Joe Biden

Remarks at a Campaign Kickoff Rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

May 18, 2019

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Jill. I'm Joe Biden and I'm Jill's husband.

Jilly is a Philly girl. She loves Philly, and I do too. But to paraphrase James Joyce, when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart.

She made a great second lady. And she's going to make one heck of a First Lady.

Over the past three weeks we've been all across America – Pittsburgh, Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, California, New Hampshire – and today – Philadelphia.

This campaign is just getting started. And I promise you this – no one – no one – is going to work longer and campaign harder to win your trust and support than this son of Catherine Eugenia and Joseph Biden!

So if you want to be part of our campaign, pick up your phones now. Send the word UNITED to the number 303-30. That's the word UNITED to the number 303-30.

So why do we begin this journey in this place – Philadelphia? Because this was the birthplace of our democracy.

It was here that two of the most important documents – in the world's history – were written. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident."

Those words formed the American creed. Equality. Equity. Fairness.

America didn't live up to that promise - for most of its people, for people of color, for women.

But we are born of the idea that every single person in this country – no matter where you start in life – there's nothing that's beyond your capacity if you work hard enough for it.

Then in 1787, the U.S. Constitution:

"We the People."

Those words changed everything. Power rested in the people – not in the government. The freedom to think, to speak, to act, to criticize the government – all protected.

"We" became a model for the world. In both documents, there's a singular word: "We."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident."

"We the people."

Both were statements of common purpose, of one people, one nation.

Our constitution didn't begin with the phrase, "We the Democrats," or "We the Republicans." And it certainly didn't begin with the phrase, "We the Donors."

It began with a phrase that said we are all in this together. We need to remember that today.

Our politics has become so mean, so petty, so personal, so negative, so partisan, so angry, and so unproductive.

Instead of debating our opponents, we demonize them. Instead of questioning judgments, we question their motives. Instead of listening, we shout. Instead of looking for solutions, we look to score political points.

No more. Because our politics is pulling this country apart at the seams. Our politics traffics in division, and our President is the divider-in-chief.

But he's not the only one. Far from it. He is just the worst practitioner of a politics that singles out, scapegoats, and demeans. It holds up the "other" as the source of all our problems.

You hear it: "The immigrant, the Muslim, or anyone of a different creed, color, or conviction." They're the problem.

This has been a scheme utilized by unscrupulous politicians for decades! But it comes at a cost.

It weakens us, distracts us, divides us. It causes us to lose credibility around the world. It picks at the wound, and it solves nothing. This is not who we are. We are better than this.

And I absolutely refuse to accept the notion that this is how it has to be. In this country, we are all bound together in this great experiment of equality, opportunity, and democracy. And everyone – and I mean everyone – is in on the deal.

That's why we've been that beacon for the rest of the world. That's why the world has always looked to us. America is unique in all the world.

America is an idea. An idea that's stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It offers hope to "the tired, the poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," as the Statue of Liberty proclaims.

America guarantees everyone is treated with dignity.It gives hate no safe harbor. That's what we believe.

And I believe America has always been at its best when we've been One America. One America may be a simple notion, but that doesn't make it any less profound.

This nation needs to come together. And it has to come together.

When we started this campaign, I said I was running for three reasons. The first, to restore the soul of the nation. The second, to rebuild the backbone of the nation. And the third, to unite this nation. One America.

Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity. That they are angry and the angrier you are the better. That's what they are saying you have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation. That's what we've always been about. Unity.

If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and a hard heart, to demonize the opponents and spew hatred, they don't need me. They already have a president who does just that.

I am running to offer our country – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – a different path. Not back to past that never was, but to a future that fulfills our true potential as a country.

Now some of these same people are saying: "Biden doesn't get it." "You can't work with Republicans." "That's not the way it works anymore."

Well, I'm going to say something outrageous: I know how to make government work.

Not because I have talked or tweeted about it, but because I've done it.

I've worked across the aisle. I've worked to reach consensus. I helped make this government work before. And I can make it work again.

To me, our principles must never be compromised. But compromise itself is not a dirty word.

Consensus is not a weakness – it's a necessity. It's how this government was designed to work.

It's what I did as Senator. It's what I did as your Vice President working with Barack Obama. And it's what I will do as your President.

Now let me be clear. If I am elected your President, I'm going to do whatever it takes to make progress on what matters most: civil liberties, civil rights, voting rights, a woman's right to choose, national security and personal security, health care, an economy that rewards work – not just wealth, a climate change policy that will save our children, grandchildren, and this planet.

And I know there are times when only a bare-knuckled fight will do. When we have to take on the Republicans to do what is right without any help from them.

That's what it took to pass the Affordable Care Act. That was a tough fight. And it was a big deal.

Which reminds me, let me stop here and say something we don't say often enough as a party or as a nation: Barack Obama is a man of extraordinary character, courage, and decency.

He was a president our children could look up to and did. He was a great president. I was proud to serve everyday as his Vice President, but never more proud than on the day we passed health care. Yes, health care.

We did what no other Administration had been able to do. And it was done without a single Republican vote. So I know how to get things done going toe to toe with the GOP.

But it doesn't have to be that way on every issue. Look at the Recovery Act.

The Recovery Act was the cornerstone of this nation's economic recovery from the depths of the greatest financial crisis short of a depression that we've ever faced. And it's a big reason we have now had nearly ten years of uninterrupted economic growth.

We needed to find three Republicans in the Senate to get it passed. It was my job to find them. To persuade them to vote for it. And I did. And they did. And the country is better for it.

One more aside, I know President Trump likes to take credit for the economy's growth and low unemployment numbers, but just look at the facts – not the alternative facts.

President Trump inherited that economy from the Obama-Biden Administration. It was given to him just like he's inherited everything else in his life. And just like everything else he's been given in life, he's in the process of squandering it as well.

Look, the Recovery Act help saved this nation from economic ruin. To get it done, we had to work with others. We had to bring a few Republicans along. And if we hadn't, we could have had another Great Depression and ruin. So working together matters.

The American people want their government to work, and that's not too much to ask.

Now I know some people in DC say it can't be done. Well, let me clue them in on something: the country is sick of it.

They're sick of the fighting and the childish behavior. There isn't a single person in this country that could get away with it at their job.

And all they want is for their president, and their senators, and their representatives to do their job.

And above all to have a president – a president who measures his days by the people he brings together rather than the division he sows.

We know there's serious work to be done. But it's not being done by a president who wakes up at all hours of the night to wage war on Twitter.

While he's lashing out at his political enemies and obsessing over his personal grievances, the rest of the world isn't waiting.

China isn't waiting to build 5G or to master AI or to write new rules for the internet.

The rest of the world hasn't given up on the Paris Climate agreement. They know it's essential for humanity.

The greatest challenges we face in the future will be over. Technology, intellectual property, and clean energy – a warming planet.

There's not a single thing that building a wall or imposing another tariff can do to address these issues. We need a 21st Century strategy for America. But every tool that Donald Trump uses is out of the past.

We have to get focused on the future.

It's the only way we're going to invest in the educational system our people need to succeed in the 21st Century. As Jill always says, any country that out-educates us will out- compete us.

Folks, that success will come from free community college, investments in skills training and apprenticeships, continuing education allowing people to fill the jobs of the future, a stronger commitment to pre-k education, and so much more.

We know what works and we know what we have to do. So let's stop fighting and start fixing.

You all know the Affordable Care Act was a historical achievement. 20 million Americans got coverage, and over 100 million with preexisting conditions could no longer be denied coverage.

Now, we need to go the next step. We shouldn't start over, and we certainly shouldn't tear it down.

To me, giving every American the right to choose a public option like Medicare is the best way to ensure everyone is covered.

Focusing on the future is the only way we're going to be able to build a green infrastructure. Not only new and safer roads and bridges, but greener highways, ports, and airports. New water systems – so no one in this country is drinking poisoned water. There's no question we need a new electric grid that protects this nation from cyber attacks.

We know what we have to do. That's why I'm running.

So as I said, let's stop fighting and start fixing and do it together.

And it's the only way we're going to deal with the existential crisis posed by climate change. There's not much time left. We need a clean energy revolution. We need to get rid of the old ways of thinking that clean energy and job creation don't go together. They do.

And we need to set the most aggressive goals as soon as possible. But we have to work together to get it done. We'll never convince the climate deniers. But even now, the traditional polluters –oil and gas companies, the automobile manufactures – know that something significant has to be done.

What we need is a president who's willing to lead. Who will insist on dramatic change for our children's sake.

Folks, let me tell you something. The single most important thing we have to do to accomplish these things is defeat Donald Trump.

As long as Donald Trump is in the White House, none of these critical things will get done. So if you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal for America is: beat Trump.

Here's the thing we need to remember. On everything I just discussed – from education, infrastructure, health care, climate – there is overwhelming agreement among the American people on as to what we should do.

The people are not divided. It's our politics.

And that gap – that failure to act – is giving rise to the worst elements in our society.

If you had asked me just a few years ago if American democracy was at risk, I would have laughed. No more.

The threat to this nation – to our democracy – is real.

We have watched this president now for three years. Look at what he's doing: instilling fear, sowing division, stoking racial division, undercutting every institution designed to be a check on the abuse of power. All of this in order to solidify his base and expand his power.

Think about it. These relentless attacks on the free press – "fake news," "the enemy of the people" – are nothing to be dismissed.

Tyrants and dictators all over the world are using Trump's language to stifle dissent and solidify their own power.

His attack on the independence of our courts – saying you can't trust a judge because of his Mexican ancestry. His attack on a co-equal branch of government – the Congress – blocking their ability to fulfill their Constitutional duty, their legitimate oversight. Placing himself above the law.

Without a whimper from Republicans in Congress who know better, these things are corrosive, threaten the core values of this nation, and undermine our standing in the world.

Everything that has made America – America – is at risk.

Let me ask you. Are we a nation that believes there's moral equivalence between white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK, and those with the courage to stand against them?

We don't. Trump does.

Are we a nation that believes in ripping children from the arms of their parents at the border?

We don't. Trump does.

Are we a nation that embraces dictators and tyrants like Putin and Kim Jung Un?

We don't. Trump does.

Every day we are being reminded that this election is about: who we are, what we stand for, what we believe.

And everyday we are being reminded there is nothing guaranteed about our democracy. We have to fight for it. Defend it. Earn it.

We stand here today 140 miles from Gettysburg, perhaps the most famous symbol we have in our nation's history of the cost of division.

In his Gettysburg address, Lincoln didn't only honor the bravery of those who had lost their lives. He had a message for the living:

"It is for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

That wasn't just a challenge from Lincoln to those present there that day. It was a challenge Lincoln handed down to every generation of Americans to follow.

Now that challenge has been handed to us. And it is this test above all others that future generations of Americans will measure us by:

Will we be the ones that let government of, by, and for the people perish from the face of the earth? Will we let that happen? Dare we let that happen?

No. I will not. We will not.

The promise of this nation – our standing as a beacon of hope to the world – will not be extinguished on my watch.

Here's the amazing thing about this moment in history.

On the one hand we are facing the biggest threat to who we are and what we believe that we've seen in our lifetimes.

But on the other hand, our future has never been more promising.

I've said it many times. I'm more optimistic about America's future today than I was when I got elected to the United States Senate as a 29-year old.

And here's why: We're better positioned than any nation in the world to lead the 21st Century.

Our workers are three times as productive as they are in Asia. We have the biggest economy in the world. We have the strongest military in the history of the world. We have the most innovative entrepreneurs. We are virtually energy independent. We have more great research universities than the rest of the world combined.

No other nation in the world can match us.

We lead by the power of our example, not the example of our power. The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself.

Everyone knows who Donald Trump is. We have to let them know who we are.

We choose hope over fear. Truth over lies. And yes – unity over division.

It's time for us to lift up our heads and our hearts and remember who we are. We are the United States of America. One America.

And there's not a single thing we can't do if we do it together.

God bless all of you.

May God protect our troops.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at a Campaign Kickoff Rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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