Transcript: VP Joe Biden’s speech at the 2012 NAACP Convention
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at the NAACP’s Convention on July 12, 2012:
“It’s so, so good to be with you all. I want to thank you all for your leadership, for your friendship and, again for me personally, for your loyalty.
“It is not an exaggeration were it not for the leadership of the NAACP, for the men and women who educated me when we’ve sit over in Rev. Wright’s churches we’re talking about desegregating the Rialto [sp?] and the Queen movie theaters. Remember, Maus?
“I learned so much. I learned so much. And I owe so much.
“But ladies and gentlemen, this is – as much as I enjoy it – this is not about me. This is about another office. This is about the presidency.
“This is about more than any other office in the land, the presidency is about character – the character of your convictions, whether you put country above politics.
“From the very moment that Barack Obama took his hand off that Bible on that cold January day in the Mall, he’s done just that. He has put country first.
“When the economy was about to go over the cliff, I watched him make some of the toughest decisions any President has had to make since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“He saved the nation’s financial system and in doing so he prevented a worldwide depression. It wasn’t a popular decision but it was an essential decision. And he was right – we needed a national financial system to function and credit to flow again.
“He stepped up and rescued the automobile industry. It was not popular. It was not popular.
“But it was critical and he was right saving a million jobs and creating 200,000 new jobs in the automobile industry. General Motors now leads the world again, and Chrysler is the fastest growing company in America.
“This is a man who made the call to go after Osama bin Laden. It was a bold…
“It was a bold decision – a bold decision – with profound risks for our warriors as well as his presidency. But he made it and he made that decision on his own.
“Bin Laden is dead and America is more secure because of this man’s decision.
“He passed the Affordable Care Act – a goal strived for by Presidents starting with Teddy Roosevelt. It required him early on to use up almost all of his political capital. He prevailed where no President had done before. He was right. He was right.
“He’d cut $100 billion in the federal debt over the next 10 years, provided access to affordable health care to 30 million Americans – 8 million black Americans who never have had insurance.
“This is a man – this is a President – who has the character of his convictions.
“And almost never, since he’s taken office, during this entire time did the Republican Congress reach across the aisle to help.
“On the Recovery Act, which kept us from sliding further into a depression, only 3 Republican Senators and not one House member voted for it.
“On the Affordable Care Act, no Republican in the Senate and none in the House on the final vote.
“But it wasn’t just in the big signature issues. It was on the easy, obvious things where we got no cooperation.
“Extending the payroll tax – only 7 Republicans initially voted for it.
“Lilly Ledbetter equal pay – 3 Republicans voted for it in the House.
“When we attempted to raise the debt limit to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States, not a single Republican met the responsibility of meeting that requirement, resulting in a negotiation that brought us to the brink of disaster, ultimately causing America’s credit rating to be lowered for the first time.
“But it wasn’t until later – folks, it wasn’t until later – that we learned that this was a plan – obstructionist was a plan from the outset.
“According to a recent book by a respected author Robert Draper, he stated in a meeting the night of inauguration, according to Draper, Republican leaders from Paul Ryan to Eric Cantor to Kevin McCarthy, they gathered. McCarthy is reported in the book as have said, ‘If you act like you’re a minority, you’re going to stay a minority. We’ve got to challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.’
“Newt Gingrich, who was also there, said – and he was prophetic – ‘You will remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.’
“Well, they were seeds of obstruction.
“Later, Mitch McConnell just said it out loud. When talking about lessons he’s learned from history, he said, ‘The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.’
“Not to get us out of this recession. Not to promote jobs. Not to do the things that needed to be done. But make Barack Obama a one-term President.
“And folks, their discipline is amazing. They have never let up. But neither has my guy. Neither has President Barack Obama!
“He has not given up.
“He continues – he continues to be driven by the character of his convictions.
“And folks, in the end, that’s what the Presidency’s all about – your character, your convictions. And one more important thing, it’s about your vision for the future of America.
“And here the candidates for President have fundamentally different visions for the future of this country.
“By the way, I think Mitt Romney’s a fine family man. I believe he’s driven by what he believes but the differences are so basic about how we view the future of America.
“Let me give you just a few examples.
“On education, we see education as central to the vision of how do we ensure America’s ascendancy throughout the 21st century.
“We see education as the single most important criteria for minority children for their growth.
“We see education – we see a future where once again America has the highest percentage of college graduates in the world, a future where school graduation rates of high school are not a matter of what neighborhood you come from or what background of your parents, what your economic circumstances are.
“A future where everyone has access to education beyond high school because 6 out of 10 jobs – 6 out of 10 jobs – in the coming decade are going to require more than a high school diploma.
“A future where everyone can find a decent job, where quality early education is available to our children increasing exponentially the chances they’ll succeed in school, where class sizes are small so kids can get personalized attention they need, where we demand more of our teachers and we treat them like they are – professionals, high standards and pay equal to other professions.
“Look, education doesn’t play a central role in the Romney Republican vision of the future of America. It’s on the back burner. It’s not a priority. If you doubt me, just look at their budget for the future.
“Massive cuts in early education – the one thing all educators agree on is the central most important initiative to deal right up front with the achievement gap.
“Elimination of the tuition tax credit for families.
“Cuts in Pell Grants scholarships for children of low-income families.
“Cuts in Title I funding for lowest performing schools – a cut of $2.1 billion.
“Cuts in special education funding, in my view, backing away from the proposition we’ve held for years and years that children should be educated to the degree that they’re educable. Cuts by $2.2 billion.
“Cuts in job training.
“Just listen to what they say, what he says. He says, ‘The efforts to reduce classroom size may actually hurt education more than it helps.’ Tell that to all those private schools. Tell that to all those parents.
“Energy. We envision a future where clean renewable energy represents increasingly large share of energy consumed in America. An America that is energy independent.
“We see a nation that breathes cleaner air, where our cities are not polluted, where asthma doesn’t claim the lives of African American children 4 times as great as it does all other children because of the environment in which they live.
“Romney sees a different energy future where renewable energy – wind, solar, biofuels – they’re not a priority, where Romney’s allies in the Congress oppose any incentives to invest in clean energy but insist on retaining a $4 billion a year tax cut for the oil industry – a tax cut that even they acknowledge they don’t need.
“Women’s rights. We see an America where no woman pays more for health care than any man in America.
“Where working women have access to quality affordable child care, where women receive equal pay for equal work.
“We see a future where the barriers are removed for women and girls who want to participate in science, technology, engineering, and the math field.
“Where the Violence Against Women Act – the proudest achievement of my career – is not only law but part of American culture.
“Where the government doesn’t make choices for women, for every woman has unfettered access to contraception and family planning if she desires it.
“In short, we see an America where our daughters have every – and I mean, every – opportunity our sons have.
“Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress see a different future for women in America.
“The Governor isn’t sure what his position is on the Violence Against Women Act.
“He’s not sure whether or not Lilly Ledbetter law that passed was good.
“But he’s certain on his position on Roe v. Wade – overturn it. Planned Parenthood – get rid of it. He’s certain that any employer – any employer – should be able to decide whether or not to make contraception available on their health care plans, where working women lose access to quality child care, where social policy that’s basically a throwback to the ’50s.
“In innovation and medical research, we see an America where HIV is a thing of the past, where infant mortality is drastically reduced. That’s why we continue to invest in basic research in the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the research universities.
“Romney sees a very different future, where he cuts funding for the NIH and the National Science Foundation.
“Health care. We see a future where everyone has access to affordable health care…
“Where seniors have access to prescription drugs at a lower cost, where they have access to preventive care – making their lives more livable and reducing costs, where insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, where there are no limits on insurance policies, where children can stay with their parents on their policy until they’re 26, where Medicare is guaranteed and Medicaid is expanded.
“Where no American faces the prospect of a bankruptcy just because they get sick.
“Romney and his allies see health care a different way – controlled by the insurance companies – where pregnancy is a pre-existing condition, where coverage can be taken away if you get sick or hit your limit, where Medicare is voucherized,19 million people cut off of Medicaid, where 30 million Americans will have to wait for another generation before they have a chance for affordable decent health care.
“On the tax system. We see a system where everybody pays their fair share.
“Where the middle-class tax cut is maintained, and where no one making $1 million a year or more pays a lower percentage of income than middle-class or working class families.
“Where the college tuition tax credit is made permanent, where the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit are preserved, where everyone – and I mean everyone – has skin in the game and no one gets played for a sucker.
“The tax code that Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress envisioned continues to be skewed to help the very wealthy.
“He preserves the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest among us – $530 billion of that tax cut over the next 10 years going to just 120,000 households in America – while we cut and eviscerate all these other programs, while the debt continues to climb.
“But in addition, he proposes a $1.6 trillion tax cut. The people who can qualify are only people who make $1 million or more.
“He eliminates college tuition tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit are cut. The result? 2.2 million African American working families will see a tax increase if he succeeds. That’s a fact.
“On foreign policy, we see a future where, we – the President and I and the Democratic Party – see a future where America leads by the power of example as well as by the example of its power.
“Where the democracies of the world join to share the burden of maintaining world peace, where we continue to reduce nuclear arms around the world, where responsibility is turned over to the Afghans and American troops can start to come home.
“Gov. Romney and his allies see a very different future for America’s involvement in the world – one that still has 30,000 combat troops in Iraq. Remember he criticized us for bringing them home? Said 30,000 combat troops should remain?
“Where we set no date for leaving Afghanistan, where we stay and he doesn’t say how long, where the new START Treaty – the new arms control treaty with Russia endorsed by every former Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor in the Republican Party, where he said he would not have proposed it and would have voted against it, and I suspect mean where he would abandon it.
“Where Russia is viewed – in his mind – as the greatest geopolitical threat foe America faces, where in the future we once again decide to go it alone.
“This guy’s vision of the future of America’s foreign policy is mired in the Cold War, and the Cold War is over.
“On civil rights, your raison d’être – the reason for our existence. And by the way, I want to remind everybody of one thing – remember what this at its core was all about – why this organization at its core was all about. It was the franchise. It was about the right to vote.
“Because when you have the right to vote, you have the right to change things.
“And we – the President and I and Eric [Holder] and all of us – we see a future where those rights are expanded not diminished, where racial profiling is a thing of the past…
“Where access to the ballot is expanded and unencumbered, where there are no distinctions made on the basis of race or gender in access to housing and lending.
“And so much more. Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?
“I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for almost 17 years with a Ranking Member. We went through these battles. I didn’t think – I didn’t think we’d be back.
“I remember working with Republicans – who by the way, this ain’t your father’s Republican Party.
“Remember working with Republicans on Motor Voter? On expanding the franchise on early voting? On voting by mail? Some of these were Republican ideas.
“But this is not the Republican Party’s view today nor Romney’s. They see a different future where voting is made harder not easier, where the Justice Department is even prohibited from challenging any of those efforts to suppress votes.
“I know you know. But I’m not sure everybody – the House of Representatives’ Republicans voted affirmatively to prevent the Justice Department from even investigating whether or not there was voter suppression.
“Folks, there’s a lot more to say but this is preaching to the choir.
“Let me close, my friends, by saying I want you – I mean this sincerely. Just close your eyes and imagine. Imagine what the Romney Justice Department will look like.
“Imagine when his senior adviser on constitutional issues is Robert Bork. Imagine the recommendations for who is likely to be picked as Attorney General or the head of the civil rights division or those other incredibly important positions in justice.
“Imagine – and I mean this. This to me is one of the most critical issues of this election. Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after 4 years of a Romney presidency.
“Folks, this election in my view is a fight for the heart and soul of America.
“Again, these guys aren’t bad guys. They just have a fundamentally different view.
“The best way to sum up the President’s view, my view, and, I think, your view is we see America where, in the word of the scripture, ‘What you do onto the least of my brethren you do onto me.’
“As President Barack Obama says we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper. We have an obligation.
“And as I’ve said, I believe this election will come down to character, conviction, and vision. And will not surprise, I don’t even think it’s a close call.
“And so it’s time. It’s time for the NAACP to do what it’s always done. What it did for me – a young kid from Wilmington, Delaware – inspired a generation to stand up, make our case, stand our ground, and real our vision for America!
“God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you!”
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