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Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III is delivering this year’s Democratic response to the State of the Union. Read his remarks as prepared below, or watch here.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege to join you tonight.We are here in Fall River, Massachusetts – a proud American city, built by immigrants. From textiles to robots, this is a place that knows how to make great things. The students with us this evening in the autoshop at Diman Regional Technical School carry on that rich legacy.
Like many American hometowns, Fall River has faced its share of storms. But people here are tough. They fight for each other. They pull for their city. It is a fitting place to gather as our nation reflects on the state of our union.
This is a difficult task. Many have spent the past year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country. We hear the voices of Americans who feel forgotten and forsaken.
We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward. A government that struggles to keep itself open. Russia knee-deep in our democracy. An all-out war on environmental protection. A Justice Department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts, and congregations. Targeting our safest, sacred places.
And that nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs: this is not right. This is not who we are.
It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics. But it’s far bigger than that. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us – they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.
For them, dignity isn’t something you’re born with but something you measure. By your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size. Not to mention, the gender of your spouse. The country of your birth. The color of your skin. The God of your prayers.
Their record is a rebuke of our highest American ideal: the belief that we are all worthy, we are all equal and we all count. In the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God and our government.
That is the American promise. But today that promise is being broken. By an Administration that callously appraises our worthiness and decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away.
They are turning American life into a zero-sum game.
Where, in order for one to win, another must lose. Where we can guarantee America’s safety if we slash our safety net. We can extend healthcare to Mississippi if we gut it in Massachusetts. We can cut taxes for corporations today if we raise them for families tomorrow. We can take care of sick kids if we sacrifice Dreamers.
We are bombarded with one false choice after another: Coal miners or single moms. Rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the heartland. As if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the daycare worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals, rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top.
As if the parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son will be beaten and bullied at school is any more or less legitimate than the parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of opioid addiction.
So here is the answer Democrats offer tonight: we choose both. We fight for both. Because the strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave any one behind.
We choose a better deal for all who call this country home. We choose the living wage, paid leave and affordable child care your family needs to survive. We choose pensions that are solvent, trade pacts that are fair, roads and bridges that won’t rust away, and good education you can afford. We choose a health care system that offers mercy, whether you suffer from cancer or depression or addiction. We choose an economy strong enough to boast record stock prices AND brave enough to admit that top CEOs making 300 times the average worker is not right.
We choose Fall River. We choose the thousands of American communities whose roads aren’t paved with power or privilege, but with honest effort, good faith, and the resolve to build something better for their kids.
That is our story. It began the day our Founding Fathers and Mothers set sail for a New World, fleeing oppression and intolerance.
It continued with every word of our Independence – the audacity to declare that all men are created equal. An imperfect promise for a nation struggling to become a more perfect union. It grew with every suffragette’s step, every Freedom Riders voice, every weary soul we welcomed to our shores.
And to all the Dreamers watching tonight, let me be clear: Ustedes son parte de nuestra historia. Vamos a luchar por ustedes y no nos vamos alejar.
You are a part of our story. We will fight for you. We will not walk away. America, we carry that story on our shoulders.
You swarmed Washington last year to ensure no parent has to worry if they can afford to save their child’s life. You proudly marched together last weekend – thousands deep — in the streets of Las Vegas and Philadelphia and Nashville. You sat high atop your mom’s shoulders and held a sign that read: “Build a wall and my generation will tear it down.”
You bravely say, me too. You steadfastly say, black lives matter. You wade through flood waters, battle hurricanes, and brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger. You fight your own, quiet battles every single day. You drag your weary bodies to that extra shift so your families won’t feel the sting of scarcity. You leave loved ones at home to defend our country overseas, or patrol our neighborhoods overnight.
You serve. You rescue. You help. You heal.
That – more than any law or leader, any debate or disagreement – that is what drives us toward progress. Bullies may land a punch. They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future. Politicians can be cheered for the promises they make. Our country will be judged by the promises we keep.
THAT is the measure of our character. That’s who we are.
Out of many. One.
Ladies and gentlemen, have faith: The state of our union is hopeful, resilient, enduring.
Thank you, God Bless you and your families, and God Bless the United States of America.
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