Stacey Abrams

Primary victory speech - May 22, 2018

Stacey Abrams
May 22, 2018— Atlanta, Georgia
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Stacey Abrams became the first black female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States when she won the Georgia Democratic primary on May 22, 2018.

Good evening, Georgia. I stand here tonight, I am so grateful to the thousands of you in this room and around this state and around this country who have joined me on this drive to history. We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s future. Where no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired. We are writing a history of a Georgia where we prosper — together.

And I want to offer my congratulations — my sincere congratulations — to Stacey Evans and her campaign and all of her supporters tonight. This was a hard-fought race. And I know for the journey that lies ahead, we need every voice in our party — and every independent thinker in the state of Georgia. We need us all to be energized, and we need to be side by side so we can succeed, and so I hope that you will all join us in our fight for the future.

But let's be clear: Our mission is about more than success at the ballot box in November. Our mission is to see beyond the challenges that face us, to create a Georgia where our dreams and our aspirations become real and lasting legacies. We are trying to create a state of excellent schools, with jobs that create wealth and opportunity, with good leaders who stand up for all of us. Because that is why we are here. To ensure that all Georgians, from farmers in Montezuma to mill workers in Dalton, know that we value them. So that educators in Sparta and airport workers in College Park know we see their efforts. So that former prisoners across our state working towards more know we believe in their redemption. We are here to ensure that everyone who calls Georgia home has the freedom and opportunity to thrive — to live their very best lives!

Now, I am a product of the power of that mission. I am the child of a shipyard worker and a college librarian, who were called to become United Methodist ministers. I am a proud daughter of the Deep South. And I grew up the second of six children in a family where we struggled to stay above the poverty line, but we never struggled to know what was right or to believe in our possibilities. My parents instilled in us the core values of faith, of family, of service and responsibility. Hard work is in my bones.

And so is a deep respect for those who wake up early and come home tired but ready to read to their kids at night — or those families that come home just to change clothes to get ready for their second job. And all those who are just getting by or those who are doing well but worry for the next generation. I have a respect for those who care for their loved ones — or those who have already earned their rest and retirement. A respect for our service members, their families and our veterans. Our campaign and our work is for them and their security as we shape the future of this state that we love.

We have a tough race to come, and sometimes we can find it easy to forget about the solid ground beneath our feet. But we must remember that we’re in the state where the red clay gives life to generations of dreamers. The state where Martin marched on ballot boxes and challenged a nation’s conscience. A Georgia that gave us the Godfather of Soul, the queen of the Met — and sent a peanut farmer to the Oval Office. That is our Georgia.

And I know you know that as our state’s rich and complicated history courses through our memories on nights like tonight, when the unexpected becomes truth, it reminds us of who we are — how we’ve stumbled and how we’ve flourished — and it commands that we embrace our obligation to live up to Georgia’s tradition of pride and of promise, but to always remember our very complex roots.

And together, we will shape a future with a boundless belief and historic investment, with the children at the core of every decision we make. That means affordable child care for families and real pathways of opportunity from cradle to career. Because when all of Georgia’s children have a chance to reach their potential, regardless of their Zip code or their family’s salaries, we can reach our potential as a state — and we will unleash the full power of our people.

That is why public education and public schools must remain the beating heart of Georgia. We have to propel our young people towards lives of security and happiness and achievement. But even as I speak here tonight, public education is under assault in our state, with our kids and our educators being told to do more and more with less and less.

As the state’s ‘public education governor,’ I will use every tool we have to ensure that we stop shortchanging our children — and sabotaging our futures. Because our children deserve better than a basic education. They deserve excellence no matter where they learn. And together, we will deliver.

We deserve an economy that works in all 159 counties and gives Georgians the freedom to do more than just survive. We deserve a diverse and inclusive economy, one where one can succeed. And that gap — between struggle and success — has too often been overlooked by our leaders.

But together, we will renew the respect for the dignity of work in every field, every sector and every region of Georgia. We will respect the dignity of work, including the work of the staff right here in this hotel, who made tonight possible. Because there's a secret truth we don't talk about too often — because everybody wins when we choose to honor hard work with wages you can raise a family on. And the truth is, we can invite corporations to our communities and, at the same time, invest in the thousands of small businesses that keep our neighborhoods alive.

I will be the governor who brings more than jobs to Georgia — together, we can build career pipelines in renewable energy. We can spur creativity through a growing entertainment industry, and we can increase the strength of our trade unions to grow an economy that lifts every Georgian. Together we can build an economy as strong and diverse as our state. A state where we can give our people license to dream and the opportunity they deserve to achieve.

Because you know what, across Georgia, we are ready for more. I was down in Macon a few months ago, where I met Pam, a proud mother about to send both of her daughters off to college. One wants to teach, and the other wants to study criminology. The one who wanted to be a teacher was a few months away from giving birth to a child of her own. Now, Pam understood that for her daughter to have a brighter future, she would spend the next four years raising her grandchild. Now this is the choice she made readily, because she dreamed of more for her girls. She was determined that her children would pursue degrees that she never received.

Then I asked Pam about her dreams — beyond her daughters, beyond her grandchild. What did she dream for herself? And, honestly, she looked at me like I was crazy. Finally, Pam told me that she’d been a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly for 20 years, and she'd assume that's what she'd be doing for the rest of her life. So I asked again: What did you want for yourself? And she hesitated, and then told me that no one had ever asked her that. So I pushed her again, and finally she said: "There’s a building down the road from my house in South Macon, and one day, I’d love to turn it into a day-care facility. Because I want to help young women like my daughter not have to give up on their dreams. And maybe even give them new skills and help kids get a head start."

But then she told me it wasn't really a dream. No one would ever loan her the money — because who was she to want so much? I am running for governor because Georgia must invest in Pam Inc. And we have to see her dreams as vital and real and necessary and true. Because as excited as we may become when a Fortune 500 offers to come to Georgia, we can grow the Georgia 5,000 by investing in our people and their solutions for our state. Because when those 5,000 small businesses hire 10 more neighbors, they will serve a generation, and we all will rise.

Because I'm going to be a governor who cares as much about Main Street, because not only can Georgians like Pam succeed, if we give them a chance, they can lift up their entire communities. And when Pam and her daughters and her grandchild prosper — we are on our way to a future in Georgia that can inspire us all.

Together, we will stand prepared to stand up for Georgians who believe they are in this alone. Because you see in our Georgia, we've got single mothers who are sifting through mounting bills on the kitchen table. We've got college grads battling against crushing loan payments that stand in the way of their ambition. Now, over the last decade, I’ve traveled to rural towns full of anxiety as the ground shifts beneath them. And we all know families battling crippling debt, and the very fear that an illness or accident may wipe them out financially, as they try to keep their loved ones safe and cared for.

To these families, and to all Georgians I say: I’m with you. I'm with you because I’ve been there. I’m still there. And as the next governor of Georgia, I will never stop fighting for you. For Pam. For Georgia. Because I am running for you.

But we have work to do. In too many ways, Republican leaders have failed these folks. By being too mean and too cheap to expand Medicaid, by jeopardizing our rural hospitals for political gain, they have put millions of Georgia families at risk. And we can do better than that. I want to lead Georgia because I know we can do more: We can protect our health care — we can safeguard our kids’ education and their lives. Together, we can continue to fix our criminal justice system and begin to defend our "dreamers." We can build the infrastructure that connects us one to another. We can repeal campus-carry, and we can expand HOPE.

We can lead a stronger Georgia, a more compassionate Georgia, a bold and ambitious Georgia. We can show the old guard something new — and we can fight together for the good of all. I'm running because I want every Georgia family to have the freedom and opportunity to thrive. You deserve nothing less, and I know Georgia can deliver a whole lot more.

But here's the thing: To claim our victory, to write that next chapter and live those best lives, we have a lot of work to do. We have to reach out to those who do not believe their voices matter. Who have been disappointed again and again by promises made and never kept. Who live in counties crushed by poverty and neglect. In suburbs isolated from jobs and opportunity and, sometimes, from each other. In cities where lack of affordability makes it harder and harder to stay. And in the next six months, we are going to have to work together to remake our Georgia.

With your help, we will register every last person we know. And we're going to search out those we don't know yet and prove they matter to us, too. Because our campaign will be a coalition that reaches across backgrounds, sharing our constant belief in our capacity to win. And with your hands knocking and your feet walking and your voices speaking out, every Georgian we touch will understand the value and the immense power of our vote.

Inaction can be contagious, but so can a passion for change. From our campuses to our neighborhood blocks, from our senior centers, outwards a wave is coming — and I know Georgians won’t stand on the sidelines.

In the Book of Esther, there’s a verse that reminds us that we were born for such a time as this. And now is a time to defend our values and protect the vulnerable — to stand in the gap and to lead the way. A time to know that this democracy only works when we work for it. And that's what we have done tonight and that is what we will continue to do — all the way to victory in November.

Because we know the power of the possible in Georgia. A Georgia that elected Shirley Clarke Franklin and Brenda Lopez. Jason Esteves and Keisha Lance Bottoms. Melanie Hammett and Sam Park. That is our Georgia. A Georgia that sees diversity as our strength and acceptance as our birthright.

So that’s [why] when I ask for your vote, I’m really asking you to vote for yourself. To vote for the people you know and love, the ones you work beside and worship with. For the Georgians you may never know but whose fate is undeniably tied to your own. These are the people on my mind tonight. And that’s who will be on my mind every single day as I go to work for you as your next governor.

And so tonight, my friends, we celebrate. We will rejoice and say thank you to all who got us this far. Enjoy it. Because tomorrow we hit the phones and the doors and the streets, and we will reach every Georgian with our message. Because this is our time to build a Georgia where everyone has the freedom and opportunity to thrive because our best lives are within reach. This is our moment, our chance to lift up Georgia. And if we fight, if we push, if we work, we will win!

And so, tonight, I say thank you all. Now let’s go get it done!

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