Pelosi Remarks at Generation Progress ‘Make Progress’ National Summit

Jul 16, 2015
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at Generation Progress’ “Make Progress” National Summit.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for your wonderful welcome.  Thank you, Robert, for your kind and generous words of introduction.  Thank you for leadership.  Robert Fisher is Oxford-bound, where we know he will take his ‘change maker’ attitude from Chattanooga to throughout the globe.  Thank you, Robert Fisher, for being who you are. 

“I’m honored to be here, in between votes – so if you see me run out at some point, you know it’s the business of Congress.  But let me just say that I bring the greetings of so many of your friends in the Congress of the United States to all of you, to Generation Progress’ ‘Make Progress’ National Summit.  Congratulations, and good luck to you in your deliberations.

“As I look out across this room, I see the future, and it belongs to you.  It’s wonderful that you are making decisions that impact you.  Neera Tanden, thank you for your vision – what a great leader CAP has – for your vision, for your strategic thinking over the years, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and now at the helm of the Center for American Progress.  Aren’t we proud of Neera Tanden?


“And Anne Johnson: just think, Anne Johnson only recently came to her first national summit as a participant – just like any one of you in this room.  And now, she is the Executive Director of Generation Progress.  That’s impressive progress.  Congratulations, Anne Johnson, on all of that.


“And I’m also proud to be here with – they will come; they’re voting now – with those House Democrats, what we call the ‘Future Forum,’ some of our youngest Members of Congress.  And they’re going across the country engaging in conversations with young people.  And they’ll be here to talk with you, Eric Swalwell, Seth Moulton, and some other Members – Stacey Plaskett, and other Members will be there.  And I can’t wait to hear [about] the interaction that you’ll have. 

“I know that you’ve had an eventful morning, with the Secretary of Labor and with Senator Warren, and that this afternoon you will hear from Joe Biden, Vice President Biden.


“He has been an absolute champion on all of the issues that are of concern to young people.  He came to the Congress when he was 29 years old – he got elected at 29; you have to be thirty to be a Senator.  So he knows about the impact of youth on public policy.  Of course, that was a while ago.  And over the course of time, he’s been a part of every progressive agenda from ‘A’ to ‘V’ – from the Affordable Care Act to the Violence Against Women Act, to name two recent accomplishments under his leadership. 

“And right now, right now on Capitol Hill, we’re talking about – in different meetings – we’re talking about the Iran nuclear agreement that President Obama has put forward, who deserves so much credit.  And he gives much of the credit to Vice President Joe Biden. 


“It’s very exciting for a safe, non-nuclear future for this to take place.  So I congratulate Generation Progress for 10 years of moving forward – fighting for economic, civil, human rights and justice and democracy.  Young people have been the vanguards and visionary leaders who make progress.  I just want to tell you this story; you may not know it.  50 years ago – we all saw that this is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  But before the Voting Rights Act – maybe about five or six months before – was the March on Selma.  And many of us were in Selma to observe that 50th anniversary in the beginning of March. 

“But what was interesting to me was that that march was developed by teenagers in high school.  They wanted their parents to have the right to vote.  They wanted their teachers to have the right to vote.  And so, they kept advocating and demonstrating and the rest.  And they formulated the idea of having a march, to which they invited the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy, to participate.

“What came from the march?  The Voting Rights Act of 1965.  And the kids made it happen.  So have that as an inspiration.  I know you are making things happen.  But in this 50th anniversary, that was one of the most consequential events in American history – an achievement driven by young people just like you: the Selma Marches that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.  We’ll have that anniversary on August 6th, and by then, we hope to have encouraged the Republican leadership in the Congress to bring a Voting Rights Act reauthorization back to the floor of the Congress.


“The story of America has always been about expanding freedom.  That’s why one of the first things we did – when we had the majority, and we had a Democratic President – the first bill the President signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, expanding freedom in the workplace and ending discrimination against women in the workplace. 


“And one of the last bills that he signed under a Democratic majority was the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, expanding freedom and ending discrimination in the military.


“And so, it’s always been – our country has always been a series of ever-expanding democracy, honoring the vows of our Founders for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Imagine that: they had happiness as one of their goals.  Such a beautiful thing.  And that’s why we were so glad to go into the Fourth of July this year with two [decisions] about life – a healthier life – liberty; the freedom to pursue your happiness with the Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and the Court decision on marriage equality.


“In your deliberations, I hope you recognize – and I’m sure you do – that we are at a tipping point in our country.  We have a big choice that has to be made by the American people.  And we have to have a drumbeat across America that is about – what we’ll have in America is about opportunity and optimism, of rising wages and broadened possibilities.  And President Obama talks about this in contrast, he calls this Middle Class Economics versus Trickle-Down Economics that the Republicans are putting forth that drove us into a ditch in the first place that we’ve had to be pulling the country out of.

“Just last week, just think of this – this is just to instruct, not to make you fearful, but it is a little scary.  When you think last week [Republicans] were forced to pull an appropriations bill from the floor because we had put amendments in it that addressed not selling Confederate flags in public parks.  They said that unless they could turn that around, they would lose – now, this is a terrible bill; this is their pollution appropriations bill.  I call it the ‘polluters’ delight’.  It’s a terrible bill.  We were all going to vote against it.  The President would veto it.  But as bad as it was, they said they would lose 100 Republican votes unless they could have the Confederate flag back in that bill.  One hundred Republican votes. 

“So, that’s why we don’t have a Voting Rights Act.  That’s why we have to insist on it.  That’s why we don’t have an immigration bill.  That’s why we have to insist on it.  That’s why we don’t have a gun safety bill, and that’s why we have to work hard and insist on it.  And that happens as you know, in elections.

“All of this is about the connection between the middle class and the success of our economy.  We believe that when the middle class succeeds, America succeeds.  And you are a part of that.  And all who aspire to the middle class.


“it’s about paychecks.  We’re in a consumer economy.  When consumers have confidence to invest, to spend, to consume then our economy turns around no matter how good the other indicators are.  And the indicators under President Obama have been excellent except this issue of income disparity – the disparity of income in our country.  And it must be addressed by – what more of a contrast could you need, but: Jeb Bush telling the public that people should work harder so they have more money to spend and the contrast with that and our President, President Obama, said: ‘People are working harder.  We need to pay them overtime so that they can provide for their families.


“That’s why we must raise the minimum wage, have equal pay for equal work – and our friends in labor have done so much to make that possible – paid sick leave, issues that relate to child care to unleash the power of women in the workplace because when women succeed, America succeeds.


“I know of special interest to you but of grave concern to our country is also the cost of higher education.  Low wages and crushing student loan debt are a heavy weight on the opportunities for too many.  How can we ask kids to go out there and be entrepreneurial and take risks when they have this anvil of student loans, severe student debt around their ankles?  Democrats are fighting to make college education much, much, much, much more affordable, but we’re also looking to address the debt burden of those who have already incurred the debt.    

“With our Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, we would empower graduates to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates; enabling you to start saving sooner, investing in a home, start a business.  You might even get married.  Who knows?  And begin a family and unleash the full entrepreneurial spirit of America. 

“We have, in the House, Joe Courtney taking the lead on this.  Democrats are embracing it and lifting it up.  And as you know, Elizabeth Warren is our champion in the United States Senate on that legislation.


“Just make this connection for you – because it cannot happen just by our taking about it or having a drum beat across America which are essential to our success – but there is a direct connection between legislation and the quality of life the people enjoy, and elections.  To achieve what we want to do for the middle class, for kids in school, for immigration reform, we must change our politics.  We must reduce the role of money in politics.  We must dare; we must dare to do that.  And so we have a dare – DARE: disclose where is this money is coming from, this dark money; amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United – let’s get out there and mobilize and do it.


“Reform our campaign system to empower small donors; and empower voters with a renewed and strengthened Voting Rights Act, removing obstacles of participation.  I am all for – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it; I know you’ll let me know – for lowering the voting age to high school age, whether that’s 16 or 17 or…


“Because when kids are in school, they’re so interested, they’re so engaged.  And we’d like them to be at least registered before they leave – hopefully, to register.

“Dr. King always talked about the ballot, the ballot, the ballot – getting back to Selma.  The ballot, the ballot, the ballot.  Legislation, legislation, legislation.  The connection between the two and the connection between the two of them to the quality of your lives.  And so we have to keep on that march of Selma.  We have to keep marching.  We have to march for immigration reform; we have to march for equality for everyone in our country; we have to march for jobs, for justice, for opportunity.  We must march to build a future worthy of that vision of our founders; worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform; and worthy of the aspirations of our young people.  Are you ready to make that march?  Are you going to make that march?


“It’s really going to be very important.  And you know I’m a staunch Democrat, but whatever party you are or whatever it is, the fact is: the American people have to know what the choices are in the election and the impact of those decisions at the polls.  So whoever wins, we want to be sure that he or she is committed to a future that enables us to invest in the education of our young people; create good paying jobs for the 21st century; address the crisis of climate change; realize what immigration has been: a revitalization of our community; understand that our work is not done on LBGTQ issues.  We have much more to do.

“So I look forward to hearing the progress of your meetings here, your ‘Make Progress’ summit.  I thank you for your interest that you have clearly demonstrated in coming here.  I’ll take back the sparks of enthusiasm to my colleagues and tell them that I was there; I was here; I saw the future; it gave me hope.  Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you for the opportunity to be with you.  Thank you so much.”  

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