Remarks by President Biden at Emory University
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Sorry we’re a little late, but we had an opportunity to meet with leaders of the AAPI community downstairs, and it was heart wrenching to listen to them.
As many of you know, we originally planned to hold a car rally to thank our supporters. But given the recent days --events of recent days, we didn’t feel it was appropriate, so we cancelled that rally. But we want our supporters to know we’ll come back and hold that rally another trip. But today, we want to speak about something else.
I said from the beginning of my campaign for President that we needed to come together; that we needed to unite as one people, one nation, one America. I said in my kickoff speech in Philadelphia. I said that very same thing when I spoke at Gettysburg. I said that in my inaugural address. And I believe it with every fiber of my being.
There are simply some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism -- the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation.
The Vice President and I, as I said, met a little bit earlier, just before this, with leaders from the Asian American community here in Georgia.
We talked about Tuesday’s mass shooting, about another example of public health crisis, of gun violence in this country. Eight people killed, seven women. Six were of Asian descent. All fellow Americans. Each one of them we mourn.
Their families are left with broken hearts and unanswered questions. And the investigation is ongoing. And the Vice President and I are being regularly updated by the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI, working closely with Governor Kemp and Mayor Bottoms and local officials.
But whatever the motivation, we know this: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake. They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.
Documented incidents against -- of hate against Asian Americans have seen a skyrocketing spike over the last year, let alone the ones that happened and never get reported. It’s been a year of living in fear for their lives just to walk down the street. Grandparents leave -- to leave -- afraid to leave their homes. Small-business owners targeted and gunned down. Attacks on some of the most vulnerable people in our nation -- the elderly, low-wage workers, and women.
In fact, Asian American women suffer twice as many incidents of harassment and violence as Asian American men. We’re learning again what we've always known: Words have consequences. It’s the coro- -- it’s the coronavirus. Full stop.
The conversation we had today with the AAPI leaders, and that we’re hearing all across the country, is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. And it’s often met with silence. That’s been true throughout our history, but that has to change -- because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.
In my first week in office, I signed an executive order directing federal agencies to combat this resurgence of xenophobia. The Department of Justice is strengthening its partnership with the AAPI community to prevent these crimes, in addition to its other work to take on violent extremism and domestic terrorism.
I’m calling on Congress to pass and get my -- to get to my desk the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. And the House just passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a law I authored more than 25 years ago and is one of my proudest legislative achievements. I call on the Senate to swiftly pass it and get it to my desk.
But for all the good that laws can do, we have to change our hearts. Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop. And it’s on all of us -- all of us, together -- to make it stop.
Something else should bring us together, and that is a belief in science. Science isn’t something that should divide us. There’s nothing political about it. There’s nothing partisan about it.
One of America’s best examples of commitment to science is headquartered right here in Atlanta: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC represent the best of this nation: brilliant minds, deep faith in science, and a strong commitment to public service. We came here to thank them for all the work they do, and especially the work they’ve done over the course of this pandemic. We owe them and their families our gratitude.
And we wanted to convey to them the absolute commitment to give them everything they need to do their work and get it done -- free of politics and guided by science. And because of them, we’re making real progress. We just met my goal of administering 100 million shots before my first 100 days in office. We did it in about 60 days. We’re not stopping now.
The American Rescue funds more vaccines, more vaccination centers, and more increases in testing. It’s going to help us accelerate our nationwide effort to reopen schools safely.
Last week, I directed all states, Tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. But while this is a time of optimism, it’s not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans to keep doing your part: wash your hands, stay socially distanced, keep masking up as recommended by the CDC, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
None of this is political. It’s all science-based. But now is not the time to let down our guard down. That’s science-based as well.
In the last week, we’ve seen -- we’ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states. Things may get worse as new variants of the virus spread. That’s why we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we possibly can, because it’s the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants. We will do -- we have to beat this virus. We have to, and we will. But we’ll do it by setting aside politics and embracing science.
On another subject, the right to vote -- that should bring us together as well, but it now divides us. This is a democracy, and the right to vote is fundamental. The fact that there was a record turnout in America in the last election, in the midst of a pandemic, should be something we celebrated, not attacked.
The fact that you held a free and fair election in Georgia that stood up to recount after recount, court case after court case, is something you should be proud of.
The fact that your poll workers, your election workers, your volunteers, your local officials, your state officials, your courts stood up to the immense pressure with character and honesty and integrity helped save our democracy. And this country will long be grateful for it.
But as this state, home to Martin Luther King and John Lewis, knows better than most: The battle for the right to vote is never, ever over. And it’s not over here, in this state of Georgia.
So we’re in the fight again. It’s a fight we need to win. Because if anyone ever doubted that voting matters, Georgia just proved it did. If anyone ever wondered if one vote can make a difference, Georgia just proved it 11,779 times. And if anyone ever wondered if voting can change a country, Georgia just proved it can. Because when you elected two new United States senators, you made it possible to pass the American Rescue Plan.
Landmark legislation will not only meet the emergency we’re in, but transform this nation -- starting with this: For those folks who either already have or will soon have $1,400 in their pockets, you can thank Senators Warnock and Ossoff. But for their votes, it would not have happened.
What does that mean? It means 85 percent of the households in America will get that money. Here in Georgia, it means 88 percent of all adults and 88 percent of the children in this state will get that $1,400 as well. Just add it up. A typical family -- two parents, two kids -- earning $100,000 a year, each will get $1,400. That’s $5,600 for that family that’s in distress trying to figure out how to pay their mortgage, pay their rent, keep food on the table.
And that’s not all. There’s something called a “child tax credit.” What that basically means is you get a tax credit for every child you have. The American Rescue Plan expands that credit. It means that families of over 2 million children in Georgia will be eligible for an increase in that child tax credit of [up to] $1,600 per year [sic] -- per child. And it’s going to be delivered on a regular basis.
So, starting this summer, families with young kids will get $300 a month per child. This is going to lift 177,000 [171,000] children in Georgia out of poverty.
The American Rescue Plan expands coverage and reduces costs under the Affordable Care Act. So for a family of four earning $90,000 per year, with insurance under the Affordable Care Act, they’ll see about $200 a month off their monthly premiums.
And for Georgia’s schools, the American Rescue Plan provides around $4 billion for Georgia’s schoolchildren, grades K through 12, to help them reopen safely.
And here’s one of the biggest things for Georgia: Because of the American Rescue Plan, Georgia is now eligible for about $2 billion to expand Medicaid. What does that mean? It means another 500,000 Georgians will be covered all across this state with Medicaid that don’t have it now.
For your state and local governments, this is what it does: State government will get around $5 billion to make up for lost revenue. Local governments will get around $3.5 billion. That’s going to make it possible to keep a lot of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other first responders on the job.
And here’s one final thing the American Rescue Plan does: For the first time in a long time, it puts the working families, the middle class -- people who built this country -- first, not last.
Sixty-six percent of the tax breaks in this plan go to folks making $90,000 or less a year. And how much for the top 1 percent -- where 83 percent of all of the tax cut -- it was the last President’s tax cut? Zero. The top 1 percent get zero.
But the American Rescue Plan isn’t only about putting money in the pockets -- people’s pockets. It also will create and spur economic growth in America. That’s why major economists -- left, right, and center -- support this plan. Even Wall Street agrees. According to Moody’s, this law will help America create 7 million new jobs by the end of the year. And we’ll do it by rebuilding the backbone of this nation: the working people, the middle class -- the people who built this country.
It’s about giving those people a fair shot, for a change. It’s about providing and proving to the American people that their government works and can deliver for them, which brings me to my last point.
The American Rescue Plan is a plan that brings America together and benefits all America. That’s why so many polls show that over 70 percent of the country support it, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Maybe Republicans in Washington didn’t vote for it, but the American Rescue Plan sure has brought the country together. And, for me, that measure of unity, that’s what matters.
Let me end with this: There is so much we can do if we do it together; if we remember who we are; if we stand together against hate; once again believe and invest in science; if we stand up for the right of all Americans to vote and have access to voting; if we remember we’re here to help all the people of this country, not just those few at the top; if we remember to do justice, love mercy, to walk humbly as fellow human beings and as fellow Americans; if we remember we’re the United States of America and that, together, there is nothing -- not a single thing -- we cannot do if we do it together.
My heart goes out to all -- all the family members who lost someone in those horrific shootings on Tuesday. I know they feel that -- like there's a black hole in their chest they're being sucked into and things will never get better. But our prayers are with you. And I assure you the one you’ve lost will always be with you. Always be with you. And the day will come when their memory brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye, as unbelievable as that is now. It will take a while, but I promise you it will come. And when it does, that’s the day you know you're going to make it.
May God bless all those families. May God protect our troops. Thank you very much.