Joe Biden’s speech on Hispanic Heritage Month

Joe Biden in Tampa on Sep 14th
Editor’s note: On September 15th , Joe Biden and Kamala Harris released their plan to ensure Puerto Rico has the resources they need and deserve, and outlined how they will work directly with the people of Puerto Rico to rebuild and restore hope. They will protect and build on Obamacare to deliver quality and affordable healthcare, strengthen the power system, invest in school infrastructure, provide families equal access to nutrition assistance, and rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. You can read the English version of the plan here and the Spanish version here

Below is the transcript of Joe’s speech delivered on September 15th in Kissimmee, Florida:

Hello! And Happy Hispanic Heritage month! 

It’s great to be back in Florida, and to be here to celebrate what is best in our democracy — our diversity, our culture that is shaped by people from every part of the world, and especially the rich Hispanic heritage that enlivens so much of our national story.

We hear it in the rhythms that pour into our hearts and move our feet — from artists like Luis Fonsi and Ricky Martin, thank you both for being here.

But more than being here, thank you for actually jumping in and trying to help me win this election. Where I come from we call that a big deal – it really is. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We see it represented on our television and movie screens — in actresses like Eva Longoria. Thank you Eva, for both joining us tonight and for the outstanding work you did hosting the first night of the Democratic Convention.

You have changed political conventions forever, I don’t think we’ll ever see one like the old fashioned conventions. You did an incredible job, you’ve become a great friend, and thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me.

We recognize it in the halls of power — in our Congressional leaders, like my friend Representative Darren Soto, who I had the pleasure of speaking with a few minutes ago.

I thanked him for the passport into his district, I appreciate it. 

Congressman, thank you for all you do for the people of this district.

It’s in the scientists working in labs across the country on a vaccine to fight this virus, and in the doctors and nurses on the front lines working around the clock to care for people’s health.

It’s in the diplomats who proudly represent the United States of America and our values in countries all over the world, and in the military members and families who love this country so much, they are willing to sacrifice everything for it.

It’s in the engineers who are working to develop the new technologies that will help us grasp our clean energy future and in the skilled union craftsmen who are going to build it.

Hispanic Heritage Month is also an important reminder of just how much strength we draw as a nation from our immigrant roots, and our values as a nation of immigrants.

Unless you are Native American or your ancestors were enslaved and brought here by force beginning four hundred years agp, we all come from somewhere else.

And for most of us, that journey began with a choice — to try for something better here in the United States.

Whether it was my ancestors who boarded coffin ships in the Irish sea in the faminine in the 1840s, or families who fled oppressive regimes and natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean, or any of the waves of immigrants seeking freedom and opportunity and who have continuously renewed our national strength, and have given us the great capacity to speak – to speak with grit and determination, to simply say, “I can do it.”

All of our ancestors, yours and mine, they came equipped with only one thing — the only thing they had in their pocket was hope.

In so many ways, that’s part of what makes us Americans.

And for people with Hispanic ancestry, those contributions date all the way back to before our founding.

There is no separating out Hispanic heritage from American heritage. These stories are one in the same. And growing more vibrantly entwined every single day.

Today, it is no exaggeration to say that the future success of this country depends on Hispanics having the opportunities and the tools they need to succeed.

You know, I know – my team here knows, my new team – that twenty-four of every one hundred kids in school today speaks Spanish. The idea we are not going to encourage and build and invest in – is just mind-blowingly stupid.

Folks, in the midst of the God-awful pandemic, we’ve seen even more clearly than ever how much we rely on people with Hispanic roots to keep our country running. And, again, that’s not an exaggeration.

So many of our frontline workers are Hispanic — the people stocking the grocery shelves, driving the delivery vehicles, working in the meat packing plants, staffing our nursing homes and hospitals.

That includes 200,000 Dreamers working in those key roles, many of whom are of Hispanic heritage.

We depend on them.

And there are a lot of people who are recognizing for the first time what they truly are: essential.

But we don’t just need to thank them — we need to pay them. And treat them with dignity. 

My dad used to say “Joey, a job’s about a lot more than a paycheck – it’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be okay.”

And make sure we’re giving Hispanic Americans the support and respect they deserve and need at all times.

How can we have a strong and thriving republic — if we aren’t doing more to fully deal in Hispanic communities — and all those communities that have too long been left out or left behind — to every aspect of American life?

The answer real is simple. We won’t be able to.

That’s why I’ve laid out extensive plans that demonstrate how we’re going to use every tool at our disposal to take on the inequities that hurt Hispanic communities — by: investing in economic mobility, improving our educational system, rooting out race-based disparities in our health care and building on Obamacare, taking on the gun violence that plagues our communities, and finally building an immigration system that treats people with dignity and is true to American values.

And today, I’ve released my agenda for Puerto Rico.

Even after being president for nearly four years, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to grasp that the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens already, and they deserve to have leadership in government that understands that — in America — there’s no room for the idea of second-class citizens. Period.

We’re all equal. We’re all deserving. I am running to be a President for all Americans — including 3 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico.

I’m not going to steal the money that’s desperately needed for reconstruction on the Island in order to build a wall along the border that does nothing to keep Americans safe. 

I’m not going to suggest that we sell or trade Puerto Rico.

I’m not going to throw paper towels at people whose lives have just been devastated by a hurricane.

The world saw that – it was mortifying. 

And I’m not going to deny the science of climate change that tells us hurricanes and devastating weather events will only grow more frequent and more intense, unless we take action.

And I certainly won’t say what the president allegedly said to the Department of Homeland Security and the national security officials, when he said, “I got it. The way to keep these hurricanes from coming is nuke them.” 

No — I’ll lead.

I’ll respect and support the island’s renewal and full recovery, including: investing in infrastructure reconstruction to modern standards, promoting economic development initiatives and support for families, providing relief from unsustainable debt, and expanding access to education and workforce development.

I will work with representatives who support each of the status options in Puerto Rico on a fair and binding process to determine their own status.

I believe statehood would be the most effective means of ensuring that residents of Puerto Rico are treated equally, with equal representation at the federal level.

But the people of Puerto Rico must decide, and the federal government must respect and act on their decision.

And this much is certain: a Biden-Harris administration will always have the back of every single American when they get knocked down.

I’ve been knocked down and many of you have too – I know what it’s like. My dad would say, every time I got knocked down, “Just get up, Joey. Just get up.”

We’re going to get up. We’re going to honor the incredible contributions and service of Puerto Ricans — and people from all across the Hispanic diaspora — to our country.

Not only the names we know well, like Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

We’ll remember the stories that don’t always make our headlines — like Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment, who Gen. Douglas MacArthur described as: “writing a brilliant record of heroism in battle” during the Korean War.

We’ll work to build on Obamacare and expand its protections so that more Hispanic people can access the high-quality, affordable health care they deserve.

Under the Obama-Biden Administration, four million Hispanic Americans gained coverage. The largest gain in coverage of any group.

President Trump is still trying to rip Obamacare away from people — in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century.

That’s on top of his total failure to manage COVID-19, which has now stolen the lives of almost 200,000 people in the United States — with a disproportionately large share of those deaths among Hispanic communities. Over 25,000 deaths.

That’s on top of his failure to adequately work to address the economic impacts of this pandemic, which again have fallen more heavily on Hispanic pocketbooks.

More than 25 percent of Hispanics here in Florida have reported being worried about how they’re going to pay their rent or their mortgage. A study found that one in three Hispanic small business owners have taken a hit during the pandemic, with many more likely to close permanently.

That’s on top of his failure — and in fact his complete disinterest — in addressing the racial justice crisis in America.

He does exactly the opposite.

He fans the flames of hatred and division in our country for his own gain.

That’s on top of his failure to recognize the existential threat of the climate crisis.

Yesterday, in California, he said “I don’t think science knows” whether or not climate change is real. That’s what he said — at a time when wildfires are raging across the West, destroying homes and communities, and another hurricane threatens our coast.

Mr. President: Science knows.

Look, Donald Trump has failed the Hispanic community time and again. That’s not a secret.

Whether it is his heinous act of separating children from their families at our border and his repeated attacks on Dreamers, or his neglect of the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, or his repeated failure to make sure essential workers have the personal protective equipment they need.

Donald Trump has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families over and over again.

It’s wrong. It’s not who we are.

But we have to do so much more than just defeat Donald Trump, we have to seize this opportunity to build back better — for all of our communities.

Because at the end of the day, all the American people are looking for — is a shot.

My dad would say, “the American people if just given half a chance, have never ever let the country down.”

The chance to work hard, and get ahead.

But you can’t do that when your community is always the first and the hardest hit — and the last to get the help that is needed to dig out. I truly believe we have a tremendous opportunity to turn this moment of crisis into a moment of progress — on health care, on wages, on housing, on education, on so much else.

We can reach for more as a nation. We can rebuild the backbone of this country— and finally bring everyone along. 

We can build a new Administration that reflects the full diversity of our nation — including Hispanic communities.

And Hispanic voters, especially right here in Florida, can help put our nation on a new path forward. There are now just 49 days until Election Day.

I’m asking for your vote, and I’m going to work every single day to earn it.

I used to – when I first ran as a kid – I’d knock on doors and I’d say “My name is Joe Biden and I’m running for the United States Senate. Look me over. If you like what you see and believe what I say, help me out. If not, vote for the other guy.” Well, I’m here in Florida to say: Look me over again. 

And here in Florida, and all across the country, I hope that each and every one of you gets involved in this election. It sounds like hyperbole, exaggeration.

Our democracy depends on every voice being heard, and every vote being counted.

So please, this election — make your voice heard. Make a plan to vote. Make a plan to help your community vote.

I grew up in a heavily Irish-Catholic community in Scranton, Pennsylvania and a heavily Italian-Polish community in Claymont, Delaware. They were communities built on two things: family and faith.

They’ve been the core of my entire life. That’s what I come back to again and again. Whether it’s losing my wife and daughter in an accident or my son dying from glioblastoma. It’s been my source of strength in times of struggle and my comfort in times of grief. Faith. And family.

It seems to me that’s the same strength that’s always animated the Hispanic community. Faith and family.

That’s the heritage we’re celebrating this month. It’s profoundly American as well. And it’s not only our past — it’s our future as well.

And more than any other time. The Hispanic community, the Latino community holds in the palm of their hand the destiny of this country. You may not want to hear it, but it’s true. You can decide the direction of this country. 

I’ve said many times when I decided to run, one of the reasons why I’m running is to restore the soul of America. It’s a basic proposition. 

We’re so much better than we are acting now. The rest of the world is looking at us like “what has happened to America?” America has always led, not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. 

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. And it goes on. We’ve never met that test, but we’ve never walked away from it before. 

Thank you all, and may God protect our troops.
Image Credits: Patrick Semansky / Associated Press