Biden, Harris mark 10th anniversary of MLK memorial
President Biden and Vice President Harris paid tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., during a ceremony Thursday marking a decade since the dedication of a memorial erected to honor the civil rights giant.
In prepared remarks, Biden used the appearance to make the case for his economic agenda and highlight the work his administration is doing to help communities of color, including efforts to ensure the response to the coronavirus addresses the disparate impact on Black Americans.
Biden also acknowledged the lack of progress in Congress on legislation to overhaul policing and bolster voting rights. He insisted his administration would continue to fight for both, despite the lack of clear path forward on either priority in the narrowly-divided Senate.
“The most un-American thing that any of us can imagine, the most undemocratic and the most unpatriotic, and yet sadly not unprecedented, time and time again we have witnessed threats to the right to vote and free and fair elections come to fruition,” Biden said. “Each time we fought back and we have to continue to fight today.”
Biden’s speech marking the 10th anniversary and dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial in the nation’s capital came a day after Senate Republicans blocked the consideration of the Freedom to Vote Act, a new compromise piece of legislation to reform federal elections.
Advocates have unsuccessfully pressed Biden and other Democrats to back reforming or eliminating the filibuster so that Democrats can pass the bill and others without needing to overcome the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
Biden, who did not mention the filibuster on Thursday, insisted the battle is “far from over,” referencing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that the Senate is expected to vote on as soon as next week.
“We have to keep up the fight and get it done,” Biden said.
Harris, who is leading the White House efforts on voting rights, invoked King’s push for progress in urging Democrats to continue to fight to overcome racial and economic injustice and the impact of climate change. She also urged Democrats to fight to advance voting rights.
“Today, as a nation we must summon our own power as leaders, we must leverage our own power, and we all have a role to play and the president and I are clear on ours. We are and must be unwavering in this fight and we must use our voice to call out any effort to obstruct justice. And to call for justice everywhere,” Harris said. “Remember – and Dr. King knew this – America is not defined by her perfection. America is defined by our commitment to perfecting and in our nation that will forever be the way forward.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also delivered brief remarks and reflected on the dedication of the memorial a decade ago. At the time, President Obama, the first Black president, presided over the dedication of the memorial a decade ago and Biden was serving as vice president.
Like he did during his campaign, Biden echoed King in describing the nation as in a battle to save the “soul of America.” Biden rebuked racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, briefly mentioned former President Trump as he accused him of fomenting prejudice.
“I believe the American people, the vast majority, are with us. I think they see much more clearly what you’ve all been fighting for your whole lives now. It’s in stark relief. The bad news is we had a president who appealed to the prejudice,” Biden said as he concluded his remarks. “The good news is he ripped the band aid off. Made it absolutely clear what’s at stake. I think the American people will follow us. But guess what? Whether they will or not, we have no choice. We have to continue to fight.”
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