July 15, 2024

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Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation on Reproductive Rights

Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation on Reproductive Rights
Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation on Reproductive Rights

New Orleans, Louisiana THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon, Essence Fest. MS. HOSTIN:  Well, we are both so humbled — so humbled to be here with you, especially.  So, let’s get into it.  The Supreme Court has come down recently with some interesting decisions.  AUDIENCE:  Booo — MS. HOSTIN:  There are a fa- […]

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New Orleans, Louisiana

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon, Essence Fest.

MS. HOSTIN:  Well, we are both so humbled — so humbled to be here with you, especially.  So, let’s get into it.  The Supreme Court has come down recently with some interesting decisions. 


MS. HOSTIN:  There are a fa- — well, they’re interesting.  We’re talking affirmative action.  We’re talking LGBTQ rights.  We’re talking about student loan forgiveness. 

And I know you would like to address these things directly.  You have the stage. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Sunny.  And let me just start by saying: Monica and Sunny, it’s so wonderful to be on the stage with you and then to be in this room with all these incredible leaders.  Don’t we just love Essence Fest?  (Applause.)  It’s so important that we do this.  It is so important that we do this. 

So, you know, I am a daughter of parents who met when they were active in the civil rights movement.  And among the heroes of that movement were folks like Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motley, who understood the power of the law to translate the passion from the streets to the courtrooms of our country, to do the work that is about reminding us of the promise of America, which includes the promise of freedom and equality and, I would add also, access to opportunity. 

And those of us who have chosen to take on the roles that we have believe in that promise but are also clear eyed that we’ve not yet quite achieved it but it is worthwhile that we will work and fight to get there. 

 And we’ve seen success over the years through that process.  I think, dare I say, none of us would be here were it not for Brown v. Board of Education — (applause) — which desegregated the schools of America.  And I could go on and on with the decisions. 

But, Sunny, to your point, we have seen — from 2013 in Shelby v. Holder where they gutted the Voting Rights Act barely 50 years after it had been passed.

And then, a year ago this week, with the Dobbs decision, that Court took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the women of America, from the people of America.

And then just in the last — what is it? — 48 hours, undoing affirmative action, taking away access to opportunity for our best and brightest who may not otherwise have access to the relationships or certain high schools that otherwise would give them the leg up.  Undoing a policy that our President Joe Biden and I felt so strongly about, which is relieving people who have studied and don’t have personal wealth of the burden of student loan debt. 

And by the way, don’t believe the hype, in terms of how some of these folks have been talking during these interviews about it.  Because here’s the deal: With what we did to forgive student loan debt, $10,000.  And if you’re a Pell Grant recipient, $20,000.  And if you went to an HBCU, it is likely that you are a Pell Grant recipient.  (Applause.) 

The design and the implementation of that relief of student loan debt would have played out such that 90 percent of those who would have received it on an annual basis make less than $75,000 a year. 

And we’re talking about young people who have otherwise talked with me and, everyone knows, who are worrying about whether they will ever be able to start a family, whether they’ll ever be able to realize the American Dream of buying a home, whether they’ll be able to get out of debt so they can pursue a profession for which they have a passion versus what they may have to do just to get those debts paid, even though they want to work hard and contribute to our society. 

This — this decision about the denial of understanding the importance of — of the evolution we had to say that businesses cannot discriminate based on who you are.  And a decision that has essentially said that we’re going to just throw a truck through the laws that were designed to prevent discrimination and to deprive anyone just based on who they are from having access to public — publicly available services. 

So, you know, I say this.  Coretta Scott King famously said said: The fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.  We are that generation she spoke of at this moment in time.  (Applause.)  And so, fight we must, understanding that the gains that we have made will never be permanent unless we are vigilant. 

And I say that means let us fight for the future we deserve.  Fight for the future we deserve.  (Applause.)

MS. HOSTIN:  And thank you for leading that fight — 


MS. HOSTIN: — along with President Biden.

This kid from the South Bronx projects would not be sitting here in front of you today if it were not for affirmative action.  And I’m a proud recipient of affirmative action.  (Applause.)  We need it.  We need it. 

I’m first person to graduate from college in my family.  First person to graduate from law school in my family.  And it was because of affirmative action.  There’s no shame in that.  (Applause.)

Now, Madam Vice President, you — you mentioned what just happened with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs decision.  We just passed the one-year mark of that, if you can believe that to be true.

In your view, what has this meant for our country?  And what is the administration doing to address this?  Because we know you’ve convened reproductive and health rights activists, like my co-moderator, Monica Simpson, here.  What is going on?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, when the Dobbs decision came down about a year ago last week, actually, they took a fundamental right from the people of America, from the women of America. 

And I think it’s really important, when we talk about this issue, to understand that, first of all, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree that the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.  (Applause.)

If she chooses, she will talk with and consult her pastor, her priest, her rabbi.  But the government should not be telling her what is in her best interest.  Trust the women of America.  Trust the women of America to know what they need.  (Applause.)

And what we have seen happen is exactly what we so sadly and accurately predicted: women across America who are silently suffering, so many of them; who are being made to feel as though they’ve done something irresponsible or wrong; who are being judged; who are being denied access to essential and critical care. 

Understand that after the Dobbs decision came down, laws had been proposed and passed that are criminalizing physicians with significant prison time, in many cases.  Understand that laws are being passed in America, since that decision came down a year ago, that make no exemption for rape or incest. 

And I know it’s a difficult conversation to discuss, but one must discuss it because we have to be real about what’s happening right now in our country. 

As many of you know, I was — and, Sunny, you and I share this background as prosecutors — when — I became a prosecutor because my best friend in high school, I learned, was being abused by her stepfather.  And I said to her, “You have to come live with us.”  And I called up my mother, she was at work, and she said, “Yes, she has to come live with us.”  And she did.

Now, these extremist so-called leaders who are passing these laws saying no exception, even — even for rape or incest, understand what they are saying — these so-called leaders.  They are saying that after someone has survived a crime of violence, a violation to their body — that after that has happened, you will not have the choice about what happens to your body next.

That’s immoral.  That’s immoral.  (Applause.)

And they want to prance around, as so-called leaders, with their little flag pins?  (Laughter.)

This is what’s happening in our country right now.  And I’ve met far too many women who have shared their stories. 

A woman in Texas — actually, many women in Texas — who was suffering a miscarriage went to the emergency room for help, and they turned her away.  “We can’t help you, because we’re afraid about the laws, what it might do.” 

She went back again.  “I need help and assistance with what’s happening, this miscarriage.”  She wanted to carry her pregnancy to term.  They turned her away.  It was not until she developed sepsis that they treated her.

I met another young woman who and — with — came t- — came to one of my events with her husband.  She was diagnosed at 18 weeks of pregnancy — they were — they prayed to have a baby.  At 18 weeks of pregnancy, she was diagnosed that — fatal fetal disease and that the baby would not survive it.  They were devastated.  She wanted to then have a procedure; she was denied to have the procedure.  So, basically, she was being told that she should carry this even though the diagnosis was clear about what the outcome would be, so she had to travel from Texas to Washington State to get the procedure. 

Now, again, let’s break these things down, because it’s more than just some intellectual and political issue.

So, this young woman, who prayed that she would be able to have a child and then received a diagnosis from her doctor that is devastating news, now has to be made to get a plane ticket, if she can afford it, go through TSA, sit on a plane with a bunch of strangers to go to a healthcare provider she doesn’t know to address this critical issue. 

It’s inhumane to make people do that.  And this is what’s happening in our country every day: people silently having these experiences.  And I think it’s so important that we all speak out and say that — that this is a violation of basic rights that are about bodily autonomy and self-determination.  (Applause.) 

And we have to stand with — with what we know to be right and true about the importance of foundational principles, such as freedom, and say that we are not going to stand for this and we are going to stand up and speak to the need to, one, elect members of the United States Congress who will pass national legislation to reinstate the protections of Roe v. Wade — (applause) — that we will pay attention to who’s governor and if they’re passing and signing these state laws; who’s the attorney general, who’s in the state legislature, if they’re passing laws criminalizing; who’s your prosecutor.  And we’ve got to vote in our numbers and speak loudly about this grave injustice that is affecting the women of America.

MS. HOSTIN:  Vote.  Vote.  Vote.  Vote.

MS. SIMPSON:  Vote.  Vote.

MS. HOSTIN:  Vote.  Vote.  Vote.  You have that power in your hand, at least where they’re not gerrymandering.

I want to finish this line of questioning.  And Monica certainly has another line of questioning that she is going to get to that’s very important.  I just want to switch gears quickly and talk about the Black maternal health crisis.  Because, as you know, they say when the world, you know, gets a cold, we get the flu.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s exactly right.

MS. HOSTIN:  It’s another issue you have been such a champion for us, and we thank you for that.  Can you tell us how you view the relationship between the fight for reproductive rights and the Black maternal health crisis?  Because, for some people, there seems to be a disconnect there.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Oh, for some people, they have just revealed themselves to be hypocrites.  (Laughter.)  So — (applause) — here’s why I say that:

So, this is an issue I’ve been working on for many, many years.  And, in fact, when I was in the Senate with my colleagues, the Congressional Black Caucus — I was on the Senate side, they worked with me on this were mostly on the House side — we passed — we proposed and got passed what we called the “Momnibus” to — to address the — the need to support mothers and women in the various stages of motherhood. 

And — and what I can tell you and everyone here probably knows is this: We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.

Black women in America are three to four times more likely to die in connection with childbirth.  Native women are twice as likely to die.  Rural women are one and a half more time — more likely to die.  And if you’re a Black woman in rural America, you can — you can see where that’s headed.

And, by the way, when it comes to Black maternal mortality, it has nothing to do with her educational level or her socio-economic level.  It literally has to do with the fact that when she walks into that clinic, that emergency room, that doctor’s office, she is not taken as seriously.  And we have, sadly, too many high-profile stories of exactly what I’m talking about.

And so, this is an issue that I’ve been taking on for a number of years, both in terms of what we need to do to address the racial bias that is present with this issue.  And, in particular, I was very proud to — to make clear that as part of the solution, we need to have the training of healthcare providers in a number of ways, including that the trainers would — among the trainers would be doulas — right? — (applause) — who fully understand what it means when we talk about community care and — and recognizing the whole person and the dignity of that person. 
Because let me be clear: For — for women who — who want to be pregnant and want children, it should be a joyful experience.  Black women deserve to have a joyful experience — (applause) — with their pregnancy.

And so, this is one of the issues that I’ve taken on for all of these reasons.  And it has included, as you mentioned in the introduction, I issued a challenge back in December of ‘21, after we — after we were elected, to the states to say, “Well, Medicaid covers postpartum care for two months, I challenge the states to extend it to 12 months.”  (Applause.)  And we started with three states who were doing it, and now we have 35 states and the — and D.C. doing it.  (Applause.)

So we still have some more to go, so you can help me in shaming the rest of them.  (Laughter.)

But back to the point about the hypocrisy.  In the top 10 states that have the worst maternal mortality, they are the same states that also have abortion bans. 

So, these people who walk around saying that they have passed these bans for the — in the interest of the health and wellbeing of mothers and children are hypocrites.  (Applause.)  They’re — they’ve not — when we look at, what are you doing to support women around prenatal care, their pregnancies, postpartum care; what are we doing to recognize that women need affordable transportation, that they need real support in terms of what they need, because — if they already have children, affordable childcare, paid family leave, paid maternal leave, for the — for the men in their life, paid paternal leave.  (Applause.)

And so, there’s still so much to do.  But on this issue where these people are beating their chest with these laws that are about denying people the ability to make decisions about their own body, they must be confronted about this, because there is an utter hypocrisy at play. 

And, by the way, Virginia is the only Southern state that it — does not have a ban.  The majority of Black women live in these Southern states.  So understand the connection between race, between income and who gets what kinds of services, and what are the predictable outcomes when those services are lacking.  And that divide exists.  And here you see, then, the data that talks about Black maternal mortality.

So we got some work to do. 

MS. SIMPSON:  Absolutely.  I — I couldn’t agree with you more.  It’s been hard for me not to act like a Black church girl in here.  Every time she say something, I’m like, “Yep.  Amen.”  (Laughter.)  I just want to encourage y’all, y’all can do that if you feel that today, okay?  (Applause.)

But I also want to just kind of continue on this vein that we’re on about intersectionality, because that’s what we’re talking about here when thinking about how do we connect reproductive rights and maternal health.  And I know we — to — we hear you talk very much about the interconnectedness — right? — of reproductive rights and other very real social justice issues —


MS. SIMPSON:  — like voting rights, like economics.  And I think that that is — that’s been beautiful of you to talk about that as our vice president because it’s helping other elected officials understand the importance of that.  And that’s what reproductive justice really is all about. 

And so can you talk to us about how you see these connections and why they’re important right now, especially in the particular moment that we’re in?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So that’s — and this is your life’s work, Monica, and I so applaud and so grateful for all that you do — (applause) — because you are always — you are always highlighting the interconnection and the interdependence — right? — and, therefore, the collective responsibility.

MS. SIMPSON:  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right?  And so, you — so I asked my team, after we started to see these attacks — I said, “Do — do a Venn…” — so, I love Venn diagrams, you know, those three circles.  And so, I said, “Let’s do a Venn diagram.  From which states are we seeing attacks on voting rights, women’s reproductive health rights, and LGBTQ rights?” 

You would not be surprised of the intersection.  It was so apparent and clear.

And so, thinking about, then, the opportunity that exists always in moments of crisis and, on this point, the importance, then, of the coalition and building the coalition and creating spaces and opportunities for the folks who have been fighting for voting rights to be in the same room with those who have been fighting for maternal healthcare and reproductive healthcare, those who have been fighting for LGBTQ rights, and to bring folks together, understanding that if we step back and look clearly at what’s happening, there is a full-on attack at play that I believe is part of the national plan to attack hard-fought and hard-won freedoms.  And an attack on anyone’s freedom is attack on all of our freedoms.  (Applause.)

And so, looking at it, then, as an opportunity to build the coalition, understanding, again, that these attacks are about folks who are exerting their rights.  Like when we talk about freedoms, it is a right.  It is a right.  These are attacks on our rights, on your rights, on their rights, on rights.

An attack on rights is something that we must see clearly as being an offense to foundational principles about who we are as a country. 

And I would also ask this of all the friends in the sisterhood here, you know that — that thing about the frogs in the pots?  Okay, so here it goes.

There’s two pots of water, and there’s two frogs.  In one pot of water, you put the frog in and you slowly turn up the heat.  And that frog is kind of like, “Oh, it’s getting kind of warm in here.”  And then the heat keeps going up to boiling, and that frog perishes.  In the other pot, you turn up the heat up on high, get that water boiling, you put the frog in it, he’s going to jump out.  Let’s not be that first frog.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let’s not be that first frog.  (Applause.)


MS. SIMPSON:  Let’s not be the first frog.  That is — oh.  I’m going to have — that’s — that’s going to stick with me for a minute, Madam Vice President, truly. 


MS. SIMPSON:  We do not want to be that first frog.

I want to push us a little bit further into a different conversation, but one that is so timely and so necessary right now, and that’s the issue of gun violence in this country, right?

You have eloquently, eloquently framed gun safety in the context of freedom in this country, the freedom to be safe from gun violence.  And I think that we would be remiss to not mention AJ Owens in this moment, a Black woman, a Black mother — (applause) — who was killed in Ocala, Florida, so senselessly, right?  And we can also see the interconnections there to reproductive justice and gun violence, because she was truly working to protect her family, right?

MS. HOSTIN:  Mother of four.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. SIMPSON:  And so, we know that this issue was big and it’s multi-layered, right?  Can you take a moment to just talk about what we can do to really end this senseless violence that is harming so many in our communities right now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s a theme in this conversation that we are all having, which is about many things, including rights and freedoms, and also the importance of the vote.

MS. SIMPSON:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Because, you see, we need people in the statehouses and in the United States Congress who have the courage to act around very clear and reasonable gun safety laws, who don’t fall for the false choice that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everybody’s guns. 

I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, but we need an assault weapons ban.  (Applause.)  Assault weapons are literally designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly. 

MS. SIMPSON:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  These are weapons of war that have no place on the streets of a civil society. 

One in five Americans has a family member who has been killed by gun violence.  The number one cause of death for children in America is gun violence, not some disease.  Gun violence is the number one cause. 

And when you start looking at the statistics, in terms of our young people, young Black people in America, it is a crisis of extraordinary proportion that we should also think about not only in the context of the — the right to live free from violence, but also in terms of the importance not only of public safety but public health, because be clear: We are also talking about a residual impact that is actually a direct impact, which is about trauma to individuals, to families, and communities that lingers. 

The fear that communities are experiencing where a mother has to say to her child, “If gun violence is ringing out in the neighborhood, jump in the bathtub to avoid a stray bullet.” 

Or how about the fact that our children are — right now they’re on summer break — K through 12 — but they’re going to start school in the fall, and one of the first things they’re going to learn, barely before they learn their teacher’s name or where the bathroom is, is how to hide in a closet quietly if there is an active shooter in their school. 

Talk about the trauma.  I have met children who have said to me, “I don’t like going to fifth period.”  And I said, “Baby, why don’t you want to go to fifth period?”  “Because there’s no class — there’s no closet in fifth-period classroom.” 

This is real.  Our babies are afraid to be in a classroom where their backs are to the door. 

And then these so-called leaders, these extremist leaders will say, “Well, the solution to that is: Let’s have the teacher strap a gun.”  Are you kidding me?

MS. SIMPSON:  Jesus.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, again, though, this has to be about what do we do in terms of fighting for real leaders who have an understanding about what is sensible and reasonable.

You know, after — I was just talking to some folks.  After — so the Tennessee Three — the two Justins and Gloria — so I hope you all saw that.  (Applause.) 

So I was actually at home.  It was — watching the late-night news with my husband, and I saw what was happening in Tennessee.  And they — these — the people who run the legislature — so these — the two Justins, in particular — two young legislators in their 20s, young African American men, leaders, and they are in the well of the chamber trying to debate the issue of the need for smart gun safety laws.  They are in the well of the chamber.

And, you know, for these wells and these chambers and legislators in legislative bodies, they’re designed for debate.  Literally, the design is for debate.  They are trying to debate in session.  They’re in session.  They’re on the microphone trying to debate the need for reasonable gun safety laws.  And these people turn the mic off on them.  They turn off the microphone. 

You talk about attacks on our democracy, we’re not even looking for symbols anymore.  They’re turning off a microphone. 

But this is what I loved about the — this is what I loved about that.  So these young leaders said, “All right, anybody got a bullhorn?”  (Laughter.)  And they got a bullhorn — (applause) — to make sure the voices of the people were heard. 

And you got to love, love, love, love, love that.  (Applause.) 

MS. HOSTIN:  Yes.  Yes.  You — you’ve used your bullhorn quite a bit.  You’ve used your pulpit quite a bit.  And I know we’ve had this discussion that, as DA in California, you prosecuted crimes against women and children.  As a federal prosecutor, I prosecuted child sex crimes, of course, and child trafficking.  And that always makes you feel like you’re on the right side. 


MS. HOSTIN:  You’ve also have been such a champion for women’s health, including reproductive healthcare.  You filed briefs as an AG to protect access to reproductive healthcare.  As a Senator — I really miss your Senate debates; I’ll

be really honest with you about that. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  “Is there any law that tells a man what he can do with his body?”

MS. HOSTIN:  I just —

MS. SIMPSON:  That is classic.  It’s so classic.   

MS. HOSTIN:  I just really — I really miss it.

MS. SIMPSON:  So classic.   

MS. HOSTIN:  As Senator, you lead on maternal health and have carried that forward — also, of course, as vice president.  You’re leading the administration’s work on reproductive health, as we’ve mentioned before.

We — my question is: It’s such — it sometimes feels like such an insurmountable topic.  Why is it so important to you?  Why do you think you’re getting so much pushback?  And where do you see the way forward, if you can?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Sunny, first of all, I — you know, as I said, I feel very strongly that the promise of America will only be achieved if we are willing to fight for it. 

I love my country.  I believe in its promise.  I’m also very clear-eyed that we will not see progress if we do not fight for it. 

All of the movements for progress in our country have been movements where people were prepared to take to the streets, prepared to organize, prepared to speak loudly with truth about what is happening: all with the intention of finding solutions. 

And when I look at the work that I did, whether it was being a prosecutor, to say we need to focus on crimes against women and children and protect them.  But also when I was DA, I said we need to also do things like create — I created one of the first initiatives that was about getting services and jobs and then dismissing cases against young adults. 

So there is all of that, but there is the work that is ongoing in our country that is about fighting for progress. 

What distresses me is that the strength of our nation, for the most part, has been because we have been committed to the expansion of rights.  And for the first time in a long time, we are seeing very powerful forces that are engaged in an intentional goal of restricting rights.  And we’ve got to take this moment seriously — back, Monica, to the point about frogs. 

And here’s how I also see it: As vice president of the United States, I have now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings.  (Applause.)  When we walk into those rooms representing the United States of America, traditionally we do so chin up, shoulders back, with the self-appointed and earned authority to talk about the importance of democracy, rule of law, human rights.  But what this group — all of us — know, is that the thing about being a role model is: People watch what you do to see if it matches what you say.  (Applause.)

MS. SIMPSON:  Say that.  Say that. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And one of my fears about this moment includes that in places around this world where, for example, women are fighting for their rights, some dictator, some autocrat is looking at them and saying, “You want to hold out the United States as your example?  Look what they’re doing.”  “You want to…” — maybe it’s a different person saying, “You’re fighting to end corruption in elections?  Look what they’re doing.  You be quiet.” 

The implications of what is happening in our country not only directly and, right now, in real time affect all of us as Americans but very likely affect people around the world. 

So that’s how I think about this moment in terms of what is at stake.  And I go back to saying we have to fight for the future we deserve.  We have to fight for a future that we deserve, also understanding that very foundational principles about who we are as a country are at stake, including freedom and equality and basic notions of justice. 

And the thing about a democracy — and I’ll just — I’ll end my point with this: I think there’s a duality to the nature of democracy.  On the one hand, there’s an incredible strength.  When a democracy is intact, it lifts up individual rights.  It protects civil rights.  It’s very strong in that way. 

On the other hand, it’s very fragile.  It’s very fragile.  It will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it.  And so fight, we must.  (Applause.)

MS. SIMPSON:  Fight, we must.

MS. HOSTIN:  Thank you for that. 

MS. SIMPSON:  I think we’ve heard two really key words come from you, Sunny, and from you, Madam Vice President.  And the first word that you said, of course, Sunny, was “vote” — like how important that vote is.  And then you followed up by talking about organizing.  And so voting is powerful when we organize. 

And one of the powerful things I love about organizing as a cultural strategist and someone who’s deeply rooted in culture work as a — as a means to really move the masses and to really dismantle systems of oppression — and we’ve had this conversation, Madam Vice President — there is such a power in using the culture — right? — to be a tool to make those movements happen. 

We’ve seen you on the Parking Lot, right?  We have seen you convene really powerful influencers that represent, you know, television shows, from actors to musicians.  Like they really have the pulse of the people.  And I truly believe that some of our elected officials are learning from you that policy alone, without using culture to actually shift hearts and minds of people, don’t really make the — doesn’t really make the mark for us. 

So can you talk to us — because, you know, we are in the room, in the epicenter of Black culture this weekend.  And there’s a lot of folks in here, in particular Black women — how y’all doing? — (applause) — who are in this room, who want to take action.  They want to protect their rights.  They want to be able to move and channel their energy in very intentional ways. 

What are some — some of your ideas as to how we can do that?  And how important do you think culture is, in particular, to help us do that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think culture is — it is a reflection of our moment in our time, right?  And — and present culture is the way we express how we’re feeling about the moment. 

And — and we should always find times to express how we feel about the moment that is a reflection of joy, because every — you know, it comes in the morning.  (Laughs.)  We have to find ways to also express the way we feel about the moment in terms of just having language and a connection to how people are experiencing life.  And I think about it in that way, too. 

And we also — I think, is very important that — that leaders — anyone who considers themselves a leader — really understands how anything they say would affect a real human being, as opposed to — you know, otherwise be a poet and write poetry.  But if you want to understand — I don’t mean to dismiss poetry at all.  But if you want to understand any concept, you have to ask questions like, “How would this affect a child?”  To have a real understanding of what it is that you’ve proposed. 

And culture helps us do that, because you sit down with Keke Palmer and you’re going to have a real conversation about — (laughs) — about a variety of issues. 

But I think it’s so important also just to be present.  We have to be present. 

And in this moment, I think there’s a perversion in some ways about what it means to have strength.  Some people would suggest that it is a sign of strength based on who you beat down, when I think most of us know the real sign of strength is based on who you lift up.  (Applause.) 

And so, all that we can do that is about that is, I think, in preservation and in the purpose of growing our strength.

MS. HOSTIN:  Now, we’re really almost at the end of our program.  I do want to shout out to the men also in our audience. 


MS. HOSTIN:  I see my dear friend, Ben Crump —


MS. HOSTIN: — in the front row, who has done so much for our community.  (Applause.) 


MS. HOSTIN:  We appreciate you, Ben. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  There’s Rev. Sharpton. 

MS. HOSTIN:  Oh, look at Reverend Sharpton —


MS. HOSTIN:  — in the front, right over there next to —


MS. HOSTIN:  — next to Sade Baderinwa.

See, I don’t wear glasses on TV, but I can’t see anything.  (Laughter.)  She knows this now. 


MS. HOSTIN:  Roland Martin.  Roland is at — where is Ro-Ro? 

MS. SIMPSON:  First of — all the — all the cool dudes is up front.  We see y’all brothers.  Okay. 

MS. HOSTIN:  Standing by women.  So we thank you for that.

One last question, if you’ll allow it.  I often get asked after I’m on air and I give speeches around the country, “What can I do to help?”  I have a platform of 3 million people a day.  You have a platform of millions and millions and millions and a hundred world leaders.  What can people sitting in the audience today do?  What is their call to action?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I — you know, we — we network well, as evidenced by the fact that we’re all here right now together.  And I would urge everyone here to think about your networks as a way to empower each other, to share the stories, to share information. 

You know, one of the concerns that I have truly is — is the level of misinformation that is out there.  And so, what we can do to reinforce the truth and spread that truth.  This is — these are hundreds and hundreds of opinion leaders here together. 

And so thinking about the networks — be that through — through your church, through your sorority or fraternity, through whatever civic organizations and nonprofits that you’re a part of — I think it’s important to really be active in those organizations and continue to grow those networks. 

Because part of what is happening when we see these attacks is they have the effect, which I think often is intended, to make people feel alone.  And it’s important to remember that we are all in this together.  It is important to remember that our voices are so important, and we should never allow anybody to silence those voices.  (Applause.)  And using our voice individually and in connection with our networks is a very powerful way of organizing and building into the movement. 

And all said and done, this is — the reality is that they’re — all of the people upon whose shoulders we stand and honor every day of the year, they carry the baton for the time they had it, and then they passed it to us. 

And the question is going to be: What did we do while we were carrying the baton?  (Applause.)  And I don’t think anyone expects that we’re necessarily going to finish the race, but the measure will be: What did we do while we were carrying the baton? 

And so, let’s stay organized and stay in touch with each other and hold each other up.  It’s so important, and it’s so powerful to do that.  (Applause.)

MS. HOSTIN:  Well, thank you for giving us the honor — 

MS. SIMPSON:  Oh my god.

MS. HOSTIN:  — of facilitating this conversation, Madam Vice President. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)


Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/07/01/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-in-a-moderated-conversation-on-reproductive-rights-2/

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