September 25, 2023

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the 2023 We Are EMILY Gala

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the 2023 We Are EMILY Gala

The Anthem

Washington, D.C.

7:26 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everyone.  Oh, good evening.  Laphonza, you did your thing!  Look at this.  (Laughs.) 

My goodness, when I look out at this room, I know the future of our country is bright. (Applause.)

Let me start by thanking the leader of EMILYs List, a dear, dear friend to me and so many of us, Ms. Laphonza Butler.  (Applause.)  As Laphonza said, we have known each other for so many years; we have worked together. 

And I have seen, as I hope many of you have, the effort — the tireless effort that Laphonza puts into her extraordinary role of leadership.  And I will tell you, you and we are fortunate to have a leader of EMILYs List who understands the mission and the purpose so deeply and sincerely.  Because as I will discuss in a moment, there are so many of our fundamental freedoms that are under attack.  And to have a leader like Laphonza, as demonstrated with what she did and what EMILYs List did during the midterms to elect the — an historic number of women governors — (applause) — we applaud and thank you Laphonza Butler.  (Applause.)

So it is good to see everyone.  I want to thank the board, including my sister, Maya Harris, who is here.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the incredible Ellen Malcolm, Rebecca Haile, and the whole board of EMILYs List.  Thank you for your leadership of this organization.

And congratulations — a special congratulations to someone that I’ve had the — the pleasure and the honor of working with over the course of the last year and this year’s “Rising Star” leader, Fentrice Driskell.  (Applause.)  There she is.  I can’t wait to see what you will do next.

So, as many of you know, I often quote my mother and one of her sayings in particular, which was, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things.  Make sure you are not the last.”  (Applause.)  Well, because of the mission and the work of EMILYs List, I know I won’t be the last.  I know that.   This is a room full of firsts and those who are committed to breaking these ceilings and showing what leadership looks like.

So, that being said, there’s a lot of business to cover tonight, including the first order of business in my mind, which is to joyfully celebrate a great woman, a great leader, and a great speaker: our friend, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)

So, I will tell you —

(Rumbling noise heard in room.)  No carpet in this room.  (Laughter.)

As a point of personal privilege — as a point of personal privilege, I will tell you that among the many joys I’ve had serving as Vice President, one of them in particular was the evening when our President, Joe Biden, delivered his first State of the Union.  And that evening, I couldn’t help but think about Ellen Malcolm and EMILYs List.  Because, you see, I sat there, side by side with the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives as I serve as the first woman Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

And to be sure, this Speaker is historic not only because of her gender but, importantly, because of her leadership.  It is because of the leadership of Speaker Pelosi that we have the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  It is because of her leadership that 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will not now be denied coverage.  (Applause.)  Because of her leadership, millions more Americans have health insurance coverage.

And in the last two years, because of her partnership, the President and I have made historic progress.  And I’m talking about the largest investment in economic recovery since President Franklin Roosevelt.  (Applause.)  The largest infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower.  (Applause.)  The largest climate investment in America’s history.  (Applause.)  But just to name a few.

Nancy, you are a dear friend, and you are an historic American leader.  And I thank you on behalf of all of us for all you continue to do.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

And so, EMILYs List, we are here again tonight, and in this room are the defenders of democracy and the fighters for freedom.  (Applause.)  You, the people in this room, fight every day to make our country better, stronger, and more fair.  And right now, that work is more important than ever.

You know, it seems like yesterday, but it was actually a year ago this month when we were all together at this dinner and the Dobbs decision had just been leaked.  And there were three words on my mind that night: How dare they.  (Applause.)

How dare they attack our healthcare system.  How dare they attack our fundamental rights.  How dare they attack the freedom of the women of America to make decisions about their own bodies.  (Applause.)

And so we remember, a year ago at this dinner, we braced ourselves for a world without Roe.  And sadly, we rightly predicted what would happen.  Since that night, in states across our nation, extremist so-called leaders have proposed and passed laws that ban abortion, some out right from the moment of conception and others effectively with a ban as early as six weeks. 

And on the six-week ban, everyone here knows many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks — which, by the way, friends, tells us most of these men don’t even understand how a woman’s body works.  (Applause.)  Come on.

Since last year, when we were together, these extremists have proposed and passed laws that make no exception, even for survivors of the crimes of rape or incest.  They passed laws that turn women away from emergency rooms in the middle of a miscarriage and prevent doctors from providing care to women unless they are close to death.  These are the cases we’ve been seeing, and these are only the ones we know about.

And all the while, these extremists dare — dare to posture that these laws will protect mothers and babies.  Well, I say this: If they really want to protect mothers and babies — (applause) —  well, Black women are three times as likely to die in pregnancy than other women.  Native women are twice as likely to die.  Rural women, one and a half times as likely to die. 

And all over our country, including over half of the counties in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas, have no OBGYN.  I did not say “a few.”  I said “none.”  So to them, I say: Don’t come talking to us about the health of women and babies when you have not treated maternal mortality as the crisis it is.  How dare you.  (Applause.)

And, EMILYs List, do note: These extremist so-called leaders are on the attack against our healthcare system as a whole.  They have tried to ban the abortion pill mifepristone. 

Now, we know and realize the FDA has been approving medications for over 80 years — peer-reviewed, scientific processes to determine the health and safety of medicines, including medicines for asthma, for high blood pressure, for diabetes.

Well, mifepristone has proven to be safe and effective as a medicine for abortion and miscarriage care for over 20 years.  (Applause.)  But these extremist so-called leaders suggest that lawyers and politicians, not doctors, should determine which medication is best. 

Okay.  So I would urge them to look in their medicine cabinet to understand the implications of what they are doing.  I would ask them to look in the privacy of their home, in the privacy of their bathroom, in their medicine cabinet, and I would ask them how much do they want politicians getting in their business.  (Laughter and applause.)

Understand where this could go.  Understand where it could go.  Because this is what will happen if extremists get their ways. 

 EMILYs List, I do believe it is critical that we also take a step back to clearly see the moment we are in, see this moment in the context of the history we have lived, and see it in the context of the future we must shape, because this fight is not only about the people of Florida and Texas. 

Let’s see where this is headed.  These extremists have a plan to take their agenda national.  Their blueprint is to attack hard-won fights, hard-won rights, and freedoms state by state, to attack the right to vote as they limit drop boxes and reject mail-in ballots, to prevent the teaching of America’s full history with book bans.  (Applause.)  Can you imagine book bans in this year of our Lord 2023?  While they try to condemn Americans for loving who they love openly and with pride. 

 And most recently — (applause) — most recently — I know we’re all paying attention — and most recently, they even want to eliminate classes that teach, quote, “gender ideology.”

Well, so what are we talking about here?  Classes that teach women’s history, women’s equality?  The study of the fact that there are still only 25 women in the United States Senate in a body of 100?  (Applause.)

Do they want to eliminate the study of pay equity?  That women make 84 cents on the dollar?  That Black women make about 63 cents on the dollar, Native women make about 60 cents, Latinas about 55 cents?  (Applause.) 

Are they saying, “Don’t teach that.  Don’t learn that.  Don’t address that”? 

Are we talking about saying that we shouldn’t be teaching about how, not very long ago, women were excluded from casting a ballot or opening a bank account?

Again, I say: How dare they make a mockery of these issues.  We’re not falling for it.  We are not falling for it.  (Applause.) 

And of course, again, a year later, we are here.  And it is clear that these extremists, as part of their national agenda, want a nationwide abortion ban. 

But I have news for them: We’re not having that.  (Applause.)  And here’s the thing that everyone here knows: Part of what is behind our posture and position and our fight is we love our country.  We love our country, and we will not allow you to destroy the basic rights and principles upon which our nation was founded.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, the majority of Americans are with us.  Just look at the recent elections, where Americans of every background in every community made their voice heard through their vote. 

From Kentucky to California, voters protected reproductive rights.  In Michigan, they reelected Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who signed — (applause) — the law to repeal the state’s anti-abortion law.  In Kansas, they reelected Governor Laura Kelly, who has vetoed bills — (applause) — that will restrict abortion.  In New Mexico, they reelected Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham — (applause) — who has signed a bill to protect abortion providers.

Elections matter.  Say it with me, EMILYs List: Elections matter.  And organizing matters.  (Applause.)  And in 2024, so much is at stake. 

For two years, because of your support, I have been honored to serve as Vice President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Oh, wow.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)  Please, thank you.  (Applause.)

(Rumbling noise heard in room.)  Still no carpet.  (Laughter.) 

And for two years — and for two years, President Joe Biden and I have fought to uphold and protect the fundamental freedoms of the American people — (applause) — and now we need to finish the job.  (Applause.)

For two years, we have stood together with all of you in defense of freedom and democracy, in defense of civil rights, for human rights, for women’s rights.  And I do believe, when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for. 

So, EMILYs List, again, I will ask you: Stand if you are in the fight for the right of all people to express their vote through their voice, use their voice for their vote.  (Applause.) 

Stand if you believe and are in the fight for people to love who they love openly, and be free from gun violence!  (Applause.) 

Stand if you are in the fight for the right of our children to learn the history of America — (applause) — if you agree you don’t have to abandon your faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body!  (Applause.)

Stand if you are in the fight for the expansion of the Child Tax Credit — (applause) — and paid family leave and medical leave — (applause) — and affordable childcare, and Medicare and Social Security!  (Applause.)

Stand if you are in the fight to renew the assault weapons ban — (applause) — and to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act!  (Applause.) 

Stand if you are prepared to fight for our democracy.  (Applause.)

And, EMILYs List, look at us.  Look at us as we stand and we fight based on our love of our country.  And, EMILYs List, when we fight, we win.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

                                 END               7:46 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/05/16/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-at-the-2023-we-are-emily-gala/