July 19, 2024

Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation with Annie Gonzalez During the National “Fight for Our Freedoms” College Tour

Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation with Annie Gonzalez During the National “Fight for Our Freedoms” College Tour

Reading Area Community College
Reading, Pennsylvania

12:46 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You did it, Micki!  (Applause.)

Hi, everyone.  Let’s have a seat.  Hi. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Hi.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Hi.  We’re together again —

MS. GONZALEZ:  We are.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — at RACC.

MS. GONZALEZ:  (Laughs.)  At RACC.  And we are so excited to be here.  So excited to be here with the woman that needs no introduction, Madam Vice President, and so excited —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Annie.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.  You can scream it one more time.  (Applause.)  We can do it.  We can do it. 

And — and really excited to be here with all of you guys.

First and foremost, I think it’s super amazing that you’ve — this summer alone, you’ve embarked on a tour to meet with America’s young leaders, 17 different states. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  You’ve been to Colorado talking to the youth about climate crisis.  You were in Virginia talking about advocates for gun violence.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  And now you’re here on a college tour.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yep.  Right?  How amazing for — (applause) — yep — Reading Area Community College.  And you’ve been serving a lot of Hispanic, Latino college campuses.  Why embark on this tour?  And why Reading?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I — I know what you are doing here in Reading.  These are extraordinary students.  And you all — I — I’m here because I’m counting on your leadership to help direct our country based on a vision that is about understanding everyone should be free to live their best life and that we will fight for those freedoms each and every day.  (Applause.)

And so, yeah, I — I started this college tour because I — I’m meeting, in these various visits I do, so many extraordinary young leaders.  And I just want to remind you, the young leaders here at RACC: We’re — we really are counting on you. 

And when I think about who you are, I know about your brilliance, I know your ambition, I know your aspiration, and I also know you all have so much at stake in terms of the future of our country.

And what I love about the fact that you are here is you have already decided, by the very fact that you are a student here, that you are going to lead, that you are going to be a role model, that you’re going to be committed to what we can do as a society to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that everyone matters. 

So, that’s why I’m here.  That’s why I’m here.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.  That’s beautiful, and it’s — I mean, it’s really important.  You know, in 2020, we had a record voter turnout. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  And in ‘22 — 2022, we had a near-youth-record voter turnout. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.  So, that’s all y’all. 

So, I’m assuming we have some people who voted for the first time here in 2020 and probably for the first time in 2022.  And now we have people who are going to vote for the first time in our 2024 election, which is really exciting. 

Why is it so important that we use our voice?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  And how do we garner information to do so?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, to your point, Annie, can I see a show of hands of who voted for the first time in 2020 or in 2022?  That’s fantastic.  That’s fantastic.  (Applause.)

And — and, by the way, today is National Voter Registration Day.  So, for everyone who is not yet registered, please use the celebration of today as a way to get registered. 

And I also want to give a shoutout to the governor, because today they have announced that if — when you renew or when you apply for your driver’s license or state ID, you’re automatically registered to vote.  (Applause.)  So, let’s make sure — right? — that we let everybody know. 

And — and to your point — so, here’s the thing.  First of all, when I think about what happened in 2020, there w- — it always is that people will say about younger people, “Ah, they’re not going to vote.  Oh, your vote won’t matter.”  But we had record turnout in 2020 of young voters, because they understood, just like these leaders understand, that of the many ways you can make a difference in our country, one of the tools that you have is voting to make a difference.

So, when people turned out in 2020 — even though there were the doubters; I would say some of the haters.  Let’s keep it real.  (Laughter.)  Record turnout, and it’s because you voted that Joe Biden is president of the United States and I am vice president of the United States.  It’s because you voted.  (Applause.)  Right?

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah, yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Because young people — and, in particular, young voters — said, “We are going to direct and decide what is the direction of our country,” we — we had a whole initiative that’s about forgiveness of student loans.  Now, the Court just recently went against us on that, but we’re not going to stop fighting for that.  (Applause.) 

Because young people said, “We’re not leaving it to other people to decide how we’re dealing with the climate crisis” —  you know, I’ve heard young leaders talk with me about a term they’ve coined called “climate anxiety.” 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Period.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right?  Which is fear of — of the future and the unknown of whether it makes sense for you to even think about having children, whether it makes sense for you to think about aspiring to buy a home —

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — because what will this climate be? 

But because people voted, we have been able to put in place over a trillion dollars in investment in our country around things like climate resilience and adaptation, around focusing on issues like environmental justice and — (applause) — and understanding that despite what these extremist, so-called leaders are trying to do when they’re trying to get rid of DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion — we know that we’re going to stay committed to issues like equity. 

Because here’s the thing: Yeah, we want everyone to have an equal amount, but not everyone starts out on the same base.  And so, if you give everyone an equal amount but you don’t start out on the same base, you’re still going to end up with people being treated differently.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yep. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Equity says, “Let’s take that into account.” 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yep.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And young voters and young leaders are then in a position and have been to fight against these extremists who have tried to say things like DEI are bad because they don’t want to have a conversation about equity and inclusion and have a conversation that’s about saying, “Well, as a leader, can you pay attention to who’s not in the room and then figure out a way to invite them in —

MS. GONZALEZ:  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and leave the door open?”  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.  I mean, in low-income areas, Latinos make up about 15 percent of the voting population, and we only showed up to about 10 percent of the polls.  One in every four youth Lat- — are now Latino. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  And there’s so much of a divide there of what you’re saying.  Like, how do we encourage our youth to come show up to the polls and get excited about it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, one is that we have to really remind each other.  And all — to all the young leaders here: There is no better way to lead than to do it as a peer — meaning we can talk with young people about what they need to do, but when you’re talking to your peers about how you know it makes a difference, your leadership is so powerful. 

And so, talking with our peers and family members about the fact that when you vote, it actually determines whether the person who is holding elected office is going to fight for your freedoms and rights or not.  Whether that be the freedom that you should have to just be free from attack, free from hate, free from gun violence, free from bias, free to love who you love and be open about it, free to have access to the ballot box without people obstructing your ability to exercise your civic right to vote, in terms of who will be the people holding elected office and leading your country.  (Applause.) 

All of these things are at stake.  And that’s why I call it the “Fight for Our Freedoms Tour,” because it really is all that.

You know, we talk about fighting for democracy.  Well, at the root of it all, there is so much about a democracy that is about upholding and protecting people’s freedoms.  Right? 

And I think about the generation of the young leaders here — you all have only known the climate crisis, your whole life.  You all — you’re — in your lifetime, witnessed the highest court in our land take a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America — from the women of America.  You all — your generation will have mothers and grandmothers that had more rights than you will have. 

Your generation has had to go through, from elementary school on, on the first day of school — in addition to learning the name of your teacher and where the bathroom is and where your cubby is — to learn how to protect yourself from an active shooter. 

For the students here, please, a show of hands: How many of you at some point from elementary school on, before you got here, had an active shooter drill at school? 

And I’d ask the press to take a notice of this.  Because here’s the thing: I think older adults don’t understand what you all have been through and what that means in terms of the fear that you have had to live with and, to some extent, the trauma that you have experienced. 

So, when I think about our young leaders, they have been through a lot.  But they also — what I love about you is that you’re not waiting for other people to figure it out.  You are leading on these issues.  (Applause.) 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I love that. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yep.  We got to.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  And — and so, I’m here just to say thank you and to encourage you to keep doing it.  I’m here to say, you know, I have an ex- — several expressions, but one of them is, “I eat ‘no’ for breakfast.”  (Laughter.)  Somebody tells me, “No, it can’t be done.  Nope, nobody like you has done this before.”  I don’t hear that.  And nor should you ever hear that. 

It can be done.  These things can be fixed.  They can be addressed.  If there was a will and the courage and the determination with a sense of urgency —

MS. GONZALEZ: And knowledge.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — and knowledge.  Yeah, that’s right. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  I love that.  I love that “no” is not in the vocabulary.  I heard from someone very wise, Ms. Eva Longoria, “There is no such thing as ‘no.’  I’m either asking the wrong person or the wrong question.”  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  That’s exactly right.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  So, to that point of this being our democracy — right? — like, this — it wasn’t until I went to the White House for the first time this year that I learned it was called the People’s House. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  And even just that shift in language for my brain was like, “Oh, wait, this is my d- — like, this is why voting is so important.  Yes, I want to take it back.” 

But now we have — our voting rights are under siege. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ: You know, and it’s — that has — it can be disheartening.  Can you speak to that and give us some hope on how we can figure out how to bring it back into our hands and what we can do? 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, one of the things that happens when you exercise your power, especially if you are someone who has not traditionally been in power, it will scare some people. 

So, record turnout of young voters in 2020 — that scared some people.  And almost immediately thereafter, you started seeing laws being proposed or passed to, in my opinion, intentionally make it more difficult to vote.  In states like Georgia, passing a law that makes it illegal to give people food and water when they’re standing in line to vote.  What happened to “love thy neighbor”?  The hypocrisy abounds.

Laws are being passed making it more difficult for students to vote, making it — saying that student IDs aren’t enough. 

So, the — part of the point here is that we have to understand that there are going to be, when you exercise your power, those — including just systems — that will create obstacles to your leadership. 

And that’s when I say, again, don’t hear “no,” and understand there’s always a way to jump over or run around an obstacle.  But don’t let anything get in the path or in the way of your leadership.  But these — there are efforts underway to do just that. 

But then you have, by contrast, what has just happened and was announced today by Governor Shapiro, where you can automatically register when you apply for a driver’s license or renew your driver’s license or get a state ID.  So, see also the examples of how things are supposed to be.  See also and know also that it doesn’t have to be this way. 

And that’s another part of it, which is learning to not accept what some people will suggest, which is that, “Well, it’s always been that way; that’s the way it should be.”  Come on. 

And so, I mean, the — the reality is that that’s actually very narrow-minded to think that.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Talk about it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  To be — to — to think that we should just be content with status quo, with — with the way things are. 

The point about progress is to have the ability to have a vision and a belief and some faith in what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then going for it.  (Applause.)  And I will say — right? —

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.  Yeah. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — that the greatest movements in our country — you know, my parents were students when they were active in the Civil Rights Movement back in the day.  The greatest movements in our country that has been about the empowerment of people, the fight for equality, for freedom, the expansion of rights — those movements have almost always been led by students. 

And so, again, I’m here to encourage you to do what you already have decided to do.  (Applause.)

 MS. GONZALEZ:  I love that.  I love that.  Wow.  I love how you talk about the obstacle is the way.  It’s going to happen regardless.  We got to keep fighting. 

And she is so right.  Y’all students, this is — this is in your hands.  Y’all are brilliant.  You have this. 

Thank you so much, Madam Vice President, for answering my questions.  (Laughs.)  Now we have some questions from our students here. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Good.

MS. GONZALEZ:  So, let’s turn it over.  Let me stop taking y’all’s time.  So can I have our first student, please, Nangelie?  

Yes, go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  Hello, everyone.  My name is Nangelie Zapata.  I’m a second-year student at RACC.  I’m a proud Hispanic, and I live here in Reading. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Woo!  (Applause.)

Q    My question for you, Madam Vice President, is: Climate change disproportionately affects low-income communities such as those in Reading.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

Q    How can the federal government ensure that environmental policies address this imbalance?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, first of all, thank you for your question and your leadership.

Let’s start with what you and everyone here knows: The climate crisis is a threat to us as a species and this planet that God gave us to live on.  And we need to take this issue seriously and understand that the clock is not just ticking, it is banging.  And on this issue, there are things we as human beings can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to help communities deal with extreme climate experiences so that they are not that facing peril. 

And when you bring up, in particular, communities of color, low-income communities, immigrant communities, you will not be surprised — many people here — to know that you see some of the, for example, worst air quality districts in our country are in those communities.  You will not be surprised to know that those communities are the ones that are dealing with the fact that lead pipes are still delivering toxic water to the babies of those communities, which is resulting in health issues and learning im- — an impact on learning ability. 

So, what we have been doing as an administration — and President Biden is very — he — he will talk about this with everyone in our administration all the time.  Ours is an administration that is always focused on equity: are all people having the same experience and, if not, in particular, what they are entitled to, such as the right to clean water, the cliat- — right to clean air.  Then, let’s address that. 

So, “environmental justice” is a phrase that we use to talk about that we want to make sure that there is equality and justice for all people.

Lead pipes.  The grandparents in communities that have had those lead pipes have been for years saying, “Look, we may not have a medical degree, but we know what this is doing to our babies.”  And part of the problem with the — the approach was that, well, lead pipes were in many communities, but if you had money, if you were — had high rates of homeownership, you could just take some of the equity out of your home and replace the pipes.  Well, what about low-income communities?  What about communities of renters?  Who is going to do that?

Our perspective as an administration — again, guided by equity — is it’s a public health issue.  When the babies of our community are suffering and becoming sick, having learning disabilities because of that toxic water, it is our responsibility to address it as a public health matter and that we will take care of it and pay for it as a government.  And that’s what we decided to do. 

And so, we are now on track to remove every lead pipe in America because of that kind of approach.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Amazing. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  We are focusing — if, for example, you think about the South, there’s a whole strip that is called “Cancer Alley.” 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Oh, my God.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah. 

Where the communities have been the subject of dumping, where there’s poor sewage infrastructure, right?  All of these things that result in health impacts.  So, we have been focusing on that in terms of targeted resources for those communities.

And then, what we are doing in terms of adaptation and resilience.  So, that means how are we putting resources into helping communities, in particular low-income communities, adapt when we have these extreme weather occurrences, knowing that they may not necessarily — the people who live in those homes — have the equity or have high rates of homeownership to do it themselves.  But, again, this is in the interest of public health and well-being. 

So, that’s the approach that we are taking, and I see it making a difference. 

But I would urge the students who are here and haven’t figured out yet what your major is to think about how you will think about your role of leadership and career in a way that is about a growing economy that we are starting and helping with, which is a clean energy economy — thinking about, for example, a commitment to solar panels and wind turbines and electric vehicles and smart technology. 

We have — we have passed rules that basically now allow for rebates for people when — if they own their home to get a new HVAC system.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right?  Because that’s going to be about cleaner air. 

By the way, the people on the other side who did not vote for the Inflation Reduction Act — not one Republican voted for it; this should not be a partisan issue — there are many people who are trying to actually roll back the rebates that we are getting for homeowners so that they can afford to be able to fix their home up so that they will have cleaner air. 

It’s a shame that it’s a partisan issue for some people, but we’re going to keep pushing forward with equity being our focus.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Very nice.  Thank you.

I believe we have another brilliant student in the audience.  Jonathan.  Jonathan, can you stand up?  Oh, hi.

Q    Hi.  Thank you, thank you.  Hi, Madam Vice President. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Hi, Jonathan. 

Q    I’m a second-year student here at RACC .  My name is Jonathan Alexander (inaudible) Pensado.  My question to you is: I am a proud Mexican American, and hearing the recent news that Mexico has removed federal penalties surrounding abortion has been a monumental step forward for human rights.  These situations are already so complicated and should ideally only involve their primary parties and their doctor, which is something I’ve seen you’re in agreement with.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MR. PENSADO:  Do you feel a decision like that could happen here in the U.S.?  And what would that mean for women here in this country?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great question, Jonathan.  That’s great. 

So, one of the things that we saw that led up to that decision in Mexico was students and people took to the streets — activism.  Activism matters.  It makes a difference. 

You know, sometimes we talk about it as — there’s a phrase that is — we refer to it as the “inside-outside game.”  It shouldn’t be called a game, but that’s how some people talk about it.  And basically, it means that sometimes leaders and people who are inside the system — it requires the activism from outside the system to push them in the right direction and give them some — some courage or just give them the support they need when they want to change the system but they’re up against a system that feels immovable.

So, one of the things we saw about what happened in Mexico was there was a great deal of activism and the people took to the streets.  There was a whole — and we’ve actually seen it in Central and Latin America — the whole movement in that direction on this issue of — of access to abortion. 

So, on that subject, I think it’s very important to agree — I think most people do: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.  (Applause.)  

MS. GONZALEZ:  Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right?

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, if she chooses, she will talk with her priest or pastor or her rabbi, but the government should not be telling her what to do. 

The other point I will make is this — and again, this is real talk and everyone here is — is grown.  You know, after the — it was in the Supreme Court, the Dobbs decision came down, they took this constitutional right from the people of America.  And these extremists in these states — many of them started proposing or passing laws that would criminalize healthcare providers. 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Some providing for, like, serious prison time for a doctor or a nurse or a medical health professional who is doing their job. 

We have seen laws being proposed and passed that make no exception for rape or incest.  And now, I’m going to get into the detail of that.  And I know it’s difficult to hear and certainly to talk about, but it’s important.  Because I will say to the students here, when we come — when it comes to public policy, we always have to ask: How does this affect a real person?  Not just, “Oh, intellectually, I think that the debate is this, this, and that. 

On this issue, where laws are being passed that make no exception for rape or incest, I — you know, many of you know my background was as a prosecutor.  And part of the reason I became a prosecutor was my best friend in high school was being molested by her stepfather.  And when I learned about it, I said to her, “You have to come and live with us.”  I called my mother; my mother said, “Yes, she has to come live with us.”  And she did. 

The idea that someone who calls themselves a leader would say to a survivor of an act of violence, a violation to their body — and say to that person, that survivor “and you don’t have the authority or right to make the decision about what happens to your body next” is immoral.  It’s immoral. 

And this is what’s happening in our country.  Like I said earlier, the fact that you, the students who are here, will know fewer rights than your mother or your grandmother. 

And again, this is the reason to really take seriously elections, because th- — what the Supreme Court took away, the United States Congress can put back in place, in terms of those protections, under a case called Roe v. Wade.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And — and Joe Biden has been very clear: He will sign that bill to put back in place those protections.  Right?  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So —

MS. GONZALEZ:  We got to show up.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You got to show up. 

And — and, again, remembering that — you know, I’m — I know that young leaders are sick of hearing “people fought and died for your right to vote.”  I know sometimes I can get, like, you know, “I know.  I know the history.”  But they did fight and die for your right to vote, one.  Two, your vote really does make a difference —

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  — in real things that are happening in real time in your real lives.  And this is one of the front-and-center issues in this election cycle.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  So, I’m glad you raised this issue, Jonathan.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.  And just to add to that and remind to y’all as well, I know the hand — right? — the faith of our nation and the restoration rests in the hands of the youth.  You guys are in school.  There are a lot of people in your circumference that do not have access to a college education —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  — that need the information that you have — just to share it.  I myself didn’t go to college, and I think that’s why it’s so important that I’m right here next to you asking these questions —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

MS. GONZALEZ:  — because then we have more reach that way.  So —

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. GONZALEZ:  — just, you know, vote and also talk to your friends and family about it.  Get them registered to vote as well so we can further our nation in the right direction.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, and I can’t be here without mentioning a website, so — (laughs).

MS. GONZALEZ:  Go ahead and do.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Vote.gov.  (Applause.)  It’s — just go to that website.  You can see if you’re registered.  Ask your family members to go on.  See if they’re registered.  And then they — they can register in most states.  And it’s really simple and quick.  Vote.gov.

So I’d ask you guys to share that information with your — your circle of friends and family and — and your circle of influence, which I know is big.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yay.  I believe we have one more question from the audience.  Can I have it — there they are. 

Q    Hi, my name is Jamie Szarawara.  I’m also a second-year student here at RACC and a proud Colombian American.  My question to you is: Does the Biden administration have plans to increase gun safety laws while still protecting the Second Amendment right?  Thank you. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yes, absolutely.  And, again, this is one of the issues.  So, we — we saw the show of hands — and — and to those who are here who did not have to have those active shooter drills: It’s a big deal.  It’s a very big deal. 

I have talked to students, in particular middle-school students in that age range, who, when we were talking about this, have said to me, for example, “Yeah, I don’t like to go to fifth period.”  And I said, “Why, sweetheart?”  “Because in fifth period, there is no closet to hide.” 

The children of our country are sitting in classrooms where their brain should be focused on all the wonders of the world.  And there is some piece of their attention that is about whether there might be a shooter busting through the door.  That’s the first point. 

Second point, I’m sure every- — you know, and everyone here knows — do you know that gun violence is now the number one cause of death of children in America?  Not a health disease — not that that would be any better — but gun violence is the number one cause of death for children in America. 

One in five Americans has a family member that was killed by gun violence. 

And to the point of the brilliant way you asked this question: It’s a false choice to suggest you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns.  I’m in favor of the Second Amendment.  And I also believe we need an assault weapons ban, we need background checks, we need red flag laws.  (Applause.)  That’s just reasonable.  It’s just reasonable.

You just might want to know before someone can buy a lethal weapon if they’ve been found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.  You might just want to know.  It’s reasonable. 

But there are, you know, again, these extremists — and some of them are just — just basically feckless — who don’t have the courage to stand up and say, “I know the difference, and I believe we should have reasonable gun safety laws.” 

And so, again, elections matter.  Elections matter, because there was a time when we did have an assault weapons ban in America.  It expired.  But just know in terms of when I say to you it doesn’t have to be this way, please always keep that in mind.  It doesn’t have to be this way. 

You have a right to have your best life.  You have a right to that.  And so, it’s a matter of having the people in Congress who do this, because it — it’s — actually, some of the things we need to do don’t require that much creativity.  They’re pretty basic, you know? 

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  But we need people who have the courage.  And again, that’s why elections matter. 

I am so certain that when the students who are here — when you all in your generation starts voting in your numbers, so many of these things are going to change.  I’m certain of that.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Yes, elections matter.  Elections matter.  Your vote matters.  The only wrong way to vote is to not vote.  Activism can start with talking to your neighbor about voting.  It does not have to be trying to solve climate crisis or gun violence right now.  You start small, and it makes a ripple effect. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Thank you so much, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris.  We have so much that we tackled today.  And I know some of it can feel daunting.  But to me, I’m inspired because it means we have something to work for and work towards. 

Can you leave us with some words, some uplift- — I mean, you already have.  Listen, you’ve — you’ve done a lot.  But can you give us some more zhuzh to end on such a brilliant note for today and to remind our beautiful students here to go register to vote.  There’s voter registration outside.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. GONZALEZ:  Leave us with some words to give us some hope to keep fighting the good fight.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Annie.  First of all, so great to be on stage with you.  And thank you for your — using your voice in so many ways that’s about uplifting others. 

And, I guess, on that point, I will say this about leadership.  So, I think there’s this almost perverse thing that’s happening in our country recently, which is to suggest that the measure of leadership is based on who you beat down, when in fact the true measure of leadership is based on who you lift up.  (Applause.) 

And that’s important to remember.  It is important to remember that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to have some level of curiosity, concern, and care for the suffering of other people.  That’s a sign of strength. 

And so, let’s renew, always, our commitment to what we want for ourselves, each other, and our country and our world. 

And again, that’s why I have so much optimism when I think about the future, because I know that these young leaders, they get it, and they’re not falling for that stuff.  And so, I’ll say that.

I’ll say also, for so many of you and I — I have a sense of who this student body is.  I’m going to just give you a little piece of advice. 

In your life and in your career, you’re going to often walk in a room where you’re the only one like you — the only one who looks like you or the only one who has had your life experience.  And what I want for you is that when you walk in those rooms, you walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back, knowing that we are all in that room with you and that your voice is the voice of all the people you carry into that room.  And you make sure your voice is heard. 

It is so important.  Because, again, the challenge that we have at this moment is that there are active attempts to suppress people’s votes, to make people feel small, to make people feel alone.  And one of the best ways that we can grow and be strong as a country is to remember the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.  Our diversity is our strength.  Our unity is our power. 

And so, let’s continue to work together as a community of people that do care about each other and love our country and are prepared to fight for all that is good and to fight for our freedoms.  (Applause.)

MS. GONZALEZ:  Yes.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you, guys, here in Reading.  (Applause.)

                          END                 1:24 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/09/19/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-in-a-moderated-conversation-with-annie-gonzalez-during-the-national-fight-for-our-freedoms-college-tour/