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Black Women's Agenda Symposium
Speech by Hillary Clinton

September 16, 2016

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Black Women’s Agenda Symposium in Washington D.C. Read the full transcript below:

Hello, B-W-A. I thank you all for that warm welcome. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here with all of you this morning.

Please everyone be seated. This is such a great opportunity to lift up the work that so many of you have done for years — your organizations, individually — and I am grateful for it because it has helped to guide me in a lot of the work that I’ve been privileged to do.

I want to thank Gwen Hess for her introduction. I want to acknowledge, it’s always great to see a woman serve as president in any setting.

I want to congratulate today’s honorees. Everyone is so deserving of this recognition. I also want to acknowledge a few others. We have some fierce members of Congress with us today, women whom I admire, who have been my colleagues and friends and with whom I am looking forward to continuing our work: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett.

And I want to give a special shout out to Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. When I saw Joyce recently, she said, ‘Well, you are coming, aren’t you?’ And I said, ‘I’m working hard to get it set.’ And I am so proud that it did work out, and I thank Joyce for that extra push.

I also want to acknowledge someone who had such a profound effect on my life, in every way, someone whom I admire and love, Marian Wright Edelman. This audience is filled with longtime friends and people I went to Wellesley College with that became life-long friends to me, and so many of you who have been on the front lines — everyone associated with The Black Women’s Agenda, I’m thrilled to be with you. I’m thrilled to be associated with you. I’m also thrilled to be back on the campaign trail. As the world knows, I was a little under the weather recently. The good news is, my pneumonia finally got some Republicans interested in women’s health.

Looking back, I know, I should have followed my doctor’s orders to rest, but, my instinct was to push through it. That is what women do every single day, and I felt no different. Life has shown us that we do have to work harder at the office while still bearing most of the responsibilities at home — that we always need to keep going because our families and our communities count on us. And I think it is more than fair to say, that black women have an even tougher road.

And you, your daughters, your granddaughters — I was pleased to meet Gwen’s beautiful granddaughter earlier — leave the house every morning, put on that game face that we all practice, and enter a society that consistently challenges your worth. With the images you see, the lower pay that so many take home, that try to silence your voices and break your spirits; yet, you remain fierce in the face of these challenges. We see that every day in the businesses you start, the art you create, the children you teach and the communities and organizations you lead. While your stories are often missing from the history books — make no mistake — you are the change makers, the path breakers, and the ground shakers. And, you are proof that yes, indeed, black girl magic is real.

Now, I’ve been blessed to see this magic’s influence on kids and communities up close for decades, starting with my first job after law school working with Marian at the Children’s Defense Fund. Marian’s belief was that every single child had worth and potential and deserved the opportunity to live up to their god potential with the tools and the support that every child needs. And that if we just improve the odds a bit for those suffering in poverty, they could flourish. So she led our team into some very poor communities. We met kids who had dropped out of school because they couldn’t afford textbooks or transportation. Some didn’t have decent clothes and stayed home to avoid being humiliated in class. Some had untreated medical and dental problems that made it practically impossible for them to learn. Those stories really hurt my heart.

But Marian always believed we could deliver help and hope if we never ever gave up. So she taught us ways to think creatively, as well as strategically– to take our advocacy and turn it into action and results. She sent me to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to go door to door looking for children who weren’t in school. That was back before we had a legal requirement that every child, regardless of disability, deserved to get an education. I met a young girl in New Bedford and sat and talked with her on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted to learn, but couldn’t because schools weren’t accessible or welcoming. So Marian had us get to work and change that.

We gathered evidence and built a coalition. We helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities. Marian showed me that to drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action. And there is no question, I’m here today because of her example. I also want to recognize pioneers like Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm, who sacrificed and struggled so that I and so many other women running for office could soar. I’m here because of friends and colleagues, like Donna Brazile, Reverend Leah Daugherty and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge — three black women who ran the Democratic National Convention in July. It was a great four days.

It goes to show that black women deserve more than a seat at the table. It’s past time you had a fair chance to run the meeting. And let’s be clear: I would not be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States were it not for black women like all of you who made noise at the polls this year in support of our campaign — who did surrogate events, went to barber shops and beauty salons and cafes, got on local radio and local TV to make the case. We’ve come far together.

And as I said yesterday in North Carolina, I’m going to close my campaign the way I began my career all those years ago at the Children’s Defense Fund, and the way that I will serve as your president should I have the great honor of being elected: I will be focused on opportunities for kids and fairness for families. The American people deserve something to vote for, not just against.

And together — together, we are going to make this a freer, fairer and stronger nation.

We’re going to fight for the parents struggling to balance family and work and push for affordable child care, paid family leave, and yes, finally, equal pay for women.

We’ll fight for the young girls who want a fair chance in life, which is why we’ll make universal pre-k available so that every child — no matter what they look like or where they live — can rise up and be prepared to fulfill their academic destiny.

We are also going to do a lot to emphasize STEM education, particularly for girls and women, and I thank the agenda for making that a priority!

We’ll fight for the entrepreneur who said that more businesses die in the parking lots of banks than anywhere else, which is why we’re going to increase access to capital, and we are going to help African American women continue to represent the fastest growing segment of women-owned businesses in America right now.

We are going to invest in communities that have been left out and left behind. Urban reinvestment and restructuring that is going to give more people decent housing, access to jobs, the transportation to get to those jobs, rural communities that are too often ignored and denied the services they need. I am a fan of Jim Clyburn’s ‘10-20-30’ plan. I am going to do everything I can to push that forward.

We’ll remember the pain of the Mothers of the Movement and fight for a criminal justice system that actually delivers justice and a future where everyone has respect for the law and is respected by the law. And we are going to pass common-sense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and keep our communities safe.

We’ll remember the families neglected in Flint and take action so that no child’s life is ever put at risk again when brushing their teeth or drinking a glass of water at dinner. We’ll advocate for everyone concerned about their parents and grandparents as they age, and lift up caregivers and home care workers so older Americans can live in comfort and with dignity.

And we’re going to protect and enhance Social Security, which is the main source of income for older women. We’ll stand-by-side to make sure that all of our rights are respected and protected – civil rights and women’s rights, LGBT rights, worker’s rights and, of course, voting rights.

We are coming together at a pivotal moment for our country. Now I do believe that every election is important. But this one feels different, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. The next 53 days will shape the next 50 years. The future of our children and grandchildren hangs in the balance.

On one hand, we have my opponent, Donald Trump, and in recent weeks, he’s tried to restrain himself and clean up his image. But as Maya Angelou once said, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ And we know who Donald is. For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.

Just yesterday, Trump again refused to say with his own words that the president was born in the United States. Donald’s advisors had the temerity to say, ‘He’s doing the country a ‘service’ by pushing these lies.’ No, he isn’t. He’s feeding into the worst impulses — the bigotry and bias — that lurks in our country.

Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple. And Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology. So, my friends, there is no ‘new’ Donald Trump. There never will be. Donald Trump looks at President Obama after eight years as our president. He still doesn’t see him as an American.

Think of how dangerous that is. Imagine a person in the Oval Office who traffics in conspiracy theories and refuses to let them go – no matter what the facts are. Imagine someone who distorts the truth to fit a very narrow view of the world. Imagine a president who sees someone who doesn’t look like him, and doesn’t agree with him, and thinks, ‘That person must not be a real American.’

Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States. We cannot become insensitive to what he says and what he stirs up. We can’t just accept this.We’ve got to stand up to it. If we don’t, it won’t stop.

In addition to the president, Donald Trump looks at a distinguished federal judge, born in Indiana, and he sees a Mexican, not an American. He looks at a Gold Star family and sees them as Muslims, not patriotic Americans. He looks at women and decides how our looks rate on a scale of one to 10. I look at America, I see everyone. I see our great diversity, which is one of our core strengths, not our burden. We know who Donald Trump is. Now it’s time for our country to show who we are and reject his divisive vision.

That’s why this election is so important. As Michelle Obama said at the Democratic Convention, ‘When we go to the polls this November, the real choice isn’t between a Democrat or Republican.’ It’s about who will have the power to shape our children’s lives for the next four years. It’s also about the kind of country we want to be, and what we want to leave behind for future generations.

We are at our best when every person gets to share in our nation’s promise, contribute to its progress. ‘Stronger Together’ is not just our campaign slogan. It’s the guiding principle for the future we need to build. So Americans, we need to ask themselves: Are we going to make our economy work for everyone or just for those at the top? Are we going to bring people together or pit Americans against each other and rip our country apart? Are we going to work with our allies to keep us safe or are we going to put a loose cannon in charge who would risk everything that generations of Americans have worked so hard to build?

Now in many ways, the profound choice is up to the women in this room. African American women turned out to vote more than any other group of Americans in 2012. This year, once again, you have your hands on the wheel of history and you can write the next chapter of the American story.

Keep up the great work with your Four for 4’ campaign. Make sure we get as many people registered and then to the polls as we possibly can. People say to me all time, ‘I just — I don’t know what to do about Trump and his supporters and the things he says and inciting violence and all of the terrible activities that are happening this election year.’

Well, here’s what we can do. Let’s reject the cynicism, the bullying, the divisive rhetoric that my opponent uses to make us afraid of each other, afraid of our differences, afraid of our future. I know that all of us in this room are ready to stand up against this … to rise up for our families, our communities, but most importantly, to show up at the polls this November.

With our power and strength, I know — I believe this, or I would not be standing here before you, I would not have run again for president, I would not deal with all the incoming brickbats that are hurled my way if I did not in my heart believe with every fiber of my being that together we can build a future where, yes, love trumps hate.

Thank you very much. Thank you.