5:40 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. (Applause.) Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon, and Happy Black History — (applause) — celebration.
It is an honor to be with the incredible leaders and dear friends who are here today, including, of course, our extraordinary President, Joe Biden — (applause); our First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden — (applause); the first Second Gentleman of the United States, my husband, Doug Emhoff — (applause); and the esteemed members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who, of course — (applause) — are a conscience not only of the United States Congress but of our country.
So, during Black History Month, we come together as a nation to honor and celebrate our history — the history of Black excellence and leadership, culture and creativity, resilience and resistance.
During Black History Month, we tell the stories of the heroes of our nation’s past and of our present, leaders across our country and here in this room who shape our future.
This month and every month, we celebrate Black history as America’s history — living, breathing history that we create every day — (applause); history that must be taught in full. (Applause.)
History has also taught us that we must see clearly and speak truth about the moment we are currently in. And today, that means we must speak truth about the full-on attack we witness in states across our nation on our most fundamental freedoms, including the freedom to learn and acknowledge our nation’s true and full history.
Across our nation, we have witnessed extremists who try to erase our history. They censor history textbooks and cancel history classes. Tracie Hall, the first Black woman to serve as executive director of the American Library Association, reminded us last year, “Free people read freely.”
And yet, today, we see extremists who pass book bans — book bans in this year of our Lord, 2024. And these extremists not only try to erase the past but to rewrite it.
In Florida, the third-largest state by population in our nation, so-called leaders intend to teach our children that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us. And as I said in Florida last summer, this is an abject and purposeful and intentional policy to mislead our children and to divide and distract our nation with unnecessary debates.
Let us be clear, and I know we are: To build a brighter future for our nation, we must learn from our past. Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow it will be better to forget — if we edit out the bad parts.
No, we will be stronger when we remember. We will be better when we remember. Only if we learn the lessons of our history can we ensure that the wrongs and injustices will not be repeated.
So, let history remind us of the strength of the movements for progress and freedom in our nation — that America’s most sacred principles have been realized and strengthened when we, the people, fought for them generation after generation.
And now, let us all play part in the relay race that makes history, knowing that it is we who have been passed the baton. And the challenge for us is how well we run the race when the baton is in our hands. (Applause.)
So, in this moment, where we know there is a coexistence between all that is about the history of struggle and the history of celebration, knowing of our successes, during this month and always, let us celebrate the heroes and the excellence as we fight for our country and its most sacred ideals, knowing we are made for this moment and so was our President, Joe Biden — (applause) — a leader who has the strength, the skill, the courage, and the compassion not just to fight but to win.
And now, to introduce our President, it is my great honor to welcome an extraordinary young leader — I can’t wait for you to get to know him — Nijel Murray. (Applause.)
END 5:46 P.M. EST