Kamala Harris

Remarks at California Democratic Convention - May 16, 2015

Kamala Harris
May 16, 2015— Anaheim, California
2015 California Democratic Convention
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Good afternoon! Good afternoon. It is always so great to be in Orange County and it's so great to see my fellow California democrats. Good afternoon.

So it's wonderful to be here, it’s so wonderful to be here to celebrate our party with so many of our friends and family. Let's take a moment to thank John Burton, who is building our party up from the grassroots with his Dem 2016 initiative. I have to tell you, I am excited to stand before you here today, not only as your Attorney General, but also as a proud California candidate for the United States Senate.

I'll tell you the last five years have been pretty exciting. Traveling up and down the state as your Attorney General. But in the last four months, there's been one question I get almost everywhere I have gone since declaring my candidacy. That old elephant in the room, people want to know how can you possibly expect to get anything done with the culture of dysfunction in Washington DC.

And here's what I say. Let's start by recognizing all the things that Senator Barbara Boxer got done for California, in spite of that intense partisanship. Just think how she cut through the gridlock. She united a National Coalition of Business and Labor. She united Democrats and Republicans. United people from every region coast to coast to pass a federal transportation bill that California so sorely needs. Putting millions to work and building our economy for the long term.

Just think how Barbara led the clarion call against climate change. How she created more than one million new acres California wilderness. How she fought for families and children in every way including the first ever-federal authorization for after school care. That doesn't even count. Every time she stood up on the floor of the United States Senate to fight off dangerous attacks on our jobs, our families, and our environment. Oh how we can count the ways to thank senator Barbara Boxer. Thank you.

My approach to public service has greatly been influenced by the circumstances of my birth. And many as you know my story. My parents met when they were graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley when they were active in the civil rights movement. Growing up it seemed like my sister Maya and I were surrounded by a bunch of adults who spent full-time marching and shouting about this thing called justice. The heroes we looked up to were the great civil rights lawyers, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motley. It was they who inspired me to become a lawyer

So when I finished law school my family gathered around and they said okay Kamala, so what are you going to do in your fight for justice? I was so thrilled and excited to tell them that I had decided to become a prosecutor. So you're laughing because you have a sense of my people. Yes, with some of them I had to defend the decision like one with the thesis.

Yes, said they were some of them a bit curious and taken aback. But what I said then is what I maintain today. The people most likely to get preyed upon are our society's most vulnerable, immigrants, women, and poor people, are people subject to hate crimes. In the over 20 years as a prosecutor and as the top cop of this state, and the biggest state in this country, I will tell you there is one point I always emphasize.

When we charge someone with the crime, the complaint doesn't read the name the victim versus the name of the defendant. It reads the people versus the defendant. That is because in our country's beautiful system of justice, we understand that when any one of us is harmed it is harm against all of us, and a crime against any one of us, is a crime against all of us.

This is the philosophy then that I have brought to my work as district attorney and attorney general, and it is the same philosophy I will bring to the United States Senate. Because democrats, we understand this is the philosophy that recognizes that when a child drops out of school, it everyone's future on the line. It’s the philosophy that says when our neighbors are struggling, the entire community suffers. When the rights of any one of us are denied, its everyone's Liberty that is at stake.

And I'll tell you, when we were growing up we talked about opportunity as a ladder. That ladder of opportunity described America, as a place were anyone could lift themselves up. Anyone could reach higher, and everyone has a right to the American dream.

Of course we know what the rungs are on that ladder. Universal public education, meaningful access to college or a trade, a job that can support a family, the dream of home ownership and the dignity that comes with a secure retirement.

Democrats, we know that this is the ladder that has been instrumental in every tower we have ever built, and every wall we have ever scaled. We know the more that the more our people have been lifted up, the better we have been able to see, beyond the horizon, and realize our promise as a nation.

Yet we know that today the ladder of opportunity is broken, and needs repair. We know the ladder is broken when the gap between the rich and the rest is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. When the minimum wage translates into poverty for a single mother struggling to care for her babies. When we have 1.5 million African-American men missing all in our jails and prisons.We know it's time to repair the ladder.

As California democrats we know our diversity is our power. We know we are strongest when we all stand together. The same way we know marriage equality is a civil right. We know income inequality is a civil wrong.

So Democrats, I promise you this. As your senator I intend to do what I've done for so long as a prosecutor. I intend to represent the people of the state of California. I'll tell you what it means to stand up for the people.

It means standing for an economy that works for all people. It means for all those moms and dads working two jobs just to get by, a federal minimum wage that provides them more than fifteen thousand dollars a year. It me defending collective bargaining rights for working America standing against an organized assault on organized labor. It means remembering what the great Cesar Chavez said. From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.

And standing up for the people means fighting for children, even though they don't write the big checks or have the fanciest lobbyist in DC. It means universal pre-k, it means the whole day kindergarten, affordable child care for every family and a fair shot at college for every graduate.

I'll tell you what else it means. It means standing up for all those students getting ripped off by diploma mills, who exploit hard working people, stripping them with a worthless degree, lifetime of debt. They have strapped them, with a useless degree and a lifetime of debt. We must stand up for those students.

And standing for the people means defending the environment. Because as has been said, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. It means taking on those science deniers who insist that the Earth is flat, the Loch Ness monster is real and climate change doesn't exist. Are you kidding me? With the worst drought in history, what more evidence do they need? Standing up for the people means a reliable water future for California, because we don't want to see me the bathtub rings that are lining our lakes an our reservoirs, and democrats we know conservation is the only honest solution.

Standing up for the people means standing with our immigrant communities and the millions living and working in the shadows, it is time for a full pathway to citizenship. And by the way, it also means standing up for the DREAMers against the extremist in congress, who want to deny them opportunity to serve our country in our military.

It means keeping faith with California’s 1.8 million veterans who have more than held up their end of the bargain, and we need to do the same when they get home. And I'll tell you what standing up for the people also means, it means challenging the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing the war on drugs was a failure. And Democrats, on that point let's be clear also, now is the time to and the federal ban on medical marijuana.

Standing with the people also means being a leader on foreign policy, recognizing that we do live in a dangerous world, and also recognizing America is always strongest when we lead with our values. Standing with the people means defending our Constitution, the rule of law. Equal protection, the right to marry anyone you love and the right to control our reproductive health care decisions and our own bodies.

So Democrats, I believe we can disrupt the dysfunction in DC, as long as we don't throw up our hands and instead me roll-up our sleeves. I know we can't do it if we take heed what Coretta Scott King famously said, “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in each and every generation”. We, California democrats, are that generation so let's repair the ladder, let's keep the promise, and let's earn it and win it in 2016. Thank you.

Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpFS413pz9c.