Remarks by Vice President Harris at a Juneteenth Concert

Vice President Kamala Harris gave her remarks during the Juneteenth concert in Washington DC. The concert featured various performers including Raheem Devaugh, Kirk Franklin, Doug Fresh, Anthony Hamilton, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Patina Miller, Brittney Spencer, Trombone Shorty, Charlie Wilson, and the United States Marine Band. Harris’ remarks go as follows: 

South Lawn

7:46 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everyone.  Good evening.  (Applause.) 

Please have a seat.  Good evening. 

What a joy it is to be with everyone tonight.  (Applause.)  And, oh, what my eyes behold.

Happy Juneteenth, everybody.  Happy Juneteenth.  (Applause.)

So, we are here to celebrate America’s newest national holiday.  And it is wonderful to be with so many extraordinary leaders, starting with our incredible President, Joe Biden — (applause); the first-ever Second Gentleman of the United States, my husband, Doug Emhoff — (laughs) — (applause); members of the United States Congress and, of course, the leaders and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus — (applause); and everyone else who is here tonight.

So, as a United States Senator, I was proud to co-sponsor a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.  And as Vice President, it was my honor to stand beside our President, Joe Biden, when he signed the legislation that made that dream a reality. 

Next Wednesday, across our nation, Americans will come together with generations of loved ones to celebrate Juneteenth, to celebrate Black excellence and leadership, culture and community, resilience and resistance — (applause) — and to remember our nation’s history in full. 

For more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, as we all know — two years after — hundreds of thousands of Americans in Texas were still enslaved.  Then, Union troops arrived in Galveston, and on June 19th, 1865, the enslaved people of Texas learned they were free.  On that day, they claimed their freedom. 

And today, as we celebrate Juneteenth, together we are reminded of the promise of America: a promise of freedom, liberty, and opportunity not for some but for all. 

In many ways, the story of Juneteenth and of our nation is a story of our ongoing fight to realize that promise, our ongoing fight to build a nation that is more equal, more fair, and more free; a nation where every person has the opportunity not to just get by but get ahead.

Since taking office, with the support of so many of the leaders here today, President Biden and I have continued that fight. 

As Roy said, we forgave student loan debt for nearly 5 million Americans.  (Applause.)  We capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month.  And we are now making it so medical debt can no longer be included on your credit score.  (Applause.)

As Roy mentioned, we also passed the first major gun safety law in nearly 30 years.  We appointed the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in our land.  (Applause.)  Her name is Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

And all this is to say, with the support of the leaders here and so many, we have made real progress.  And we are clear-eyed, as we move our nation forward, there are those who are trying to take us backward. 

Across our nation, we witness a full-on attack on hard-fought, hard-won freedoms and rights, including the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body — (applause); the freedom to be who you are and love who you love openly and with pride — (applause); the freedom from fear of bigotry and hate; the freedom to learn and acknowledge our nation’s true and full history; and the freedom that unlocks all others: the freedom to vote.  (Applause.)

This Juneteenth, we will hold a national day of action on voting.  And I call on all the leaders here to please join us in helping more Americans register to vote.  (Applause.) 

Because while Juneteenth is a day for celebration, it is also a day for dedication; a day to rededicate ourselves to the ongoing and unfinished work of our American experiment; a day to renew our commitment to defend our freedoms, to honor our history, and to continue to fight for the promise of America.

Tonight, then, to inspire us in that work, we are joined by a group of truly incredible artists. 

Through the struggles and successes of our history, Black artists like these have put song to our nation’s fight for freedom.  Through spirituals, blues, and gospel, through jazz, soul, and hip-hop, artists give voice to the joy and hope, ambition and aspiration, courage and conviction of the people of our nation.

And now, to introduce our first performer, I welcome back to the stage my friend Roy Wood, Jr.

Thank you all.     

END                     7:52 P.M. EDT