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Orange County Convention Center
Orlando, Florida

2:15 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon.  Good afternoon.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Good afternoon.

Bishops, Episcopal survivors [supervisors], connectional officers, and members of Congress: It is an honor to be with you here today. 
Dr. Deborah Taylor King, thank you for your words and for that introduction and for your leadership of this historic organization. 
To the members of the Women’s Missionary Society, including the 1,300 Life Members here with us today — (applause) — thank you all for welcoming me so warmly.  And thank you for the work you do every day for our nation. 
So, my pastor, Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown, said to me recently, “As people of faith, we are called to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” 
Every day, the leaders of the Women’s Missionary Society live the truth of these words.  You care for the sick and feed the hungry.  You organize to stop the horror of gun violence.  You help Americans register to vote so they can make their voices heard.  (Applause.)  And like my dear, dear friend Val Demings, you have led our nation in elected office as well.  (Applause.)  There’s Val.  So, I thank you all for your service to our country.
Standing with you today, I tell you, I feel at home.  As many of you know, I was born in Oakland, California.  And — (applause) — and growing up, I attended 23rd Avenue Church of God.  My sister Maya and I, we sang in the choir; of course, went to Sunday School; and gathered with family and friends in the basement of our church to eat food prepared by loving hands. 
So, that to quickly say that, for so many of us, church is a place of belonging, of community, and fellowship.  Church is a place where, together, we find and share our faith.  As it says in Luke chapter 1, verse 79, faith has the power to shine a light on those living in darkness, to guide our feet in the path of peace.
In moments of uncertainty and confusion, when the way is not clear, it is faith that guides us forward — faith in what we often cannot see yet know to be true. 
Such faith has always guided this church.  The United States and the AME church were born in the same moment in time, and both were founded on a set of fundamental principles: liberty, equality, and freedom.  (Applause.)
Now, as we all know, when our nation was established, these principles did not apply equally to all Americans.  But significantly, the members of this church saw what could be unburdened by what had been and, guided by the light of their faith, fought to build a better nation. 
In the darkness of slavery, it was the faith of people like Sarah Allen that lit the way north for the Underground Railroad. 
In the darkness of the Civil War, it was faith that led members of Mother Bethel to address Fredrick Douglass’s call and join the 55th Massachusetts all-Black infantry regiment in the fight for liberation. 
In the darkness of segregation, it was faith that led the foot soldiers for freedom to Brown Chapel to prepare for their march from Selma to Montgomery. 
Generation after generation, members of this church — great Americans like Roy Wilkins, Rosa Parks, and Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn — (applause) — have shined a light on the path toward freedom. 
Sons and daughters of Richard and Sarah Allen, your history — and I say this as Vice President of the United States — your history is American history.  (Applause.) 
And through your faith, you have helped to make real the promise of our founding principles not just for some but for all. 
And I am here, then, to say: Our nation needs your leadership once again.  In this moment, across our country, hard-fought, hard-won freedoms are under full-on attack. 
Just consider: In states across our nation, extremists attack the freedom to vote.  They pass laws to ban drop boxes, to limit early voting, to make it illegal to offer food and water to people who are standing in line for hours to simply cast their ballot.  Bishops, what ever happened to “love thy neighbor”?  (Applause.)
In states across our nation, extremists pass laws that criminalize doctors and take away the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body.  (Applause.)
And we are all clear: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.  (Applause.)  Let her make that decision with her pastor or her priest or her rabbi but not her government telling her what to do. 
In this moment, we see extremists attack our friends and neighbors because of who they are and who they love.  And all the while, these same extremists refuse to pass reasonable gun safety laws — (applause) — to keep our children and places of worship safe — reasonable gun safety laws, like the type Mother Emanuel has too long fought for. 
And on top of all of this, in this moment, we even see extremists ban books and attempt to erase and even rewrite the ugly parts of our history. 
Right here in Florida — (applause) — right here in Florida, they plan to teach students that enslaved people benefited from slavery.  They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us in an attempt to divide and distract our nation with unnecessary debates.  And now they attempt to legitimize these unnecessary debates with a proposal that most recently came in of a politically motivated roundtable. 

Well, I’m here in Florida.  (Applause.)  And I will tell you, there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: There were no redeeming qualities of slavery.  (Applause.)  
 And as I said last week when I was again here in Florida: We will not stop calling out and fighting back against extremist so-called leaders who try to prevent our children from learning our true and full history.  (Applause.) 
And so, in this moment, let us remember: It is in the darkness that the candle shines most brightly. 
So, let us not be distracted.  Let us not be deterred.  And let us have faith in who we are as a nation.  Let us agree that the true measure of strength is not based on who you beat down but who you lift up.  (Applause.)  
Let us agree that it is a sign of strength, not of weakness, for leaders to have empathy, to be concerned about the suffering of others.  And let us also agree that our faith requires action.  (Applause.)  It requires that we fight for what we know to be true, for what we know to be good, and for what we know to be right. 
And that is certainly what President Biden and I have been doing with the support of so many of the leaders here. 
Consider that, for years, so many of our seniors had to choose between either putting food on the table or filling their prescription. 
And so, President Biden and I did what is right and we capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for our seniors — (applause) — and made sure no senior would pay more than $2,000 a year for their medicine.
Consider: For years, parents and grandparents around our country have cried out about the harm of lead pipes — about what lead pipes do to the health and learning ability of their children. 
And so, when we took office, President Biden and I did what is right.  And today, we are on track to remove every lead pipe in America.  (Applause.)
For years, our HBCUs have been underfunded, even though — and I know I’m preaching to the choir here — even though our HBCUs centers of academic excellence.  (Applause.) 
And so, when we took office — and I say this as a proud HBCU graduate —
AUDIENCE:  (Inaudible.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You know.  (Laughter.)  I made sure we did what is right, and President Biden and I invested over $7 billion in our HBCUs — (applause) — which, of course, is an investment in the future leaders of our nation. 
For years, our nation has ignored the crisis of maternal mortality — that before, during, and after childbirth, women in America die at a higher rate than any other wealthy nation in the world and that Black women are three times more likely to die. 
So, when President Biden and I took office, we did what is right and made maternal health a national priority and expanded postpartum coverage through Medicaid from 2 months to 12 months — (applause) — and increased coverage from 3 states to now 35 states to the benefit of a half a million more women. 
For far too long, far too many people in far too many communities have lived in fear of violence.  And I believe the right to be safe in school, at work, and in a place of worship should be thought of as a civil right. 
So, when we took office, President Biden and I did what is right.  We strengthened background checks to prevent gun violence and we invested billions of dollars in job training, mental health resources, and our communities.  Because we know when we invest in our communities, that is what helps makes them safe. 
And because no one should have to live in fear of those sworn to protect and serve, we restricted the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement.  (Applause.)  And we will continue to work with civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials, and the leaders in this room to make sure our justice system lives up to its name. 
And since coming into office, President Joe Biden and I — very proud to report this — have appointed more Black women to be federal judges than any administration in history — (applause) — including the first Black woman ever to sit on the highest court in our land: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. 
So, all of this work is guided by our faith in America.  We here today, I know — we here today — we love our country and we believe — we truly believe in the principles upon which our country was founded.  And I believe the fight to preserve and protect these principles is one of the truest forms of patriotism. 
The great Coretta Scott King, a woman of deep faith, once said, and I will paraphrase: Freedom is never really won.  You earn it and win it in every generation.
So, at this moment in history, I say: We were born for a time such as this.  (Applause.) 
So, let us shine a light on the path forward.  Let us fight toward a future where every woman has the freedom to make decisions about her own body, where every voter has the freedom to make their voice heard, where every child can learn our true and full history, and where every family can live free from violence and hate and every person — no matter where they are or where they come from — has the opportunity to thrive. 
And as we do so, let us fight with optimism, with faith, and with hope.  Because as the history of our nation and the history of this church tells us: When we fight, we win.  (Applause.)
Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 
                               END                 2:34 P.M. EDT

The post Remarks by Vice President Harris at the African Methodist Episcopal Women’s Missionary Convention appeared first on The White House.

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