Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation at the 2023 Essence Fest Global Black Economic Forum

Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation at the 2023 Essence Fest Global Black Economic Forum

Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans

2:57 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.

AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon!

MS. DUCKETT:  This is fantastic, and it is a moment.  So before we start, I know there’s something that you would like to say, so let me turn it over to you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I do.  Thasunda, I — I’m prepared to have a very long conversation with you about many other matters —


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and then the highest court in our land just made a decision today on affirmative action.  And I — I feel compelled to speak about it, and I’m sure that I share the sentiment and the feeling of everyone in this room, in terms of the deep disappointment. 

I encourage everyone, by the way, to read the dissenting opinion of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.  (Applause.)  I encourage you to read it, because she is a beautiful writer who is compelled by logic and a knowledge of history and a clarity of thinking about where we have been as a country and where we have the potential to go. 

And what she so rightly has articulated, as I take away from her writing and the way I feel about it, is the disappointment is because this is now a moment where the Court has not fully understand the importance of equal opportunity for the people of our country, and it is in so very many ways a denial of opportunity.

And the — it is a complete misnomer to suggest this is about “colorblind,” when, in fact, it is about being blind to history, being blind to data, being blind to empirical evidence about disparities, being blind to the strength that diversity brings to classrooms, to boardrooms.

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, I did — Thasunda, I thank you for giving me this moment to just speak on that.  And I think that there is no question we have so much work to do.  And the President spoke so eloquently earlier today about this: Our administration will use all the tools in our power to continue to applaud policies that understand the importance and the significance and the strength of diversity in all of those places. 

And one of the points that the President also made is — is the point of encouraging our educational institutions to now be very purposeful in thinking about how they will prioritize the importance of diversity, including looking at students’ backgrounds, in terms of fin- — access to financial strength and benefits, where they went to high school, where they grew up.

And also, the President, I thought, was very clear about saying to corporate America that we would expect that this decision will not in any way cloud their judgment about the importance of diversity in the workplace.  (Applause.)

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, thank you.

MS. DUCKETT:  Well, thank you.  I shared with you, this morning was emotional. 


MS. DUCKETT:  But what I do know is that talent is created equally, opportunity is not. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. DUCKETT:  And so we will all do our part to make sure that every young talent know that they can achieve their full potential —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. DUCKETT:  — in this country. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. DUCKETT:  And we know we still have work to do, but joy comes in the morning.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Amen.  


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  That’s exactly right. 

And I do consider myself a joyful warrior.  (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  Yes, you do.  She is a joyful warrior. 

Okay.  So, speaking of talent, my father, Otis Brown, will always say to me, “People see your glory, but they don’t know your story.”

Vice President Harris, impact maker, always creating space for so many people, can you take us back to your story?  I know you’ve talked about how your parents met at Berkeley and were active in the Civil Rights Movement.  In fact, I think they took you along in a stroller, so I have a little vision here.


MS. DUCKETT:  Okay?  But how — how has your past growing up impacted the arc of now being the Vice President of the United States of America?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  In every way.  I had the true privilege and blessing of being raised by a family, an extended family, and a community that was so abundant in its belief that we must nurture the children and give them a sense of how important they are. 

You know, I sometimes joke about it — you know, I was raised in a community and by — by parents and a community that they just told all of us we were special.  (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  We weren’t particularly special.  (Laughter.)  But we believed that —

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — when they told us that.  (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And I grew up, yes, in the midst of this movement that was — you know, there’s the — there are different regions of our country that had different levels of — of impact on the civil rights movement.  But in Berkeley and Oakland, California, there was a very robust community that was fighting for civil rights.  And so, I grew up among my parents, who were marching and shouting for justice every day.

The heroes of that movement included Thurgood Marshall —

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — Charles Hamilton Houston —

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — Constance Baker Motley.  Right? 

And that’s why I wanted to become a lawyer.  And probably one of the main reasons I decided to become a prosecutor — and this is not a favorite thing that I — I like to share, but it is very pivotal in why I made that decision — is, growing up, my — my best friend in high school, I learned, was being abused by her stepfather.  And when I realized it, I said to her, “Well, you — you have to come live with us.”

And I actually called my mother and I said, “Mommy, this is happening.”  And she said, “Well, of course she has to come live with us.”

MS. DUCKETT:  Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And she did.  And just — the feeling of the need to make sure we protect —

MS. DUCKETT:  Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and — and give people a sense of dignity and — and uplift them.  And — and so a majority of my career as a prosecutor was spent focusing on crimes of violence against women and children.

And — but the work that I’ve done has also been a function of this fight for justice, be it economic justice, which is a main area — one of the main areas of focus for this —


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — this convening.  The importance of giving people dignity, giving them opportunity, is something that has always guided me. 

When I was attorney general — I know we have some people here who are bankers, but I — when I was attorney general, I actually — (laughter) — sued the big banks around the foreclosure crisis that was impacting California in a pretty substantial way. 

We had some of the highest rates of foreclosure.  And it — I felt the very strong need to be able to protect these homeowners, so many of whom were — were Black, who were people of color, who deserve to be treated fairly. 

So that’s, in a nutshell, some of the things that formed who I was and who I am at an early age.

MS. DUCKETT:  You sure are special.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  You are, too.

MS. DUCKETT:  And so is everyone here —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Everybody here is special.  (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  — right?  We are special.  (Applause.)

You know, I — I know — you know, I’m — I’m raised with my parents, Otis and Rosie Brown, and they grew up in the segregated South.


MS. DUCKETT:  But even with that backdrop, they told me to reach for the Moon —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. DUCKETT:  — because even if I missed, I would be among the stars. 

Madam Vice President, you continue to reach for the Moon.  So, thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, Thasunda.

MS. DUCKETT:  Now, I want to shift, because we are at the Global Black Economic Forum.  We are in the backdrop of Essence Festival, where a million people will spend the next couple of days.


MS. DUCKETT:  Joy and justice.


MS. DUCKETT:  We also know that, as a Black community, it’s projected in 2024: $1.8 trillion of spending power.


MS. DUCKETT:  Yet, the net worth over the last several years have gone down 14 percent.


MS. DUCKETT:  So, we have to continue this dialogue and talking about the economy.


MS. DUCKETT:  So, I would love to get your perspective, broadly, about the economy and then, secondly, your thoughts as it relates to Black Americans, as we know that when there’s volatility, many times we can have a disproportionate negative impact.  Could you share your thoughts and the administration’s thoughts?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Sure.  Well, I will tell you that we are very proud, as an administration, of our accomplishments as it relates to the economy.  And I don’t need to remind everyone that we came into office during the height of the pandemic and — at a time when people — there was an extraordinary loss of life, of normalcy.  People lost their homes, lost their jobs.  And — and the work we had to do was to build back up.

And during the course of the last two and a half — almost two and a half years now, the work that we have done has actually been historic in proportion.  Not only have we recovered from the pandemic, which is why everybody’s sitting so close together without masks —

MS. DUCKETT:  (Laughs.)  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — we have been able to recover in a pretty substantial way; although, there are still very real lingering effects from the pandemic —

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — including a very real impact on mental health —


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — which I think is something we need to talk and —

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and deal with more.

But, for example, what we were able to do not only with the — with the American Rescue Plan, which was to recover from the pandemic and help small businesses stay open and keep their doors open and keep their employees, but what we have done with the infrastructure law.  

You know, the previous administration kept talking about “Infrastructure Week.”  And you will remember that never happened.  We have now passed a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is in the process, in real time, of addressing the fact that America’s infrastructure is over 150 years old.

And understand what that means.  That means the creation of jobs that are both about construction and the actual building back up, but also manufacturing to supply the resources that are necessary for that building back up.  It also is not only about the creation of jobs in that regard, it’s also about understanding what that does in terms of everyday working people and the impact this will mean.

By that, I mean: Think about the fact that if you — and most Americans do — live in a place where they — they cannot afford to live where they work, so they have a significant commute.  And if you are driving every day over roads and bridges that are falling apart, you are getting flat tires, which your car insurance does not pay for.  And most Americans are a $400 unexpected expense away from bankruptcy. 

MS. DUCKETT:  Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So there are very real residual benefits from this approach around infrastructure. 

I will add to that what we did with the Inflation Reduction Act.  If you combine what we did with the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, by my estimate, we are dropping about $1 trillion on the streets of America to address infrastructure and to invest in a clean energy economy. 

And that is, again, about jobs, including something I’m very passionate about, which is thinking about small businesses and how we strengthen them. 

Here is why I say that: Do you know that of the firms of the comp- — that — that over 75 percent of manufacturing firms in the United States, manufacturing companies, hire 20 or fewer employees?  Those are small businesses. 

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  When you compound that with the fact that our administration has made a commitment to increase federal contracts for minority-owned businesses by 50 percent and then you think about what that can do to address racial inequities, in terms of wealth-being around small businesses as an example, the residual impact to communities is profound. 

And one of the things I would — I’m going to ask as part of the due-out of this — of this convening is that we get to all of the leaders here all the information about how small businesses that you work with, that you may run, that are in your community, know of the benefits that are available in real time.  Because I really do think of it as being part of a pathway to accelerating and, in some ways, addressing what have been long-standing disparities because of inadequate access, no access to this kind of information. 

But those are just some —

MS. DUCKETT:  Love it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — of the examples.

And you’d look at the CHIPS and Science Act.  I have been traveling around the world.  I have, as vice president, now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings.  And one of the big issues that I’ve been talking with them about, whether I’m in the Indo-Pacific or meeting with our European allies, is the importance of addressing the supply chain issues that became highlighted during the pandemic and what we need to do around U.S. manufacturing so that we are not caught in that vice again of relying on essential products from foreign countries where they may not be available to us, but also thinking about it in terms of an investment in U.S. manufacturing around things like semiconductor chips. 

We are, as a result of the investment that we’re making in a clean energy economy, doing a lot of investment in the innovations around electric vehicles — school buses, buses, large-capacity vehicles — and, again, thinking about what this means not only to strengthen our economy, to reduce reliance on foreign goods, but also then to invest in our workforce. 

And purposely, I think about all of this through many lens, including what we must do to address disparities based on race and the ability of folks to acquire and grow wealth for their families and for their communities. 

MS. DUCKETT:  No, I love it.  I love the connection between small business and recognizing how important it is.  There’s 61-plus million Americans.  We know it’s about 46 percent of the workforce comes through small business.  We also know that corporate America plays a role because there is an opportunity for us to make sure we’re doing our part when we think about business diversity. 

So it’s a “we” thing for sure.  And one of the things that you’ve talked a lot about, and we’ve even talked about, is the importance of private-public partnership.


MS. DUCKETT:  That we cannot do it alone.  It takes all of us to operate in a connected way.  And you have been very vocal.  I would love for you to share your thoughts about the importance of private-public partnership, especially given that you’re in the room with many leaders. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I will talk about public-private partnerships as a — a devout public servant.  (Laughter.)  We need these partnerships.  Because what I do know, and I have — I have held local elected office, statewide office; I was a United States Senator and, obviously, now vice president.  And I am acutely aware that the kind of work that we need to do to grow our economy and address some of the most longstanding issues and intractable issues will require that partnership for a number of reasons. 

Government uniquely has the ability to scale.  But it is the private sector that can often, unburdened by bureaucracy, make a meaningful investment with the skill set and the culture that understands the importance of a return on investment. 


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, I think about that in a number of ways, and I’ll give some examples of the most recent work I’ve done.  As you know, I just came back from the continent. 


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So I was — and I — I — it is as — one of my goals as vice president to redirect, reorder, in some ways, the relationship between the United States and the continent of Africa. 

And here is how I think about it: First of all, the median age on the continent of Africa is 19.  By 2050, one in four people on Mother Earth will be on the continent of Africa.  Also on the continent, we are looking at increasing food insecurity and energy insecurity.

So, what these numbers objectively tell us is that we’re looking at either great opportunity or potentially great risk.  Well, I like going with —

MS. DUCKETT:  Opportunity.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — the opportunity. (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  Yes.  Say less.  (Laughs.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And — exactly.

MS. DUCKETT:  Exactly.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Understanding — also, increasingly, it’s so obvious these days how interconnected and interdependent nations are.


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, I purposely curated that trip so it was not going to be about hungry children and malaria — not that those are not issues that should be addressed — but I purposely curated the trip so it was going to be about young entrepreneurs.


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  It was going to be about — and it was. 

This is what the trip was about: young entrepreneurs, about digital inclusion, understanding the importance of fintech, and getting people into a structured banking system, and what that does to empower individuals and, therefore, families and communities — in particular women, because when you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families, and the whole community benefits.  (Applause.)

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.  Yes, absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, we basically pulled together private partners.  And I got on the phone, and I —

MS. DUCKETT:  You did. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — called folks.  You know that.  (Laughs.)

MS. DUCKETT:  I do.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You.  (Laughter.) 

And said — and called folks and said, “Look, this is what I’m up to.  Join us.  Let’s — let’s do this together.”

Thus far, we have raised $8 billion, focused primarily on the digital inclusion piece, understanding the connection between that and — and agri-tech, right?


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Understanding the connection between — I’m also the head of the Space Council.  I am a space geek.  That will be a subject for another day.

MS. DUCKETT:  I love that.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  But how satellite technology — right? — but you have to have access to the tech — helps determine — and can help a farmer — a small farmer determine what crops to grow, to seed, because they will have an accurate sense of what the season will bring, right?  So, all of that.

And that work, focused on Africa, was based on work I did when we first came in as an administration, when the President asked me to address the root causes of irregular migration from the northern part of Central America, in particular, Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala.

So, there — then going back now about a year and a half — I pulled together a public-private partnership focused on, in particular, the agricultural issue there.  And we raised $4.2 billion focused on those countries to do the work.

And the — the partners were Microsoft.  The partners were — we had friends who are not only in technology, but in MasterCard, Visa.  All of these folks coming together.

And the beauty of a public-private partnership is I’m acutely aware of my ability and power to convene and then bringing folks together to break through silos with a common objective.  And so, that’s the work that we have done. 

And so, both in the northern part of Central America and in Africa — as two recent and, I think, very good examples — we have shown how the partnership actually benefits many more people than any of us could individually.

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.


MS. DUCKETT:  I love the fact that you’ve connected the dots in this conversation that didn’t start and end here in our country.  But this is a Global Black Economic Forum —


MS. DUCKETT:  — and you brought in your work and your passion and the importance to America on making sure that we’re connected in the work that you’re doing in Africa and the importance of all of us working together.

So I want to shift, because you said this earlier, and I know you want to get to it because it’s important to you, and that is the importance of mental health.


MS. DUCKETT:  And we know that we’re also in the backdrop of Essence, where there’s so many women here.  Can you take a moment to talk about mental health and also to inspire women and, really, everyone — because it’s impacting everyone — to hold on and have that joy that you talked about?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Well, first of all — so, back when I was actually DA of San Francisco, I started to look into the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder among children who were growing up in low-income communities, which, not by coincidence, also had high rates of violence.

And we started to do the work.  And I collaborated with a woman by the name of Nadine Burke Harris.  No relation to me.  Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. 

I encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to read her book, “The Deepest Well.”  A Black woman who started a clinic in Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco, which has a household annual income of 15 — 1-5 — thousand dollars a year.

     MS. DUCKETT:  In San Francisco.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  In San Francisco.

And so, we started to do the clinical work and bring it together.  And, basically, what we were not surprised to find out is that so many of children who are growing up in these circumstances, either in the — at home when there’s violence — and, by the way, that has nothing to do with socioeconomic status — or in a community, you know, where there is — there’s — there are no opportunities — and let’s also be clear that poverty is trauma-inducing, okay? — we realized just the number of young people who are growing up who have trauma that has been undiagnosed and untreated.  Interesting studies have been done on this, by the way. 

You know, forever, folks would say, “Oh, Black Americans genetically have high rates of high blood pressure and heart disease.”  And then studies were done.  Because, you know, for — for so many, you can kind of figure out the body type and figure out the original tribe, right?

MS. DUCKETT:  Right.  (Laughter.) 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And so, the studies were done of the original people — right? — on the continent.  No such heart disease.  No such high blood pressure.  “Oh, well, what caused it then?”  Well, hundreds of years of slavery and all of the other things — (applause) — that we are looking at that are these unique stressors that are — that are environmentally inherited, right?

And so, I say all this to say: We have to understand the big picture of it and then also understand the way the pandemic accelerated so many things — some, interestingly enough, like adoption of technology was probably helpful, but nothing else really was — and including accelerating the mental health crisis in America.

And so, I think the first thing that we have to do is agree that we should talk about it.

The second point that I’ll make is I’ve been convening also young men of color as entrepreneurs.

MS. DUCKETT:  Yes.  Yes. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I had a group of — who were so phenomenal, who were — I mean, they’ve got businesses that are dealing with space and with climate and all these other — and one of the things they raised with me when I said, “What would you like me to highlight,” in addition to access to capital, they said, “Please talk about mental health.”


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Our young people are more willing to talk about mental health than — I’ll speak for myself and any of you who are part of this generation — they are so much more willing to talk about it. 

To their credit, and the issue then becomes: Do we have the resources and are we inviting the conversation and receiving it with the resources and the support that is needed.  And I think we have more work to do in that regard. 

But you mentioned women, and I’d like to talk about a specific issue that is a subset of this, which is the issue of postpartum care. 


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, I have been for years, including when I was in the Senate — and my CBC sisters and I, in particular, were working on this — is dealing with the issue of Black maternal mortality.  In America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality.  Black women are three to four times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than other women. 

And, by the way, statistically, we know that it is not necessarily a function of her educational level or her socio- — socioeconomic level.  It literally has to do with the fact that when she walks in a hospital or a clinic or an emergency room, she is not taken as seriously. 

The other thing that compounds the issue is the unique stressors that are — all of the myriad of stressors that we know that Black women in America face. 

And so, one of the issues that I have been addressing then, as a subset of my focus on maternal mortality, has been the need to get postpartum care for women.  And when I — and so I did a call to action in December of ‘21, and at the time, only three states in our country expanded Medicaid coverage to expand postpartum care from 2 months to 12 months.  I did a call to action and basically put a lot of pressure on this and said: All states need to extend postpartum care up to 12 months.  (Applause.)  And so far, we have 35.  So it is working.

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s great.  That’s great.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So it is working. 

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s great.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Because, again, for — you know, for — for new mothers and for many who may have other children that — that — we have to treat the whole person and understand also that when we talk about healthcare, the body doesn’t just start from the neck down.  We also have to address healthcare from the neck up. 

But we, you know, also — you know, as Black people in America need to deal with the fact that there are still stigmas associated with this.  And so all of us as opinion leaders and — and having the resources that we do, I think it is very worthwhile in the energy that we expend in service to community and others to really highlight the importance of addressing this and understanding it’s a strength to ask for help and not a weakness. 

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.  So, strength. 


MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely. 

Now, one last question: You said “joy,” earlier; you are a “joy warrior.”  Caroline, CEO of Essence, has this space called “Chief To Chief” and recognizing that, as women, we are all chiefs.  We’re the CEOs of our home, we may be the CEO in the boardroom, we may be the CEO in our own domain, but we are all CEOs.

Joy.  Optimism.  We cannot get tired.  We have a lot of work to do.  Talk about your joy.  And leave us with some hope and some optimism, because we are still here and we still have good trouble ahead of us. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well — (laughter) — give me a minute.

MS. DUCKETT:  Give her a minute. 



THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That in spite of the fact that a 6-to-3 Court just undid Affirmative action, that there is probably one of the most brilliant dissents that any justice of the United States Supreme Court has ever written, and her name is Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.  Joy.

MS. DUCKETT:  Joy.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Joy that I look at our young leaders — and I will say, as a proud HBCU graduate and a —

MS. DUCKETT:  We know that was going to get in.  Somehow she was going to work that in.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, “Joy.”


MS. DUCKETT:  Joyful.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I look at our young leaders, and I hope everyone here, in addition to the children that we have and in our family, find time to just convene our young leaders.  I’m telling you, they’re so smart. 

And — and this generation of young leaders, they are bold.  They’re not having it.  They are — they are — they are saying — whether it be on the issue of the climate crisis or — or just knowing how adept they are to understand technology in a way that some of us feel really small when we’re around them — 

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — they’re so good.  And, you know, we were talking backstage.  And let’s remember, when we look at our young leaders, that John Lewis was in his 20s.


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Diane Nash was in her 20s.  Let me tell you — oh, I’ll tell you another example of — of my point about the young leaders: The two Justins in Tennessee. 

MS. DUCKETT:  Mmm.  That’s right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, you know, when they — when they were doing that — when that mess was happening in Tennessee and the — I’ll just — I have to just go with this for a minute.  These — there were three of them: the two Justins and — and Gloria.  They were “The Tennessee Three.”  And I’m with my husband, we’re watching the — the nightly news, and I see how they’re trying to shut up these elected leaders.  And I was so upset about it, I got on Air Force Two the next morning and went down to Tennessee.  (Applause.)

Because here is the thing: These young — these two young men in their 20s were there talk- — they’re elected in the chamber, during session, doing it — that session in a chamber that was designed — you know, but I’m sure there are architects here — it was designed for debate.  That’s how these — these buildings in these rooms are designed: for debate.  And they wanted to debate the importance of addressing gun violence in America and how it is killing young Black people every day.

And the leaders of that legislature turned off their microphones.  They are elected leaders in the chamber that was designed for debate, during session, to debate one of the biggest issues impacting our country, and they turned off their microphones.

And here is why I love them, and I was really prompted just to go down there and tell them that.  They were like, “Okay, you turn off my microphone.  Anybody got a bullhorn?”  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)  And they organized, and they organized young people.  Oh, they were not giving up.  They were not.  They’re not. 

So though — these are some of the things that gives me joy.

What gives me joy?  This convening. 


THE VICE PRESIDENT:  The fact that everyone is together under one roof, reminding ourselves and each other that we’re all in this together.  Nobody is alone.

Even though every day, each of us — or every other day — walks into a room where we may be the only one who looks like us or has had our life experience, but yet we know that when we walk in those rooms, we’re walking in with everyone and with a responsibility, then, to be the voice that carries the voice of so many who are not in that room and so many who have probably often never been in that room. 

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And that gives me joy. 

MS. DUCKETT:  I love it. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I am joyful about the challenges because I know we can meet them, and I know we love our country —

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and that we are prepared to fight for its ideals, understanding we’ve not yet achieved them but that the strength of our nation has been a commitment to the expansion of rights and freedoms. 

And I’m going to paraphrase Coretta Scott King, because I do all the time —

MS. DUCKETT:  It’s okay.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and I just feel it’s so apt.

MS. DUCKETT:  Absolutely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And she famously said: The fight for civil rights, the fight for equality, the fight for freedom, the fight for justice — the fight for civil rights, must be fought and won with each generation. 

And I think she had two points there.  The one is that it’s the nature of these fights that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent.  It’s the nature of it. 

So if you understand it’s the nature of it — the second point then — as an admonition, then do not despair.  Do not tire.  Do not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves. 

And so that’s — that’s part of it, too.  Let’s not be tired.  Let’s not be overwhelmed.  We know that we’re fighting for something — not against something, but for something. 

And — and we are strong.  And we are strong.  And we are on the right side of history. 

MS. DUCKETT:  That’s right. 


MS. DUCKETT:  So — (applause) — I have to wrap this whole thing.  We’ve talked about global economics.  We’ve talked about small business.  We’ve talked about the power of public-private partnership.  We’ve talked about mental health.  We’ve talked about the historic moment that will not tire us.  We’ve talked about joy. 

So I will say, as the President and CEO of TIAA, having the privilege to be only one of three Black women to ever lead a Fortune 500 — (applause) — I will say: Joy is sitting next to the Vice President of the United States.  Joy. 

Joy is convening at the Global Black Economic Forum. 

Joy is understanding that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  And when we widen the lens, even though today was hard, we cannot get tired, because it was their resilience, it was the strength of our parents —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. DUCKETT:  — it was the strength of the unsung heroes that create a space for this history to exist. 

So the future will always be brighter because we refuse to tire.  And the future will always be brighter because we are the ones raising the youth of today and of tomorrow. 

So, Essence Festival, Global Black Economic Forum, here with leaders, with the Vice President of the United States, Madam Kamala Harris: Thank you so very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

                          END                 3:35 P.M. CDT

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Politics - USA DAILY NEWS 24 originally published at Politics - USA DAILY NEWS 24