January 17, 2022

THE VICE-PRESIDENT: Good morning. Hello. Hello. Dear Dr. Bernice King, thank you for this introduction and for all you do every day in your leadership role. And thank you for inviting me to address this most distinguished group of leaders.

I would also like to thank Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Pastor Sam Collier and all who speak today for sharing your words and your wisdom, and for encouraging us to fight – buoyed by the optimism that we must have – rooted in our faith.

I also want to thank the members of Congress who are here and participating in this important occasion, including your own Reverend Raphael Warnock; and the members of our administration who are part of it; state and local leaders; activists and organizers for coming together on this very special day in this most special place.

As some of you know, last week I had the honor of visiting your historic shrine again with members of the King family.

And it is an honor to be with you today as our nation remembers the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As has been said, as is known throughout the world, Dr. King was a prophet. He was a prophet in that he saw the present exactly as it was and the future as it could be. And he pushed our nation toward that future.

Dr. King pushed even as his character was maligned.

He pushed even as his family’s life was threatened.

He pushed even when his own life was in danger.

He pushed for racial justice, for economic justice and for the freedom that opens up all others: the freedom to vote.

Today, our freedom to vote is threatened. In Georgia and across our country, anti-election laws are being passed that could make it harder for 55 million Americans – 55 million Americans – to vote. That’s one in six people in our country.

And the promoters of these laws are not content to put up obstacles at the polls. They also work to interfere with our elections to get the results they want and discredit those they don’t. This is not how democracies work.

We know the threat we face. We know that this attack on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party.

We know that if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.

You know, I remember the words of Dr. King’s partner – a great American leader and his partner in the struggle – yes, Coretta Scott King, who said, “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and earn it every generation.

So many people in this state have worked tirelessly to protect our democracy. You have registered voters. You organized university campuses and residences for the elderly, in cafes and barbecues. You’ve worn out the soles of your shoes going door to door to get the vote.

And last week, the president and I traveled to Atlanta to deliver a message: It’s time for the United States Senate to do its job.

A historic bill, as we all know, is before the United States Senate: “The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act”. This bill represents the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly a decade ago. And the Senate needs to pass this bill now.

You know, over 55 years ago, men, women and children marched from Selma to Montgomery demanding the ballot.

When they arrived at the state capitol in Alabama, Dr. King denounced what he called “normality” – the normalcy, the complacency that deprived people of the freedom to vote.

As Dr. King said, the only normalcy he would accept is “normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children.”

Today, we must not be complacent or complicit. We must not give up and we must not give in.

To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all.

Thank you all. God bless you. And God bless America. Have a good morning.