Ritz Theatre and Museum
4:03 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. (Applause.) Good afternoon. Good af- — (applause) — (laughs) — to all of you, thank you.
Have a seat. Have a seat.
Let me, first of all, thank Jennifer. She and I and the Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick, Ben Crump, Tracie Davis, Representative Angie Nixon, Derrick Johnson from the NAACP, we’re — we had some time, before I came out, to talk with each other. And I just want to say that there is extraordinary leadership, Jennifer, and everyone else, in this state. And you are not alone. (Applause.) You are not alone. You are not alone.
I’ll tell you, yesterday, I was traveling to meet with some folks, when I heard the news about what happened here. And our team and the President, you know, is completely on board with this. We said we got to remind the folks of Florida that you’re not fighting out here by yourselves. (Applause.) We believe in you. We believe in the people of Florida.
And so, I decided to come and visit with you today. (Laughs.)
And — well, let me start by saying this. I am a product of a public school education. (Applause.) I was sharing with some of the teachers earlier: My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Frances Wilson, God rest her soul, attended my law school graduation.
AUDIENCE: Aww —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am a product of teachers and an educational system that believed in providing the children with the full expanse of information that allowed them to then — and encouraged them — to then reach their own conclusions and exercise critical thought in a way that was directly intended to nurture their leadership.
I am fully aware that it is because of that approach that I stand before you as Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
So when I think about where we are today, and who we are as a community of people within the beauty of the diversity that I see in front of me, I know that there are many things we share in common. And, first and foremost, we share in common a deep love of our country and the responsibility we each have, then, to fight for its ideals. That is so critically important on the subject, then, that gathers us here today.
Because, you see, when we think about it, part of true patriotism means fighting for a nation that will be better for each generation to come. (Applause.) Right? Believing that our nation is worth the investment in fighting for the children of America, that we will provide them with the information they need to go into the world and lead. (Applause.)
I will tell you, as Vice President of the United States, I have now met with over 100 world leaders — presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings. One of the things about who we are as Americans is we can walk in those rooms with the authority earned, for the most part — except recently, sometimes — (laughs) — earned authority to walk in those rooms talking about what it means to uphold democracies, the importance of rule of law, human rights.
And when we walk in those rooms, we do it proud of the fact that we have been held up and held out as a role model.
Well, the thing about being a role model is this: When you’re a role model, people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. (Applause.)
So, understand the impact that this is happeni- — having not only for the children of Florida and our nation, but potentially people around the world. Because, on a more specific point, in that regard, we want to know that we are sending our children out as role models of a democracy, who, therefore, know the importance of speaking and telling truth, the importance of understanding when you are a leader, you must know history. (Applause.)
And, by the way, be really clear — be really clear: All the folks that we would go out and send our children to go and meet around the world are clear about our history, and we’re going to send our own children out to not know what it is? Building in a handicap for our children, that they are going to be the ones in the room who don’t know their own history when the rest of the world does?
Think about this for a moment — the levels of proportion.
So when I think about where we are, I do believe that our strength as a nation has always been because we are continuously and always invested in fighting to reach our ideals.
And let’s remember the preamble to the Constitution of the United States. Ben Crump.
MR. CRUMP: Yes, ma’am. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union” is part of the spirit behind our founding as a democracy. Implicit in those words is we understood we must strive to form a more perfect union. Implicit in those words was an understanding we are imperfect. And we must be honest about that to understand, then, our history, where we’ve been, and then have a North Star in terms of where we must go. (Applause.)
So when I think about what is happening, then, here in Florida, I am deeply concerned. Because let’s be clear: I do believe this is not only about the state of Florida; there is a national agenda afoot. (Applause.) And what is happening here in Florida? Extremist so-called leaders for months have dared to ban books. Book bans in this year of our Lord 2023.
Extremists here in Florida passed a law, “Don’t Say Gay,” trying to instill fear in our teachers that they should not live their full life and love who they love. (Applause.)
And now, on top of all of that, they want to replace history with lies. Middle school students in Florida to be told that enslaved people benefited from slavery.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: High schoolers may be taught that victims of violence, of massacres were also perpetrators.
I said it yesterday: They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us — (applause) — and we will not have it. And we will not have it.
And, you know, as parents, we teach our children to tell the truth. It’s one of the first things we teach our children: love and honor their parents, their God, and tell the truth. We teach our children not only to tell the truth, but to seek knowledge and truth.
It’s part of what we know is about putting them on the road for them to grow and develop for the sake of our mutual well-being and prosperity. These are the things we tell them.
Well, I think we should model what we say. (Applause.) These extremist so-called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach, if we really are invested in the well-being of our children. Instead, they dare to push propaganda to our children.
This is the United States of America. We’re not supposed to do that. (Applause.)
And here’s the other piece about this. Now, when adults know what slavery really involved — come on — adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother. It involved some of the worst examples of — of — of depriving people of humanity in our world. It involved subjecting to people the requirement that they would think of themselves and be thought of as less than human.
So, in the context of that, how is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization? (Applause.) In the midst of these atrocities, that there was some benefit? (Applause.)
So, it is not only misleading; it is false. And it is pushing propaganda. People who walk around and want to be praised as leaders, who want to be talked about as American leaders, pushing propaganda on our children. Pushing propaganda on our children.
And when we think about it, you know, when we send our children to school, as parents, we want to know that they are be taugh- — they are being taught the truth. It is a reasonable expectation. It is a reasonable expectation that our children will not be misled. And that’s what’s so outrageous about what is happening right now: an abject and purposeful and intentional policy to mislead our children.
And so, let us be clear: Teachers want to teach the truth. (Applause.) Teachers want to teach facts. And teachers dedicate themselves to some of the most noble work any human being could take on: to teach other people’s children — (applause) — for the sake of the future of our nation.
And so, they should not then be told by politicians that they should be teaching revisit- — revisionist history in order to keep their jobs.
What is going on? (Applause.)
Our teachers who fear that if they teach the truth, they may lose their job. As it is, we don’t pay them enough. (Applause.) You know! I know.
And these are the people — these extremist, so-called leaders — who all the while are also the ones suggesting that teachers strap on a gun in the classroom instead of what real leaders should be doing and be engaged in reasonable gun safety laws. (Applause.)
These are the same extremist leaders — so-called leaders — who make teachers fear losing their job for having a photograph of their spouse on their desk. (Applause.)
But let’s be clear: On this issue, as it — with — this is not the first time in history that we’ve come across this kind of approach. This is not the first time that there are powerful forces that have attempted to distort history for the sake of political ends.
Think about in the past how we have seen attempts to minimize and even deny the Holocaust. (Applause.) Think about those who tried to rewrite the history of the Japanese internment camps, erase our nation’s dark and sordid history in how we have treated the Native people and, in particular, through educational systems. (Applause.) Those who have tried — and there are states where they have — to ban teaching Latino and Hispanic history.
This is not the first time.
But when we think about it then in the context in which we should — understanding there is a national agenda afoot, understanding that there are many aspects of our history that some would like to overlook, erase, or at least deny — let us think about then what this creates as a moment for us to also then rededicate ourselves to the coalition. (Applause.) Our responsibility at moments like this to understand nobody should be made to fight alone. We are all in this together. (Applause.)
And take a look — because, you know, there are a lot of teachers here, I think. So I’m going to tell — you know, one of the things I love is Venn diagrams. Any math teachers in the room? I love Venn diagrams. And I have — I have done an exercise of — of looking to see from where are we seeing the attacks on things like voting rights, LGBTQ rights, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, book bans. And you will not be surprised to know a lot of them revert to the same source.
So, let’s think about this then as an opportunity to build back up the coalition of all people who believe in our foundational and fundamental truths — the truth that we are and will be a more perfect union when we fight for justice — (applause) — when we fight for equality, when we fight for fairness, guided by a belief in who we are as a nation and telling our truths.
And I will — I’ll close with this. History has shown us that, in our darkest moments, we have the ability to unite — (applause) — and to come out stronger. We know E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.”
That is who we are in this room. Out of many, one.
Americans who came here through Ellis Island. Americans who were kidnapped and brought over on slave ships. Americans who are native to this land.
Our history as a nation is born out of tragedy and triumph. That’s who we are. Part of that is what gives us our grit — knowing from where we came, knowing the struggles that we have come through, and being stronger in our dedication to saying, “No more” and “Not again.” (Applause.)
It is part of what makes up the character of who we are as America. So let’s reject the notion that we would deny all of this, in terms of our history.
Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow we will be better if we forget. We will be better if we remember. (Applause.) We will be stronger if we remember.
We fought a war to end the sin of slavery. A civil war. People died by the untold numbers in that war, many of whom fought and died because of their belief that slavery was a sin against man — (applause) — that it was inhumane, that it was not reflective of who we believe ourselves to be as a country, and certainly not reflective of who we aspire to be.
So who then would dare deny this history? Who would dare then deny that these lives were lost and why they were lost and what was the cause that they were fighting for and what were they fighting against?
They weren’t fighting and dying because they thought people were — were going to be okay with this thing. (Applause.) It’s because they knew that it had to end because it was so, so criminal.
So, we know the history, and let us not let these politicians, who are trying to divide our country, win.
Because, you see, what they are doing — what they are doing is they are creating these unnecessary debates. This is unnecessary to debate whether enslaved people benefited from slavery. Are you kidding me? (Applause.) Are we supposed to debate that?
Let us not be distracted by what they’re trying to do, which is to create unnecessary debates to divide our country. Let’s not fall in that trap.
We will stand united as a country. We know our collective history; it is our shared history. We are all in this together. (Applause.)
We know that we rise or fall together as a nation. And we will not allow them to suggest anything other than what we know: The vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.
And so, let us stand always for what we know is right. Let us fight for what is right. And when we fight, we win. (Applause.)
God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 4:27 P.M. EDT