The Transcript Of Hillary Clinton's Missouri Speech Addressing Charleston And Race Is Well Worth Your Time
The devastating Emanuel AME Church shooting was the worst manifestation of a deep-seated racial problem in this country, and no one understands that more than Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton addressed the Charleston shooting, as well as the broader implications of racial inequality, at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. Clinton stressed the importance of the community's role in shaping each child to become better men and women, and there's no stronger proof of that, she said, than in the family members of the victims, who, against all expectation, forgave Dylann Roof for taking away their loved ones.
Clinton addressed a community meeting in Florissant, just a few miles from Ferguson, where less than a year ago a different manifestation of the racial divide tore the community apart. Whether it's discriminate police brutality, violent hate crimes, or the simple brandishing of the Confederate flag, "We can't hide from hard truths about race and justice," Clinton told the crowd. "We have to name them and own them and change them." And how do we as a country change our fractured society? By starting with the community.
Using her own mother as an example, Clinton emphasized the importance of nurturing children at a young age, of telling them you believe in them, in order for them to fulfill their potential and repeat the cycle with the next generation. She commended Christ the King United Church of Christ for having community youth programs, and encouraged other entities, like small businesses, charities, and local governments, to provide children the "tools and opportunities to overcome legacies of discrimination."
But perhaps her most powerful message relates to the tragic Charleston shooting. Because the victims of the attack and their family members had such strong foundations, the kind that she'd want every child in America to have, they were able to face Roof with not anger or retribution, but love and forgiveness, which she called an "act of mercy" that was "as stunning as his act of cruelty." Because, ultimately, to mend the racial wounds, or any wounds, that inflict America, it's about "how we treat each other, how we learn to see the humanity in those around us, and how we teach our children to see that humanity, too."
In closing out her statements, she urges everyone to take action at the community level, just as the victims of the shooting had. "Their example and their memory show us the way," Clinton said. "So let us be resolved to make sure they did not die in vain."
Here's the transcript of the speech, courtesy of Hillary for America.
Thank you. Thank you so much, Pastor Traci. Thank you for welcoming me to your church, this community, and with such powerful words.
I am here to listen but also to engage in the kind of open and honest discussion that I hope is happening all across America.
Last week, just a few hours before the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church during Wednesday night Bible Study, I was in Charleston visiting a technical school, meeting students — black, white, Hispanic — who were pursuing paid internships, and learning skills that will prepare them for the jobs of the future. I heard their stories, I shook their hands, I looked into their eyes, and I saw the hope and the pride that comes from doing work that is meaningful, learning, feeling that you matter, and that there will be a place for you.
That's the basic bargain of our country. And these young men and a few young women were doing their part.
That night, word of the killings struck like a blow to the soul. How do we make sense of such an evil act, an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of God? How do we turn grief, anger, and despair into purpose and action?
Those of us who are Christians are challenged by Jesus Christ to forgive seventy times seven — a daunting, even impossible task for most of us.
But then we have seen that scriptural admonition in action.
Isn't it amazing, remarkable even, when fear, doubt, desire for revenge might have been expected, but instead forgiveness is found? Although a fundamental part of our doctrine, its practice is the most difficult thing we are ever called to do.
But, that's what we saw on Friday, when one by one, grieving parents, siblings and other family members looked at that young man who had taken so much from them and said: "I forgive you."
Wanda Simmons, the granddaughter of Reverend Daniel Simmons, said, "Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone's plea for your soul," she said to the killer, "is proof that they lived in love so hate won't win."
Their act of mercy was as stunning as his act of cruelty.
Hate cannot win. "There is no future without forgiveness," Archbishop Desmond Tutu taught us, and forgiveness is the first step toward victory in any journey.
I know it's tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today's America, bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists.
But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America's long struggle with race is far from finished.
We can't hide from hard truths about race and justice. We have to name them and own them and change them.
That's why I appreciate the actions begun yesterday by the Governor and other leaders of South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House — recognizing it as a symbol of our nation's racist past that has no place in our present or our future. It shouldn't fly there, it shouldn't fly anywhere.
And I also commend Walmart for deciding to remove any product that uses it. Today, Amazon, eBay, and Sears have followed suite, and I urge all sellers to do the very same.
But you know and I know that's just the beginning of what we have to do.
The truth is, equality, opportunity, civil rights in America are still far from where they need to be. Our schools are still segregated — in fact, more segregated than they were in the 1960s.
Nearly 6 million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are out of school and out of work. Think of that: neither learning nor working. And the numbers are particularly high for young people of color.
Statistics like these are rebukes to the real progress we have made and they pose an urgent call for us to act — publicly, politically, and personally.
We should start by giving all of our children the tools and opportunities to overcome legacies of discrimination, to live up to their own God-given potentials.
I just saw some of the young people attending camp here at the church down in the basement, and I was thrilled to see that, because that is the kind of commitment we need more of in every church, in every place, until every child is reached. And I hope we can take that as a cause for action.
I learned this not from politics but from my mother, who taught me that everybody — everybody — needs a chance and a champion. She knew what it was like to have neither one.
Her own parents abandoned her. By 14 she was out on her own, working as a housemaid. Years later, when I was old enough to understand, I asked her, "What kept you going?" Her answer was very simple: Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.
And for her it was the first grade teacher who saw she had nothing to eat at lunch and, without embarrassing her, brought extra food to share. It was the woman whose house she cleaned, who agreed to let her go to high school so long as her work got done.
Because those people believed in her, gave her a chance, she believed in me. And she taught me to believe in the potential of every American.
That inspired me to go work for the Children's Defense Fund after law school. It inspired my work for the Legal Services Corporation, where I defended the rights of poor people to have lawyers. I saw lives changed because an abusive marriage ended or an illegal eviction stopped.
In Arkansas, at the law school there, I supervised law students who represented clients in courts and prisons, organized college scholarship funds for single parents, led efforts for better schools and better health care.
So, I know — I know what personal kindness, political commitments, and public programs can do to help those who are trying their best to get ahead.
That's why we need to build an economy for tomorrow, not yesterday.
You don't have to look far from this sanctuary to see why that need is so urgent. But you also don't have to look far to see that talent and potential is all right here, if only we can unleash it.
I believe that talent is universal but opportunity is not. We need to rebuild the American Opportunity Society for the 21st century.
And you might ask, how do we do that?
Well, first, start looking at the faces and the energy of the young people I just saw downstairs. We have to start early, make sure every 4-year-old in America has access to high-quality preschool. Because those early years are when young brains develop, and the right foundation can lead to lifelong success.
Now, I'm not saying this just because I'm not a grandmother — of the most amazing, brilliant, extraordinary 9-month-old in history of the world. I'm saying this because, again, I know what the evidence is. I know that 80 percent of your brain is developed by the age of 3.
So we have to do more. And when I say we, I mean churches and houses of worship, I mean businesses, I mean charities, I mean local governments. All of us have to do more to help families be their child's first teachers from zero to 5.
You know, when I was First Lady of Arkansas, I struggled with this issue. We had a lot of kids, poor kids in the delta and south Arkansas and up in the mountains. And we were not going to be able to afford at that point all those years ago a universal pre-K program. We had to do more but we were never going to do enough.
So I looked for programs that people could run themselves. And I found a program in Israel, a program designed to help the children of immigrants into Israel, particularly from Ethiopia, who came with their parents seeking religious freedom. They were Ethiopian Jews. They had to escape. But many of them had never been to school.
And the secret to the program called the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters, was to teach the mother to teach her child.
We need to do more of that, and I call on all of us to find ways to reach into those families, and then as our kids grow up, they're going to need not only a good education to prepare them but the skills for tomorrow's jobs.
We need tax credits for businesses that invest in apprenticeships, particularly providing opportunities to economically disadvantaged young people.
In order to create those new jobs, we have to attract investment into communities too often ignored or written off. Whether you live in Ferguson or West Baltimore, in Coal Country or Indian Country, you should have the same chance as any American anywhere to get ahead and stay ahead.
We should reauthorize the New Markets Tax Credit, which has encouraged billions of dollars in private funding for community development and small businesses in low-income, low-investment areas. It should be permanent.
A lot of the new jobs are going to come from small businesses. And we know that women and people of color face extra hurdles becoming entrepreneurs. It's harder to find the support networks, it's harder to get that loan.
So we've got to do more to knock down the barriers so every good idea that anybody has will get a fair hearing, and a chance to create a new business, to employ people and raise their incomes.
We must do all we can to be sure our communities respect law enforcement and that law enforcement respects the communities they serve.
And we need to come together for common sense gun reforms that keep our communities safe.
The key to all of this is revitalizing our democracy, and finally persuading the 50 million Americans who do not vote that by not voting they make it possible for people who do not agree with them, do not support their aspirations to call the shots.
Earlier this month, I went to Texas Southern University to speak out against systematic efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people of color, and the elderly.
We need early voting in every state, and automatic, universal voter registration.
I think every young American when they turn 18 should be universally, automatically registered unless they say no.
Now, if we re-stitch the fraying fabric of our communities, we will only do so if all Americans do their part.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. My mother taught Sunday school, and made sure — part of the reason she taught Sunday school is to keep an eye on my brothers — who were supposed to be in Sunday school but you never knew. So she was there to make sure that they showed up in their classes.
But she also made sure we heard the wisdom of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, to "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
And that meant more than prayer. It meant we had to step out of the church, roll up our sleeves and get to work.
I was blessed with a wonderful youth minister who took some of us into Chicago to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. I grew up in an all-white, middle-class suburb. I didn't have a black friend, neighbor or classmate until I went to college. And I am so blessed to have had so many in my life since. But I leapt at the chance to hear Dr. King's words with my own ears.
The sermon that evening was titled "Remaining Awake Through a Revolution." Dr. King challenged us to stay engaged in the cause of justice, not to slumber while the world changed around us.
I think that's good advice for all of us today. We should all commit to stay awake and stay active, to do our part, in our families, our businesses, unions, houses of worship, schools, and yes, in the voting booth.
Never stop working for a stronger, more prosperous, more just, more inclusive America.
Government has a big part of the responsibility to promote growth, fairness and justice, but so do all of us.
So in quiet moments in the days ahead, in honest conversations, let's talk about what each of us can and should do. Because ultimately, this is really all about the habits of our hearts, how we treat each other, how we learn to see the humanity in those around us, and how we teach our children to see that humanity, too.
And we don't have to look far for examples. Those nine righteous men and women who invited a stranger into their midst, to study the bible with them, somehow who did not look like them, someone they had never seen before.
Their example and their memory show us the way. Their families, their church does as well.
So let us be resolved to make sure they did not die in vain.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Thank you and God bless you.
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