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What a Peaceful Transition of Power in a Democracy Looks Like, What a True, Eloquent Leader Says and Does
Hakeem Jeffries in the Midnight Hour of Our Fragile Democracy and Its Survival
As if irony could not pile itself any higher with an even a greater irony than what we just witnessed over four long days of Republicans coming to near-fisticuffs with each other over who would be Speaker of the House — a House full of members who still deny the results of the very election that elected them to that House in 2020 — and now, two years to the exact hour, a Black Congressman from Crown Heights in Brooklyn, stands at the Speaker’s podium in the U.S. House, gavel in hand, ready to turn it over to the discombobulated, dysfunctional “winning” party — but first he had a few words to say — in one of the greatest speeches in the history of the United States Congress…
Mr. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY):
Let me begin by acknowledging the distinguished gentlelady from the great state of California, the iconic, the heroic, the legendary Speaker Emerita Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi. And without question in my mind, Speaker Emerita Pelosi will go down in history as the greatest Speaker of all time. Throughout her time in Congress, she's been a legendary legislator, a fabulous facilitator, and a no-nonsense negotiator. We know that Nancy Pelosi is a woman of faith, a loving wife, a mother of five, a grandmother of nine, a defender of democracy, a voice for the voiceless, and a powerful champion for the children, the climate, Charm City, California, the Caucus, the Congress, the country, and the Constitution. Thank you, Madam Speaker, for all that you have done. It's an honor to stand on your broad shoulders…
Now, the Scripture says in Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Over the last two years, House Democrats, in partnership with President Biden and our colleagues in the Senate, have been hard at work on behalf of the American people, getting big things done. We passed the American Rescue Plan, saved the economy from a deep recession, put shots in arms, money in pockets and kids back in school. We passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to create millions of good-paying jobs, fix our crumbling bridges, roads, tunnels, our airports, our sewer and water systems, our mass transportation systems and ensure high speed internet access in every single community. We passed gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years that will save lives and make our communities safer. We passed the Chips in Science Act to bring domestic manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America and ensure that our work force has the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy. And we passed the Inflation Reduction Act to strike a dramatic blow against the climate crisis, set our planet on a sustainable trajectory forward, lower energy costs, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, lower health care costs and drive down the high price of life-saving prescription drugs for millions of Americans. It was one of the most consequential Congresses in American history. President Biden gets the job done and the ‘D’ in Democrat stands for ‘deliver.’
So over the next two years, as we begin this 118th Congress, let us continue to fight for lower costs. Let us continue to fight in this Congress for better paying jobs. Let us continue to fight in this Congress for safer communities. Let us continue to fight in this Congress to defend Democracy. Let us continue to fight in this Congress to put and protect the public interests. Let us continue to fight in this Congress for economic opportunity in every single zip code. And let us continue to fight in this Congress for reproductive freedom.
[ Boos and shouts of derision from the Republican side of the House ]
Because as Democrats we do believe in a country for everyone. We believe in a country for everyone. A country that provides for the poor, works for working families, makes sense for the middle class, stands up for senior citizens, innovates in the inner city, strengthens suburban communities, helps out the heartland and revitalizes rural America. We believe in a country with liberty and justice for all, equal protection under the law, free and fair elections and yes, we believe in a country with the peaceful transfer of power.
We believe that in America our diversity is a strength, it is not a weakness. An economic strength, a competitive strength, a cultural strength — our diversity is a strength. It is not a weakness. We are a gorgeous mosaic of people from throughout the world. As John Lewis would sometimes remind us on this floor, we may have come over on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now. We are white, we are Black, we are Latino, we are Asian, we are Native American, we are Christian, we are Jewish, we are Muslim, we are Hindu, we are religious, we are secular, we are gay, we are straight, we are young, we are older, we are women, we are men, we are citizens, we are dreamers, out of many we are one. That's what makes America a great country. And no matter what kind of haters are trying to divide us, we're not going to let anyone take that away from us, not now, not ever.
This is the United States of America — a land of opportunity. The fact that I'm able to stand up here today is another data point in that narrative. I was born in a Brooklyn hospital, raised in a working class neighborhood in Crown Heights, grew up in the Cornerstone Baptist Church, started off in the cradle roll department, somehow survived the violence of the crack cocaine epidemic and wound up here in the United States Congress as the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. America — truly a land of opportunity, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. So on this first day, let us commit to the American Dream. A dream that promises that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself and for your family, educate your children, purchase a home and one day retire with grace and dignity. Let us commit on this first day to lift up the American Dream for every single person in this nation.
Now I recognize that this is a moment of transition. As we transition from one Congress to the next, from one majority to the next, from a year of accomplishment to a year of ambiguity — a moment of transition. The American people, understandably after the events of this week, recognize that the Congress is at a fork in the road and are asking the question, what direction will we choose? On this first day, I do not pretend to answer that question on behalf of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. But we do extend our hand of partnership to you. And want to make clear that we extend and intend to try to find common ground, whenever and wherever possible on behalf of the American people — not as Democrats, not as Republicans, not as Independents, but as Americans.
But I also want to make clear that we will never compromise our principles. House Democrats will always put:
American values over autocracy.
Benevolence over bigotry.
The Constitution over the cult.
Democracy over demagogues.
Economic opportunity over extremism.
Freedom over fascism!
Governing over gaslighting.
Hopefulness over hatred.
Inclusion over isolation.
Justice over judicial overreach.
Knowledge over kangaroo courts.
Liberty over limitation.
Maturity over Mar-a-Lago.
Normalcy over negativity.
Opportunity over obstruction.
People over politics.
Quality of life issues over Q-Anon.
Reason over racism.
Substance over slander.
Triumph over tyranny.
Understanding over ugliness.
Voting rights over voter suppression.
Working families over the well-connected.
Xenial over xenophobia.
“Yes we can” over “You can’t do it.”
And — Zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation.
We will always do the right thing by the American people.
So let us not grow weary of doing good for the American people will reap the benefit of the harvest if we do not give up.
God bless you. God bless the House. And God bless the United States of America.
And with that, the new Speaker took over, having promised to look deep and hard into Hunter Biden’s Laptop.
Watch Hakeem Jeffries historic speech here.
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