Excellent speech by Tim Kaine today in New Orleans today to the Progressive National Baptist Convention. As the Clinton campaign summarizes:
Kaine reflected on how his faith has guided him to pursue a career in public service, including 17 years as a civil rights attorney focused on housing discrimination. Citing both his and Hillary Clinton’s records fighting for equality and expanded opportunities for all Americans, Kaine urged attendees to confront injustice and work to achieve progress on criminal justice reform, common sense gun safety reform, and community policing programs.
Kaine also touted his and Hillary Clinton’s efforts to break down barriers to broad-based prosperity in order to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. He stressed the need to protect and expand voting rights, saying, “We’re stronger together. Our strength is in that faith. And together with our congregations, pastors, and community, we’ve got to make sure people don’t lose faith that they can make a difference and that their vote matters.”
With that, here’s video – and a transcript – of Kaine’s speech. Such a great contrast from what we’re hearing from the anger, bigotry, ignorance and lunacy we’re hearing from Republican ticket.
I’ll begin with thanking Dr. Perkins for his leadership with PNBC and his leadership in Detroit. Will you allow me to claim a little bit of Dr. Perkins as somebody whose parents are buried in Virginia and his four sisters live in Virginia? We feel a connection to Dr. Perkins in Richmond. And so, Dr. Perkins, it’s great to make that connection. And as I walked in, you know how there’s no accidents in life, and I heard the choir singing ‘Total Praise’; when I was inaugurated as the 70th governor of Virginia, I asked my church choir to sing that song at the church service at Bruton Parish in Williamsburg. And so when I heard that coming in, I got goosebumps. That is a song we love at St. Elizabeth’s.
Thanks to all of you. You’re working hard to ensure so much in terms of the progressive values that are the values of Scripture – the passages in the Bible, Old Testament and New, that speak to the values of the PNBC are infinite, and every day they challenge us. I want to thank your general secretary, Dr. Tim Boddie, who is from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I know a relative of his, a dear friend of mine who was my pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, Reverend John Boddie, who died a couple of years ago, is connected to that great Virginia family. First vice president, Dr. Stewart; second vice president, David Peoples; and all the officers, and all dignitaries who are here. There’s a number of elected officials. I saw – I think the mayor was supposed to be here but maybe coming later, but I did have a chance to visit with State Senator Karen Carter Peterson. Could you give her and all elected officials who are here a round of applause?
There is somebody here today from the Clinton-Kaine campaign, Reverend Zina Pierre. Many of you know her. She’s from Annapolis, Maryland, and she is the national African American faith outreach director for the campaign. And Zina is right there. I hope we’ll all get a chance to know her.
I want to extend thanks to Reverend Otis Moss, Jr., who’s not with us but the vision that led him and others to create the movement is, and you’re carrying it forward, and many people are grateful, and everybody – whether they realize it or not – needs you to carry it forward.
Great leaders from other Christian traditions – Bishop John Bryant of the AME Church; Dr. Freddie Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas. I met officials with the NBC who are here. This is a broad family – in my house there are many rooms, right? So it’s a broad family, but we can all be together. And quite a few preachers who are either in Virginia now or because of theological training, either in Lynchburg or in Richmond, at Virginia Union, have Virginia roots. And so I welcome all the Virginians who are here.
We’ve got a long tradition in Virginia of visionary Baptists fighting for justice: Nat Turner; John Jasper; Nannie Burroughs; one of my personal favorites, Vernon Johns, still active; Wyatt Tee Walker. This great prophetic, pro-social justice Baptist tradition is an amazing part of who we are. And the leaders that I mention led not during the easy times but during the hard times – slavery, massive resistance, Jim Crow, the battle against the civil rights movement. In Virginia, we produced a lot of leaders early in our nation’s history, but then we decided that that principle of equality that a Virginian had set out ahead of us like a North Star, instead of marching toward it, for an awful lot of our history we decided to march away from it or pretend like it wasn’t our value. And it was these ministers, these progressive Baptists that I mentioned, who kept pulling us in the better direction. And in the tough times when things weren’t going their way, they always kept the faith, they kept spreading Jesus’s message of love and reconciliation, and they never stopped seeking the kingdom of heaven, and not just in the by-and-by, but we’re called to try to reproduce in our own imperfect way as much as we can the kingdom of heaven right here on Earth.
And that’s a proud tradition that continues in the work that you do, being a voice for the voiceless, standing up for people’s rights, and particularly in an election season, making sure that everybody can participate – registering voters and making sure that people can get over the hurdles and the barriers that some want to put in their way so that they can participate in one of the most solemn things we do, which is the ability to choose our own leaders rather than have somebody else foist leaders upon us. It’s not just a right, it’s a responsibility; it’s a deep moral responsibility, and when we think of so many people in the world who don’t have the opportunity to live in societies where they can participate or pick their own leaders, when we do that, we’re not only doing something good for our country, we’re spreading hope to people who need that hope around the world.
Voting is a sacred act whether you’re religious or not. And over the years, this community has provided a spiritual home to spectacular ministers – Dr. Martin Luther King; Reverend Jesse Jackson – so good to see you here, Reverend Jackson – and so many of you that are gathered here. This is a spiritual home. And a church isn’t a building. A church is not a building. A church is a collection of people; it’s a spiritual home, and it’s a place that gives solace and strength, refuge and restoration, and we all need restoration, and that provides comfort – it’s precious.
I know that from my own life. I have been blessed to have several spiritual homes, starting, as with so many of us, with the faith of our fathers and mothers. My – I grew up in Kansas City. My mom was a home-ec teacher and housewife. My dad ran a union-organized ironworking shop in the stockyards of Kansas City. They lived their faith. They weren’t big talkers. They didn’t like to lecture. They didn’t like to give advice. They kind of believed in something that Pope Francis says a lot: preach the Gospel; use words if necessary. They wanted us to absorb the example, and we did – the Golden Rule. We learned from my folks about service, about faith, about kindness thanks to their example.
Then I went to a high school run by the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. The motto of the school, as many Jesuit high schools around this country, was, ‘Men for Others.’ It was a boys’ school – ‘Students for Others’ when the schools are co-ed. But it was the emphasis on ‘for others.’ For others. I knew right away, under the tutelage of my teachers and my parents, I wanted to be a man for others. I was a kid, I didn’t know what that meant, but I wanted to be that person that I heard them describing – somebody who fought for the rights of others, had others’ backs, would stand up for others, especially if others wouldn’t.
It’s one thing to say that, one thing to think that, and another thing to – as a young person – figure out how to do it, and that took me a while. I went through Mizzou in three years, went to Harvard Law School, but just found myself not really sure what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to take that internal commitment and put it into action. So I left Harvard in the middle of law school, took a year to volunteer with missionaries in Honduras, Jesuit missionaries, where I ran a school that taught these poor kids in El Progreso, Honduras, how to be welders and carpenters. The Jesuits said to me, ‘You’re volunteering. You’re at Harvard Law School. That’s completely irrelevant to anything we’re doing. What else do you know?’ I said, ‘Well, my dad ran an ironworking shop.’ They said, ‘Now, that is actually going to have some practical value.’ I ran this Instituto Técnico Loyola and ran it and taught kids to be welders and carpenters, and it – but it was more than just an experience of being a teacher. I probably went there because of the still small voice that said, ‘I don’t know what I want to do – I need to figure it out, I need to make sure that the faith of my fathers is not my faith just because the people told me it should be.’ I had to grapple with it, with fear and trembling, and kind of make it my own. So that was part of the reason I went.
And in Honduras, I found a spiritual energy, a spiritual refuge that has lasted throughout my life. Mass was different in Honduras than it was growing up. I would go to a suburban parish in Kansas City where sometimes it seemed like the key to it was the mass had to be over in 45 minutes so the parking lot could empty and the parking lot could fill for the next 45-minute mass, and it was cut and dry – beautiful in some ways, but it just wasn’t completely what I wanted. But in Honduras, as I would travel with missionaries, sometimes by mule through villages, the mass would be two and a half or three hours long, there would be four or five baptisms, three weddings, it would be kids and everybody all in together. Music was simple but beautiful. Sermons were challenging – challenging sermons that made you really look yourself in the mirror. And it made me think that I don’t want a worship service that is a transactional box-checker on Sunday morning. I want a – I – I want a worship service that’s not transactional but transformational. And we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed. Reform your lives.
I had slept in church before. I mean, I got to acknowledge. I had slept in church before. But that promise of change, that promise of reform your lives, I mean, that’s challenging and that’s what I saw in Honduras. It stayed with me. I went back to Harvard, got my law degree, met a beautiful social justice fighter, my wife Anne, who was and remains a better negotiator, and that’s why I’ve been in Virginia for 32 years, and we moved back to her home state, Richmond, where we found a vibrant and transformational church, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, in Highland Park. We were married there 32 years ago. Our kids were baptized and grew up there. I mean, we grew up there. We were kids when we got married and started in that church. And 32 years later, it’s still our spiritual home.
I was in Honduras – struck with the MLK reference, the most segregated hour of the week is 11 o’clock Sunday morning. And that was a challenge to me. And so I’ve made my spiritual home in a neighborhood where we’re not segregated. In fact, we were when we started there one of a few white families in that church. It’s now a very well-integrated church. But it was important to – especially I think the burden is on those of us who are in a – majority Caucasians here. We’ve got to put ourselves in situations where we’re in the minority and come to understand a reality that’s different than the one that we just take for granted every day. We have to. I have often – I learned this in Honduras, and I have learned it again in Richmond, just from my perspective, which is not an omniscient one, but just from my perspective, that if you are in a minority in this country, you kind of have to learn the ways of the majority just to survive, just to survive. But if you’re in a majority, you can go through your whole life and not have to learn the ways of anybody other than you. And that’s not – that’s not saying that there’s malice there, but you can just be walled off, separated, segregated on the other side of town and move with people like you and never have to grapple with a reality that’s different than your own. And one of the beautiful things that has been transformational about my church is that by being there, I’ve had to grapple with, understand, listen to, learn from, confront realities that are not necessarily the ones that were my own but over time have become more a part of me.
Hillary Clinton asked me 20 days ago to be her running mate, not that I’m counting. It was at 7:32 Friday night, July 22nd, not that I’m counting. We went right to Miami for the rally. And then the very next day, Anne and I were back home at St. Elizabeth’s. We sat in our normal pew, a little bit back on the right-hand side. They did a communion song that I know. So, even though I’m not in the choir anymore, they asked me to come up and sing it. And we asked that day for people’s prayers because we need them. We need them.
And we felt lifted up by them. And that’s the kind of respite and replenishment that my church and our community has offered Anne and I and our three kids for years. It’s precious to us, just like the faith communities you serve are precious to all of your congregants and beyond, not just your congregants, their families and your visitors, the people who just come once when they’re out from out of town or maybe just come once but they have a seed planted that then can grow into something sometimes soon, sometimes takes a while.
We all know that faith – and that’s why you gather – as important as that service is, proud to be in the service, it’s not just about the service, the Sunday service. It’s about what we do. Do we walk out of the door and live it? Anne and I have decided – my wife, Anne, is a great battler, Legal Aid lawyer, juvenile court judge, foster care reformer, now secretary of education in Virginia, just stepped down to be full-time on the campaign trail. We a long time ago decided – and maybe it was because we live in Richmond, a city with a history, a city with some scar tissue. We decided that our work would be reconciliation. That would be our mission in life, that we would work – that we would work to heal divisions that threaten to tear our communities apart.
I come from a place where there’s been an awful lot of division. I come from a place where there’s been an awful lot of, sadly, successful attempts to divide people one against another. Most of the first 10 presidents of this country were Virginians. A lot of the first vice presidents were Virginians, but I’m the first Virginian on a national ticket in 107 years. And that’s not an accident. That’s not an accident. The generation of Virginians that were smart enough to put out ideas like equality and the Constitution, they were leading the nation, but then by about 1840, clinging to the old ways of slavery and clinging to the old ways of separation had moved Virginia off the main stage into the shadows, frankly, kind of into an irrelevant place in history. We didn’t live like we said we would. We called ourselves a commonwealth. The wealth we hold we hold in common. We didn’t live that way. We didn’t let people around the table. And that moved Virginia aside. And my wife was very struck by that, and so was I. So as a youngster, I started my law practice. And it was focused on civil rights. It was a – for 17 years, for 17 years.
Dr. Perkins told you about my first case. I had a young woman who came into my office. I was the 12th lawyer, at the bottom of the totem pole. So when a do-good case comes in, it’s like ‘Hey, let him try it.’ ‘Hey, there’s a do-good case. Let the new guy try it.’
So I had been there just briefly. This young woman’s name was Lorraine. She was about my age, just like me, starting her career after finishing school. We were so similar. For me, going out and looking for my first apartment and starting my life after finishing school was an upbeat, positive experience of going out into the big wide world to see what I could make of myself. Well, Lorraine was in the same place, but her experience wasn’t the positive experience I had. She saw the ad, an apartment she liked in a neighborhood she liked. She made a call. The landlord said, ‘Sure. Come right over on your lunch hour. The place is still available.’ Then 90 minutes later, she goes over. And the landlord takes a look at her and says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. The apartment just got rented.’
So she goes back. And she asks the colleague who sits next to her, Caucasian friend, ‘Hey, call over to this landlord.’
And the landlord said, ‘Sure, the place is available. Come right over.’ And that was it. It was a slam-dunk case. There are cases that are hard to win. That was not a case that was hard to win. We filed a Federal fair housing action against the owner of that apartment. And that started me into 17 years of doing civil rights work, largely in the area of housing, largely for people either because of race or disability who had been turned down.
But I will say the lesson I learned from that that I carry through with me to today was how different we were and how similar we were, Lorraine and me, again the same young people starting a career. I had a good experience renting my apartment in Richmond when I was moving from out of town. She had a bad experience. And it wasn’t just a bad experience today. It made her worried about tomorrow. It made her worried about ‘Well, what about the next time I go out? Am I going to face this again?’ To have to walk around with that anxiety on your shoulders, which I’ve never had to walk around with that anxiety on my shoulders – if people have treated me bad in my life, it was either because they were a jerk or I deserved it. I mean, I never got treated bad in my life because of my skin color or my gender. I’ll tell you that. It was either because they were a jerk or because I deserved it. But if you’re walking through life and you’re worried that somebody’s going to treat me bad based on something I can’t change about myself – I can’t change it about myself. And that made me just so focused on this work. And I think this is one of the reasons that Hillary Clinton asked me to be her running mate, because she was impressed in the same way.
Some of you know this story. She was a Midwestern Methodist church kid. Now, I know a lot of those Midwestern Methodist church kids growing up. And there is a beautiful sense of duty. Sometimes we talk about duty now as if it’s a bad word. It’s not a bad word. It’s a good word. It’s a good word. There is a sense of duty about the Midwestern Methodist church kids that I knew. And Hillary Clinton had a great youth pastor, who took her in Chicago to see Rev. King, who talked to her about migrant worker issues beyond what she had experienced. And then that opened her up to the fact that there were issues out there that she needed to grapple with. So as a law student, she went to work for Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund. She went to Dothan, Alabama to expose and investigate school segregation after she graduated. She went to Yale. She could have gone to Wall Street. She could have gone anywhere, but she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund to defend the right of young people in South Carolina’s juvenile justice system.
I think a lot of you know Hillary very well, either from her time in Arkansas, her time as first lady, her time as senator, time as secretary of state. That Methodist connection, that beautiful sense of duty, the obligation to others, that is the root of everything she does. We saw that at the Democratic convention.
I think Hillary shares another Midwestern trait with me, which is her natural mode isn’t to talk about herself. Now, I like to talk. I wouldn’t be a senator if I didn’t. But talking about myself, I sometimes have a little hard time. And she definitely does. But you saw her daughter, Chelsea, tell her story in a wonderful and beautiful way. And you saw her talk about her career of battling, especially for families and kids. And after the speeches and the balloons fell, Rev. Bill Shillady, who is one of her pastors, took the stage. And as he was praying, we were backstage, Hillary; Bill; my wife, Anne; and me, holding hands. And we were listening to this prayer. And he quoted words of John Wesley, ‘Do all the good you can–’ I’m sorry – ‘Do all the good we can by all the means we can to all the people we can as long as ever we can.’ And what a moment for us to be standing there holding hands and hearing those words. This is Hillary Clinton’s creed. And it’s mine, too. And it’s what I have done, but, more importantly, it’s what I want to do. These principles have guided me in every office I’ve ever held. And if I have the honor of representing you as the next vice president of the country, they will be the principles that will guide me.
Now, I get a little – I get a little nervous talking about Scripture in a room full of very doctrinally advanced ministers and believers. But, you know, hey, what the heck? What the heck?
A story in the Bible that I just endlessly return to – and that’s one of the great things about the Bible, that you might read something today that doesn’t speak to you, but a different season in life, it will speak to you, and then at a different season in life, it will speak to you again, but in a different way. In a different way. I go back again and again to the wisdom in the book of Job. You know how it starts. It’s a debate between God and the devil. And God is basically, here’s Job, a person who is faithful to his principles, much beloved, has done well. Family, riches, but more than that, respect. People look up to him.
And the devil’s view is, this guy is only faithful because he has stuff. I mean, it’s easy to be faithful – maybe it’s easy to be virtuous if everything is going your way. If he loses it, then you’re going to see that he’s not that faithful. So God and the devil make a wager. And Job loses everything. Money, health, family. And then the talkers start in on Job. You know, they’re like, this guy’s losing everything. He clearly has done something wrong. He clearly has gotten afoul of God in some way. And that’s the – that would be our conventional interpretation often, the kind of blame the victim mentality. That – something is not going right, because that person hasn’t done something right.
And Job gets mad. He shows it’s okay to argue with God. There’s nothing wrong with arguing with God. Job does it. But in the midst of all the argument and even challenging God, he holds onto his faith. He remains true to his principles. And in the end, everything Job loses is restored, and then some. And then some. The reason I return to the Job story at this season in my life, at age 58 – there were other pieces of it that made me into it earlier in my life – but it is such a radical, radical view of what suffering is about. Right?
Because the way humans think of suffering is, we often will blame the victim, or suffering is about the past, actions in the past conspired together to lead to this thing, whatever the suffering is today, whatever the evil is today. Job doesn’t suffer because he’s evil. He doesn’t suffer because of his mistakes. It’s not about blaming the victim. His suffering isn’t about the past at all. His suffering is about the future. His suffering is about the future. It, like, destroys the human philosophical concepts of causality. This suffering is not about the past. It’s about the future. Suffering tests him to see, will he remain true to principle? Will he remain true to faith?
And that’s the test that we have to respond to today. How will we respond to the suffering and the pain and the challenges we see in our lives? Will we blame the victim? Will we assume it’s a natural consequence of all these things that went before? Or will we see it as a challenge to us to do something different tomorrow? Will we see it as something that’s about the future? We’ve seen progress in recent years. I am a proud supporter of our President. I was one of the first to sign on to the Obama campaign in October 2006, before it was a campaign.
And we’ve seen progress under our great President. Since the lowest point in the recession, we’ve created more than 14 million new private-sector jobs. Since the height of unemployment, we’ve cut unemployment rate in half. This President has not gotten credit on the economy, or on anything else, that he deserves. And President Obama also shares that Hillary Clinton trait of, he’s not going to be going around doing a lot of bragging. That’s just not his natural thing. But I don’t mind bragging a little bit on some of the things that he’s done. And I think we should be proud of what he has done.
But he would say, and we all would say, okay, progress, we’ve made it. We need to acknowledge it. But there’s still so much to be done, and there’s still so much suffering. And so we have to decide like Job, how are we going to respond? Are we going to respond by changing our principles, abandoning our principles, or are we going to respond by remaining true to them? How do we respond when 10 years after Katrina, progress has been made, but the 9th Ward still has boarded up houses? And we have them in Richmond too. And we have them in cities all over this country. And we have them Appalachia. We have them in rural communities all over this country.
How do we respond when kids in Flint are drinking poisonous waters – and Flint is the tip of the iceberg on this. Infrastructure in our central cities hasn’t updated for too long. And so that’s an issue, whether it’s lead paint or poor water supplies, that people feel all over the country. How do we respond when African-American men face a greater prospect of prison during their lifetimes? It is such a powerful thing. Or when African American women make $0.64 on the dollar for every dollar a white man earns? How do we respond when churchgoers during a Bible study get gunned down by a senseless act of racial violence in North Charleston?
Now, how do we respond? How do we respond? Well, Felicia Sanders survived the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME Church, and – how do you do what she did? Days later – just days later, she not only forgave the man who murdered her son Tywanza, here’s what she said: Hate destroys those who harbor it, and I refuse to let hate destroy me. Wow. That was her response. What’s ours? Well, my answer is – and I know that it is yours – when we’re faced with injustice, you’ve got to name it. That’s to begin. No sugarcoating or whitewashing. You’ve got to name it, and you have to fight it, and you have to remain true to principles: justice, love, mercy, freedom. The basic principles that led to the formation of this organization in 1961. The need to build what Doctor King has called the beloved community, where all are equal, all are included, all are connected.
That’s what we meant when we said we were a Commonwealth in Virginia. That – you know, we kind of bragged a little bit. Instead of saying we’re a state, we said we’re a Commonwealth. We’re saying we’re going to live that way, but that’s an everyday challenge for us to do it that way – to build that community. Hillary’s been working to build it for a very long time, and in my own humble way, I’ve been doing it too. Hillary’s been fighting for kids and for families. And that’s why throughout this campaign, she’s been focused on breaking down the barriers that hold people back, like systemic racism. The kind that I’ve seen in Virginia, the kind that I’ve seen elsewhere, and I’ve seen it from third-hand – you understand it in a different and more profound and more intimate way.
She’s spoken frankly about the work that all Americans have to do, and I will say especially white Americans. White Americans – I thank God for what I see out there, that the outright racial hostility, feelings of white supremacy, racial superiority, are not what they were – we’re getting over that. There are still those who harbor it – harbor it deeply in violent ways. We see that every day. But I do believe we’re making progress. But just making progress past overt feelings of racial superiority isn’t enough, if it’s easy for people to just live their own lives and never be confronted or have to challenge with other people’s lives.
And that’s why it’s so important for those of us in a majority to get out of our comfort zone and learn other realities. And that’s what Hillary and I both kind of challenge our Caucasian leaders and Caucasian communities to do. She’s made it clear that taking on these inequities is one of the most important tasks of being our next president, and I think that’s one of the reasons she asked me to accompany her. Because my civil-rights background and being a mayor in a city that’s 60 percent minority, and having a reputation for being fair, and learning, and growing along the way as I listen is something that she wanted to include on this ticket.
Hillary has proposed a comprehensive commitment to equity and opportunity for African-American communities. A real plan. Check it out. HillaryClinton.com. The details are there, you know? Her opponent just says, when asked about the details, believe me. Well, I mean – believe me. Anybody running for the job ought to be willing to share the details. She said it in the convention. You know, if it’s about your kid or it’s about your job or it’s about your community, it’s not a detail, it’s kind of a big deal, actually. So she has shared the details of a plan to create millions of good paying jobs, hundreds of billions of dollars invested in cities like New Orleans and Richmond, and our cities across this country – if you invest – just say – let’s just use Flint as an example.
Say we invest in infrastructure improvements to improve water quality across the country. We will do three things. We will immediately hire people to do the investments, then we will create safer situations for kids and families, who will grow up healthier and more productive because of that, and then those investments in the water system will last 40 or 50 years. So it raises your entire platform for economic success for decades. You do the same thing with roads and rail and airports, and our infrastructure all across this country. You hire people, and you raise our standard of living.
$20 billion of the Clinton plan is aimed specifically at creating jobs for young people. So that they start off the right way, with getting the examples of what it takes to succeed in jobs. We were talking before we came in. So many of our young men and women, if they haven’t experienced – especially if they’ve been incarcerated, they come out and they don’t have – they don’t see a path, they don’t see an opportunity to a good paying job, then the revolving door just keeps revolving. You’ve got to provide these paths. Hillary is about not just jobs, but also equity. Equal pay for women. A minimum wage that will enable you not to be under the poverty level.
What does this say about us if we tell people, you should work hard in life, but we have a minimum wage where if you work full-time and you have a dependent you’re below the poverty level? It tells people that we don’t mean what we say. If we meant what we said, that work was important, we’d treat work with dignity, and we’d have dignified salaries. And that’s why minimum wage is so important. We have to end redlining in housing that I used to fight against, access to credit for businesses, especially women and minority owned businesses who continue to find it difficult to get access to credit. In this area – I mean, one of the good things about the Clinton-Kaine ticket is, you know, we don’t feel like we’ve got to come up with the ideas. So many of these ideas are good ideas that are out there that people have been advocating, but they haven’t been listened to, or they haven’t been implemented.
We’re huge fans of Congressman Clyburn. South Carolina. He has a 10-20-30 plan that I know many of you know. And it’s very in tune with the values of the PNBC. Let’s at least commit that 10 percent of the funding goes to places where 20 percent of people have lived in poverty for 30 or more years. I mean, is that too much to ask? Is that too much to ask? Target the resources to where the need is. I mean, that is what we need to do. From those that have been given much, much will be expected. And we should then target those resources to the area where there is need, persistent poverty in communities that have been left out and left behind. And those are in our urban areas but also in our rural areas. And Hillary always talks about urban areas, rural areas, coal country, Indian country. They’re all over this country. There’s no state in the 50 that doesn’t have pockets where the statistics and the outcomes are dramatically different than state averages. And that’s where we need to target resources.
We’ve got to plan to reduce educational inequities, starting with high-quality preschool. I went to a Baptist church one time. And I heard a minister preach the sermon on the phrase ‘It is easier to build a child than repair an adult.’ And I’ve always – and I’ve always loved that. I’ve always loved that. Why not invest more early? Why not start? When I was governor, I expanded pre-K for our low-income kids by 40 percent, even during a recession, because, even though other things had to be cut, we were doing too little in early childhood education and had to do more. Hillary and I have a plan to make pre-K universal and nationwide.
We need to stop the slide toward resegregation of schools. We see this. The promise of Brown v. Board and then all of the fighting afterwards, to finally get over the hump and have integration, we have seen so much resegregation because of neighborhood resegregation. And this hits home for me very personally. Some of you know this story. The niece of that great progressive Baptist minister, Vernon Johns, iconoclastic preacher from Prince Edward who went to theological college in Lynchburg and then held the pulpit at Dexter Avenue before Martin Luther King was there, he was a powerful preacher but an iconoclastic guy. And, no surprise, he ended up with an iconoclastic niece, Barbara Johns. She was 16 years old, Farmville, Virginia, 1951. She was attending Moton High School, which was dramatically inferior and dramatically more overcrowded than the school a couple of miles away where the white kids in Farmville went. And so one day, she wrote a fake note to her principal, telling him that he needed to go to the administration office. And when he left, she called the students into the auditorium and said, ‘We’re leading a walkout.’
And they walked out of that school, Moton High School. And then they called a lawyer, somebody who I was proud to call a friend before he died at age 100, Oliver Hill, NAACP lawyer in Richmond, and said, ‘You’ve got to take our case.
And he said, ‘I’ve taken too many cases. I’m too busy. I can’t take your case.’
And then Barbara said to him, she and other leaders in the community, ‘Well, isn’t this about kids? And we kids, we just did something that was about leadership. And you’re telling us you’re not going to take our case?’
And Oliver Hill said, ‘Okay. I’m taking your case.’ And so the case got filed and became part of Brown v. Board, and it led to that seminal decision.
But, even after that decision, Prince Edward County not only wouldn’t integrate the schools. Prince Edward County closed schools down, depriving African American and white kids who couldn’t afford private education of – any education for a number of years, but in the fullness of time, in the fullness of time, what Barbara Johns said when she led that walkout was this. She was asked about it. She said, ‘I want fairness. I want to be treated equally.’ Did she think it would be easy? No. She said, quote, ‘It seemed like reaching for the moon.’ It seemed like reaching for the moon. But she did it anyway. That leap of faith that Kierkegaard talked about, it doesn’t seem possible, but you’re supposed to do it anyway. And she did it. And in the fullness of time, it was Barbara Johns that won, not the whole apparatus that had segregated the schools.
In 1970, my father-in-law, Linwood Holton, Republican, the first Republican governor of Virginia, from the party of Lincoln, came into a state with segregated schools still 20 years after Barbara Johns walked out, and it had been segregated, sadly, by Democrats, by Dixiecrats. And he came into office and he said on inauguration day, we’re going to change things. And the next fall, he integrated the public schools of Virginia, and the New York Times front page picture shows him escorting my wife’s sister into what had then been segregated African American schools in the heart of Richmond.
The New York Times had a lot of photos of Southern governors standing in schoolhouse doors blocking kids from coming in. They only had one photo of a Southern governor walking his own children into integrated schools with a smile on his face, saying that integration is good and that education is important, and you should be able to sit next to each other regardless of the color of your skin.
A few years ago we raised a statue of Barbara Johns in Richmond, mindful of the scriptural invocation, ‘A little child shall lead them.’ We raised a statue on our capitol grounds because it’s kids who visit our capitol grounds. And we wanted kids to see that you don’t have to wait to be an adult to be a leader. You can be a leader when you’re a child. When you’re a child. And every child in this country deserves to learn in a great school no matter what zip code they’re in. We’ve got a plan to make sure that that’s going to happen, and not just K-12, but college.
We can’t crush kids and crush families with the cost of college. We’ve got to make significant investment to make college debt-free, and that investment has to include a recognition that it’s our HBCUs that are producing our engineers and our scientists and our physicians. And so $25 billion of this investment is for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, which have produced, which do produce, and which will continue to produce, some of the greatest leaders in all the fields in this country. And in Virginia, with so many HBCUs – I have an HBCU one mile from my house, Virginia Union, and others close by, Virginia State, Norfolk State, Hampton, so many close in Virginia – I’ve seen that work up close.
We’ve got to empower businesses – I mentioned that earlier – with tax credits, especially on training, to invest in apprenticeships, because as powerful as colleges are, we probably do a disservice to our young kids if we tell everybody that college is the only way. I went recently to speak at a graduation of the Newport News apprenticeship school that trains shipbuilders, three-year program. This program’s been going since 1919, three-year program. These youngsters graduate and they have a job for the rest of their life manufacturing the most complex items on the planet Earth, nuclear subs and aircraft carriers, a patriotic job that they can feel good about every time they walk in the door. And yet – oh, and this: The admissions rate into that program is lower than the admissions rate into Harvard. Harvard takes 5.9 percent of their applicants. The Newport News shipbuilding program takes 5.2 percent of their applicants, 5.2 percent.
And yet, somebody who finishes that three-year program, we do not even count them as having a higher ed degree in this country, because we tell families and we tell kids, you got to go to college. And so we’ve downgraded career and technical training even though that’s such an important thing. And so we have to broaden the respect that we have for the workers that worked in my dad’s shop, the ironworkers, and the welders, and the allied health professionals, and the computer coders.
We got to grapple with criminal justice reform, from front to back. From front to back. Now, I have been heartened by one thing and discouraged by another. Heartened by this – criminal justice reform used to be an issue that Democrats cared about, and frankly, we were fighting with the other side. Now, at least on the word side, on the rhetoric side, there is a bipartisan recognition that an era of mass incarceration has served no good purpose, and frankly led to a lot of bad – a lot of bad in people’s lives, a lot of bad in the budgetary effects. So at least on the word side now, there’s a recognition we need to do something.
But action has been slow. And so we need to take action to do sentencing reform, to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, especially to cut these mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses that lead the U.S. to incarcerate more than anybody else in the world, and to make sure that there are support services for people when they come home to their communities. Most states still call their prison system the department of corrections, but there’s not a lot of resources put into corrections. If we were to be honest about our system, sadly, most states should call it the department of the human warehouse or something.
We ought to be about corrections. We ought to be about second chances. That’s a faith principle we can believe in. That’s a faith principle we can – I mean, ‘Do, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Right? ‘Do not assume one thief was damned. Do not presume one thief was saved.’ Even to the last moment, there’s a chance to be – a second chance. That’s who our God is, and that’s who our policies should be, second chance. And that’s what we need to work on.
And we need to work to close the gulf between our law enforcement communities and our neighborhoods in an awful lot of our cities. In an awful lot of our cities. I’ll just spend a word on this. When I got elected to city council in Richmond, we had the second highest homicide rate in the United States. And we had a horrible aggravated assault gun crime rate. It was horrible. 1994. That was the only top ten list in the country we were on. We were losing population. We were losing jobs. And the only top ten list we were on was our homicide rate.
We had to make a lot of changes. We hired a really good police chief eventually, who’s been succeeded by others, who basically decided that community policing was the strategy. So build the bridges of trust, communication, and affection between law enforcement communities and our neighborhoods. And doing that, we cut our homicide rate by 60 percent. We cut our violent crime rate dramatically. We built up ties of affection and community because our leaders made that a priority.
Well, there became a second philosophy about law enforcement early in the 200s. It was the zero tolerance philosophy. And that basically said, crack down on the small stuff before it gets to be the big stuff. Now, you can understand that as a philosophy in some ways. But rather than the community policing model, which was all about the bond, the zero tolerance was all about aggressive and adversary. And then, sadly, after 9/11 at the federal level, we gave police departments an awful lot of military-style materiel that, if it went into the hands of police departments that were doing the adversarial thing, it increased the tension.
And then, in a recession, a lot of police department budgets got cut. And I bet everybody here who’s part of an organization knows that when budgets get cut, the first thing that gets cut is training. You avoid laying off people if you can. You avoid cutting salaries if you can. But what you do is you go to things like training and you cut that. So all the training about community policing and building those bonds that’s really important, that got cut.
And so what we see around this country is we see some cities that are still doing it the right way, where the gulf isn’t wide. But we see an awful lot of cities that have done it the wrong way, where the gulf is wide. The good news is we don’t have to recreate the wheel. Let’s learn from the communities that are doing it right. Let’s reinvest in training about sensitivity and de-escalating violent situations. Let’s, for gosh sake, start even gathering the data and counting the number of people who are killed in police incidents.
We count very carefully the number of police officers that are killed in the line of duty, and we should. And we should. And when we count it and we measure it, it’s because we think it’s important. And once we do, the number of police who have been killed in the line of duty has steadily dropped since the 1970s. Even one incident is too many. But we count it. We measure it. We focus on it. We reduce it. But in terms of people killed in police custody or by police, we don’t even measure it. It’s like it doesn’t even matter. We’ve got to investigate it and count it, and then invest in the resources and training to enable that gulf to close, because we know that gulf, that gulf is dangerous for citizens but it’s also dangerous for police.
I was in Dallas yesterday. Those poor police officers in Dallas, in a department that has tried to do the right thing with strong leadership, they were protecting the right of protesters to protest against the police, peacefully. And they were there as a shield for those protesters when they were killed. We’ve got to figure out ways to narrow, narrow the gulf. And we can do this.
I’ve freelanced a little bit because of my – I still feel so – I just – when you’re the mayor of a city that has a high homicide rate, you go to too many funerals. You go to too many crime scenes. You go to too many police funerals. You go to too many homicide victim support group meetings in church basements, where you’re sitting around wanting to find a word to say and not being able to find a word to say.
And then I was governor, and we had the worst mass shooting in the history of this country. Sadly, it’s now not the worst. If there was one thing I would have wished, is I would have wished that shooting at Virginia Tech never would have been eclipsed. Thirty-three people dead. Never would have been eclipsed by another tragedy. And yet it is. Part of what we got to do is we got to speak truth to power and say, you can support the Second Amendment. That’s fine. But we ought to be able to have reasonable rules to keep people safe in this country. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to do it.
And so when you see a majority of Americans, a majority of gun owners, a majority of NRA members, supporting basic sensible rules like background record checks so that dangerous people who are prohibited from weapons can’t get them, when you see a majority do that but you see a Congress that still wants to review the NRA, the NRA – I know these guys because they’re headquartered in Virginia. And when I run, they run against me every time. And I’m 8 and 0 in races. They’ve never beat me. Now, I could lose the next one. But if they were that strong, I would have lost one before now.
But what happens is the NRA goes to Congress and they say, you got to stick with us. The NRA doesn’t even speak for members any more. They’re just a shill for gun manufacturers. And gun manufacturers have one goal: Sell as many whenever, wherever, to whomever. That’s their only goal. But that’s not the right goal for a nation that wants to live together in peace and harmony. So we will work to close these loopholes and advance common-sense rules that are fully consistent with the constitution.
The last thing I want to talk about is voting rights. Voting rights. I went to Honduras when I was 22, and I had been registered to vote since I was 18. And I voted most of the time. I didn’t vote all the time; I voted most of the time. But then I got to Honduras to work with missionaries, and it’s a military dictatorship. And nobody there can vote for anything, the military controlling it with a gun. And it worked well for a few and not for everybody. And I spent time with people who prayed for the day – who prayed for the day – one day I might be able to vote and pick the leaders of my town or my community. And when I came back, I had a different attitude about voting because I realized what we have that we so often take for granted and what virtually huge majorities of people in the world don’t have. It’s that right to choose our own leaders.
And especially – I’m going to make a nonpartisan comment that’s going to have a little partisan thing at the end of it. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have kind of been good on voting rights until recently. Until recently. Especially until President Obama became President. Right? And again, I want to pay my props – I want to pay my props on this to the party of Lincoln that my father-in-law, at the 93, is still a part of. Fifteenth Amendment to strike down any racial restriction in voting, passed by a Republican Congress. Nineteenth Amendment, to extend the franchise to women, passed under a Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, but with strong Republican support. Voting Rights Act, 1965, passed in the Senate. A higher percentage of Republican Senators voted for it that Democratic Senators voted for it.
The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized many times with strong bipartisan support. Twenty-sixth Amendment, giving the vote to 18-year-olds, passed under President Nixon, a Republican, with strong Republican support. Up until recently, up until recently, the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, along with the Democrats, were a party that understood the importance of expanding the franchise and wanted more people to participate – racial minorities, younger people, 18 to 21-year-olds, women, marching ahead, expanding the franchise – we were going in the same direction.
But starting a few years before but especially since the election of President Obama, one party has decided to do a U-turn on its history and be against voting and against participation, and put hurdles and barriers up in everybody’s way. And you at the PNBC, along with others, have had to participate in lawsuits in states like North Carolina and Texas and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan, states all over this country, to get barriers out of the way.
I meet people every day who say to me things like, ‘I’m not sure my vote is that important. I’m not sure my vote matters that much.’ And what I say to them is, ‘Well, you might not think your vote matters too much, but if it was so worthless, why is the other side working so hard to stop you from being able to vote? They think it’s valuable. They think it’s important. You ought to at least think your vote is as important as the people who are trying to stop you to vote think.’
I went to Selma with Congressman John Lewis for the civil rights pilgrimage that Congress does every year in 2014. That was the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer. We were in Mississippi, then came over to Selma, Alabama. And we just think about those marchers, some of whom I’ve mentioned, the great Baptist ministers in Virginia who were part of this crusade marching to win the right to vote, to knock down poll taxes, literacy tests. We cannot let anybody take that away.
I call on my Republican colleagues to return to your party’s historical roots and recognize that the health of a democracy is measured by the extent of people’s participation in the democracy. If you want to know one thing, one thing, to know whether a democracy is successful, it should be the extent of the participation. That’s the thermometer that tells us whether we’re a democracy or not.
I worry sometimes when I see voting turnout stats that we have universal franchise, or so we say, and then we put barriers in place, and so then on an election day, it might be 60, 65 percent in a presidential year, but in a mid-term 40 percent, sometimes 35 percent. We’re going to have to come up with a new word because democracy won’t be a word that will describe a situation where there’s supposed to be a universal franchise but only a fraction of the people participate. We’ll have to invent a new word. Let’s not do that. Let’s reclaim our democratic traditions by expanding early in-person voting and making that the rule, not the exception, and repairing the Voting Rights Act. We’ve got to do that. We have to do that. Absolutely.
There’s a great proposal by my friend Congressman Bobby Scott in Virginia and the CBC and others to fix the Voting Rights Act in a very straightforward and simple way. What the Supreme Court struck down was the notion that Southern states and a few others had to be pre-clearance before they made voting rights changes. So my friend Congressman Scott said, okay. You don’t like that geographical thing? How about this. Any jurisdiction – North, South, East, West – any jurisdiction that has had any legitimate voting rights claim against them in the last 15 years has to get pre-cleared. And until they’re 15 years past the legitimate claim, they have to get pre-cleared. So this is not a double standard for the South. If you have a problem, then you ought to be under the microscope. And if you had no problems, you don’t have to be under the microscope. We have a hard time even getting one Republican to join us in the common-sense fix. But Hillary Clinton said, the first 100 days, we’re going to push significant changes […] the vote.
I’ve gotten revved up and ad-libbed a little, and I want to keep you on schedule. So I want to get to the end of this and just return to my Job reference. Will we be true to principle? Will we be true to principle? There’s 88 days to Election Day, but many here would just not count the 88. You would count the number of Sundays, 13. Thirteen Sundays between now and election day. And an awful lot of work to do, and a number of folks to register. A number of folks to encourage and exhort. Volunteers to thank.
It does come down to that Job question, to the question of faith in a time of suffering and challenge: Are we going to stick with our principles, the principles that have motivated the PNBC for 55 years? Or are we going go to go with some new ones, go with some different ones? We see that on the campaign trail. Religious liberty has served this nation well, but we’ve got a candidate who says, basically, now we should start punishing people who are of the wrong religion. I don’t want to turn around on religious liberty after 240 years.
So the question is, do we keep the faith? Job loses everything and then he asks that question, that fundamental question, after he’s lost everything: Where, where is my strength? I got to find it somewhere. I’ve got to find it somewhere because I’ve lost all the outward manifestation. Where is my strength? Sisters and brothers, our strength is our Creator who has given us the capacity to love, the capacity to lead, and the capacity to heal. Our strength is our determination to seek justice, to try to move closer to that north star of equality, to get better tomorrow than we are today, recognizing that because we’re imperfect, we’re going to have that challenge every day we get up to be better tomorrow than we are today.
And especially that strength is in each other. We come to know God through each other. I mean, there might be people who can divine it just purely from a text or something. But most of us, we come to know God through each other. We’re stronger together. Our strength is in that faith. And together with our congregations, pastors, and community, we’ve got to make sure people don’t lose faith, that they can make a difference, and that their vote matters. When we summon that strength, when we hold true to our principles, when we ask ourselves the question that Job asked and realize that our strength is in our God and in each other and in our principles, we will be rewarded. It will come back to us multiplied.
Let’s keep marching forward. Let’s keep building that beloved community. And please support me as we elect Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States. Thanks to all of you. God bless you, God bless the PBNC, and God bless America.”