I am so proud to welcome this great gathering of Golden State Democrats to my hometown of Anaheim. You know we call this the happiest place on earth. I grew up here I went to school here I learned to drive, fly, and surf here and I have been honored to represent this town in Congress since defeating B-1 Bob Dornan in 1996.
There was a time when Orange County was one of the most right-wing Republican strongholds in America. And it still is the reddest County in the Golden State. Until 1996 had it been decades since the Democrat was elected to the congress from Orange County, just a long boring line of conservative Republican men stretching back to the Bronze Age.
Well together we smashed through the red ceiling, and the glass ceiling, and we brought progressive Democratic leadership to my hometown. That was an important milestone and a transport transformational moment for our state, for our party, for women, and for Latino politics. That means a lot to me, to my constituents, and to my family.
When I was a little girl my grandmother would leave the house early in the morning to walk a mile to the bus stop to go to work. She earned the minimum wage, and she stood on her feet all day, cooking three meals a day at a convalescent home of three hundred people. Sunday was her only day off, and she devoted it to God.
I remember that every Christmas I would receive the same gift under the Christmas tree from my grandma. Three stocks and three undies. You know, I wasn’t much thrilled about that until many years later, when I realized that if grandma wouldn't have given me what she did, I probably wouldn’t have had anything new.
When she could no longer stand on her feet, my grandma retired. On 484 dollars a month of Social Security. Just enough to retire in her daughter's home here in Anaheim. My grandmother became a citizen. I remember on that day she was waving her little American flag and tears were coming down. She became a citizen because she was looking forward to voting for me for the congress.
In September before the November election, I went to see my grandma, as I did three or four times a week, it's very Latina thing to do. I went to my mom’s house, and I went up the stairs, I went to my grandmother's bedroom and she had to know her little altar with the Jesus candles and everything going on there. I told her I was going to DC, for a few days to raise money for my election. She told me not to go.
That she was going to die that weekend, and would never see me again. Then she started to cry. She told me that she felt like a failure. I said, why grandma? And then she said that there were only two things she had really wanted to do in her life, which made her feel like she wasn’t a success. One was to meet the Pope, and the other west to own her own home. Nothing big, she said, just little house with a garden. And I said goodbye to my grandma that day, and went to Washington, and before I returned my grandmother had died.
Three months later I was in the congress. My grandma died feeling like a failure, but she is the only grandmother in American history to send two granddaughters to the United States Congress. On that day when I held that my hand and my sister was standing next to me for the first time in that great chamber at the house of representatives, when we we're being sworn, I looked up to the sky and I said grandma, I hope you know how have successful you have been in America.
My grandmother taught me more than I can say, more than I know, we all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Most of all she taught me, to fight for what's right, and what's in your heart. I have been true to that principle.
That's why I voted against the Iraq war in 2002 when too many of both parties were rushing to war. That's I fought a long, all uphill, battle since 2003 to reform the military justice system to better address a plague of sexual assaults in the armed forces. I also founded and co-chaired the women in the military caucus, which has fought for gender equality in the military, and just two years ago we ended the policy of excluding women from combat roles traditionally reserved only for men. I also fought to end the discriminatory and irrational Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, that that so many lesbian and gay soldiers, airmen, and Marines. They now can serve proudly and with human dignity that they have always deserved. I have fought long for them.
I have fought long and hard against the scourge of human trafficking here and abroad. I have been a scourge to foreign governments who oppress and persecute political dissidents. I founded the Vietnam caucus in the house, I have met with dissidents in Hanoi and with families of political and religious prisoners. I have pressured the Vietnamese government so hard and so long, that their congress voted to deny me a visa and to deny me entry into their country, the last time I tried to go there.
You see, I believe in doing what’s right, even when it's unpopular. I voted against the Patriot Act, the first time and great time it has come to the floor of congress. Because I believe we must preserve our sacred civil liberties, even the time a war and danger. I have for comprehensive immigration reform, and for the dignity and those millions who live, and work, and dream, in our communities. Who pray in our churches, who yearn to live free and right with the law. If only there was a way to achieve their dream of legal status, and family security, here, in the land of the free.
My family has lived the American dream, and I have worked to create those same opportunities for all. Regardless of race, or national origin. That is my passion. I want all Californians to believe that they have a place at the California table of opportunity. In short, my soul ambition is to do what is right for the people California, and that's what I have dedicated my life to. That’s why I announced on Thursday that I am running for the United States Senate.
You see, over the years I have encouraged so many people to run for office, to vote, to make a difference, especially women and young people and minorities. You know what? They have answered the call, and now they turn to me. I have answered the call once again, and I will see it through.
For as my husband says, si se puede! If we run, if we work, and if we vote, si se puede.
Now, I want to say something about yesterday. From early morning, until late at night, I spoke to many different caucuses, and to thousands of individual democrats. I’m going to tell you, that's what I love to do. Because I love people. I believe in our party, I love you all for caring enough to be here, and to fight for our principles in your communities, on your school boards, in your city councils, in your union halls, your precincts, all over California.
Those of you who put yourselves out there like I do. Who open up your heart, indeed, who don't hide behind the handlers, and you know how hard it can be. It’s hard to put yourself out there, and to do what leaders need to do. Day in, and day out. Yes, sooner or later we make mistakes. Because you know what, we're all humans. But that is the only way that we truly connect with people. You cannot change the world from behind a desk. So in this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I something offensive, and for that I sincerely apologize.
But I am proud my record on human rights, on civil rights, on minority rights, and on the rights of Native Americans. They know me, they know my record, and they know how much that I've spent, how much time I have spent with them at their tribal councils, listening to them, advocating for them, they know that I have always had their backs. They know what many you don't know, that like so many Mexican-Americans, I am proudly part Native American on my mother's side.
My record on equal rights is unassailable, and second to none in the congress or in this party. I have supported and fought for the dignity, the equality, and the aspirations of every part of our diverse and wonderful state and country. So I will take the high road. Let's respect each other, let's forgive each other, let's work together, and make this a great year of campaigning on the issues that we care about, and on the ideas that we share.
Because you know what, and we know this in Orange County, we've seen this in Orange County about democrats, there's so much more that unites us then divides us. I want my candidacy to inspire women, minorities, and younger people. And I want to inspire everyone who still believes in the American Dream and still believes that leaders can make a difference.
I believe that one of my opponents, Miss Harris, also has and inspirational story. I look forward to doing a good, clean, hard campaign that shows the world how democrats, and especially women, can be positive, powerful, and an inspiration of change.
You know, people used to say that trying to get democrats to work together was like herding cats. But today, it’s the Republicans who are in disarray, my friends. Believe me, I work with them in Washington, and I see close-up, Speaker Boehner's daily struggle to find unity among the quirky, the paranoid, and sometimes the down-right wacky, Republican caucus.
Over the years, I have heard them advocate just about everything, from a flat tax, to outlawing science in the schools, outlawing access to family planning services, requiring drug tests for food stamp recipients. After 9/11 they wanted to arm pilots, after Sandy Hook they wanted to arm school teachers, as though every problem can be solved by handguns.
They write books denying global warming, denying our president's birth certificate and even denying lunar landings. Deny, deny, and deny, you cannot change the world from behind a denial.
But today, California democrats are a unified and powerful force, not on all the issues, but on our principles. I don't know but you, but I have heard a lot of great ideas here this weekend. I am encouraged, it is encouraging to see that we have such a deep bench, and such a great future.
Listening to all these eloquent leaders, it’s easy to think that ideas are what matter, and that’s all we need to win. But my fellow Democrats, remember this, ideas are like sailboats, they can be beautiful, and shiny, and of full potential, but they cannot go anywhere without the wind.
What is the wind? You are. You or the wind. Take what you learned here, take heart from the energy, and the commitment that you have felt here. Unfurl your sails today. Work, motivate, organize, lead, and vote. Be the force that launches our ideas into the future. Our ideas cannot change the future by themselves. They need you.
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