Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana

July 20, 2023

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. (Applause.) Oh, I am so honored and pleased and joyful to be with you this afternoon. Please, have a seat.

Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful day.

I want to thank President Elsie Cooke-Holmes; the National Board of Directors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated; and my Divine Nine sisters, the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta. Good afternoon to you all. (Applause.)

Madam President, I want to thank you for your kind words. You have been a phenomenal leader of this organization. You and I and our other Divine Nine leaders have spent a lot of time together in Washington, D.C., and around the country. I have seen firsthand your leadership. It is an honor to be here with you this evening -- afternoon. Thank you. (Applause.)

So, I will say also that President Joe Biden and I have many extraordinary leaders in our Cabinet. But as many here know, there is only one Marcia Fudge. (Applause.)

(Laughs.) And I just -- I'm going to talk about her for a minute. Her entire career -- whether as a mayor, a member of the United States Congress, a national president of Delta Sigma Theta, and now as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development -- Marcia Fudge has been a champion for the people of our nation. And she is a dear friend to me. Thank you, Marcia Fudge. (Applause.)

So it is so wonderful to be here this afternoon with all of the leaders who are present -- including, of course, the great Cheryl Johnson, who you will honor today. (Applause.)

So as a proud member of the Divine Nine, through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated: When I look out at all of you, I see family.

Like my sorority -- Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated -- was founded to build networks of support for young Black college women, to fortify the bonds of sisterhood, to serve our nation and the world, and to create desperately needed social and legal change.

And let's think back to what was happening the year this storied organization was founded. In 1913, women were not guaranteed the right to vote. There was not a single Black person in the United States Congress. And in that year, more than 50 Black Americans had been lynched. And that's only the number that was documented.

And yet, despite all of this and perhaps because of it, the founders of this sorority believed in the power of sisterhood, scholarship, and service, and that they could help make real the promise of America -- a promise of equality, freedom, and justice, not for some, but for all.

And so, history tells us: Just two months after its founding, the members of Delta Sigma Theta marched with thousands through the streets of Washington, D.C., to demand the right for women to vote. (Applause.)

And 60 years ago this summer, in 1963, Deltas from across our country were part of the March on Washington. Side by side with Roy Wilkins and John Lewis and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- (applause) -- were two members of Delta Sigma Theta on that stage: Ms. Dorothy Height -- (applause) -- indeed -- and one of the few women to speak that day, Ms. Daisy Bates. (Applause.)

And history, of course, will not let us forget that day the famous Delta Days was inaugurated in 1989 -- (applause) -- when, every year since, Deltas from across America convene in Washington, D.C., to uplift the issues of the moment.

In fact, I remember walking through the halls of Congress when I served as a United States senator to see that powerful sea of red and then to joyfully host the California delegation in my Senate office. (Applause.)

So, that short summary of history that led us then to 2020, when, during the height of a pandemic, with a fierce commitment to our future, the leaders here registered thousands to vote, led efforts to combat voter suppression, and with our Divine Nine brothers and sisters, strolled to the polls.

You showed up. And helped elect Joe Biden President of the United States -- (applause) -- and me as the first Black woman to ever serve as Vice President of the United States. (Applause.) And so, I thank you, all the leaders here, for all you do.

We all share a vision and a stake in the future of our nation -- a stake and a vision in a nation where we believe all people, no matter who they are or where they start, should have the freedom to dream with ambition and where all people have access to opportunity.

The great Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, a Delta and an American icon -- (applause) -- she once said of leadership, and I quote, "The imperative is to define what is right and to do it." What is right: having the courage and conviction to confront the challenges we face, confront them head on, and deal with them.

So, let's consider then the moment that we are presently in. Well, before the President Biden and I took office, for years, too many of our seniors could not afford the medication they needed to survive. Together, we all here declared what we know to be right: that in the United States of America, seniors should not have to choose between putting food on the table and filling their prescription. (Applause.) And so, President Biden and I capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month. (Applause.)

For years, parents and grandparents across our nation have cried out about the harm of lead pipes, that half of the children in our country under the age of si- -- six are at lead exposure.

So, we all declared what we know to be right: Every child and every person in our nation should have clean water to drink. And today, we are finally on track to remove every lead pipe in America. (Applause.)

For years, our HBCUs have been underfunded, even though -- (applause) -- even though our HBCUs are centers of outstanding academic excellence. (Applause.) So, when we took office, we did what we all know to be right. President Biden and I invested nearly $7 billion in our HBCUs -- (applause) -- which is an investment in the future leaders of our nation.

For years, our nation has ignored the crisis of maternal mortality -- Madam President, you spoke of that -- that before, during, and after childbirth, women in America die at a higher rate than in any other wealthy nation in the world, and that Black women are three times as likely to die.

And so, when President Biden and I took office, we did what was right and made maternal health a national priority -- (applause) -- and expanded postpartum care through Medicaid from 2 months to 12 months, expanded it from 3 states to 35 states -- (applause) -- to the benefit of a half million more women in America.

For far too long, our justice system has been in urgent need of reform. Too often, bad actors have not been held accountable, including those who are sworn to protect and serve.

So, when we took office, we did what we know to be right. President Biden and I banned chokeholds and restricted no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement. (Applause.) And because we know much more must be done, we continue to work with civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials, and the leaders in this room to advance reforms that will build public trust and true public safety for all communities.

For far too long, our justice system has not fully reflected the diversity of our nation. So, when we took office, President Biden and I have appointed more Black women to the federal appellate courts than any other administration in history combined -- (applause) -- including, of course -- (laughter and applause) -- the first Black woman to ever sit on the highest Court of our land and your newest member, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Applause.)

It's a good day. (Laughter and applause.)

So, all of this to say: The leaders in this room helped to make all of this progress possible. And by creating a new era of impact for this historic organization, you will continue to help lead our nation forward. And for all of that, I thank you. And I am also here to declare: We have more work to do, being clear-eyed -- (applause) -- being clear-eyed about the moment we are in and the challenges we face.

We can see, right now in our country, so many of our hard-won freedoms are under full on attack.

Just consider: Last year, the highest Court in our land, the historic Court of Thurgood, took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America -- from the women of America. And since then, in extremist measures, extremist leaders in states across our nation -- states like Indiana -- have passed laws that criminalize doctors and punish women.

And on this issue, I know we are all clear: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling a woman what to do with her body. (Applause.) And yet, today, on this subject, extremists pass laws with no exception even for rape or incest.

Now, as many of you know, I started my career as a prosecutor and I specialized in violent crimes against women and children. It is simply immoral that after someone has survived an act of incredible violence and violation to their body, that they do not get to decide what happens to their body next. That is immoral. (Applause.)

Hard-won freedoms are under attack.

Just consider: Today, in states across our nation, extremists attack the freedom to vote. They pass laws that ban drop boxes and limit early voting -- laws that make it illegal to simply give somebody food and water while they stand in line for hours to cast their ballot. (Applause.)

Extremists pass laws that target our friends and neighbors because of who they are and who they love. And at this moment in our country, we just witnessed the United States Supreme Court strike down affirmative action, give businesses the right to discriminate, and deny debt relief to millions of Americans with student loans.

All the while, these same extremists, in most cases, refuse to pass reasonable gun safety laws to keep our children safe. (Applause.)

And speaking of our children, extremists pass book bans to prevent them from learning our true history -- book bans in this year of our Lord 2023. And while they do this, check it out, they push forward revisionist history. Just yesterday, in the State of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.

They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it -- (applause) -- we who share a collective experience in knowing we must honor history and our duty in the context of legacy.

There is so much at stake in this moment: our most basic rights and freedoms, fact versus fiction, foundational principles about what it means to be a democracy.

And so, in this moment, our nation again counts on the leaders in this room -- those who stand on the great shoulders of the great American leaders like Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Height, and Shirley Chisholm -- (applause); who, with courage, determination, and fortitude continue to organize, build coalitions, and activate our communities.

Let us continue to stand together and fight for what is right.

Because we do know: It is right to fight for the freedom of every woman to control her own body -- not her government. (Applause.) It is right to fight for a future in which every person can live free from discrimination and hate. It is right to fight for safe communities. It is right to fight for paid leave and clean water and affordable childcare. It is right to fight to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. It is right to fight against book bans and the truth. (Applause.)

So, Delta Sigma Theta, let us fight fueled by the love of our children. Let us fight fueled by the love of our country. And let us fight with the knowledge and the faith that when we fight, we win. (Applause.)

God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/363395

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives