Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee

April 13, 2022

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everyone. Good evening. (Applause.) Good evening. This is the first in-person event I've done. (Laughs.)

And I just want to thank Claire and Judy and Juan. I love seeing our young leaders who are here. That makes me so excited.

So, thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You know, I will tell you: I think it is important, as you just did, to talk about what we stand for, because, as you also pointed out, when you're clear about what you stand for, then you know what you're going to fight for.

And so, when I think about what we stand for as Democrats, yes, we stand for equality. We stand for the proposition that all people were created equal and should be treated that way.

And on that point, I'll tell you: I was so proud, as the President of the -- of the Senate -- as Vice President, I'm President of the Senate -- to sit in that chair and preside over the vote for the next Supreme Court justice of the United States. (Applause.)

And I was proud for a number of reasons. Probably the obvious reason, in terms of what this means in terms of the history that continues to be made -- one could say, parenthetically, "Sadly, we're still making firsts," but we are doing it. And I was proud to be there for that reason.

But for me, it was also very personal for an additional reason, which is the heroes in my life growing up were folks like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston and Constance Baker Motley -- the lawyers who understood the skill of the profession to translate the passion from the streets to the courtrooms of our country, to do that work of justice, which includes fighting for equality.

You know, when I was a student up the street at Howard University and -- (applause) -- yes, you know -- and, actually, I was a Senate intern for, then, the senior Senator of California, Alan Cranston. And so, in the Hart Building -- many of you know; this is a group of D.C. folks -- I'd often, during lunchtime or during a break, walk across the street, because the Hart Building is literally across the street from the Supreme Court, where I would look at that magnificent building, etched, of course, in that marble, "Equal Justice Under Law." And, you know, I got to Howard when I was 17 years old. I would go and I'd look at that place knowing what that building represents and what it's supposed to represent.

So, we as Democrats, we fight for so much of what are the foundational values and ideals of our nation, including the fight for equality -- as we just discussed -- which is why, I think for all of us, the elevation of Ketanji Brown Jackson is so personal.

What do we fight for? We fight for working people.

Let me tell you about my week. My week -- (laughter) -- since you asked. (Laughter.) Me week included being, yesterday, in Philly with a group of labor leaders talking about why we fight for the rights of working people. Because like many of you, I'm sure, I was raised to understand that all work requires skill. I don't know what they mean when they say "unskilled labor." All work requires skill. (Applause.) And all workers deserve the dignity that comes with the value of what they do, and perform the dignity of work.

So we were there. I was there, as an extension of what we prioritize as Democrats, to say: We are going to fight for the rights of working people including what specifically I was there to talk about, which is a recent announcement about what we understand to be the convergence of two of our priority values as Democrats: workers' rights and what we need to do to acknowledge and then deal with the climate crisis.

"Where are you going, Kamala?" Well, let me tell you. (Laughter.) Because there's a third piece I'm going to layer on. And then, you know, I've been recently -- when I can't sleep -- doing Wordle. (Laughter.) And how does this relate to that? Okay.

So, let's actually add on to that a great accomplishment of our administration: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Because we believe we have to build up the infrastructure of our nation so we can build up our strength around our productivity, so that working people don't have to drive over roads and bridges full of potholes that require them to buy new tires.

You know how much a new tire costs? At least $100 a pop. People don't have that laying around. Right?

So how does this relate: environment, infrastructure, and workers, and me hanging out with the sheet metal workers at Local 9 [19] yesterday in Philly? Because what we are doing with our infrastructure law, a priority for us as Democrats -- creating jobs -- good jobs, good playing -- paying jobs; connected with, we know, the U.N. just, again, released a report -- this planet is heating up.

So what I can share with you is: In Philadelphia alone, it is predicted that over 20 days this year will reach a temperature that will feel like in excess of 100 degrees.

Now, who does the jobs and what are the jobs of building up infrastructure? Those are construction workers. Those are the people that lay the pipes. Those are people that work outside in that heat. Let's think about what that requires, about the people who work -- who take a shower after they go to work, not take a shower to go to work. You know what I'm talking about.

So we were there because it is part of our value to say, okay, we recognize, one, the reality of the climate crisis. And we recognize that we need to create jobs and build up our infrastructure. And we recognize and see those workers not just as performing a need for us, but then think about the quality of their life and what they are doing in terms of the value they are giving us and, therefore, what we owe them in terms of a safe working place.

So we were there to talk about the responsibility of -- of employers and all of us to take seriously their workplace safety issues. These are the things we care about as Democrats.

Let me tell you what else I did this week. So, today, I convened for the first time a President's Cabinet to talk about the issue of maternal health. (Applause.) Because, you see, we as Democrats, we aren't afraid to look at what's going on in systems and in outcomes and challenge ourself, "Where are the inequities? Where have we and to whom have we not given adequate support so that they are not able to be on an even playing field with everyone else?"

So, on maternal mortality, guess what? The United States has a higher rate of maternal mortality than most other developed nations. Tell you what: Black women are three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth. Native women twice as likely to die. Rural women one and a half times likely to die.

Why? Well, for a variety of reasons. One, what we do, in terms of looking at this issue, is we say this is not only a health issue; let's look at the woman as a complete human being. So let's talk about what are the unique stressors that women in those categories face that might create complications for a pregnancy. Let's look at what are the biases in the healthcare delivery system, such that when that Black woman or that Native woman walks into the hospital or the clinic, is she taken seriously.

Let's understand -- because you will probably know this -- when you study the issue, you'll understand that as it relates to Black women, it has nothing to do with her education or her income level.

Remember Serena? It has to do with racial bias in the healthcare delivery system. Let's deal with the fact that if people live in public housing, how are we thinking about the resources that are available to them -- those women who are pregnant?

So these are the things that we are focusing on, because we as Democrats say: People shouldn't have to fight alone, especially when systems have been unfair. We should all stand with them, demanding fairness in the system, fighting for equity. These are the things we stand for.

I'll tell you what else I did this week. (Laughter.) Dealing with the issue of the enormous debt that people who have been experiencing mounting medical bills are under. Medical debt.

It -- one in three Americans is facing this issue. Medical debt is more than the debt that people face from credit card, auto loan combined.

Now, let's think about that -- because this is how we as Democrats think. Who are the folks we're talking about? Well, okay, so it's somebody that acquired a lot of medical bills. What do we know about them then? They need medical assistance. Well, for all those bills, which might have been accumulated over a long period of time, what does that also tell us? Probably a serious issue that needed to be addressed.

Okay, so then what else do we know? This person who needed that level of care and dignity in a system, which is why we fought for the Affordable Care Act and won -- (applause) -- but what we know still is we have more work to do. And so, what we know about that person is that they're probably in the process of still attempting to recover from a serious health issue, and they've got all that debt.

That's not right. That's not fair. When we think about it, we as Democrats always ask ourself: "Are people suffering? Is it needless suffering? And is there something we can do about it?" That's who we are. Those are the kinds of things we stand for.

And we stand for building up an economy. And we stand for being competitive around the world, which is why we fought so hard for this infrastructure bill, which is going to be about saying that all people should have access to high-speed broadband. And we got that, and we're fighting for that because we know, one, it'll make us more productive when we think about our small businesses that employ half of America's workforce either works for or runs a small business, and they need access to high-speed Internet to actually be competitive and do their job. But if they're in rural America, or if they're in urban America, where maybe they have access but can't afford it, we need to address that.

What are we doing in terms of saying we're committed to competition and being productive? We're saying, again, let's build up those roads and bridges so commerce can move. And we're also saying there's an issue that's been going around for a long time that we finally need to address, which is getting lead out of pipes, where our babies and our children are having irreparable damage to their health and their ability to maximize their education because they have to drink water out of those pipes.

These are the kinds of things that we stand for, which has propelled us to do the work that we are doing. And I say all that to also say to all of this -- friends and longstanding supporters: Elections matter. Elections matter. Because the accomplishments that we've been able to achieve so far I am certain would not have occurred had it not been for the work that you all did to turn out the largest number of voters we've ever seen in 2020. (Applause.)

Elections matter. And we know elections matter because then, through an electoral process, we are able to put in place people who will fight for our values and fight for the things that we know are not only necessary but possible.

And so, that brings me to where we are today. We got an election coming up in a few months. We're also existing in a world where people -- all of us, all of you, all of us -- have been dealing with two years of COVID and what that means in terms of just, for some people -- you know, the press is here, but I'm going to say it anyway -- putting them in a kind of a funk, right? (Laughs.) People have been kind of -- you know what I mean. You can't ev- -- you've just been wearing masks. Kids couldn't go to school. You know, weddings and all kinds of celebrations that we're normally used to, we've had to -- to bypass or delay or postpone.

And we need to, as Democrats, remind people in this upcoming election of what's at stake and why elections matter and what we stand for. And we're going to have to be able to talk with them, understanding where people are right now, which is we are dealing with folks who have been through a whole lot in these last couple of years and want and need, I believe, that we will see them for where they are, but also we can speak to where we know we can be in terms of continuing on this road that has been about progress.

And so, that's how I think about this moment, and I think about it then in the context of the work that we have to do.

Part of what we have all done through each election cycle is we get on the phone and you call people, you text people, you host people. You let people know that you see them, and you remind them of what's at stake. And we're going to have to do that again.

And I think, though, that this time is going to be slightly different not only because of what everyone has been through with COVID, but also because -- and here's the good news -- we're going to again have people say to us, which -- the thing they absolutely have a right to say: "Why should I vote?" And we can say: "Well, first of all, thank you for standing in that line for however long it took -- hours for some people. Thank you for doing what was necessary, in terms of the daily pressures of your life, to take the time to vote, to take the time to fill out a ballot.

And when you went to vote, we believe you were basically putting in your order. You said, when you voted, "I'm voting for this guy who promised he'd put the first Black woman on the United States Supreme Court." And it happened. (Applause.)

"I'm voting for a party that believes we need to extend the Child Tax Credit to give tax cuts to parents to help them be able to afford childcare." And in the process, we brought down child poverty by almost 50 percent. (Applause.) And you got it.

You said, "I want to vote for folks who take the climate crisis seriously." (Applause.) You voted, saying, "I want to know that there is going to be a meaningful amount of progress in terms of" -- we're talking about foreign policy and our standing in the world -- "an ability to build back up relationships to the point that the United States of America can be a leader on bringing together NATO and the EU around a so blatant aggression as it relates to Russia." And you got it. (Applause.)

There are things that we have been able to accomplish because the people we talked to got out and voted in 2020. And we're going to have to do it again. And it's going to take an effort to remind people of what's at stake, but let's also chin up, shoulders back, know that we got some good stuff to talk about in terms of why elections matter and how just, in the last couple of years, we can see that what mattered to us as individuals, as members of a community actually were addressed.

So, I feel very positive and optimistic about where we are, knowing, as we all have always known, nothing that we have ever achieved that has been a reflection or an extension of our values -- our fight for equality, our fight for fairness, our fight for justice -- nothing that we have ever achieved has come without hard work and a fight. And we are up for it. And we are up for it. (Applause.)

So, let's keep doing what we need to get done, knowing that there is still so much at stake. Let's remember: We're looking at so many, as Joe Biden would say, possibilities still, so many things that are still achievable. But we got to win. And we don't win at any cost; we win because we know what's at stake and who we're fighting for and why we're fighting.

That's why we win. We win because we are clear about what is in the best interest of our nation and the people of our nation. We win because we care, and we're prepared to fight for all of those things that we care about. And the whole of our society benefits.

So, thank you all for everything that you are doing and let's keep doing it. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President at a Fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355444

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