Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

October 18, 2023

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Leo. Hanford -- I used to go to -- we ha- -- used to have our church retreats in Hanford.

MR. GONZALEZ: I know that's right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, we probably ran into each other back in the day, huh?

MR. GONZALEZ: I know that's right. (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you so very much. And -- and to our First Lady, who is really extraordinary. I know many of the leaders here have worked with her in this current capacity and over the years. But she is such a fighter for all people and, in particular, for the Latino community in the way that she thinks about the future of our country.

And as we all know, she is an educator. She has always focused on an investment in the future of our country through education. And so, in front of all of our friends, Dr. Jill Biden, I want to thank you for your leadership and bringing us together this afternoon. (Applause.)

So, before I address why we are here today, I do want to say a word about the conflict that have -- has ensued as a result of the brutal Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel. What we are witnessing in the region today is devastating. It has also deeply affected so many in our country, in Israel, in Gaza, and around the world.

As you know, President Joe Biden was in Israel today and is now on his way home. Today, he continued the critical work to stand with the people of Israel, to ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself, to prevent escalation throughout the region, to get American hostages out so they can return to their families, and urgently address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to aid innocent civilians who are suffering.

The Biden-Harris administration is doing everything we can to get food and water and medicine to civilians in need. Just today, President Biden announced $100 million in assistance to the Palestinian people -- (applause) -- and an agreement to get humanitarian supplies in Gaza.

In this moment of heartbreak and tragedy -- (applause) -- I, like so many of you, am deeply grateful for the leadership of President Joe Biden. Throughout, he has, as he always does, demonstrated strength, compassion, and moral clarity. And that is exactly what our country and our world needs in this moment.

As we have constantly made clear, our support for Israel's security is unwavering, and Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas terrorists. And let us be clear: Terrorism is never justified. And as I said yesterday, Israelis and Palestinians must have equal measures of security and prosperity. (Applause.)

And I support the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination. (Applause.) Hamas does not represent these aspirations.

And I will emphasize, the Biden-Harris administration stands with the Jewish, Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities in our country, all of whom deserve safety and security. And we will continue to work forcefully to protect our fellow countrymen and women and people and do exactly what we know is important at this moment in terms of standing with people and fighting for unity and dignity for all people. (Applause.)

With that, I will now address the topic at hand. It is my honor to be here today with so many extraordinary leaders. And, again, I want to thank our First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. I want to thank the members of our Cabinet who are here, including Administrator Isabel Guzman -- (applause); members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, including Chairwoman Nanette Barragán. (Applause.)

I want to thank you, Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, Senator Alex Padilla, Senator Ben Ray Luhán, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, our first -- our nation's first Latina senator. (Applause.)

And to all of you, to everyone here, I say thank you for all you do, including, of course, the members of our administration who work every day to make sure the voices and the experience of millions of Latinos are reflected in all that we do.

So, we are here today to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. (Applause.) But let us be clear, we celebrate Hispanic heritage and Hispanic history all year round. (Applause.)

And we celebrate the heroes on whose shoulders we stand: the generations of Hispanic leaders who believed, like Leo said, in the promise of our nation; some of the most patriotic among us, who believe in who we are as a nation and our founding principles and all that we can achieve; and who, through their courage and creativity and dedication and determination and resilience and resistance, helped make the promise of America real for millions of people.

We also celebrate the incredible vibrancy of the Hispanic community, the creativity and the ingenuity and the optimism -- and, in particular, of our young Hispanic leaders.

So, as some of you know, this fall I have been on a national college tour, including at many of our great Hispanic-Serving Institutions. (Applause.)

And -- and I have to tell you, doing this, I -- I am just infused with greater optimism about the future of our country. In this process, I have been able to convene our best and brightest on the importance of, of course, defending our hard-fought, hard-won freedoms.

Just yesterday, in fact, I visited Northern Arizona University with Secretary Miguel Cardona. (Applause.) And let me tell you, their energy and enthusiasm, their ambition and their aspiration, their ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and their determination to build a brighter future, it truly gives me so much hope for the future of our nation.

And I will tell you also what we all know: These young leaders are also very clear-eyed. They know what we here all see, that in the midst of our hopes and our optimism about the future, that we are currently also faced with those who attempt to distract and divide us as a nation.

The extremists who are launching a full-on attack on some of our most hard-fought, hard-won freedoms, including the freedom to vote, the freedom to love who you love, the freedom to live safe from violence and hate, the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body -- (applause) -- and the freedom, as I like to say, to just be. To just be.

In this moment, extremists attempt to demonize and target immigrants with some of the most vile and hateful language. But we here know that, in America, our diversity is our strength. (Applause.)

And in unity, there is power. And the story of America, the story of our nation has always included the story of immigrants. So, let us today celebrate America's diversity and our collective commitment to inclusion and the importance of equity. Yes, I just did do DEI. (Laughter and applause.)

And let us recognize that that is part of the spirit of who we have always been as a nation. And I am proud to say that is the spirit that guides the work of President Biden and me.

We are proud that, since we took office, we have seen record Latino small-business growth, led -- (applause) -- led, in large part, by Latinas who are creating jobs and opportunity across our nation.

We are also clear-eyed that, despite Latino businesses making up 25 percent of new business owners, Latino entrepreneurs receive less than 2 percent of venture capital investment and are rejected at higher rates when applying for loans.

So, to address these disparities, President Biden and I have invested more than $12 billion in community banks so entrepreneurs can start and expand their businesses, including, of course, many in the Latino community.

We are also proud that we have capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month. (Applause.)

For far too long, so many of our seniors had to choose between either putting food on their table or filling their prescription. And I'm going to do an informal poll right now: Who here has a family member who has been diagnosed with diabetes?

And we know Latinos -- and lots of folks, but Latinos I'm going to speak of right now -- are 70 percent more likely to have diabetes. So, think about the correlation in terms of what this means in terms of improving the quality of life and the right to just be for so many people who have been fighting for this for so long.

The President and I are also proud to have invested $15 billion in our Hispanic-Serving Institutions -- (applause) -- which, of course, are institutions of extraordinary academic excellence and are educating the future leaders of our nation. (Applause.)

So, these are but a few examples -- thank you -- (laughter) -- of the accomplishments that we are so very proud of that we have achieved with the support and help of the leaders who are here. And with all of that, then, I'm going to end by again speaking, as I often do, with our young leaders and by offering just a quick piece of advice. So -- and I'm looking at you; I see you.

So, I'm going to say this: There are going to be many times in your life where you are the only one that looks like you when you enter that boardroom, that meeting room, that briefing room, that courtroom. And what I want you to remember is to never walk in those rooms and feel alone. (Applause.)

You always walk in those rooms with your chin up and your shoulders back, knowing that we here are all applauding you being in that room.

And we are imposing on you the responsibility, then, to walk in those rooms with pride, understanding the voices that you carry -- the voices we honor when we honor this month every day of the year, the voices of your family and the community -- that is your duty that we impose on you at the same time that we impose on you all of the pride we have in you for all that you are and will continue to be in the best interest of the strength and the growth of our nation.

And with that, it is my pleasure to welcome Gaby Moreno. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/367356

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