The White House
ORLANDO – Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Florida Tuesday to speak at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Women’s Missionary Society Quadrennial Convention. She was the first vice president to speak during the convention.
Having rebuffed the state’s new education standards that would teach students that enslaved people benefited from slavery, she was challenged by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to a debate while in the state.
Harris rejected the invitation.
“Right here in Florida, they plan to teach students that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us in an attempt to divide and distract our nation with unnecessary debates,” she declared. “And now they attempt to legitimize these unnecessary debates with a proposal that most recently came in of a politically motivated roundtable.
“Well, I’m here in Florida. And I will tell you there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: there were no redeeming qualities of slavery. As I said last week when I was again here in Florida: we will not stop calling out and fighting back against extremist so-called leaders who try to prevent our children from learning our true and full history.”
As she spoke during the convention, called out extremists’ attempts to legitimize and defend their continued attacks on the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history. She urged the thousands of attendees to fight back against nationwide attacks on fundamental freedoms – including those on reproductive freedom, the freedom to vote and the freedom to live safe from gun violence.
“Let us not be distracted. Let us not be deterred. And let us have faith in who we are as a nation. Let us agree that the true measure of strength is not based on who you beat down but who you lift up,” Harris said.
“Let us agree that it is a sign of strength, not of weakness, for leaders to have empathy, to be concerned about the suffering of others. And let us also agree that our faith requires action. It requires that we fight for what we know to be true, for what we know to be good, and for what we know to be right.”
The vice president also highlighted how the Biden-Harris administration continues to deliver for people across America – from investing in small businesses and lowering the cost of insulin for seniors, to removing lead pipes, addressing the maternal health crisis, passing gun safety laws, and confirming judges who reflect the diversity of America.
“For years, our nation has ignored the crisis of maternal mortality,” she said. “That before, during and after childbirth, women in America die at a higher rate than in any other wealthy nation in the world – and that Black women are three times more likely to die. So, when President Biden and I took office, we did what is right and made maternal health a national priority and expanded postpartum coverage through Medicaid from two months to 12 months, and increased coverage from three states to now 35 states, to the benefit of half a million more women.”
Harris spoke of faith through adversity throughout her speech and closed with a message to keep pressing on.
“The great Coretta Scott King, a woman of deep faith, once said, and I will paraphrase: Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation,” she said. “So, at this moment in history, I say: We were born for a time such as this.
“So, let us shine a light on the path forward. Let us fight toward a future where every woman has the freedom to make decisions about her own body, where every voter has the freedom to make their voice heard, where every child can learn our true and full history, and where every family can live free from violence and hate and every person – no matter where they are or where they come from – has the opportunity to thrive.
“And as we do so, let us fight with optimism, with faith, and with hope. Because as the history of our nation and the history of this church tells us: When we fight, we win.”
The speech was part of Harris’ ongoing summer travel to large-scale events across the nation to engage with key constituencies. Later this month, she will travel to Chicago to deliver a keynote address at Everytown for gun safety’s annual conference.