Kamala Harris

Remarks at Juneteenth Concert - June 13, 2023

Kamala Harris
June 13, 2023— White House South Lawn
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Good evening, everyone. Good evening. (Applause.) Happy Juneteenth! (Applause.)

Please have a seat. Please have a seat.

(Audience members make “Skee-Wee” sound.)

(Laughs.) And to my Divine Nine family. (Laughs.) (Cheers.)

Good evening, everyone. So tonight, with joy, we gather with friends and generations of family members. We gather here at the White House, steps from where the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, to celebrate America’s newest national holiday. (Applause.)

And we are joined by so many incredible leaders, including members of Congress, members of the Congressional Black Caucus — (applause) — and CBC Chair, Steven Horsford.

And we are also here with so many leaders who brought us to this day, including the one and only Ms. Opal Lee. (Applause.) Where is she? The Mother of Juneteenth.

So when I served in the United States Senate, I was so proud to co-sponsor a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. And as Vice President, it was my honor to stand beside our President, Joe Biden, as he signed the legislation that finally made that dream a reality. (Applause.) Indeed.

And over the past two years, thanks to the leadership of President Joe Biden, and because of the support of all the leaders here, our nation has made incredible progress.

We have created more than 13 million jobs and achieved record low Black unemployment. (Applause.) We have capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month — (applause) — so folks don’t have to choose between paying for insulin or being able to buy groceries.

With your support, we invested an historic nearly $7 billion into our HBCUs — (applause) — in acknowledgement of the fact that they are centers of academic excellence. (Applause.)

And to make sure our young leaders can succeed after they graduate, we will continue to fight for student debt relief. (Applause.)

We’ve also been able to pass one of the most significant federal gun safety legislations in 30 years to help protect our communities from the horror of gun violence. (Applause.) And we will keep fighting to pass the assault weapons ban — (applause) — in the belief that all people have the right to be safe.

In addition, since we took office, we have appointed more Black judges to the federal appellate bench than any administration in history. (Applause.) Yes, including the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in our land. (Applause.) Her name is Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

So thank you all, everyone here, for your support. And thank you for joining us tonight.

This Monday, this upcoming Monday, Americans from all walks of life will again come together to celebrate Juneteenth, to honor Black excellence, culture, and community; to remember the full, full history of our nation; and to celebrate one of our nation’s founding principles, the principle of freedom.

On Juneteenth, we remember that after the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the Confederacy, hundreds of thousands of Americans in Texas were kept in servitude for two more years. Then, on June 19th, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston to enforce emancipation. And the enslaved people of Texas claimed the freedom that was theirs by birth and by right. (Applause.)

And as we celebrate, we also remember that it would be six months more before the 13th Amendment was ratified and all enslaved people in America were declared free.

America is a promise — a promise of freedom, liberty, and justice. The story of Juneteenth, as we celebrate it, is the story of our ongoing fight to realize that promise — not for some, but for all. (Applause.)

On Juneteenth, we are also reminded of the duality of progress. As we fight to move forward to expand freedom, we must also fight to protect the freedoms already won. And as we know, we can take nothing for granted in that regard.

For example, let us look at the sacred freedom to vote. The freedom that generations fought, bled, and died to secure. The freedom that is under assault in states across our nation. And the freedom that we must defend by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. (Applause.)

At the same time, we continue to fight to restore the freedom and the right of every woman in every state to make decisions about her own body. (Applause.)

And we fight to make sure that all Americans have the freedom to learn our country’s history in full. (Applause.) Because while we celebrate a holiday dedicated to teaching and honoring America’s full history, extremists across our country attempt to ban books and erase our past.

And on this point, let us be very clear: Black history is American history. (Applause.)

So, in conclusion, as we gather tonight, let us remember the words of the great Coretta Scott King. She said, “The fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.” She reminds us that our freedoms will not be permanent unless we, in each generation, are vigilant to protect them.

So let us stand together as Americans to teach and honor our history, to protect our liberty, and to continue the fight for freedom.

And with that, I have now the honor — I don’t know if she knows, but I have asked Ms. Opal Lee to join me on this stage so we can thank her with applause. (Applause.) There she is. Can we please stand and applaud Ms. Opal Lee? (Applause.)

MS. LEE: Hello, young people. (Applause.) And know you are all not young people if you’re not 96. (Laughter.)

Please, could I just say this to you, young folk: Make yourself a committee of one to change somebody’s mind. If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love. (Applause.) And it’s up to you to do it.

We are the most powerful country in the whole United States. And we must get together and get rid of the disparities, the joblessness and homelessness, and healthcare that some people couldn’t get and others can, and climate change that we are responsible for.

If we don’t do something about it, we’re all going to hell in a handbasket. (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And with that — (laughs) — and with that — (applause) — and with that, I thank you, Ms. Opal Lee, for your years of advocacy, leadership, and truth telling.

Happy Juneteenth to everyone. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

"Vice President Harris Remarks at Juneteenth Concert." C-SPAN video. June 13, 2023. https://www.c-span.org/video/?528711-101/vice-president-harris-remarks-juneteenth-concert