Taking Our Country Back

Speech given at the 2017 California Democrats State Convention.

Thank you, California Democrats. It’s so wonderful to be back home.

First, I want to say how honored I am to address this convention for the very first time as a United States Senator from the great State of California!

And today, California Democrats, I’m so proud to honor the one and only John Burton, who has labored day-in and day-out, doing the real work of social justice. John has been a mentor to so many in our party. I will always cherish the advice that he has given me over the years, the truth bombs and the f-bombs. So, please put your hands together for John Burton.

And let’s not overlook the secret to John’s success, the secret behind our party’s success. Their names, of course, are Shawnda Westly and Angie Tate and they’ve demonstrated every day in every way that powerful women persist.

So, California Democrats, let’s not mince words this morning. We need to speak the truth. And if there’s one thing that Democrats must do to take our country back, it’s speak the truth.

These are difficult — even painful — times in the halls of Congress and across our country. We know we have our work cut out for us. We know we have a steep hill to climb. And we have many tough fights ahead. It’s why especially now, this convention is so important. It’s why every single person in this hall is so important.

I think about where we are as a nation, and I truly believe we are at an inflection point in our history. Not unlike the moment my parents met in the San Francisco Bay Area when they were active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Today we are facing a series of fundamental fights over fundamental rights. We see: Freedom of Religion… under attack. Freedom of the Press… under attack. The Right to Vote… under attack. The Rule of Law… under attack. The Independence of the Judiciary and a Government of Coequal Branches… under attack by this administration.

California Democrats, these are fundamental fights. And I come to you with bloody knuckles after these first 120 days. And I come to you ready to keep up the fight. And I need you with me side by side every step of the way.

Let’s start with one of the most important fights for California: the insidious attacks on our immigrant and religious communities that have left millions of our people living in fear.

We all saw the scenes on the television news from LAX to SFO to JFK and Dulles. But let’s remember: This is also about the scenes that weren’t on TV.

Today, because of this administration, we have hundreds of thousands of DREAMers up and down this state and across the country living in fear that they’re gonna wake up to a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

Today in our Golden State we have mothers and fathers living in chilling fear because they know they are just an ICE raid away from losing their children.

We have worshippers — right here in California — wondering whether their mosque or synagogue or their family members will be next to be attacked.

Democrats, we’ve seen how hate and xenophobia are like a poison infecting our body politic.

As Californians, we have an outsized stake in this fight — and an outsized responsibility to keep up the fight.

Which is why my first bill as your Senator is named the “Access to Counsel Act,” which says that anyone detained at our border, whether they arrive by land, sea or air, has the right to an attorney.

We must keep up the fight.

We need to stand up and fight for California’s DREAMers. The United States government made a promise to these kids– and we cannot and will not allow this administration to break that promise. And that’s not the only promise we need to keep.

Like a tornado, this president has left a trail of broken promises in his wake. He said he’d fight for America’s forgotten middle class. Then he left our middle class in the cold.

Instead of appointing a cabinet that represents all of America, he convened a billionaire boys club.

Instead of producing what he promised, a plan for our middle class, his tax and budget plan is a blueprint for bankruptcy… massive tax cuts for corporations at the expense of struggling families.

This is the same president who promised nobody would lose their health care, but now wants to rip it away from 24 million Americans.

We need to keep up the fight.

Let’s tell these Republicans in Congress, it’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives. And Democrats, let’s go to San Diego and Orange County and the Central Valley — let’s hold these Republicans accountable in their districts. Because if you vote for people to lose their health care, you should lose your job!

Let’s keep up the fight for our students. They need our help. We have barely begun the president’s first year, and already he’s reversing basic protections for people with student loans while padding the pockets of predatory debt collectors.

That’s why I’m cosponsoring the “College for All Act” with Senator Bernie Sanders. In this bill, we’re saying it’s time to start investing in America by making public colleges and universities free for every student who needs it.

We need to keep up the fight for our environment because this administration has put a target on California’s back. They’re targeting our coast for oil drilling. They’re targeting our air quality rules for elimination. They’re targeting our wilderness areas to be auctioned off to mining and logging companies. And they’re targeting our scientists. But we know policies need to be based on science fact, not science fiction!

We need to keep up the fight against mass incarceration. With an opioid epidemic raging across our country, we don’t need another war on drugs. We need a war on drug addiction.

Let’s keep up the fight for civil rights. Women’s reproductive rights are at stake. LGBT rights are at stake. Voting rights are at stake.

That’s why I voted no on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. And why I voted no on Jeff Sessions for United States Attorney General.

We need to keep up the fight.

Senator Kamala Harris at the California Democrats State Convention in 2015.

And we need to keep up the fight for a rational foreign policy that does not lead this country to war.

We need answers. Too often it seems like this administration’s real priority is “Russia First, America Second.” And Democrats, we need to keep up the fight and recognize when our nation’s very sovereignty is under attack.

Fact: Russia interfered in the election of the President of the United States.

Fact: The FBI’s investigating.

Fact: He fired the person in charge and then bragged about it to the very people who manipulated the election.

Fact: Instead of having the American press there to show the American people what’s really going on, he brought in what are essentially Putin’s publicists. Folks, this is wrong. We need the truth. And as your United States Senator, I won’t rest until we get to the truth.

So Democrats, we know we have a long road and many fights ahead. It may get harder before it gets easier. But I’ll tell you how we take our country back. It starts with you.

To take our country back, we need to remember that real power does not reside in Washington, D.C. It lives in each and every one of us. And it is up to each and every one of us.

To take our country back, we need to remember, Democrats win when we stand up and fight for who we are. We win when we fight for a government of, by and for the people, not wealthy special interests.

We win when we recognize the greatest social program on earth is a job and the most meaningful protection we can give our workers is the right to organize and rebuild our middle-class.

We win when we fight for high-quality public schools and colleges that give every child a chance to show their talent.

We win when we fight for the value that health care is a fundamental human right.

We win when we recognize the richest legacy we will ever leave our children is clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

And Democrats, we win when we stand together with all of our diversity, all of our complexity, when we recognize that we are all in this together.

When we see that our unity is our strength and our diversity is our power. Young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor, urban and rural, immigrants and native-born, every color of the rainbow.

I know we will rise to the challenge.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and recommit ourselves to doing the work and fighting the fight. Let’s take our country back.

Thank you all.

Vice President of the United States. Senator, Wife, Momala, Auntie. Fighting for the people. She/her.