignores that fact. And the Dobbs majority ignores that many laws were enacted to protect women at the time when they were dying from unsafe abortions.
This is the horrific reality that Roe sought to end. The practice of medicine should not — emphasize — should not be frozen in the 19th century.
So, what happened?
The dissenting opinion says it as clear as you can possibly say it. And here’s the quote: “Neither law nor facts nor attitudes have provided any new reason to reach a different result than Roe and Casey did.” And that’s has changed — excuse me — and “All that has changed is this Court.” End of quote. “All that has changed is this Court.”
That wasn’t about the Constitution or the law.
It was about a deep, long-seething antipathy towards Roe and the broader right to privacy. As the justices wrote in their dissent, and I quote, “The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them.” End of quote.
So, what we’re witnessing wasn’t a constitutional judgment. It was an exercise in raw political power. On the day the Dobbs decision came down, I immediately announced what I would do.
But I also made it clear, based on the reasoning of the Court, there is no constitutional right to choose. Only the way — the only way to fulfill and restore that right for women in this country is by voting, by exercising the power at the ballot box.
Let me explain. We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality.
I know it’s frustrating and it made a lot of people very angry. But the truth is this — and it’s not just me saying it; it’s what the Court said: When you read the decision, the Court has made clear it will not protect the rights of women. Period. Period.
After having made the decision based on a reading of a document that was frozen in time in the 1860s, when women didn’t even have the right to vote, the Court now — now — practically dares the women of America to go to the ballot box and restore the very rights they’ve just taken away.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the decision, in my view, is the majority writes, and I quote, “Women…” — it’s a quote now, from the majority — “Women are not without electoral or political power. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who registered to vote and cast a ballot is consistently higher than the percentage of the men who do so.” End of quote…
That’s another way of saying that you, the women of America, can determine the outcome of this issue.
I don’t think the Court or, for that matter, the Republicans who for decades have pushed their extreme agenda have a clue about the power of American women. But they’re about to find out, in my view.
It’s my hope and strong belief that women will, in fact, turn out in record numbers to reclaim the rights that have taken from them by the Court.
And let me be clear: While I wish it had not come to this, this is the fastest route available. I’m just stating a basic, fundamental notion.
The fastest way to restore Roe is to pass a national law codifying Roe, which I will sign immediately upon its passage at my desk.
And we can’t wait. Extreme Republican governors, extreme Republican state legislatures, and Republican extremists in the Congress overall — all of them have not only fought to take away the right — our rights — but they’re now determined to go as far as they can.
Now the most extreme Republican governors and state legislatures have taken the Court’s decision as a green light to impose some of the harshest and most restrictive laws seen in this country in a long time. These are the laws that not only put women’s lives at risk, these are the laws that will cost lives.
What we’re witnessing is a giant step backwards in much of our country. Already, the bans are in effect in 13 states. Twelve additional states are likely to ban choice in the coming weeks. And in a number of these states, the laws are so extreme they have raised the threat of criminal penalties for doctors and healthcare providers. They’re so extreme that many don’t allow for exceptions, even for rape or incest. Let me say that again: Some of the states don’t allow for exceptions for rape or incest.
This isn’t some imagined horror. It’s already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim in Ohio — 10 years old — and she was forced to have to travel out of the state, to Indiana, to seek to terminate the [pregnancy] and maybe save her life. That’s — the last part is my judgment. Ten years old. Ten years old. Raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state. Imagine being that little girl. Just — I’m serious — just imagine being that little girl. Ten years old.
Does anyone believe that it’s the highest majority view that that should not be able to be dealt with, or in any other state in the nation? A 10-year-old girl should be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child? I can tell you what: I don’t. I can’t think of anything as much more extreme.
The Court’s decision has also been received by Republicans in Congress as a green light to go further and pass a national ban. A national ban. Remember what they’re saying. They’re saying there’s no right to privacy, so therefore it’s not protected by the Constitution, so leave it up to the state and the Congress, what they want to do.
And now my Republican friends are talking about getting the Congress to pass a national ban. The extreme positions that they’re taking in some of these states. That will mean the right to choose will be illegal nationwide if, in fact, they succeed. Let me tell you something: As long as I’m President, it won’t happen, because I’ll veto it.
So the choice is clear. If you want to change the circumstances for women and even little girls in this country, please go out and vote. When tens of millions of women vote this year, they won’t be alone. Millions and millions of men will be taking up the fight alongside them to restore the right to choose and the broader right to privacy in this nation, which they denied existed. And the challenge from the Court to the American women and men — this is a nation. The challenge is: Go out and vote. Well, for God’s sake, there’s an election in November. Vote, vote, vote, vote. Consider the challenge accepted, Court.
But in the meantime, I’m signing this important executive order. I’m asking the Justice Department that, much like they did in the Civil Rights era, to do something — do everything in their power to protect these women seeking to invoke their right:
In states where clinics are still open, to protect them from intimidation.
To protect the right of women to travel from a state that prohibits seeking the medical attention that she needs to a state to provide that care.
To protect a woman’s right to the FDA-approved — Federal Drug Administration-approved medication that’s been available for over 20 years.
The executive order provides safeguards to access care. A patient comes into the emergency room in any state in the union. She’s expressing and experiencing a life-threatening miscarriage, but the doctor is going to be so concerned about being criminalized for treating her, they delay treatment to call the hospital lawyer who is concerned the hospital will be penalized if a doctor provides the lifesaving care. It’s outrageous. I don’t care what your position is. It’s outrageous, and it’s dangerous.
That’s why this executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services — HHS — to ensure all patients, including pregnant women and girls experience pregnant — experiencing pregnancy loss get emergency care they need under federal law, and that doctors have clear guidance on their own responsibilities and protections no matter what the state — no matter what state they’re in.
The executive order protects access to contraception — that I’m about to sign.
Justice Thomas himself said that under the reasoning of this decision — this is what Justice Thomas said in his concurring opinion — that the Court “should reconsider the constitutional right to contraception — to use contraception even among married couples.
What century are they in? There used to be a case called –[Griswold v. Connecticut], which was declared unconstitutional in the late ‘60s. It said a married couple in the privacy of their bedroom could not decide to use contraception.
Right now, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Affordable Care Act guarantees insurance coverage for women’s health services, including — including free birth control. The executive order directs HHS to identify ways to expand access to reproductive health services, like IUDs, birth control pills, emergency contraception.
And equally important, this executive order protects patient privacy and access to information, which looking at the press assembled before me, probably know more about it than I do. I’m not a tech guy. I’m learning.
But right now, when you use a search engine or the app on your phone, companies collect your data, they sell it to other companies, and they even share it with law enforcement. There’s an increasing concern that extremist governors and others will try to get that data off of your phone, which is out there in the ether, to find what you’re seeking, where you’re going, and what you’re doing with regard to your healthcare.
Talk about no privacy — no privacy in the Constitution. There’s no privacy, period.
This executive order asks the FTC to crack down on data brokers that sell private information to extreme groups or, in my view, sell private information to anybody.
It provides private health information — it protects private health information in states with extreme laws.
And the executive order strengthens coordination at a federal level. It establishes a task force, led by the White House Department — and the Department of Human Services, focused specifically on using every federal tool available to protect access to reproductive healthcare.
You know, let me close with this: The Court and its allies are committed to moving America backward with fewer rights, less autonomy, and politicians invading the most personal of decisions. Remember the reasoning of this decision has an impact much beyond Roe and the right to privacy generally.
Marriage equality, contraception, and so much more is at risk. This decision affects everyone — unrelated to choice — beyond choice. We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with the extremist elements of the Republican Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.
The choice we face as a nation is between the mainstream and the extreme, between moving forward and moving backwards, between allowing politicians to enter the most personal parts of our lives and protecting the right to privacy — yes, yes — embedded in our Constitution.
This is a choice. This is a moment — the moment — the moment to restore the rights that have been taken away from us and the moment to protect our nation from an extremist agenda that is antithetical to everything we believe as Americans.
Now, I’m going to sign this executive order.
The executive order is “Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services.”
This week, President Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation passed by Congress as part of the Omnibus appropriations package. In remarks at the signing, President Biden reflected on having authored the original VAWA, and during Women’s History Month, when Republican-led states are passing cruel and unconstitutional restrictions on women’s reproductive rights and their rights to self-determination, said:
It really wasn’t so long ago this country didn’t want to talk about violence against women, let alone as being a national epidemic, something the government had to address.
As a society, we literally looked away. We looked away. In many places, it wasn’t a crime. And I don’t recall — I don’t recall how many times I was told in the prelude to writing the legislation that it’s a “family affair.” “You don’t understand, Biden. It’s a family affair.”
When I began, along with others, to pursue this legislation to change this — this issue, we were told that we would literally be responsible for the “disintegration” of American families in the major press. It wasn’t just the wackos; it was in the mainstream press.
And we talked about creating shelters to give survivors a way out because so many don’t have a way out, and their children — by the way, the vast majority of children on the street with their mothers are there because she’s a victim of domestic violence….
This law broke the dam of congressional resistance and cultural resistance. And it brought this hidden epidemic out of the shadows. You know, its introduction — it introduced our nation to so many brave survivors who those stories changed the way America saw the issue. I mean, in the literal sense, it’s hard to believe — even when I go back and think of when — how it started and where it was.
As a practical matter, things began to shift — the legal and social burdens — away from survivors and onto perpetrators and where they belonged. It made addressing general — excuse me — gender violence a shared priority with a determined, coordinated response. It created a hotline, as I said, for millions of women who have used the hotline. And again, I’ll never forget being told the first time — I said, “What did you do?” She said, “I got behind the drapes and I held the phone. And I prayed to God — prayed to God — don’t let him hear this. Pray God. Pray God.”
It supported shelters and rape crisis centers, housing and legal assistance, creating lifesaving options for women and children all across the country. And it helped train police officers, advocates, prosecutors, judges, court personnel to make the entire justice system fair and more responsive to the needs of survivors. ..
Even in 1994, we knew that there was much more we had to do — you know, that it was only the beginning. That’s why, because of all of you in this room, every time we’ve reauthorized this law, it’s been improved. It’s not like we didn’t know we wanted to do these other things in the beginning. It’s we did as much as we could and keep trying to add to it.
Broadening from domestic violence to include stalking and sexual assault in 2000. That was the change made.
Expanding access to services for immigrants and communities of color in 2005. That was a change.
Restoring jurisdiction of Tribal courts — (applause) — over non-Native domestic violence offenders who abuse women in Indian Country. We did that in 2013.
Extending protections to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, in 2013. ..
The law kept growing stronger. It’s not like we didn’t know in 2005 we should be dealing with the things we dealt with in 2013. It was getting it done.
Each link in the chain that we’re building made a difference — makes a difference.
Yesterday, I signed the Bipartisan Government Funding Bill…And, consequentially, we forged the next link in the chain…
So we established a new civil rights — a new civil rights cause of action for those whose intimate images were shared on the public screen. How many times have you heard — I’ll bet everybody knows somebody somewhere along the line that in an intimate relationship, what happened was the guy takes a revealing picture of his naked friend, or whatever, in a compromising position, and then literally, in a sense, blackmails or mortifies that person — sends it out, put it online.
We’re giving survivors real resources against abuse now. Ex-partners and stalkers who seek to humiliate and hurt them.
We’ve created — you created new programs to help end the backlog of the rape kits. And those rape kits, by the way, I don’t know — you ought to go to your major cities, those of you in the House and Senate — this group probably has — which I have done. And this backlog is so significant. You could solve literally a significant portion of —
Look, the only thing I learned that’s worse than — for a woman — worse than a woman who is abused or raped and says, “It’s Charlie who did it,” and no one believes her — him against her. And when — you can take a look. If you take a look at those rape kits and you went through them all, you could identify and arrest probably 40, 50 percent of the rapists in America. They’re all there. Their DNAs are there. It’s all in line. And run it against the whole panoply. Very few rapists rape only once.
So, look, that — you know, there’s a lot that goes unprocessed. And we have to make sure survivors get compensation, and if there have been delays in their cases — you know, we’ve made improvements in the National Criminal Background Check System to help states investigate and prosecute cases when abuses — when abusers who are barred from purchasing firearms attempt to do so. That, we’ve done federally. Quite frankly, this held — that’s one of the things that held up this bill for much too long. Much too long…
Through the American Rescue Plan, the administration directed $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services — (applause) — because they’re badly needed.
And we’ve worked with local public housing authorities to make sure that survivors trapped in a bad situation can find safe new housing options in public housing. (Applause.) Because they don’t have (inaudible) to go. You.
And we also made landmark reforms in military justice to help end the epidemic of sexual violence and harassment in our armed forces — (applause) — fundamentally changing how the military investigates, prosecutes sexual assault, domestic violence, and other related crimes…
Earlier this month, I signed a bar- — bipartisan bill that ends what we know as forced arbitration. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? (Applause.) No, no, but I mean the small print to sign a contract, and the small print says you can’t do anything if your boss, male or female — if you end up getting abused and if you end up doing something — you know, you can’t — you have to do it internally. No more. (Applause.) No more. Really.
And 80 percent of the people who sign those don’t even know what’s in the — in the contract.
The mechanism has prevented too many survivors of abuse and harassment in the workplace from having the choice to get their day in court.
Look, these are just a few of the steps you’ve all taken and how much you’ve improved this legislation. But as everyone in this room knows, this work is not going to stop. It never stops.
Today, one year since a gunman killed eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent, these horrific murders are a reminder that we still have work to do to put an end to misogyny and racism and all forms of hate we have.
We’re never going to get it all done, but we can’t ever stop trying. As long as there are women in this country and around the world who live in fear of violence, there’s more we have to do to fulfill this sacred commitment. No one — no one, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should experience abuse. Period. And if they do, they should have the services and support they need to get through it. And we’re not going to rest.
But in the meantime, all of you should be enormously proud of what you’ve accomplished. This reauthorization is testament to the power of your voices and your tireless dedication to changing things for the better.
Fact Sheet: Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
One of the driving forces of President Biden’s career has been fighting back against abuses of power. That force led him to write and champion the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a U.S. Senator, landmark legislation that first passed in 1994. In the nearly three decades since, he has worked with Members of Congress from both parties to pass legislation to renew and strengthen VAWA three times: in 2000, 2005, and 2013. Each time, he worked to expand access to safety and support for all survivors and increase prevention efforts. Preventing and responding to gender-based violence wherever it occurs, and in all of its forms, has remained a cornerstone of the President’s career in public service—from VAWA reauthorization to a national campaign to combat campus sexual assault to reforms to address sexual assault and harassment in the military.
While incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault have declined significantly since VAWA first took effect—and efforts to increase access to services, healing, and justice for survivors have improved with each iteration of VAWA—much work remains.
The 2022 reauthorization of VAWA strengthens this landmark law, including by:
Reauthorizing all current VAWA grant programs until 2027 and, in many cases, increasing authorization levels.
Expanding special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands; and supporting the development of a pilot project to enhance access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages.
Increasing services and support for survivors from underserved and marginalized communities—including for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; funding survivor-centered, community-based restorative practice services; and increasing support for culturally specific services and services in rural communities.
Establishing a federal civil cause of action for individuals whose intimate visual images are disclosed without their consent, allowing a victim to recover damages and legal fees; creating a new National Resource Center on Cybercrimes Against Individuals; and supporting State, Tribal, and local government efforts to prevent and prosecute cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images.
Improving prevention and response to sexual violence, including through increased support for the Rape Prevention and Education Program and Sexual Assault Services Program; expansion of prevention education for students in institutions of higher education; and enactment of the Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act, which requires state victim compensation programs to allow sexual assault survivors to file for compensation without being unfairly penalized due to rape kit backlogs.
Strengthening the application of evidence-based practices by law enforcement in responding to gender-based violence, including by promoting the use of trauma-informed, victim-centered training and improving homicide reduction initiatives.
Improving the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault, including through enhanced training for sexual assault forensic examiners.
Updating the SMART Prevention Program and the CHOOSE Youth Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to domestic violence, and engage men in preventing violence.
Enacting the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Denial Notification Act to help state law enforcement investigate and prosecute cases against individuals legally prohibited from purchasing firearms who try to do so.
Over the past year, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken significant steps to prevent and respond to gender-based violence at home and abroad:
Increased funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services. Directed $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) in response to the pandemic, including $49.5 million for culturally-specific community-based organizations that help survivors from historically marginalized communities access the services and support they need. The ARP also provided approximately 70,000 housing choice vouchers to local Public Housing Authorities in order to assist individuals and families, including those who are fleeing, or attempting to flee, from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking.
Reformed the military justice system to address sexual assault, harassment, and related crimes. Signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which included sweeping reforms to the military justice system—the most significant since the Uniform Code of Military Justice was established more than seventy years ago—and implemented the President’s campaign promise to address the scourge of sexual assault in our armed forces. In conjunction with the President’s Executive Order on military justice reform, this bipartisan, historic law adopts core recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault, as called for by President Biden, and fundamentally shifts how the military prosecutes and investigates sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other serious crimes, and increases prevention initiatives and support for survivors.
Ended forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment. Signed into law the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021—bipartisan legislation that empowers survivors of sexual assault and harassment by giving them a choice to go to court instead of being forced into arbitration.
Directed action to protect students from campus sexual assault. Directed the Department of Education to review Title IX regulations and other agency actions to ensure that all students have an educational environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex. The Department is developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking currently under review that will address the need for protection for students who experience campus sexual assault while treating all students fairly.
Increased resources for survivors of crime, including gender-based violence. Signed into law the Amendments to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which passed Congress with strong bipartisan support and expands the allocation of resources for the Crime Victims Fund. This has already resulted in an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars of non-taxpayer funding for essential and lifesaving services to crime victims around the country, including survivors of gender-based violence.
Led multinational effort to address online harassment and abuse. Launched the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse during the 2022 meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, together with the governments of Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. This multinational initiative will align countries, international organizations, and civil society to better prioritize, understand, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
Prioritized the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People, including gender-based violence. Issued an executive order directing the Departments of Justice, Interior, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to create a strategy to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and to address the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples, which disproportionately affect Native women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals; the Department of the Interior established the Missing and Murdered Unit to pursue justice for missing or murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Strengthened regional leadership on violence against Indigenous women and girls. Re-launched the United States’ leadership and participation in the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls with the Governments of Mexico and Canada. The White House will host the Fourth Convening of the Trilateral Working Group this summer to improve and reaffirm our respective national and regional commitments to prevent and respond to violence against Indigenous women and girls through increased access to justice and prevention services.
On International Women’s Day in 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order creating the White House Gender Policy Council and calling for the development of the first-ever government-wide National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, as well as an update to the 2016 United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. These strategies will provide a roadmap to guide the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government effort to end gender-based violence—and in so doing, create a society where survivors are supported and all people can live free from abuse.
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden came out forcefully to demand protection of voting rights and election integrity in speeches in Atlanta and called for removing the filibuster, weaponized as an obstacle to Senate action. Republicans in the Senate and House immediately twisted and attacked the Democrats’ desire to assure free and equal access to the ballot and fair counting as an attempt to hijack elections, rather than preserve the foundational element of democracy, dismissing what Republican-dominated legislatures are doing around the country to – by simple majority vote – enact voter suppression, gerrymandered maps and rules that allow them to subvert elections by overturning the will of the majority.
“The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party….The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act,” Harris declared. “We will fight to secure our most fundamental freedom: the freedom to vote.“Here is a highlighted transcript of Vice President Harris’ remarks:
Last week, one year after a violent mob breached the United States Capitol, the President of the United States and I spoke from its hallowed halls and we made clear: We swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. And we will. We will fight. (Applause.) We will fight to safeguard our democracy. We will fight to secure our most fundamental freedom: the freedom to vote.
And that is why we have come to Atlanta today — to the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement; to the district that was represented by the great Congressman John Lewis — (applause) — on the eve of the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Applause.)
More than 55 years ago, men, women, and children marched from Selma to Montgomery to demand the ballot. And when they arrived at the State Capitol in Alabama, Dr. King decried what he called “normalcy” — the normalcy, the complacency that was denying people the freedom to vote.
The only normalcy anyone should accept, Dr. King said, is the “normalcy of justice.” And his words resonate today.
Over the past few years, we have seen so many anti-voter laws that there is a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws, a danger of adjusting to these laws as though they are normal, a danger of being complacent, complicit.
Anti-voter laws are not new in our nation, but we must not be deceived into thinking they are normal.
We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it more difficult for students to vote is normal.
We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it illegal to help a voter with a disability vote by mail is normal. (Applause.)
There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines. (Applause.)
And I have met with voters in Georgia. I have heard your outrage about the anti-voter law here and how many voters will likely be kept from voting.
And Georgia is not alone. Across our nation, anti-voter laws could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million Americans to vote. That is one out of six people in our country.
And the proponents of these laws are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections to get the outcomes they want and to discredit those they don’t.
That is not how a democracy should work.
My fellow Americans: Do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat — who would wave this off as a partisan game.
The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party.
And if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.
As Dr. King said, “The battle is in our hands.” And today, the battle is in the hands of the leaders of the American people, those in particular that the American people sent to the United States Senate.
Two landmark bills sit before the United States Senate: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. (Applause.)
And these two bills represent the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly a decade ago.
We do not know when we will have this opportunity again. Senate Republicans have exploited arcane rules to block these bills.
And let us be clear: The Constitution of the United States gives the Congress the power to pass legislation. And nowhere — nowhere — does the Constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation. (Applause.)
The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act.
And the bottom line is this: Years from now, our children and our grandchildren, they will ask us about this moment. They will look back on this time, and they will ask us not about how we felt — they will ask us what did we do.
We cannot tell them that we let a Senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom. Instead, let us tell them that we stood together as people of conscience and courage.
Let us tell them we acted with the urgency that this moment demands.
And let us tell them we secured the freedom to vote, that we ensured free and fair elections, and we safeguarded our democracy for them and their children.
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to hear calls for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference and then marched up to Washington Square Park, bringing their messages of “Save Roe” “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, “Hands off Our Privates” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Ruth Sent Us.” (See: NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom)
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to protest for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference. The timing was key, just days before the Supreme Court begins its session in which it will hear a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. Texas SB8 bans abortions after six-weeks, the theoretical point when a fetus has a heartbeat, and deputizes vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce it against anyone even suspected of aiding a woman who gets an abortion and collect $10,000.
Rana Abdelhamid: “This is not about religion, not about life. They called us ‘hysterical’ for warning about the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s time for congress to do what’s right and protect our constitutional right to abortion. End the filibuster. We know what it is to have our bodies policed. Abolition Justice!
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU: We stand with women in Texas, Mississippi and all over the country. Abortion Justice. Reproductive Justice. Make New York a safe haven, close every loophole in state law, so anyone can come for reproductive health. We won’t turn back. We will be at every polling place in every election. Hold elected leaders accountable.
Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Choice: Reproductive freedom and abortion justice are at stake. Small, massively overfunded group of white supremacist, Christian conservatives have invested in state legislatures, built an anti-choice infrastructure. They stole two Supreme Court seats. That changes now. Over 80 percent support reproductive freedom. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (that passed the House, but not the senate), end the filibuster, rebalance Supreme Court. In November, 2021, 40,000 seats are up for election. Every ingle elected has a role to protect reproductive rights. Not just congress but state and local. Run for office, donate to VoteProChoice.us.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: They have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but now they are bulldozing our rights into the ground.Last week, chaired House Oversight Committee on Texas SB8, when three Congresswomen told their abortion stories. Women are speaking out. In December, Mississippi comes before the Supreme Court. For my entire time in Congress we hadn’t had a pro-choice majority, until this year. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. It has to pass in the Senate. We could pass it except for the filibuster. We have to carve out an exception. There is no democracy if women cannot control their own bodies, make their own reproduction choices. It is so outrageous, I can’t believe we are still fighting for this.
Brita Filter: Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, who, over 50 years ago, lobbied the New York State Assembly to legalize abortion: It’s been 30 days since women were stripped of their constitutional rights, their freedom to make their own decisions of their lives, their bodies. That’s 30 days too many.
Amsi: The battle for reproductive rights is not new. It’s been long, hard, frustrating.
Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City: History is repeating. We have been here before. Enough is enough. Women in Texas are having to drive to Oklahoma, having to choose between paying for an abortion or feeding their children. People are scared. Justice Ginsburg told us to dissent, she left a roadmap to protect reproductive rights. We are lucky in New York, but we nee dto close loopholes, we need an abortion fund so women can come to New York for care, for safety.
Cathy Rojas, a teacher and candidate for NYC mayor running as a Socialist: We need to build a sustainable people-powered movement ion New York City, In Texas, where people were freezing and is one of worst states to live – hunger, poverty of children, maternal mortality – they are leading the attack on abortion rights. So when claim is about protecting life, is really about protecting profit over lives.The right wing don’t give a damn about lives. Instead of dealing with the real crises are attacking abortion rights. Congress is ineffective at passing laws for basic necessities, but quick to bail out banks and the ultra rich. They always find time to attack women, LGBTQ and the vulnerable. This is not just about a bad law, but the whole damn system – the bigots, the politicians for hire, the courts up to the Supreme Court, the corporate control of the media, the police and ICE. I am fed up with capitalism. We need systemic change.
The Band Betty: We are one-fourth through the 21st century. I don’t see flying cars or universal health care. I see women being told to be ashamed. Until women have equal rights in the Constitution, we will continue to see how the state commands our fate.
Rev. Nori Rost, New York Society of Ethical Culture: They are “protecting” a fetus with a heartbeat? How about fighting for people who already have a heart beat. Anti-choice, anti-woman is nothing new – it is about subjugation, oppression. We will not give up, shut up, slow down, sit down until all people have agency over their own body. We are among millions marching as one, we will not be stopped.
Jeannie Park (Warriors in the Garden): Abortion bans have no humanity, no exception for rape, incenst. 3 million have experienced rape, the next 3 million will be forced to carry to term. The penalty to abort is more severe than to rape. Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns. What does it mean to be pro life if you only value certain lives. Encouraging vigilantes, bounty hunters is too lcose to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I will not go back.
Miriam Elhajli sings a song 100 years old, “Wagoner’s Lad,” and sounding so much like Joan Baez who sang it: “Oh, hard is the fortune of all woman kind/She’s always controlled, she’s always confined/Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/A slave to her husband the rest of her life”
Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment has been around for 100 years; it has been 50 years since passed in Congress, now 38 states have ratified it, so could be published in the Constitution. The only hold up is a time limit, put into the introduction, not the amendment. The root of sexism, misogyny, and racism is in the Constitution, written by slaveholding white males. Everything we’ve been doing since has been to repair what was left out of the Constitution. We have to put the ERA on list of things, so we don’t have to keep repairing the Constitution. Congress has removed the timeline twice, it is now in the Senate. We are done having to beg for rights, gather in the streets and ask “please”. Go to ERACoalition.org.
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 gave remarks immediately following the jury verdict that found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty for the death of George Floyd, saying “We must not turn away. We can’t turn away. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country. It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy.” Here is a highlighted transcript:
Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May.
It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the Vice President just referred to — the systemic racism that is a stain our nation’s soul; the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.
The murder of George Floyd launched a summer of protest we hadn’t seen since the Civil Rights era in the ‘60s — protests that unified people of every race and generation in peace and with purpose to say, “Enough. Enough. Enough of the senseless killings.”
Today — today’s verdict is a step forward. I just spoke with the Governor of Minnesota, who thanked me for the close work with his team.
And I also just spoke with George Floyd’s family again — a remarkable family of extraordinary courage. Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.
Let’s also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare. For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors: a brave young woman with a smartphone camera; a crowd that was traumatized — traumatized witnesses; a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for, ultimately, the whole world to see; officers standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should be commended; a jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure.
For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver a just — just basic accountability.
We saw how traumatic and exhausting just watching the trial was for so many people. Think about it, those of you who are listening — think about how traumatic it was for you. You weren’t there. You didn’t know any of the people.
But it was difficult, especially for the witnesses who had to relive that day.
It’s a trauma on top of the fear so many people of color live with every day when they go to sleep at night and pray for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Again — as we saw in this trial, from the fellow police officers who testified — most men and women who wear the badge serve their communities honorably.
But those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable. And they were today; one was. No one should be above the law. And today’s verdict sends that message.
But it is not enough. We can’t stop here.
In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen and occur again; to ensure that Black and brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life. They don’t have to worry about whether their sons or daughters will come home after a grocery store run or just walking down the street or driving their car or playing in the park or just sleeping at home.
And this takes acknowledging and confronting, head on, systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system more broadly.
You know, state and local government and law enforcement needs to step up, but so does the federal government. That’s why I have appointed the leadership at the Justice Department that I have, that is fully committed to restoring trust between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to serve and protect. I have complete confidence in the Attorney General — General Garland’s leadership and commitment.
I have also nominated two key Justice Department nominees — Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke — who are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent their entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice.
Vanita and Kristen have the experience and the skill necessary to advance our administration’s priorities to root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system, and they deserve to be confirmed.
We also need Congress to act. George Floyd was murdered almost a year ago. There’s meaningful police reform legislation in his name. You just heard the Vice President speak of it. She helped write it. Legislation to tackle systemic misconduct in police departments, to restore trust between law enforcement and the people that are entrusted to serve and protect. But it shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done.
In my conversations with the Floyd family — and I spoke with them again today — I assured them that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so we can — I can sign it into law as quickly as possible. And there’s more to do.
Finally, it’s the work we do every day to change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies — that’s the work we have to do. Only then will full justice and full equality be delivered to all Americans. And that’s what I just discussed with the Floyd family.
The guilty verdict does not bring back George. But through the family’s pain, they are finding purpose so George’s legacy will not be just about his death, but about what we must do in his memory.
I also spoke to Gianna — George’s (inaudible) — George’s young daughter, again. When I met her last year — I’ve said this before — at George’s funeral, I told her how brave I thought she was. And I, sort of, knelt down to hold her hand. I said, “Daddy’s looking down on you. He’s so proud.” She said to me then — I’ll never forget it — “Daddy changed the world.”
Well, I told her this afternoon, “Daddy did change the world.” Let that be his legacy: a legacy of peace, not violence — of justice.
Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate, but violent protest is not. And there are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment — agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice; who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, to fan the flames of hate and division; who will do everything in their power to stop this country’s march toward racial justice. We can’t let them succeed.
This is the time for this country to come together, to unite as Americans. There can never be any safe harbor for hate in America.
I’ve said it many times: The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years — a tug of war between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.
At our best, the American ideal wins out. So we can’t leave this moment or look away, thinking our work is done. We have to look at it as we did for those 9 minutes and 29 seconds. We have to listen. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words.
We must not turn away. We can’t turn away. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country. It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy.
May God bless you. And may God bless the — George Floyd and his family.
Thank you for taking the time to be here. This can be a moment of significant change.
On a day marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, an event that so outraged Americans it led ultimately to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Joe Biden addressed the unity breakfast named after Dr. and Mrs. King and announced that he had signed an Executive Order “to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting.”
President Biden declared, “Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.” Here is the text of his remarks and the details of his Executive Order:
I know this is the first commemoration of Bloody Sunday without Reverend C.T. Vivian, Reverend Joseph Lowery, and Congressman John Lewis. Preachers of the social gospel. Architects of the ‘Beloved Community,’ they built not only with words but with action. And reminders that in our lifetime, for Black Americans, the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy hiding both behind white hoods and in plain sight in state houses and courtrooms.
Yet those torches and burning crosses, the batons, tear gas, fire hoses, attack dogs, and unfair laws and trials could not stop progress. The blood of John Lewis and hundreds of other brave and righteous souls that was spilled in Selma, on this Sunday in 1965 sanctified a noble struggle.
And when the country saw those images that night, America was forced to confront the denial of democracy — the fierce urgency of justice.
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act a few months later, and President Johnson signed it into law.
The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as a citizen, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away.
The Voting Rights Act began to dismantle barriers to voting and to make our elections more fair, free, and representative.
I was always proud to lead the efforts to reauthorize it over the years as a U.S. Senator in the Judiciary Committee. But at the same time, Republicans at every level have chipped away at it.
Then in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, holding that times have changed and blatant voter discrimination was rare, contrary to the assault that was taking place on the ground. The late Justice Ginsburg wrote that the decision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm.” Today, we have a hail storm, not a rain storm.
And in 2020, our very democracy on the line, even in the midst of a pandemic, more Americans voted than ever before. Multiple recounts in states and decisions in more than 60 courts – from judges appointed by my predecessor, including at the Supreme Court – upheld the integrity of this historic election.
Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting – we have seen an unprecedented insurrection in our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people.
And to think that it’s been followed by an all-out assault on the right to vote in state legislatures all across the country happening right now. During the current legislative session, elected officials in 43 states have already introduced more than 250 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote. We cannot let them succeed.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021. This is a landmark piece of legislation that is urgently needed to protect the right to vote, the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen our democracy. I hope the Senate does its work so that I can sign it into law.
I also urge Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act, named in John Lewis’ honor.
Today, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I am signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting. Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.
I’ll close with this – a few days before he passed, Jill and I spoke with John, Congressman Lewis.
But instead of answering our concerns about him, “how are you doing, John,” he asked us to stay focused on the work left undone to heal and to unite this nation around what it means to be an American.
That’s the God’s truth. John wouldn’t talk about his pending death or his concerns. He said we just got to get this done.
That we are all created equal. That we all deserve to be treated equally.
On this day of reflection, please, let’s stay focused on the work ahead.
Let’s remember all those who came before us as a bridge to our history so we do not forget its pain, and as a bridge to our future so we never lose our hope.
May God bless their memory. May God bless you all.
FACT SHEET: President Biden to Sign Executive Order to Promote Voting Access
On this day in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful protestors crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protestors were seeking justice and to ensure their right to vote would not be denied. At the head of the march were former Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams. As the troopers advanced with clubs raised, the group knelt in prayer. The images of protestors, bloody and bruised, flashing on television screens across the nation spurred Congress to pass, and President Johnson to sign into law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Congressman Lewis’ fight to protect and expand the vote did not end that day in Selma. He carried the mission to our nation’s Capital and remained a vigilant protector of our right to vote, knowing all too well the burdens borne to guarantee it.
Today, to mark the 56th anniversary of Selma with actions and not just words, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. This Executive Order will leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting.
As the President has said, democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend, strengthen, and renew it. Free and fair elections that reflect the will of the American people must be protected and defended. Too many Americans face significant obstacles to exercising their fundamental right to vote. For generations, Black voters and other voters of color have faced discriminatory policies that suppress their vote. Voters of color are more likely to face long lines at the polls and are disproportionately burdened by voter identification laws and limited opportunities to vote by mail. Native Americans likewise face limited opportunities to vote by mail and frequently lack sufficient polling places and voter registration opportunities near their homes. Limited access to language assistance is an obstacle for many voters. People with disabilities face longstanding barriers in exercising their right to vote, especially when it comes to legally required accommodations to vote privately and independently. Members of our military serving overseas, as well as other American citizens living abroad, also face unnecessary challenges to exercising their right to vote.
Today’s Executive Order is an initial step in this Administration’s efforts to protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process. The President is committed to working with Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which includes bold reforms to make it more equitable and accessible for all Americans to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Today’s Executive Order will:
Direct federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information. The executive order will direct the head of each federal agency to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining ways their agency can promote voter registration and participation within 200 days. These strategic plans could include actions such as:
Leveraging agencies’ existing websites and social media to provide information about how to register to vote
Distributing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of regular services
Considering whether any identity documents issued by the agency can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter identification laws
And, the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States will coordinate across federal agencies to improve or modernize federal websites and digital services that provide election and voting information to the American people, including ensuring that federal websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.
Direct federal agencies to assist states under the National Voter Registration Act. Today’s Executive Order reaffirms the intent of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 to have federal agencies assist with voter registration efforts. Since the NVRA was enacted, state government agencies, like a department of motor vehicles, have helped register hundreds of millions of voters. Unlike state agencies, however, federal agencies can only become voter registration agencies under the NVRA at a state’s request. Federal agencies providing direct services to underserved communities represent a unique opportunity to provide access to voter registration services. Under today’s action, the head of each federal agency will evaluate where and how the federal agency provides services that directly engage with the public, and to the greatest extent possible, formally notify states in which it provides services that it would agree to designation as a voter registration agency. If requested by a state to be designated as a voter registration agency, the federal agency shall to the greatest extent possible agree to such designation.
Improve and modernize Vote.gov. The Executive Order will direct the General Services Administration (GSA) to submit to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy a strategic plan outlining steps to modernize and improve the user experience of the federal government’s premier source of voting-related information, Vote.gov, including the accessibility of the website within 200 days. The order requires GSA to seek the input of affected stakeholders, including election administrators, civil rights and disability rights activists, Tribal Nations, and nonprofit groups that study best practices for using technology to promote civic engagement.
Increase federal employees’ access to voting. The Executive Order will direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to work with the head of federal agencies to provide recommendations to the President regarding leave for federal employees to vote or to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers, ensuring that the federal government serves as a model to other employers.
Analyze barriers to voting for people with disabilities. The Executive Order will direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce to evaluate and publish recommendations on the steps needed to ensure that the online Federal Voter Registration Form is accessible to people with disabilities within 200 days. The order directs NIST—in consultation with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission, and other agencies—to analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.
Increase voting access for active duty military and other overseas voters. The executive order will direct the Secretary of Defense within 200 days to establish procedures to annually offer each member of the Armed Forces on active duty the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections, update voter registration, or request an absentee ballot. Additionally, the Secretary of Defense—in coordination with the Department of State, the Military Postal Service Agency and United States Postal Service—is required to submit a strategic plan for an end-to-end ballot tracking system for overseas ballots. And, the head of each federal agency with overseas employees is directed to designate a point of contact to coordinate with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and promote voter registration and voting services available to these employees.
Provide voting access and education to citizens in federal custody. The order will direct the Attorney General to establish procedures to provide educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to the extent practicable, to facilitate voter registration, for all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It also directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the Probation and Pretrial Services Office to develop similar procedures for eligible individuals under its supervision. The Executive Order also directs the Attorney General to establish procedures to ensure the U.S. Marshals Service includes language in jail contracts to provide eligible individuals educational materials related to voter registration and voting, and to facilitate voting by mail, to the extent practicable and appropriate. And, it directs the Attorney General to take steps to support formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining a means of identification that satisfies state voter identification laws.
Establish a Native American voting rights steering group. The order will establish an interagency steering group on Native American voting rights to be coordinated by the Domestic Policy Council. The steering group will include, at a minimum, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or their designees. The steering group will study best practices, in consultation with Tribal Nations, for protecting voting rights of Native Americans and will produce a report within one year of the date of the order outlining recommendations for increasing voter outreach, education, registration, and turnout in Native American communities.