12:38 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Hampton University! Hello! (Applause.)
And, Madam President, thank you for that introduction.
MS. CARR: Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Can we hear it for Lillian? (Applause.)
MS. CARR: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Please have a seat, everyone. Terrence J, it’s so good to be with you.
MR. JENKINS: Always. Always a pleasure.
Madam Vice President, I think I speak for everyone here today when I say we’re honored to have you and honored to spend this time. Please give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
But your team said they wanted to dive right in.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, let’s do that.
MR. JENKINS: So, I’m going to begin with a very controversial double question, if you don’t mind me asking. Madam Vice President, you are a proud graduate of Howard University. And we are here —
AUDIENCE: Booo —
MR. JENKINS: We are here on the campus of Hampton University. So, my first question, Madam Vice President, what do you consider the real HU? And who will win the football game this weekend? (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, my mother raised me to be a gracious guest. (Laughter.) But let me say — let me say — and the president and first lady of the university are here. I am so honored to be here at Hampton University. I am so truly honored. (Applause.)
And it is because of the leaders who are here and the storied history of this — one of America’s most excellent academic institutions — that I decided I wanted to kick off our “Fight for Our Freedoms” tour here at Hampton University. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Starting things off with a bang. Now, over the next month, you’re going to be visiting over 12 campuses across the country. And this is not a fluff tour. You are diving in on the issues. You are talking about fighting for our freedoms. Why did you decide to embark on this journey?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me start by saying that, you know, I’m so — I just — I cannot tell you how I feel to be in this auditorium with these young leaders of our country.
I remember — you’re now three weeks into the start of school. I remember — so, at Howard, we would convene at Cramton Auditorium. And I’ll never forget, from the first day of school, freshman orientation, walking to — into that auditorium, as I’m sure so many of you — in particular, the freshmen — did your first day and being in awe about being at this place, knowing the shoulders that you stand upon and the expectation that your nation and the world has for you because of your excellence.
I remember walking into that auditorium, just like this one, and realizing later in life that on that day, I met people that would be my friends for life. I was sitting next to people who I ended up being godparent to their children. I sat next to people whose weddings I attended. I sat next to people who — literally, one day I was in Paris at the subway, and I’m on the side waiting for the train and I look on the other side for the opposite train and there’s one of my Howard classmates from years before.
You all are in the midst of a most special experience. And I will tell you that the experience you are having right now is going to carry you through your life in ways that you have yet to realize and imagine.
And so, that’s why I wanted to start this tour here because I know what this school, Hampton University, means to the future of our country and our world. And so, I am here for one reason: because I’m clear about that as the vice president of the United States of America. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: It’s funny how when you’re in school, it’s all about the competition. But when you graduate, there’s just so much love.
I’m an Aggie. And the moment I walked onto campus earlier today, I just felt the love.
And you have a senior staff member, Stephanie Young, who went to school here, who I’ve worked with for years and years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yep.
MR. JENKINS: I work with so many different people from HBCUs. And — and I can just, you know, piggyback off what you’re saying on how exciting it is to be here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right?
MR. JENKINS: So, thank you guys so much for having us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Now, a lot of the young people here voted for the first time in 2020, 2022. Many of them will vote for the first time in 2024. What did they get for their votes? For those that voted, what did they get from that last election?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s start with this. One of the reasons that I’m on this tour is that I want to emphasize, based on your point, that voting is like putting in your order. You vote saying, “These are the things I want from my government, I want from my country, I want for my life and my future.”
And what concerns me sometimes is that our young leaders will be told that their vote doesn’t matter. They will be told by just the forces that, “Oh, they’re unlikely to vote.”
And I know that’s not true. And so, part of why I have embarked on this tour is to highlight our young leaders and to be able to do what I can to share a microphone and the stage to highlight the issues that they are leading on and the issues that concern them.
So, when people voted in 2020 — first of all, remember, it was in the height of a pandemic.
How many people here voted in 2020? All right, so you voted during the height of a pandemic. You voted in a historic time where there was extraordinary loss in our country — extraordinary loss of life. Black folks in America — one in four knew someone who actually passed away because of COVID.
You voted at a time where people were losing their jobs, losing a sense of normalcy.
And in spite of all of that, in spite of the fact that people were literally being told to isolate themselves, you all got out and voted because you believed in yourself, the power of your voice through your vote, and the fact that you could actually have an impact.
And what ended up happening in 2020, Terrence: record turnout of voters across the board, but record turnout of young voters. And it is because you voted that Joe Biden is president and I’m vice President of the United States. (Applause.)
But that’s not where it begins and ends. You voted and said, “We are acutely aware that our entire lives, we have been aware of the climate crisis.”
You have turned me on to a phrase that so many young leaders have coined that is to talk about “climate anxiety” — the fear that our young leaders have about what their future will be. What will it be in terms of their ability to have children, to buy a home with these hurricanes and floods and wildfires.
And you all voted saying, “Y’all got to deal with this.” And because you did, we have been able to put $1 trillion into an investment that is about climate resilience, adapt to — adapt until the — adaptation to the — to the crisis and what we need to do to invest in the clean energy economy. It’s because you voted that that happened.
Because you voted and said, “We need to deal with an issue like lead pipes, because in too many of our communities, our babies have been drinking toxic water out of these lead pipes.” Think Flint and other places around the country. And you said, “It’s about time that needs to be dealt with.” Because you voted, we are on track to remove all the lead pipes in our nation.
Because you voted and said, “Our HBCUs are some of the greatest centers of academic excellence,” we have now invested over $7 billion in our HBCUs. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Which is unprecedented.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, these are some of the many examples of what happens.
And when we think about our role of leadership and what we want to do to — to change things for the better, one of the great tools that we have is our vote, among the many tools that we have.
MR. JENKINS: And for anybody that did not vote, the Secret Service wants to have a word with you outside so we can — I’m just joking.
Make sure —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, no, no —
MR. JENKINS: — you vote.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, but seriously — well, two things actually.
The head of my Secret Service detail is a Hampton graduate. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Come on out! (Applause.)
Wow. I saw him back there.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So you know. (Laughs.)
MR. JENKINS: I saw him. Like the bodyguard, he was scoping the whole room.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Uh-huh. But also, we do have voter registration on campus today.
And in fact, you guys have a very important election coming up in Virginia, and early voting starts September 22nd, which is in eight days. And I would urge everybody who can register to vote here to do so and to make sure that you vote because there are a lot of big issues on — at stake. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Absolutely. And, you know, all jokes aside, their vote is under attack.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. JENKINS: There are a lot of communities across the country whose vote is under attack, but specifically young people. Can you talk a little bit about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’ve been traveling our country and the world — but I’ve been traveling our country. And I will tell you, when I look at what is happening in all of the regions of our country in different places, I believe there is an intentional, full-on attack against hard-won freedoms and rights.
And I’m talking about the freedom to make decisions about your own body and the choices you will make about your future connected with that; the freedom to vote; the freedom to be and love who you love; the freedom to be free from gun violence and the fear of that; the freedom to have opportunity and know that it will be a priority to recognize where there have been historical disparities and to deal with that.
The freedoms that are under attack right now in our country are very real. And, Hamptonians, we have a particular responsibility to all of the founders, all of the folks who sat here generations before to protect and defend those freedoms they fought for so hard and are now under attack.
And so, when I think about a moment like this, I think about it being a call to action and a moment where we recognize that we can never take anything for granted. And it will be incumbent on us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Well, what are we going to do about it?”
And I know when I look at who’s here, you’ve already made that decision. You’re going to be active, and you’re going to lead. And that’s so important. (Applause.) It’s so important.
MR. JENKINS: I’d like to dive in on one of those issues you mentioned with some more specificity: women’s health. There are so many women here today. From the Dobbs ruling to state abortion bans, women have been under attack. Can you talk a little bit about what exactly your administration is doing to prevent this and to combat this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. So, just a little over a year ago, the highest court in our land — the court of Thurgood, of RBG — took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America — a constitutional right that had been recognized — and suggested that instead of an individual having the ability, the authority, the self-knowledge to make decisions that are best for them, that the government is in a better place to make the decision for them.
It’s extraordinary what has happened.
After the Dobbs decision came down from the Supreme Court, in states across our country, laws are being proposed and passed that would criminalize healthcare providers; punish people for making decisions about — that are personal decisions, that are decisions they should be able to — to make with, if they choose, their pastor, their priest. And instead, saying the government is in a better position than they are to make those decisions.
And I have to say, on this issue, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be making these decisions for people. (Applause.) Let the individual make that decision but not the government.
And so, you know, and — and what distresses me, and — and these are the hard realities of it all: They’re proposing and passing laws — and everybody’s grown here, so I’m going to talk about the realities of it — they’re passing laws that make no exception, even for rape or incest.
Now, think about that. You know, you all know I have background — I’ve — I’ll tell you something I don’t talk very often about.
When I was in high school, I learned that my best friend was being abused by her stepfather. And I said to her, “Well, you got to come live with us.” And I called my mother, and my mother said, “Yes, she has to come live with us.” And she did. And that was actually one of the reasons I decided to become a prosecutor. And I specialized in — in crimes against women and children.
And so, I will tell you, the idea that anybody who calls themselves a leader would pass a law that would say that after someone has survived a violation to their body, an act of violence against their body, that they don’t have the authority to make a decision about what happens to their body next — that’s immoral. That’s immoral.
And that’s what’s happening around our country. And so, back to the point about voting, what the Supreme Court took away, the United States Congress has the power to put back in place. But that means we need the people in Washington, D.C., to have the courage to understand you can have your personal beliefs but don’t have the government telling people what to do with their body.
MR. JENKINS: Exactly. Which is why it’s so important, not just the presidential campaigns — those state, local officials are so important, because a lot of this is a — is a state issue and not just a federal issue.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a — it’s a — it’s an issue in terms of — the federal issue is we need a Congress — so, we need the majority of senators and in the House of Representatives to put forward a bill that would put in — put back into law the protections of Roe v. Wade. So, let’s just go back to before the Dobbs decision, right?
So, that we need, because President Biden has said when they do that, he will sign that bill and make it law, which will undo, then, these laws that are being passed in these various states.
The state elections will, again, in 22 da- — or in 8 days, on the 22nd, you can start early voting in Virginia. Why that’s important is because the entire state legislature of Virginia is up for election. And the concern we have is that the governor here has said that he would sign a ban on access to abortion if the legislature passes it. And so, we want to make sure that the people in the state legislature agree that y’all shouldn’t be making those decisions for folks, they can make those decisions for themselves.
And you should know, Virginia is the only state left in the South that does not have a ban. You should know that the top 10 states with the highest maternal mortality — something I’ve been working on — in particular, Black maternal mortality, because three to — Black women are three to four times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than others.
In the top 10 states with maternal mortality, they are also the states with a ban. So, now think about that. And think about the hypocrites who are walking around saying, “Oh, we have these bans in place because we care about women and children.” Well, then, why have you been silent on maternal mortality if you care about that? (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: We could discuss this for quite some time, but there’s so many other issues and student-submitted questions.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MR. JENKINS: So, part of this program is opening this up. You wanted to have the dialogue directly with the student leaders.
So, do we have a Sean Powell, Jr., here? Is Sean here? Sean, how are you? (Applause.) Grab that mic.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s Mr. Hampton.
MR. JENKINS: Sean, what — what year are you?
MR. POWELL: I’m a graduating senior, sir. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Nice. And what school — what school are you in?
MR. POWELL: I’m in the Buckman School of Business. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Sean, what is your question for Madam Vice President?
MR. POWELL: So, greetings, Madam Vice President. My name is Sean Powell, Jr., I’m a graduating senior, marketing major from Laurel, Maryland. And I just want to give you the warmest, sincerest welcome to “Our Home by the Sea.”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. POWELL: And I serve as the 22nd Mr. Hampton University on this campus. (Applause.)
And my question to you today is: Gun violence is one of the most controversial and emotional issues in many cities and college campuses across the country. And with the debate often centering on whether regulations on an individual’s rights to arms are an undue restriction on liberty, what can the government do to restrict access to certain guns, as well as implementing gun laws for America?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They can have courage, Mr. Hampton. They can have courage.
So here’s the thing: I’d — I’d like to ask for a show of hands. How many of you, starting in elementary school or after, had to have drills in schools around active shooters?
I’d ask the adults — the older adults in the room to take a look at that. Because I think that the people who are currently in elected office, who have the power to make decisions about this, don’t understand what y’all been through. They don’t get it.
They don’t get the fact — and that’s why I can’t wait for you to continue in your role of leadership, because when you all start voting in your numbers, this is going to change. They don’t understand that on the first day of school, as young as elementary school, that our children, when learning the name of their teacher and that’s where the bathroom are, are learning how to quietly hide if there’s an active shooter in their school.
I’ve had young people, students in junior high — younger — say to me, you know, when — on this issue, “I don’t really like going to fifth period.” “Why, sweetheart?” “Because there’s no closet in that classroom.”
MR. JENKINS: No —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s real.
So, while our children are supposed to be in class, being fed with information that opens up their minds to the wonders of the world, half of their mind is worried about whether someone might come busting in the door, threatening their life. This is a very real issue.
On this issue, also, I would say, Mr. Hampton, there is a false choice that is being sold — attempted to be sold, which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away. That’s a false choice.
I believe in the Second Amendment. I also believe we need an assault weapons ban. We need background checks. We need red flag laws. (Applause.)
An assault weapon was designed to kill a lot of people quickly. There is no reason — and this is the point: reason — reasonable gun safety laws. There is no reason they are easily acces- — accessable on the streets of what we call a civil society.
But we need the people who are in Congress, in particular, to have the courage to act.
Because, you know, various states have passed laws. But the reality is that guns are so accessible to anybody, and they’re very easy to transport across state lines. We need Congress to act. That’s another reason we need Congress to act.
But when I think about the fact that gun violence is the number-one cause of death for children in America — think about that. Not some kind of health disease.
MR. JENKINS: Not cancer.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not cancer. Gun violence.
I mean, when you think about the fact that one in five Americans has a relative who has died from gun violence. Not to mention the lingering trauma to not only the family of that person, but the community —
MR. JENKINS: Communities.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — and all of society, and what that means.
So, one the things that we’ve done — we’re proud that when we came in, we were able to pass some of the first gun safety laws in 30 years. And what we did is we basically passed laws that are going to deal with — for example, people who have been committed — convicted of domestic violence can’t have guns. We’re putting $100 million into mental health and into schools, and to deal with it from that perspective because that’s absolutely also where we need to focus.
But it is a tragedy that all of you have had to, from the earliest stages of your life, be so worried about this issue. And that you have to ever live in fear of anything, all of us, as a society, should say is wrong. And we need to do something about it.
And we don’t have to be very creative to figure it out: assault weapons ban; background checks, because you might want to know before someone can buy a lethal weapon if they’re a danger to themselves or others; red flag laws. That is reasonable.
So, I appreciate your question. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Thank you. We have to — we have to end that cycle. You know, it just feels like right after Sandy Hook everybody is gung ho, and — and then it just kind of faded away. Right after Tennessee, everybody’s on it.
So, it has to end and —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s right. But here — but the thing also, Terrence, that I really think is important in this discussion is that we — we — it’ll be on the — it’ll be — everybody will be talking about it, rightly, when there is a mass shooting, which is absolutely the height of tragedy. But we also have to understand it’s about everyday gun violence in America and — and taking seriously those lives that are lost. Right? And in — in the cities of America, in the urban settings of America across the country, where individuals are — whose potential is great and their lives are lost.
But you spoke of Tennessee. So, I went down to Tennessee to visit with the — the Tennessee Three — in particular, the two Justins, who are in their 20s — I’m telling, y’all are leading — because many of you may have followed, they were — they’re elected representatives. And they were in the chamber — the — the chamber of their — their state legislature, trying to talk about the need for their state to take on the issue of gun violence.
And these people, these so-called leaders, these extremist leaders did not want them to talk about exactly what you raised, Mr. Hampton. Didn’t want to hear that voice. And so, these extremists turned off the mics of elected representatives — the two Justins, who are in their 20s.
But here’s the thing that was so wonderful about that. So, they were like, “Okay, anybody got a bullhorn?” And they grabbed a bullhorn because they would not be silenced.
And I would urge everyone to — to see what they’re doing in Tennessee as an example of what you are doing every day in terms of your role in leadership.
There are going to be people who are going to try to shut you up. They’re going to be people who literally try and turn off the mic when you’re talking. And don’t you ever let anybody silence you. Don’t you let anybody convince you that your truth is not a truth that must be spoken.
MR. JENKINS: And with that said, I want to turn Hannah’s mic on. Hannah, do we have you here with us today? Right there in the front.
Hannah, can you give us what school you’re in, your year, everything?
Q Yes. Good afternoon, Madam Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, Hannah.
Q And soror.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, soror.
Q My name is Hannah Selders. I am a graduating senior in the five-year MBA program from Dallas, Texas. And I also — (applause) — serve at the 66th Miss Hampton University. (Applause.) Thank you.
So, as we know, student loan forgiveness has been a topic of debate. What is your stance on widespread student loan forgiveness? And how do you envision it impacting the economy
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a very big issue, and I’m glad you raised it. So, when we came in — and this was part of — when the folks who were here in 2020 voted, one of the big issues that you raised when you voted.
So, when we came in, we initiated a student loan forgiveness program. And unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled against us. So, we still have work to do there, right?
But what we did do is we initiated, then, basically a program that is about the reduction of student loan payments. And, everybody, I — I do need you to know about this, because the acronym is SAVE — S-A-V-E. And especially for the juniors and seniors who are here, please take a look at what that program does.
Because, for example, if you decide to graduate and go into public interest, maybe you will decide to go and be an entrepreneur or social worker, and as you first come out in — in the workforce, you will probably very likely make less than $30,000 a year. If that is the case — if you make less than $30,000 a year — under this program, SAVE, you will be responsible for zero payments and zero percentage interest.
And so, it’s very important you know that. And I would also ask the leaders here to let any of your friends or relatives who have graduated or did not graduate and maybe had to — to leave school and drop out for a period of time, they are also eligible for this program.
And so, that’s very important. But we really do have to get a handle on this issue because so many of our former students, whether they graduated or not, are dealing with an extraordinary amount of debt that is having an impact on their ability to start a family, to buy a home, or just to take a job that you actually want to take but that may not pay you the kind of money that you need to actually pay off that loan in full.
So, we’re going to still work on that. But we have to do what is also, I think, the responsible thing to do to keep pushing and fighting for our ability as an administration — there’s going to have to be litigation and all that — to allow for — for student loan forgiveness, especially for the folks who are out there doing good work that is so valuable to our society.
Q Thank you so much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. JENKINS: And thank you so much, Hannah, for your question. (Applause.)
We have a question from Madison Baldwin. Madison Baldwin. Hey, Madison. Tell me all about yourself.
Q My name is Madison Baldwin. I am a first-year chemistry pre-med major from Marietta, Georgia. (Applause.) Good afternoon, Madam Vice President. It’s a pleasure to be speaking to you.
MR. JENKINS: And what’s your Zodiac si- — I’m just playing. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Go ahead with your question.
Q So, my question is on sea-level-rise challenges.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q So, the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metropolitan region in southeast Virginia is ranked the fifth most vulnerable population in America based upon exposure to hurricanes with destructive water surge disasters, floods, and loss of life.
These catastrophic storms are only slightly behind New Orleans with vulnerable minority populations living at or below the elevation. What government policies would you recommend to better protect these communities?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that. And again, this is one of the many issues that we have discussed today that when you all leave Hampton and when you continue in your role of leadership, I — I see — pardon the pun, but a sea change around what needs to happen.
Your generation has, your entire life, been acutely aware of the climate crisis, of extreme weather, occurrences of hurricanes and floods, wildfires. And you all, as I said earlier, have coined the phrase “climate anxiety” to describe what is — what is associated with that existential crisis.
And so, there are a number of things that we have done that I’m proud of since we came in office, including putting a trillion dollars into a number of things that are about adaptation and resilience and what we need to do to build a clean energy economy.
But you also raised an important point that is about environmental justice. Because if you look at, in particular the South — you know, we talk about Cancer Alley, right? So, I’ve been working on this issue for years and years and years. In fact, years ago, when I was DA of San Francisco, I created the first environmental justice unit of — of any prosecutor’s office and — to deal with the crimes that are occurring against communities of color and poor communities: dumping. Communities of color, poor communities have some of the worst air quality of any places in our country, right?
And you look at it in terms of the impact on the ability of that community to thrive economically, to thrive when it comes to health and well-being. You look at what we know in terms of our children and high rates of asthma. It’s all connected.
And so, focusing on this issue in particular that you’ve raised of environmental justice is an important one, which is to understand everybody is impacted by the climate crisis but not everyone is impacted equally. And so, we have to then deal with that.
And I’m going to then point out a very important point when I referred to attacks on fundamental rights. There’s an attack right now on diversity, equity, and inclusion —
MR. JENKINS: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — where supposed, so-called extreme leaders are suggesting it’s a bad thing to care about and pay attention to inequities, to say DEI is a bad thing, when in fact, if we want fair outcomes, we must understand what are disparities and then accommodate and adjust for those disparities if we want equal outcomes.
So, environmental justice raises those points, right? Equitable outcomes. Are — is everyone coming out the same way? Well, if they don’t s- — look, if you don’t start on the same base — everybody can have an equal amount — you’re still not going to end up on the same base, right?
If we want equal outcomes, we need to take into account not everybody starts out on the same base. And we have to make adjustments.
On the issue then of environmental justice, that includes looking at regions of our country, such as the South, and making sure that we are putting the resources into helping those communities be able to adapt and be resilient from things like what we’ve seen in the South around, for example, sewage getting out of control — what we’ve seen in terms of the damage to homes because of flooding — and put resources into that.
And I would encourage anyone who has an interest or knowledge in this to really think about that in terms of your career choices, because there’s a lot of work that is happening now that is also about innovation. It is about looking at things like electric vehicles, looking at technology, looking at satellite technology in a way that we can create solutions to some of these very real problems that we’re experiencing because of extreme weather incidents.
MS. BALDWIN: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. JENKINS: Thank you so much for your question. Give it up for everybody that asked a question. (Applause.) Very nerve-wracking to do that, I’m sure. Great, great work.
We’re here. It’s all about the fight for our freedoms. We’ve discussed so many subjects today, from women’s health to gun control to climate change. So many different problems that our country needs solutions for. How do you stay optimistic during these trying times?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I look around here and I’m very optimistic. I — look, here’s the thing, we were all born knowing that there’s nothing we can take for granted.
We — those of us who have the blessing of having been from or currently are at an HBCU, we are taught history. And that history teaches us that there will be moments in our lives and in our country where we can take nothing for granted and we realize that progress will only come out of our willingness to step up and fight for what is right.
And so, when I look at the turnout this afternoon in this auditorium of these leaders — who have clearly decided that, in their lives, they’re not going to be passive observers of what is happening, but they are going to exercise self-determination — you are exercising self-determination to invest in your country and, by extension, your own future. That gives me a great deal of optimism.
When I think about all the opportunity that is available when we reach for it; when I think about the fact that everyone here has been or you are being taught to never hear no, to never hear it can’t be done, to never hear, “Oh, well, no one like you has done that before, so don’t try.” We don’t believe in that. I like to say I eat no for breakfast.
MR. JENKINS: Lunch and dinner.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t hear no. I don’t hear no. (Applause.)
And so, when I look at the leadership that is here, I know our future is bright, and that makes me so very optimistic.
We’ve got a fight on our hands right now. We are fighting for our democracy. And this is real. These attacks on voting rights, on a person’s ability to make decisions about their own body, on issues like affirmative action, on issues that are about what makes for reasonable gun safety laws — this stuff is real, and it is happening right now in real time.
But I am optimistic because I know that our leaders are up for this challenge and will not be denied. And so, I — I would just — I know we’re close to ending. And I’ll just say a couple things.
One, you know, for many of you, when you leave here, you are going to often find yourself in rooms where you may be the only one like you, the only one that looks like you, the only one that has had your life experience. During this experience you are having here at Hampton, take moments to be very conscious about who you are surrounded by and hold on to that.
Because when you walk in those rooms and you’re the only one who looks like you or has had your life experience, I want you to remember you are not alone in those rooms. I want you to remember that we’re all in those rooms with you, cheering you on.
That is part of the gift that you have decided to receive by being a student here — is to then leave this place and walk into the world, knowing you come with people who are proud of you and are counting on you.
And then my last point would be that, you know, it’s the nature of things that with each generation, we must fight for our rights and our freedoms. And so, just stay active because I and your country are counting on all of you.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. JENKINS: Something tells me that with HU we got some real fighters on our hands.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right!
MR. JENKINS: Please, give it up one more time for Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:19 P.M. EDT