By Terrance Turner
Super Tuesday is here. CNN is projecting that former Vice President Joe Biden has won Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia. Ahead of tonight’s primaries, Biden visited Texas Southern University yesterday. He was preceded by endorsement speeches from Carol Alvarado and Sen. John Whitmire.
Cong. Sheila Jackson-Lee also spoke at the event. “I’m joined by the late Barbara Jordan, the late Mickey Leland, and former senator and congressperson Greg Washington — historic members, leaders and historic graduates, including my friend and colleague, The Honorable Sylvia Garcia. So this place born out of segregation, divisiveness, hatefulness — but yet, there was a young man by the name of Heman Sweatt, who came with courage to say that ‘I will not be denied an education.’ (Sweatt applied to the Univ. of Texas School of Law, but was denied because of his race. He sued, and the case reached the Supreme Court. It led to the creation of the Texas State University for Negroes.) “1946. 1947. The results were that this state, this nation, had to provide him an education. so we want to ensure that when we change the White House in 2020 — when we have a difference — it will be the kind of leadership that knows about civil rights knows about the Violence Against Women Act to protect women every single day, knows about the right to vote,” she said.
“Let me close by saying, as I look out into this audience: this is America. Texas, you are America. Some of us have come on Pilgrim’s Pride; some of us on a slave boat, some of us in an airplane. Some of us walked across the border. We are no less than anyone else, and that means we want an America that looks like each and every one of you, and we want someone who can reflect that. Welcome to Texas Southern University. Welcome to Houston. Let’s make a difference!”
Ms. TSU, Adunola Osinuga, introduced Mr. Biden. “When I was choosing which presidential candidate to support, one thing was very important to me: their vocal support of HBCUs like my own,” she proclaimed. “HBCUs are a crucial part of African American culture across the nation. HBCUs have an incredible impact. They create skilled workers, jobs and service economic hubs for the areas that surround our campuses… and beyond.” She went on: some of the nation’s brightest and most influential Minds come out of HBCUs. Joe Biden has made it clear, not just through his campaign but through his decades of public service, that he puts HBCUs at the top of his priority list. I’ve met Joe Biden personally. I know that with him, a promise isn’t just words. It has a meaning. and I when he says he’s going to fight for adequate funding for HBCUs, he means it.When he launches programs like HBCU students for Biden, that I’m a part of, it’s because he deeply cares about us,” she said.
Osinuga went on: “You can’t say Houston without including TSU, the heart and soul of Houston. We are a fearless generation. As everyone knows here in Houston, here in Texas, we work hard and we go big: big dreams, big plans, big moves, and big results. So friends, family, and my TSU Tigers, please join me tomorrow in voting for Joe Biden, and please, help me give a warm welcome to the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden.”
What follows is a rough transcript of Biden’s remarks, lightly edited for length and clarity.
The audience applauded as Biden approached the podium. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Biden began. “You know, I had such a great time meeting with some of you outstanding students back in September. “I warned you I was coming back, and I’m back. I’m back, at one of the finest of America’s black universities and colleges. I’m very proud to support our HBCUs and our minority-serving institutions. You know as president, everybody kind of forgets because you become so significant.. Everybody kind of forgets why HBCUs came along in the first place. ‘Cause you weren’t allowed to go to any other university. You weren’t allowed to go to any other public institution. and as a consequence of that you don’t have the significant endowments that the universities have.
“I promise you, as president of the United States of America, I’m going to fund HBCUs by $70 billion over the next 10 years. Swear to God. ‘Cause if you lack the endowments you’re not able to compete with some of the significant multi-Million — million-dollar, in some cases, billion-dollar — contracts that the federal government puts out that dictate everything from geo-positioning to lightweight metals and a whole range of things. and this will put you in position to be able to come eat because one thing you know everybody now knows — you can do anything anybody else in the nation can do, and you can do it as well or better. You just need to have the wherewithal to compete.”
“I want to thank Sheila Jackson Lee again,” Biden continued. He described her entry into Congress: “And I’ll tell you what: she not only took the place by storm, she filled up a vacuum, and I learned a long time ago: don’t argue with her. Just say yes. yes, yes, yes. You are something else,” he told Jackson-Lee. “I love you.”
But Biden wasn’t done: “She not only fights for Texans, but she fights for — and I mean this sincerely — everything that’s right. She doesn’t back down. She knows why she’s in it. You know, when I got elected to the United States Senate, as a twenty-nine year old kid, I wasn’t old enough to be sworn in and after I won — in the year that the Democratic candidate for president only won 33% of the vote and I won by a rousing 3000 votes statewide — everybody’d come to me — new candidates from under me and said, ‘What’s your secret?’
Biden answered them with a question: “‘Have you figured out what’s worth losing over?’ Sheila Jackson-Lee has never wondered what’s worth losing over. She knows why she got involved. just like Sylvia Garcia. She’s not only a history maker, she’s the first Latina to represent Houston in Congress and she knows why she’s involved. She’s been on the side of Working Families here in Houston and standing up for the vulnerable from her very first day as a legal aid lawyer. I understand that. I used to be a public defender when I was a kid — when I got out of school. Houston is in good hands with such leadership and visionary leaders that you have fighting for you combination of one who’s been there and who has great power and of one who’s amassing power for the same reason they know why they are involved. They know why they’re involved,” he emphasized.
“You know, just a few days ago, the pundits declared my campaign dead. but then along came South Carolina, and South Carolina had something to say about it. as I stand here today because of the minority communities, I am very much alive because of you he said to Applause and cheers. We not only won in South Carolina; we won every single solitary election district and because — because of the African-American community, primarily, in South Carolina, we ended up increasing the turnout: a hundred and fifty thousand more people than even voted in 2008 when Barack and I were running.”
Biden then made his request: “Look, I want you to know I’m here, heart and soul, with everything that I’ve got, to earn each and every vote here. I take nothing for granted — nothing at all. but I’m asking you I’m asking you for your vote. I’m asking you for your support because I’ve got to earn it. Look my message to everyone who’s been knocked down counted out left behind this is your campaign. We need you. We want you, and there’s a place for you in our campaign. So join us. Go to Joe Biden.Com sign up. Volunteer. Contribute if you can. But we need you very badly. Every vote matters tomorrow.”
Look, tomorrow is Super Thurs— Tuesday. I want to thank you all — I’m rushing ahead, aren’t I? I want to speak directly to democrats here in Texas and all across the country. You know, the moment to choose a path forward has arrived for our party. Maybe sooner than when people anticipated. Maybe sooner than people guessed it would occur or wanted it to occur but it’s here. The decision, the decision democrats make tomorrow and the next few weeks will determine what we stand for, what we believe, and where we’re going to go and how we’ll get there. If Democrats want a nominee to beat Donald Trump, keep a majority in the House of Representatives, and elect the U.S. Senate — [cheers and applause] and the state legislature here and around the country, then join us. The democrats want a nominee who will build on Obamacare, not scrap it? Then join us.”
“By the way, I was asked a question today on one of the national news programs. People are now worried about the coronavirus, and I’m happy to talk about that later, but here’s the deal. They gave me an example, that in fact one man got tested, went in to get tested, because he was doing the right thing because he had a cold, had been in another country. And then he got a bill for $3,000! Under Obamacare, which they’re trying to wipe out, all tests are free. Free, free, free. All vaccines will be free to deal with these crises.
And you want someone who’s going to take on the NRA and the gun manufacturers? I’m your guy. You want someone that’s going to stand up for the middle-class and the working poor? Look, we’re going to be the ones to do it,” he said. “I make this promise, and I can keep it that we are going to provide all that is needed and we’re not going to have to do what others are proposing to get things done have to raise significant taxes on middle-class folks and working-class folks. You know, if the Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat — a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat — then join us.”
Look, you can win big or lose big; that’s the choice that’s upon us now. We need to build on a coalition, a legacy of the most successful president in any of our lifetimes: Barack Obama and will do this by bringing Americans together, regardless of race ethnicity, gender, disability or economic station. Democrats, Republicans, Independents of every stripe. Look we did it we won in South Carolina, like I, God willing, will win in Texas tomorrow,” Biden said, adding that “the country is hungry, hungry, hungry to be united. That’s the choice most Americans don’t want a promise of a revolution they want guarantee of results,” he said. “They want to give all Americans access to real opportunity to have affordable, available healthcare for everybody, an environment with clean air and clean water, an education system that funds schools, pays for our teachers, makes community college free, deals with the overwhelming debt. The average person graduating from an HBCU this year will graduate $29,000 in debt. We can deal with that.”
We’re a nation, but we have to stand up to and beat the NRA — and reform our criminal justice system,” he continued. “Mobilize the world against climate change. A nation where we live by the values that embrace immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers [and do] not slam the door on those fleeing persecution, violence and oppression. Does not seek to make people seeking asylum have to stay in another country to do it,” he said, describing a nation that “gets children out of cages. Reunites families. [cheers and applause] I mean it. A nation that provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people who are enriching our communities every day. We are better for it, not worse off for it. Look, we need an economy that rewards work, not just wealth, like it does today. My dad used to have an expression: ‘Hey, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. A job is about your dignity, respect, your place in the community. And I really mean this, after he lost a job in Scranton — everything died, coal died, everything died — it took him three years to get to the point where we were able to move to Delaware and get a three bedroom house with four kids and a grandpop living with us,” he recalled.
“This is about all our families. It’s about all our communities. The way I look at everything, and I mean this, I’m criticized for it occasionally — I look at everything through the prism of how it affects you, but your family and the community, all our communities. That’s why I’m a Democrat. That’s what got me involved in the first place,” he told the crowd. “So this isn’t an election to spend all our time in the battle of the soul for the democratic party. We’re in the battle for the soul of this country. We really are. That’s what got me involved in this election in the first place,” Biden said.
Part II of this speech will be posted on Wednesday.