Remarks by Vice President Harris at the National Baptist Convention 142nd Annual Session

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Remarks by Vice President Harris at the National Baptist Convention 142nd Annual Session

Hilton Americas-HoustonHouston, Texas  12:33 P.M. CDT THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  Good afternoon. 

Hilton Americas-Houston
Houston, Texas

 12:33 P.M. CDT
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  Good afternoon.  Oh, it is so good to be here.  Good afternoon.  Good — please have a seat.  (Laughter.)  Oh, it is so good to be here.  (Applause.)  God is good.  God is good.

So let me start by saying: It’s wonderful to be back in Houston, isn’t it?  (Applause.)  This is a city of incredible energy and diversity.  And — and it is so wonderful for me, on such a personal level, to be here at the National Baptist Convention.
 
Thank you.  Thank you, everyone.  And, President Jerry Young, thank you for your leadership of this historic organization and for your friendship, for your counsel.  I talk with him from time to time — just, “How are you thinking about the world? Talk to me about how we can work together on the path of what we know we want to do to just shine a light in moments of darkness.”  So I want to thank you for what you do and for the friendship you have given me.
 
And to all the leaders who are here with us: Thank you for the care and the courage that you bring to your work, because this is certainly a room of leaders.

And as a point of personal privilege, I just also want to say it is an honor to be joined today by my pastor, Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church.  (Applause.)  And I think many of you know Dr. Brown, but I will tell you: For two decades now, at least, I have turned to you.  I have turned to him.  And I will say that your wisdom has really guided me and grounded me during some of the most difficult times.  And — and you have been a source of inspiration to me always.  So thank you, Reverend Brown, for being all that you are.  Thank you.
 
So, as many of you know, I was born in Oakland, California.  And I actually grew up attending 23rd Avenue Church of God in Oakland.  And there I learned — as so many of us did, I learned in the Bible of the many teachings about the ever-present tension between darkness and light.  And I learned, in those moments, how important it is to recognize the power of faith.

Through the darkness, faith and our faith reminds us that we are not alone.  Faith teaches us that a brighter future is always ahead and we must keep moving forward to realize that future.  And to move forward, simply put, I also learned and we all know: Faith requires action.

So I was raised to live my faith.  Marching for civil rights, my parents pushed me in a stroller.  That was faith in action.  So was running for office for the very first time I ran, standing up in the name of the people as the first Black woman to be elected District Attorney of San Francisco and the first Black woman in the state of California to run for Attorney General and become the first Black woman to be elected Attorney General of California, where I ran the second-largest Department of Justice in the United States — second only to the United States Department of Justice.  Standing up as the second Black woman in the history of the United States Senate to be elected to the United States Senate, and then placing my hand, yes, on Justice Thurgood Marshall’s bible when I was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

These were all, for me, acts of faith born out of being taught to believe in what is possible and what can be, unburdened by what has been.  
 
For me and President Joe Biden, faith guides our work every day.  So I will say to the National Baptist Convention: We know — we know deeply — that when people of faith come together, anything is possible.  (Applause.)  Everything is possible.  That is the power of faith. 
 
Just think, after slavery was outlawed in our country, the founders of this very convention came together to protect the freedom of worship.  As Black people in our nation battled racist laws and ideologies, men and women of the cloth were the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in America.  And they, then, following the teachings of Christ, built coalitions of people of all faiths and races and walks of life, because they understood and knew the importance of the collective.

They did not declare, “I shall overcome.”  No, they said, “We shall overcome.”
 
So standing on those broad shoulders, let us speak truth about the moment we are now in. 
 
Today we live in unsettled times.  The ideals we thought were long established — such as, overseas, the sovereignty of democratic nations; here in our own country, the powerful transfer of power in a way that is peaceful; the freedom of voters — voters — to decide elections; the freedom of women to decisions about their future; even what constitutes the truth — these ideals now hang in the balance.
 
And in this moment, then, we count on the strength and the conviction of faith leaders to help lead us forward.  As we see gun violence threatening the safety of our communities and the sanctity of our houses of worship, our faith leaders have been among the leaders who demand a ban on assault weapons so that our children do not have to fear their lives as they sit at their desk or kneel in the pew.  (Applause.)  
 
As new laws make in our country are making it more difficult for people to vote, including in this state right here, faith leaders are taking action: registering voters and driving souls to the polls.  Because like generations before, we all know the freedom to vote should be sacred and our democracy must be defended.
 
As extremists work to take away the freedom of women to make decisions about their own bodies, faith leaders are taking a stand, knowing one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held religious beliefs to agree that a woman should have the ability to make decisions about her own body and not have her government tell her what to do.  (Applause.)  And she will choose, in consultation with her pastor or her priest, or a doctor and her loved ones.  But the government should not be making that decision.
 
In this moment, let us heed the words of First Corinthians: “Be on your guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.   Be strong.  And do everything in love.” 
 
National Baptist Convention, we share a deep love for our nation, and we believe in the principles upon which it was founded: freedom, liberty, equality.  But we know that in our beloved country, these principles are only fully realized when we, people of faith, fight for them to be true.  True patriotism means standing up for those principles.  It means requiring and fighting to make sure that our nation lives up to those principles in every generation, in every moment of crisis.
 
The Bible teaches us so much about what we must do to be dutiful, understanding we have a duty to our God and to one another. 
 
And people of faith, then with that spirit, have always been part of leading our nation forward out of the darkness and toward the light. 
 
And as Vice President of the United States, I will share with you, I do believe that today we must do so once again.  We must continue to see America for what it promises to be, what it can be, unburdened by what has been.  
 
We must continue to do whatever it takes to realize our vision for America’s future — a future in which every person has the opportunity to succeed and to thrive and to reach their God-given potential. 
 
You know, as the past year and a half has made clear, we do see what our labor can produce to reach that future.  We have evidence that tells us that a light is shining. 
 
Just think: In 2020, you lifted your voices.  We said there must be better care for our children.  And so, together, we extended the Child Tax Credit, which lifted nearly 40 percent of Black children out of poverty last year alone.  (Applause.)  We lifted our voices in 2020 and said we must support the families of our nation.  And so, together, we passed a tax cut to give parents up to $8,000 for the cost of raising a child, more money to be able to buy food and medicine and school supplies for their children.  (Applause.) 
 
Together, remembering the lesson of Proverbs that “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge.”  So we dedicated — and I say this as a proud graduate of an HBCU — we dedicated over $5.5 billion — (applause) — so that HBCUs remain centers of academic excellence in our nation.
 
And inspired by the aspiration in the Book of John that we all may prosper, we have invested billions more in community banks, understanding that our small businesses are leaders in our community, are the ones who are leaders in our churches, are the ones who are supporting the small league baseball and softball teams, are the mentors, are the ones that are hiring locally.  And so we did that knowing we must invest in our Black and brown small-business owners so that they have more access to capital so they may thrive. 
 
And to — (applause) — and to spread prosperity, we are also taking on the issue of racial bias in home appraisals.  Why?  Because it’s an issue.  (Applause.)
 
Everybody here has heard the stories about our family members, members of our congregation, others who spent a lifetime working hard, understanding the best way that we can create intergenerational wealth in a family or a community is homeownership. 
 
But also then knowing the bias that has long existed — racial bias — from redlining to the issue of racial bias in home appraisals when a Black family tries to sell their home and it gets appraised for less than they know it’s worth.  And then they have friends, who are a white family, that they invite to come over and put up their family pictures — they take down their own — and the home appraisal is for much more. 
 
We got to speak truth about that.  We are, and we’re dealing with it.  Because we know Black families, brown families can realize full and true value of their homes and pass that value on to their children and grandchildren. 
 
And to make sure that every neighborhood can know peace, our administration has passed the first federal gun safety ban in nearly 30 years — (applause) — finally, expanding background checks.
 
And we have also understood what we must do to bring fairness and justice to a system, around the issue of policing.  And so we have restricted the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement agencies.  (Applause.)
 
On another issue, President Biden and I know that one of the three issues that are top for American families, in that one in three Americans struggles with this, is the issue of unpaid medical bills and medical debt.  (Applause.)
 
And what we know is: When people cannot afford their medical bills, they are less likely to seek the care they need.  And we know what our churches do then to try and fill in the gaps, when Sunday morning we read about who needs support and help, what — which of our elders might need a little extra something.
 
Well, the church has a role to play, but so does our government.  Because we all here know God calls on us — God calls on us to help heal the sick. 
 
So, from our end, what we have done to reduce the cost of healthcare is to reduce the cost of health insurance by an average of $800 a year for millions of small-business owners, seniors, and middle-class Americans.  (Applause.)  Because when we are called to help heal the sick, this is the work we must do. 
 
Another issue: We are going to cap the cost of insulin for seniors to $35 a month.  (Applause.)  Black people in America are 60 percent more likely to have diabetes.  And far too many of our seniors, in particular, with diabetes who cannot afford the insulin that a doctor has prescribed to help save their life are cutting their dosage, are getting sicker simply because they cannot afford lifesaving medication.
 
If we talk about what we must all do to help heal the sick, shouldn’t we then agree that access to healthcare should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it?  (Applause.)
 
And I’ll share with you one of the background issues that’s at play here that we are addressing: For years, the big pharmaceutical companies have been standing in the way.  They’ve been putting profit as a priority and not allowing Medicare to negotiate on behalf of the millions of people that it represents. 
 
Well, we finally gave Medicare the power to negotiate the price of prescription drugs on behalf of our seniors.  (Applause.)  And this will bring down costs of medication for millions of Americans. 
 
When President Biden and I ran for office, we promised that we would not raise taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year.  And we have kept that promise.
 
And speaking of promises — (applause) — drumroll — with your support, our administration has nominated the most diverse group of judges in the history of the United States — (applause) — including now Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — (applause) — the first Black woman to be appointed to that court.  And I know Thurgood is looking down with an immense sense of pride. 
 
So all of that to say there’s a lot of work that has been done but a lot of work that needs to be done, consistent with our teachings and the spirit with which we live and love.  So we’ve had a lot of good success, but we have a long way to go. 
 
As I’ve said, these are unsettled times.  And today then, I ask on everyone here — I ask each one of us to continue to be driven by compassion and optimism.  Because there’s so much about what we have always stood for that has not been a fight against something, it has been a fight for something, fueled by our faith, fueled by optimism, and also fueled by empathy and enlightenment, driven by our love of country and a belief in the promise of our nation. 
 
So let us, people of faith, continue to defend our democracy, continue to defend our liberty and our freedoms.  Let us continue to fight to build a better future.  And let us continue to have faith in God, in our country, and in each other, because together we will continue to usher in the dawn.
 
Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless America.  Thank you all.  (Applause.)
 
                         END            12:56 P.M. CDT