Sometimes you realize the reason you have a writing block is because you’re so damn angry. Twitter reminds me that I’m not alone; I remind myself that voting is cathartic and can’t come soon enough. Let’s get it done.
On Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to a large crowd in Phoenix Arizona about the importance of this election and her support for Hillary Clinton.
And let me just say that since [my speech last week], my office has been flooded with thousands of letters and emails from folks all across the country. Women of all ages finding the courage to stand up and tell their stories, clearing the cloud of shame that existed for far too long. Parents declaring that our daughters — and our sons — deserve better. (Applause.) Speaking out for the values of decency and respect that we all hold dear. Men of all backgrounds and walks of life agreeing that decent men do not demean women — (applause) — and we shouldn’t tolerate this behavior from any man, let alone a man who wants to be the President. (Applause.)
And let me just tell you, I have been so moved and so humbled by these responses — by the powerful affirmation of our shared values. But what I have not been is surprised. Let me tell you, because this kind of courage and decency and compassion — this is who we are. This is the America that I know.
Who we are:
Well, Barack and I — and our friend, Hillary — (applause) — we have a very different perspective on this country, one that has everything to do with where we come from and how we were raised. You see, we all grew up in working families. As you know, Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped up to help. My dad was a shift worker at the city water plant, and let me tell you, he and my mom scrimped and saved every penny to send me and my brother to college. (Applause.) Hillary’s mother was an orphan, abandoned by her parents. Hillary’s father — small business owner — stayed up nights, poring over his books, working hard to keep their family afloat.
See and when you grow up like us — doing your best to keep it all together — you come in contact with all kinds of people. And yes, you witness a lot of struggles and hardships. But let me tell you, you also see so many triumph, so much beauty so much joy. That’s my life. (Applause.)
So you learn empathy. You learn compassion. You learn that folks may not look or think like you, but when it comes to what really matters in life — our values and our dreams — we’re not all that different. (Applause.) […]
You learn that when folks are down on their luck, it’s not because they deserve it. It’s not because they’re unworthy –because you’ve seen firsthand that sometimes bad things happen to good people and when times are tough, hope is all you have.
So the hope that sustains us isn’t some naïve idea that if you sit around and do nothing, everything will be okay. No, no, our hope is grounded in hard work and hard-earned faith. It is grounded in belief that there is something greater than us that reminds us that we are all precious and worthy, no matter where we come from or what we’ve been through. (Applause.) That’s what Barack and I believe. That’s what Hillary believes too. (Applause.)
Who Hillary Clinton’s opponent is:
Now sadly, for some reason, Hillary’s opponent comes from a different place. I don’t know, perhaps living life high up in a tower, in a world of exclusive clubs, measuring success by wins and losses and the number of zeroes in your bank account — perhaps you just develop a different set of values. Maybe with so little exposure to people who are different than you are — becomes easy to take advantage of those who are down on their luck, folks who play by the rules — pay what they owe — because to you — (applause) — to you those folks just aren’t very smart and seem somehow less deserving.
And if you think this way, then it’s easy to see this country as “us” versus “them.” And it’s easy to dehumanize “them” — to treat “them” with contempt — because you don’t know them. You can’t even see them.
Full White House transcript below.
On Wednesday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to students at La Salle University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania about the importance of voting and, specifically, why they need to vote for Hillary Clinton.
As someone who has seen the presidency up close and personal, let me share with you what I’ve learned about this job — lessons that seem even more relevant, even more critically important after watching Monday’s debate. First and foremost, this job is hard. It is the highest-stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a President’s desk are never easy. And solutions to persistent, systemic challenges are never black and white. […]
When it comes to the qualifications we should demand in a President, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously, someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team.
And we need someone with superb judgment in their own right. Because a President can hire the best advisors on Earth, but I guarantee you that five advisors will give five different opinions, and it is the President — and the President alone — who always has to make the final call. We also need someone who is steady and measured. Because when making life-or-death, war-or-peace decisions, a President just can’t pop off or lash out irrationally. No, we need an adult in the White House, I guarantee you.
And finally, we need someone who is compassionate. Someone who will be a role model for our kids. Someone who’s not just in this for themselves but for the good of this entire country — all of us. See, at the end of the day, as I’ve said before, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. And the same is true of a presidential campaign.
When I hear folks saying that they don’t feel inspired in this election, I have to disagree. See, because for eight years, I have seen what it takes to actually do this job. And here’s what I know for sure: Right now, we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become President. Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State. That’s why I’m inspired by Hillary.
I’m inspired by her persistence, her consistency; by her heart and by her guts. And I’m inspired by her lifelong record of public service. No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure to the presidency — not Barack, not Bill, nobody — and, yes, she happens to be a woman. (Applause.)
So, trust me, Pennsylvania, experience matters. Preparation matters. Temperament matters. And Hillary Clinton has it all. She’s the real deal.
Michelle Obama tells young people how important voting is and concludes:
So let me tell you, especially our young people, don’t let anyone ever take away your hope. Don’t let them do it. That’s what makes America great. And we deserve a President who can see those truths in us. A President who believes that each of us is part of the American story and we’re always stronger together. A President who can bring out the best in us — our kindness, our decency, our courage, our determination, so that we can keep perfecting our union and passing those blessings of liberty down to our children.
Hillary Clinton will be that President. And from now until November, I am going to work as hard as I can to get her and Tim Kaine elected. We need you to do the same thing. We need you to do everything you can to close the door on this election and make it happen so we can keep moving this country forward.
Full transcript below.
President Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Phoenix Awards Dinner last night:
There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters. And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. (Applause.) You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote. (Applause.) And I’m going to be working as hard as I can these next seven weeks to make sure folks do. (Applause.)
Hope is on the ballot. And fear is on the ballot, too. Hope is on the ballot, and fear is on the ballot, too.
On his legacy:
A few days ago, Michelle and my mother-in-law and the girls and I, we snuck over and got an early look at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Applause.) We looked at the shackles that had been used to bring folks over. We saw the shacks that slaves had been trying to make a way out of no way. And then, with each successive level, we saw the unimaginable courage and the struggles, and the sacrifices, and the humor, and the innovation, and the hope that led to such extraordinary progress, even in our own lifetimes.
And it made us proud. Not because we had arrived, but because what a road we had to travel. What a miracle that despite such hardship, we’ve been able to do so much. (Applause.) And I know everybody in this room understands that how progress is not inevitable. Its sustainment depends on us. It’s not just a matter of having a black President or First Lady. It’s a matter of engaging all of our citizens in the work of our democracy.
It was that slave who said, you know what, despite the risk of a lash, I’m going to learn how to read. (Applause.) It’s Harriet Tubman saying, despite the risk to my life, I’m going to free my people. (Applause.) It’s Fannie Lou Hamer saying, despite the ostracism, the blowback, I’m going to sit down here in this convention hall and I’m going to tell people what it’s like to live the life I’ve lived. I’m going to testify to why change needs to come. (Applause.) It’s a young John Lewis saying, I’m going to march despite those horses I see in front of me. (Applause.)
All those ordinary people, all those folks whose names aren’t in the history book, they never got a video providing a tribute to them — that’s why we’re here. That’s how progress is sustained. And then it’s a matter of electing people to office who understand that story, who feel it in their hearts, in their guts, and understand that government can’t solve all our problems but it can be a force for good.
Full transcript below.
Yesterday, President Obama took a break from his August vacation to speak at a Democratic Party fund-raiser. Here is what he wanted to warn us about:
What I do want to emphasize is needing a sense of urgency and finishing the job of getting [Hillary Clinton] elected. And you notice I haven’t said much about her opponent. (Laughter.) Frankly, I’m tired of talking about her opponent. I don’t have to make the case against her opponent because every time he talks he makes the case against his own candidacy.
But what I do know is that this has been an unpredictable election season, but — not only because of anxieties and concerns that the American people have, but also because of the changing nature of the media and voting patterns. There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there. And if we are not running scared until the day after the election, we are going to be making a grave mistake.
Democrats are giddy over the latest polls and the projections showing a shellacking in the electoral college. But here are the words that accompany each poll:
“If the election were held today …”
Guess what? The election will NOT be held today – it will be held in late October when early voting starts in many states and it will be held on November 8, 2016 when most of us go to the polls and cast our votes.
Polls that measure our preferences do not elect a single person. But what they can do, if we don’t stay focused, is lull us into a false sense of comfort.
So listen to President Obama and “Stay Scared” until the job is done. That will be when the polls close in each time zone on November 8, 2016.
(Full text of the president’s remarks are below).
These girls were killed for one reason: hatred of the color of their skin.
We are often called upon to forgive (and forget – now that we are post-racial!) but these four girls should never be forgotten and their murderers should never be set free.
Say their names:
– Addie Mae Collins
– Cynthia Wesley
– Carole Robertson
– Carol Denise McNair
We must never again allow racism and bigotry to be accepted as the norm. We must forcefully reject a political party, the Republican Party, where politicians who embrace the rhetoric of white supremacy can be nominated for the highest office in the land. Reject hatred, reject bigotry, reject Republicans.
The only way to end discrimination is to keep the power to make laws out of the hands of those who do not recognize the worth of every person.
Vote. And then when you finish voting, help someone else to vote.
On Monday, Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke at the 107th NAACP Convention in Cincinnati Ohio.
(Introduction is at 3:49:06, Hillary at 3:54:55)
Secretary Clinton on the criminal justice system:
We must reform our criminal justice system because everyone is safer when there is respect for the law and when everyone is respected by the law.
And let’s admit it, there is clear evidence that African- Americans are disproportionately killed in police incidents compared to any other group.
And African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses.
These facts tell us something is profoundly wrong. We can’t ignore that, we can’t wish it away. We have to make it right. That means end-to-end reform in our criminal justice system, not half measures, but a full commitment with real follow-through.
And the next president should make a commitment to fight for the reforms we so desperately need — holding police departments like Ferguson accountable.
Requiring accurate data on in-custody deaths, like Sandra Bland.
Creating clear national guidelines on the use of force, especially lethal force.
Supporting independent investigations of fatal encounters with the police.
So, I pledge to you, I will start taking action on day one and every day after that until we get this done.
And you know what? When the 24-hour news cycle moves on, I won’t.
This is too important. This goes to the heart of who we are. This is about our character as Americans.
On income inequality:
Rosa Parks opened up every seat on the bus. Our challenge now is to expand jobs so everyone can afford the fare.
And let’s ensure that the bus route reaches every neighborhood and connects every family with safe, affordable housing, good jobs and quality schools.
Now, I know none of this will surprise those of you who know me. I do have a lot of plans. You can go to my website, hillaryclinton.com, and read our full agenda. Because you see, I have this old-fashioned idea: if you’re running for president, you should say exactly what you want to do and how you will get it done.
I do sweat the specifics, because I think they matter, whether one more kid gets health care, one more person finds a job, or one more woman entrepreneur gets access to capital to follow her dream — those just may be details in Washington, but it really matters to those people and their families.
And the truth is, we need to plan how we’re going to address the complex set of economic, social and political challenges we face. They’re intersectional; they’re reinforcing. We’ve got to take them all on. We can’t wait and just do one at a time.
On bringing us together as a nation:
I’ve been saying this for a while now. I’m going to keep saying it because I think it’s important. We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day.
We need to recognize our privilege and practice humility rather than assume that our experiences are everyone’s experiences. We all need to try as best we can to walk in one another’s shoes, to imagine what it would be like to sit our son or daughter down and have the talk about how carefully they need to act around police because the slightest wrong move could get them hurt or even killed.
Let’s also put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to a dangerous job that their families pray will bring them home safe at night. Empathy works both ways. We’ve got to try to see the world through their eyes, too.
When you get right down to it, that’s what makes it possible for people from every background, every race, every religion to come together as one nation. It’s what makes our country endure, and in times like these, we need a president who can help call us together, not split us apart.
I will work every single day to do just that.
On Sunday, President Obama addressed graduates and guests at the Rutgers University commencement.
President Obama Delivers the Rutgers University Commencement Address, May 15, 2016, Piscataway Township, NJ
The “good old days” weren’t that great. Yes, there have been some stretches in our history where the economy grew much faster, or when government ran more smoothly. There were moments when, immediately after World War II, for example, or the end of the Cold War, when the world bent more easily to our will. But those are sporadic, those moments, those episodes. In fact, by almost every measure, America is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, or 30 years ago, or even eight years ago. (Applause.)
… set aside 150 years ago, pre-Civil War — there’s a whole bunch of stuff there we could talk about. Set aside life in the ‘50s, when women and people of color were systematically excluded from big chunks of American life. […]
Since I graduated, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, the share of Americans living in poverty — they’re all down. The share of Americans with college educations have gone way up. Our life expectancy has, as well. Blacks and Latinos have risen up the ranks in business and politics. (Applause.) More women are in the workforce. (Applause.) …
Meanwhile, in the eight years since most of you started high school, we’re also better off. You and your fellow graduates are entering the job market with better prospects than any time since 2007. Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance. We’re less dependent on foreign oil. We’ve doubled the production of clean energy. We have cut the high school dropout rate. We’ve cut the deficit by two-thirds. Marriage equality is the law of the land. (Applause.)
And just as America is better, the world is better than when I graduated. Since I graduated, an Iron Curtain fell, apartheid ended. There’s more democracy. We virtually eliminated certain diseases like polio. We’ve cut extreme poverty drastically. We’ve cut infant mortality by an enormous amount. (Applause.)
Now, I say all these things not to make you complacent. We’ve got a bunch of big problems to solve. But I say it to point out that change has been a constant in our history. And the reason America is better is because we didn’t look backwards we didn’t fear the future. We seized the future and made it our own. And that’s exactly why it’s always been young people like you that have brought about big change — because you don’t fear the future.
The president also went right at the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, actually, the entire party – so many of them take pride in their embrace of ignorance:
But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. (Applause.) So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. (Applause.) It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. (Applause.) That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. (Laughter.) That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. (Applause.) And yet, we’ve become confused about this. […]
… when our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem. (Applause.)
And an important recurring theme from President Obama this year: the need to vote in order to have a say in our democracy:
… We can raise the minimum wage. (Applause.) We can modernize our infrastructure. We can invest in early childhood education. We can make college more affordable. (Applause.) We can close tax loopholes on hedge fund managers and take that money and give tax breaks to help families with child care or retirement. …
Now, the reason some of these things have not happened, even though the majority of people approve of them, is really simple. It’s not because I wasn’t proposing them. It wasn’t because the facts and the evidence showed they wouldn’t work. It was because a huge chunk of Americans, especially young people, do not vote.
In 2014, voter turnout was the lowest since World War II. Fewer than one in five young people showed up to vote — 2014. And the four who stayed home determined the course of this country just as much as the single one who voted. Because apathy has consequences. It determines who our Congress is. It determines what policies they prioritize. It even, for example, determines whether a really highly qualified Supreme Court nominee receives the courtesy of a hearing and a vote in the United States Senate. (Applause.) […]
And, yes, big money in politics is a huge problem. We’ve got to reduce its influence. Yes, special interests and lobbyists have disproportionate access to the corridors of power. But, contrary to what we hear sometimes from both the left as well as the right, the system isn’t as rigged as you think, and it certainly is not as hopeless as you think. Politicians care about being elected, and they especially care about being reelected. And if you vote and you elect a majority that represents your views, you will get what you want. And if you opt out, or stop paying attention, you won’t. It’s that simple. (Applause.) It’s not that complicated.
Full text of transcript is below.
Over the weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the graduating class and guests at Jackson State University, an historically black university in Jackson, Mississippi.
(Jackson State University YouTube: Michelle Obama’s Speech at 2016 JSU Spring Undergraduate Commencement)
Now, back in 1950, when this stadium was built, it was one of the finest stadiums in the country, quickly became the pride of Mississippi. But the story of this beautiful complex also has a darker side. For years, it stood as a steel and concrete tribute to segregation, because Jim Crow laws meant that only white teams and fans were allowed through these gates.
Back in 1962, during an Ole Miss football game, this stadium became the site of what was essentially a pro-Jim Crow rally, with fans waving Confederate flags and singing a song called “Never No Never” to protest the admission of an African American student to their university. […]
That game was just one small moment in a struggle of civil rights that enflamed this entire country, but often burned hottest right here in Mississippi, the state where a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till was beaten and murdered. Where NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated. Where Freedom Riders overflowed the jails. Where gunshots would ring out here on your campus, killing young people and littering one of your dorms with bullet holes still seen today.[…]
Several months ago, I was meeting with a group of teenage girls from Washington, D.C., and one of them asked me, “Well, what do you think Dr. King would say about everything that’s going on today?” And I told her that none of us can really answer that question. But I said that Dr. King would probably answer it with a simple question –- and that is: “Did you vote?” (Applause.) Did you vote?
Dr. King understood was that one of the surest paths to progress here in America runs straight through the voting booth. That’s been the key to every single stride we have ever taken in this country –- from fighting discrimination to passing health care. It all starts with the ballot. […]
If we fail to exercise our fundamental right to vote, then I guarantee that so much of the progress we’ve fought for will be under threat. Congress will still be gridlocked. Statehouses will continue to roll back voting rights and write discrimination into the law. We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago -– how swiftly progress can hurtle backward, how easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love.
Full transcript below.
Today, Democrats in Congress will introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, a bill intended to repair the damage done to the Voting Rights Act by the Shelby County v Holder Supreme Court ruling two years ago.
The bill will face an uphill battle because one of our major national parties (sadly, the one in a majority right now) is bent on shrinking the franchise in order to continue to hang onto power. But it is important to present the Good Government alternative to their obstructionism:
The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would compel states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, require federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaw new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.
The legislation will be formally introduced tomorrow by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and leaders of the Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus in the House. Civil-rights icon Representative John Lewis will be a co-sponsor. The bill is much stronger than the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA), Congress’s initial response to the Supreme Court’s decision, which garnered bipartisan support in the House but was not embraced by the congressional Republican leadership, which declined to schedule a hearing, let alone a vote, on the bill.[…]
The 2016 election will be the first in 50 years where voters will not have the full protections of the VRA, which adds urgency to the congressional effort.
The 2016 election can be summed up pretty succinctly as the “Use It Or Lose It” election as Democrats, including our likely nominee Hillary Clinton, have lined up on the side of expanding voting rights … and Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in fixing any of the problems with our current system (the bill has no Republican sponsors).