Oh boy. How are you? I know you're good. I see you here. I've seen this program, and I know that it is sponsored by women, it's focused on women and it talks about the power of women – so I know you're great.
Thank you so much for that warm welcome. Thank you, Valerie [Jarrett], for that kind introduction and for the work you do to promote opportunity and advance the cause of justice. I’m so excited to be here today with all of you – all of you – advocates, allies in the cause of equality. I want to thank the First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls for convening today’s event, for honoring the power of women, and for ensuring that women’s issues are seen for what they truly are: American issues. And I know you have had outstanding speakers today. I heard you had some good names. Everyone who has been here has dedicated themselves to ensuring that women have the equal access to education, to employment, to health care, to the security that all Americans deserve. But let me reserve my greatest thanks for all of you. All of you have come here today, but before you came here, you have been working in your communities, you have been working in our schools, you have been working in our places of business – day in and day out – to build a world that is more safe, that's more tolerant, more equal and more just – not just for some, but for all. You have been building the world that our daughters will inherit, and I could not be happier to meet all of you.
Now of course, that goal feels so poignant today as we think about the kind of world we want for all of our children. Even as we gather here for a summit about seeking the way forward, about lighting the road ahead, I know that all of us are still feeling the impact, we're still reeling, from the events of this weekend in Orlando. I want you to know that, at the Department of Justice, I and all of my colleagues –the FBI, the ATF, the National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Florida, our state and local partners – are doing everything that we can to investigate this appalling crime. We will bring all resources to bear – everything we have – to this investigation. And of course for all of us, our hearts and prayers are with those 49 innocent lives lost; they're with the many more who were threatened or injured; and with the families and loved ones whose lives have been changed forever.
But as we focus on our response to this terrorist attack – and we will respond – let us never lose sight of who the victims were. Let us never lose sight of them, but it is for them that we fight, that we move, that we investigate. It is for them that we build this legacy. As President Obama has said, this was an act of terror and it was an act of hate. We know the story by now. It's target was a gay club during a Latin night and the individuals who were harmed, who were killed were members and friends of the LGBT community – many of them Latino. These men and women – many of them young people –went to a club just to enjoy their evening, to spend time with friends, to celebrate Pride Month in a place where they could be themselves, in a place where they could breathe freely and in a place where they could feel safe. And as we all know – everyone needs a place of safety – everyone.
I know that the women in this room and women all around the country, understand the importance of a place of safety – a place where you don’t have to look over your shoulder, or worry about your surroundings. A place where you can relax, a place where you can let your guard down, a place where you can simply be who you are. Everyone needs a place of safety – everyone. For some people, a safe place of safety can be your church, in can be your mosque; for others, it can be your community center, it can even be your sorority house. This gathering itself, here today, is a safe place for collaboration, a safe place for discussion, a safe place for growth among women, where we can speak each other, we can learn from each other in a supportive atmosphere. But for our friends, for our family, for our loved ones in the LGBT community, places that offer safety, inclusion and acceptance have historically been few and far between even as they remain profoundly necessary. Everyone needs a place of safety – particularly because for LGBT friends and family, home isn’t always the place where you are safe from judgment or violence. Everyone needs a place of safety. And so the bars and the clubs have, at times, provided that haven from judgment, that respite from intolerance, that source of comfort and community. Indeed, they have provided sanctuary.
This attack this weekend was made all the more devastating because it occurred in such a place – a place that was supposed to be safe. It has deeply damaged a sense of security. It has left a profound feeling of loss. As always, the question we ask ourselves is, where do we go from here? For me, the larger answer is that, in response to this tragedy, we must examine what we can do – and what we must do – to make our country, this beautiful country that we call home, a place of safety and comfort for all Americans – no matter who we are, no matter where we’re from, no matter what we look like, no matter whom we love. Everyone needs a place of safety – everyone.
We're moving forward in that work, those of us at the Department of Justice, but there's also ways for all of us here and in this country. Within the Department, we will continue to investigate this attack and see if there are lessons we can learn to prevent another tragedy. But for all of us – all of us – there are ways we can move forward. We need to have the hard discussions. We need to talk about gun laws that allow an individual to legally purchase weapons that facilitate mass killings. We have to have those hard discussions. We have to push back on the voices that prey on fear and that sow division. And most of all, we have to stand up. We have to stand against hate. We have to stand for love, a love that embodies America at its best. As we all try, as we always do, to make some sense, to find some reason in an inherently senseless act, I want all of our LGBT friends, our neighbors, our family members to know this: that we support you, we stand with you and in the aftermath of this horrific attack we have been inspired by you. We have been inspired by your community coming together in resilience, coming together in strength, coming together in love. And I know you have relied on all of these in the past – to know yourselves, to declare yourselves and to stare down prejudice with a defiant pride. You are giving all of us the example that we need to rebuild our sense of safety, to rebuild our sense of community and to vow never to let fear take hold – and we honor you for that.
This is not an easy task, particularly in light of such pain and such loss, particularly in the aftermath of an attack like this one that shakes our sense of self, shakes our understanding of our own safety and that has the potential to make us doubt who we are, to make us wonder what can we truly accomplish together. It can be so tempting to give in to cynicism and despair. It can be so easy to believe that our progress has been an illusion – that one step forward will always be met with two steps back. But I want us to remember – remember and hold on to this – the victims of this attack were living in an America that had newly recognized their fundamental right to marry; there were living in a country that had draped the White House in a rainbow flag; they were living in a world where the highest court in our land had declared that “love is love.” And remember this, and know this, and hold on to this – we are still that country. That is still us. And let us declare, let us be clear, let is make it so, that far from dividing us as terrorism aims to do, let us show the world that this attack, this attack has brought us together in support, has brought us together in solidarity, has brought us together in love.
That was so clear over the last few days – the long lines of men and women in Orlando waiting to give blood to help people whose names they had yet to learn, they didn't even know. It was so clear in the vigil that was outside the White House by our LGBT friends and family members as the Gay Men’s Chorus sang “We Shall Overcome.” It is clear today, as we all gather together as women from different regions and different backgrounds; from different generations and different traditions – to talk about how we can draw our nation closer to the fulfillment of our fundamental belief: that all men and all women are created equal.
We are a country that shares a bond of common humanity – all of us, together – and that bond, that connection, that same sense that draws us together is stronger than anything that can divide us. It's stronger than race, it's stronger than ethnicity, stronger than nationality, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It's the principle on which this nation was built. It is the bedrock that our community shares. And it has drawn us all here together today, in our shared call for safety, for opportunity and advancement. And this common humanity, this bond, has been the spark that has ignited every movement for progress in our history – and every movement indeed has faced opposition, has faced threats; has faced violence and fear. But we have persevered. We are still that country. That is still us. And what we do, what Americans do, is we stand together. And that's what we will do in the aftermath of this attack. We will all stand together. We will all be united. We will all be proud.
And now this – that this Department of Justice and this Administration will never waver, will never falter, will never rest in our fight to make sure that these United States of America are a place of inclusion, are a place of equality, are a place of safety for all of us.
Thank you for letting me spend just a few minutes with you today. Thank you even more than that for coming together today. Thank you for your efforts to promote leadership, to create opportunity. Thank you for your support of those that people want to make us hate. Thank you for your love of people that others want to have divided away from us. Thank you for believing in the promise of America, in the promise of America's women, in the promise of American's future. I know you're going to have a wonderful rest of the conference. Thank you for letting me spend a few minutes with you here today.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.