Well this is the day the lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. You know, it doesn't get much better, being in a house of prayer, introduced by your great pastor, who hails from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Small world but great world. I am so grateful to pastor Stewart, for this congregation, for giving me the chance to come and say a few words that are on my heart, about this community. I want to thank and lift up your mayor, a mayor who is a true servant leader. Someone who is working everyway she knows how, to provide the help and support that all the people of Flint deserve to have, and in particular the children of this community.
I feel blessed to be here with you, I wish it was for a different reason. I wish I were here only to celebrate the good things that are happening in this church and this community. Young people who are starting out, making a better life for themselves, community leaders working to bring the city together. The ministers that guide you in faith and worship. But I am here, because for nearly two years, flints water was poisoned.
I'm here because for nearly two years, mothers and fathers we're voicing concerns about the waters color, about the smell, about the rashes that it gave to those who were bathing in it. For nearly two years, you were told, Flint was told, that the water was safe. I have just met with two young mothers, who have told me the stories of their experiences, and particularly what has happened to their children. Emergency room visits that never occurred before, behavioral problems in school that have never been a problem before.
Worries about what's down the road in terms of the development and the life and opportunities of these precious children. One young woman in her thirties said, you know, I'm not supposed to be talking to my friends about how much medication we're taking, what kind of stresses we're under, but that's what we talk about now.
I thank the elected officials who are here, the pastor asked them to stand and I appreciate greatly, the work that they are doing at the city, the county, the state and the federal level. I had the opportunity to be with your senator, and my friend, Debbie Stabenow, who is working hard along with your other senator, Gary Peters, and the congressman are here as well, congressman Kildee and Levin and others, to try and get support and help from the federal government. But I want you to know, that this has to be a national priority, not just for today or tomorrow. Clean water is not optional, my friends. It is not a luxury.
I said weeks ago, if what had been happening in Flint, had been happening in Gross Point, or Blue Field Hills, I think we all know we would have had a solution yesterday. This is not merely unacceptable, or wrong, though it is both, what happened in Flint is immoral.
The children of Flint are just as precious, as the children of any other part of America. They are just as deserving of good health care, of good education, and of bright futures. My first job out of law school was working for the most extraordinary, Mary Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund. I went to work there because I believed, because of the lessons and examples of my mother and my church, that every child, every single child should have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential in this country of ours.
We don't yet know how many children have been effected by lead poisoning. We don't yet know how many challenges they will face in the years ahead. But what we do know, we know that even a single child suffering lead poisoning, due to the state's neglect, is one child too many.
We also know we need action now, not next month, next year, down the road, we need action now. Senator Stabenow, and Peters, your other congressional representatives, are working to pass an amendment to get 200 million dollars to fix Flint's water infrastructure. Congress needs to pass that bill immediately. This is no time for politics as usual. Flint should start being able to make the repairs you need to restore safe water, as soon as possible.
But it's not only the physical infrastructure that needs to be fixed. It's the human beings. We need to do so much more to provide healthcare, and educational supports, for Flint's children. To test for lead and its effects on an ongoing basis, and to treat them. You can't just take one test and know you're safe. We need to make sure Flint's kids are getting good nutrition, to help counter the effects of the lead. We need to expand early Head Start, nurse home visiting programs, special education funding, all of which must be used to address the damage that lead poisoning has caused.
I have seen for myself, my friends, the incredible good work that programs like these can do. For eight years I represented New York. Our problem with lead poisoning in New York was not the water, it was the lead-based paint on the old houses that people lived in. It was the crumbling, turning into dust, of that. It was little toddlers, crawling on the floor, picking things up, licking them as babies do. It was breathing it. And we had, as so many places, especially in New England, and the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest, with a lot of older housing stock, and a lot of challenges, we had problems.
So as a senator I fought for children struggling to bear heavy burdens. I will fight for you in Flint, no matter how long it takes. We also need to repair the bonds of trust that have been broken here in Flint. That means giving you transparent information about every part of the response to this crisis. The people of this community should know what the plan is, for repairing the infrastructure. When the work will be done in your neighborhood. You should know whether you need to replace pipes and fixtures in your own homes. And I also, as the mayor and I were talking, I want to figure out if there is some way that we can't empower and hire citizens of Flint to do the work that needs to be done in this city.
And in addition, I think we should send a lot more AmeriCorps volunteers to come here, as we put young people to work, in Flint, working side by side with those who are a part of the national service of our federal government. Realizing that yes, this is a problem that effects Flint, but I dare say there are other communities with similar problems. This is not the only place where children are being harmed by what they breathe and what they drink.
You should have all the information that you need to know what this means for your children and grandchildren. What's true about lead poisoning and what isn't? What the challenges are. What you can do to help, and where you can turn for help. Now I know this is going to take time, and it's not going to be easy, but repairing trust is as important as repairing pipes.
We need to be able to lift each other up again. We have to trust each other. To count on each other. To truly be our brother's and our sister's keepers. When I first heard about what was happening here, I was so angry. I was outraged, and I know you must feel exactly the same.
When I talked to those three young women before coming out here, when I looked at the children of one of them, I was just heart sick. You try to do everything right, don't you. As a parent and grandparent, you want the best for those children who are such gifts, and something out of your control that you thought you could trust, has made it so much harder.
I wanted to come today and support your mayor and other officials who are fighting for you, also to support the faith community which I know pastor will have to play a big role. In working to get information out, in working to organize people, in trying to empower members of congregations. I want you to understand that this is, for me, a personal commitment. I will stand with you every step of the way. I will not for one minute forget about you, or forget about your children. I will do everything I can to help you get back up, to get your strength and resilience flowing through this community again, because what happened here should have never happened anywhere.
As you may know, I'm now a grandmother, and it is the best experience ever. I'm lucky enough that my daughter and son in law send me pictures all the time, because when I can't see her, I miss her so much. I was looking at some of those pictures on my phone, as I was coming here this morning. I literally could not imagine what I would be feeling if that little face I was looking at, were one of the faces of the children that you know and love so well.
So I want to thank those who have been calling for action, for so long. Your mayor, the mothers, the fathers, Dr. Mona, Mark Edwards, Senator Stabenow and Peters, Congressman Kildee, all who are working to try and get the help that you need.
I also want to encourage Americans all across our country, and I'm pleased that the press is here because we have to keep the spotlight bright. I want to encourage Americans to donate to FlintKids.org, and other organizations as a way of helping. I want to single out a group that came to my attention. Inmates at Handlon Correctional Faculty in Ionia, have pledged to donate as much as a third of their monthly prison incomes. They want to help you buy filters, and bottled water. They don't earn much, but they are moved to help this city.
We know we need more action. Do not grow weary doing good. Do not get discouraged. Do not give up. The road is long, and I know there will be a lot of bumps along its way, but this is the most important work we are ever called to do. To reach out, in every way that we can, no matter who we are, to lend that helping hand. That support, that love, that sense of possibility again for every single person in Flint.
I will be there with you. I will make sure, in any way that I can, that America stays with you too. I look forward to coming back to Flint, to seeing this community rise. Rise again, rise with determination, resilience, support, service, leadership. We can do this. Let's make sure we take care of the people of Flint, and give every child a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
Thank you all and God bless you.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbNQkhiiqGY.*