Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's National Town Hall meeting this morning in the Washington Convention Center. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Thank you, Chairman [Kendrick] Meek, for your generous introduction. Your leadership is taking the CBC Foundation to new heights and helping this organization educate future leaders and work for the common good.
“It is an honor to be here with Chairwoman [Barbara] Lee - a key figure in ensuring that the voices of every American are heard loud and clear in the halls of Washington and beyond. Your work to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS has made you a global leader, and you have continued to make the CBC the ‘conscience of the Congress' here at home.
“To Congressman [Chaka] Fattah and Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke, the co-chairs of this Annual Legislative Conference: thank you for bringing together so many of our current and emerging leaders to discuss our nation's most pressing challenges.
“The Congressional Black Caucus - and this foundation - were founded on a simple premise: that equality and opportunity are the birthright of every American.
“With President Obama's leadership, Congress has worked to ensure that our economic recovery efforts reflect the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Americans. In his budget, which was approved by the Senate and the House on the 100th day of President Obama's presidency, the President put forth a statement of national values -- that what is important to our country is how we allocate the budget and resources. And his three principles were job creation and turning the economy around, for investments in education, investments in health care for all, and investments in new, green technologies with new clean jobs in our inner cities and rural America and across the country.
“In terms of education, I'm pleased to say that we already passed the bill the President was talking about. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that not only made the most significant investments in history in education, from early childhood to higher education and lifetime learning, but it also gave $10 billion back to the Treasury. It is saving money. Not only will it be paid for, but it is saving money by realigning priorities. In that bill was $2.5 billion for minority-serving higher institutions of learning. It is important that investments will be made in those institutions, including research funds, which will open up all kinds of doors of opportunity.
“On health care, the President said that health care is a right, not a privilege -- we must have health care for all, just as we must have educational opportunity for all in our country. And as Mr. Meek said, we see a route to that through having a public option to have more competition, lower costs, higher quality, and as we address the disparities in health care in our country. Disparities that are ethnic or racial -- we don't want any disparities in it -- we want health care for all of the highest quality without discrimination. Those investments are made by taxpayers dollars -- they belong to each and every one of you.
“Third, in terms of energy and climate change, the House has already passed our bill. I was reading the paper this morning that Spain's answer to changing the recession and turning around was investments in new, green technology and clean energy jobs across that country, across Europe. So, too, are we in the lead in that in our country and many people in the African-American community have taken the lead, knowing that we need environmental justice when we're talking about energy -- about where we put power plants and how we give opportunity.
“So the President's three pillars sit very comfortably, and of course, his three pillars are about creating jobs, lowering taxes, and reducing the deficit. There is a recognition that the leverage has changed. This isn't about policies that support the one or two wealthiest percent, the wealthiest people in America. This is about what we pledge to the flag: liberty and justice for all -- economic, social, and political liberty and justice for all.
“I congratulate the organizers Chaka Fattah and Yvette Clarke, as well as Kendrick Meek and Barbara Lee, for making this program so substantive, so practical, so serviceable that in terms of small businesses, and educational institutions -- every place that opportunity has a window, that window is open very wide.
“On behalf of the Congress of the United States, I am pleased to be part of the welcome to this important town hall meeting. I was honored to be part of the opening session of the whole conference yesterday.
“We look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations. Know your power -- what you say is important to us because this community is in the lead. At its core, this conference is about the call to reinvest in ourselves and our children; to rebuild our neighborhoods; and to renew the promise of opportunity for all Americans.
“The CBC's vision has inspired us to pursue justice and promote equality at every turn. It will continue to play a central role in building a future of economic progress. But the next phase will be shaped by all of you.
“In an age when civil discourse is sometimes in short supply, your voices and your ideas serve as reminders of our ability to move forward, to change this country for the better.
“We're here to listen. Our offices are open. Let the conversation begin. Thank you.”