A Powerful Speech

Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia gave his first speech on the Senate floor yesterday and it was a powerful, moving speech in which he spoke of the need for voting rights legislation and he pulled no punches in referring to the current situation, where almost every state in the union is attempting to rob minorities and others of their right to vote, calling it “Jim Crow in new clothes”.  Below is the video of his speech, and also the transcript.  I, for one, am glad that Senator Raphael Warnock was elected to our Congress … he is the voice of reason, he is our conscience.

“Mr. President—before I begin my formal remarks today, I want to pause to condemn the hatred and violence that took eight precious lives last night in metropolitan Atlanta. I grieve with Georgians, with Americans, with people of love all across the world. This unspeakable violence visited largely upon the Asian community, is one that causes all of us to recommit ourselves to the way of peace and active peace that prevents these kinds of tragedies from happening in the first place. We pray for these families.

“Mr. President, I rise here today as a proud American and as one of the newest members of the Senate—in awe of the journey that has brought me to these hallowed halls with an abiding sense of reverence and gratitude for the faith and sacrifices of ancestors who paved the way.

“I am a proud son of the great state of Georgia, born and raised in Savannah, a coastal city known for its cobble-stone streets and verdant town squares. Towering oak trees, centuries old and covered in gray Spanish moss, stretched from one side of the street to the other, bend and beckon the lover of history and horticulture to this city by the sea. I was educated at Morehouse College and I serve still in the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church; both in Atlanta, the cradle of the civil rights movement. Like those oak trees, my roots go down deep and stretch wide in the soil of Waycross, Burke County and Screven County. In a word, I am Georgia. A living example and embodiment of its history and hope, the pain and the promise, the brutality and the possibility.

“Mr. President, at the time of my birth, Georgia’s two senators were Richard B. Russell and Herman E. Talmadge, both arch segregationists and unabashed adversaries of the civil rights movement. After the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board ruling outlawing school segregation, Talmadge warned that “blood will run in the streets of Atlanta”. Senator Talmadge’s father, Eugene Talmadge, former governor of our state, had famously declared, “The South loves the Negro in his place, but his place is at the back door.” When once asked how he and his supporters might keep Black people away from the polls, he picked up a scrap of paper and wrote a single word on it: “Pistols.”

“Yet, there is something in the American covenant—in its charter documents and its Jeffersonian ideals—that bends toward freedom. Led by a preacher and a patriot named King, Americans of all races stood up. History vindicated the movement that sought to push us closer to our ideals, to lengthen and strengthen the cords of our democracy, and I now hold the seat—the Senate seat—where Herman E. Talmadge sat.

“And that’s why I love America. I love America because we always have a path to make it better, to build a more perfect union. It is the place where a kid like me who grew up in public housing, the first college graduate in my family, can now serve as a United States Senator. I had an older father, he was born in 1917; serving in the Army during World War II, he was once asked to give up his seat to a young teenager while wearing his soldier’s uniform, they said “making the world safe for democracy.” But he was never bitter. By the time I came along, he had already seen the arc of change in our country. He maintained his faith in God, in his family and in the American promise, and he passed that faith on to his children.

“My mother grew up in Waycross, Georgia. You know where that is? It’s way ‘cross Georgia. Like a lot of Black teenagers in the 1950’s she spent her summers picking somebody else’s tobacco and somebody else’s cotton. But because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls in January and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator. Ours is a land where possibility is born of democracy. A vote, a voice, a chance to help determine the direction of the country and one’s own destiny within it. Possibility born of democracy.

“That’s why this past November and January, my mom and other citizens of Georgia grabbed hold of that possibility and turned out in record numbers, 5 million in November, 4.4 million in January. Far more than ever in our state’s history. Turnout for a typical runoff doubled. And the people of Georgia sent the state’s first African American senator and first Jewish senator, my brother Jon Ossoff, to these hallowed halls.

“But then, what happened? Some politicians did not approve of the choice made by the majority of voters in a hard-fought election in which each side got the chance to make its case to the voters. And, rather than adjusting their agenda, rather than changing their message, they are busy trying to change the rules. We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.

“Since the January election, some 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced by state legislatures all across the country—from Georgia to Arizona, from New Hampshire to Florida. Using the Big Lie of voter fraud as a pretext for voter suppression. The same Big Lie that led to a violent insurrection on this very Capitol — the day after my election. Within 24 hours, we elected Georgia’s first African-American and Jewish Senators, hours later the Capitol was assaulted. We see in just a few precious hours the tension very much alive in the soul of America. And the question before all of us at every moment is what will we do to push us in the right direction.

“So politicians driven by that big lie aim to severely limit, and in some cases, eliminate automatic and same-day voter registration, mail-in and absentee voting, and early voting and weekend voting. They want to make it easier to purge voters from the voting roll altogether. As a voting rights activist, I’ve seen up close just how draconian these measures can be. I hail from a state that purged 200,000 voters one Saturday night —in the middle of the night. We know what’s happening — some people don’t want some people to vote.

“I was honored on a few occasions to stand with our hero and my parishioner, John Lewis. I was his pastor but I’m clear he was my mentor. On more than one occasion we boarded buses together after Sunday Church services as part of our Souls To The Polls program, encouraging the Ebenezer Church family and communities of faith to participate in the democratic process. Now just a few months after Congressman Lewis’ death, there are those in the Georgia legislature, some who even dared to praise his name, that are now trying to get rid of Sunday Souls to the Polls, making it a crime for people who pray together to get on a bus together and vote together. I think that’s wrong. In fact, I think a vote is a kind of prayer about the world we desire for ourselves and our children. And our prayers are stronger when we pray together.

“To be sure, we have seen these kinds of voter suppression tactics before. They are a part of a long and shameful history in Georgia and throughout our nation. But refusing to be denied, Georgia citizens and citizens across our country braved the heat and the cold and the rain, some standing in line for 5 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours just to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Young people, old people, sick people, working people, already underpaid, forced to lose wages, to pay a kind of poll tax while standing in line to vote.

“And how did some politicians respond? Well, they are trying to make it a crime to give people water and a snack, as they wait in lines that are obviously being made longer by their draconian actions. Think about that. Think about that. They are the ones making the lines longer– through these draconian actions. Then, they want to make it a crime to bring grandma some water as she is waiting in line they are making longer! Make no mistake. This is democracy in reverse. Rather than voters being able to pick the politicians, the politicians are trying to cherry pick their voters. I say this cannot stand.

“And so I rise, Mr. President, because that sacred and noble idea—one person, one vote—is being threatened right now. Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself. I submit that it is the job of each citizen to stand up for the voting rights of every citizen. And it is the job of this body to do all that it can to defend the viability of our democracy.

“That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the For The People Act, which we introduced today. The For The People Act is a major step forward in the march toward our democratic ideals, making it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to vote by instituting common-sense, pro-democracy reforms like:

    Establishing national automatic voter registration for every eligible citizen, and allowing all Americans to register to vote online and on Election Day;

    Requiring states to offer at least two weeks of early voting, including weekends, in federal elections—keeping Souls to the Polls programs alive;

    Prohibiting states from restricting a person’s ability to vote absentee or by mail;

    And preventing states from purging the voter rolls based solely on unreliable evidence like someone’s voting history, something we’ve seen in Georgia and other states in recent years.

“And It would end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure our public servants are there serving the public.

“Amidst these voter suppression laws and tactics, including partisan and racial gerrymandering, and in a system awash in dark money and the dominance of corporatist interests and politicians who do their bidding, the voices of the American people have been increasingly drowned out and crowded out and squeezed out of their own democracy. We must pass “For The People” so that people might have a voice. Your vote is your voice and your voice is your human dignity.

“But not only that, we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Voting rights used to be a bi-partisan issue. The last time the voting rights bill was re-authorized was 2006. George W. Bush was president and it passed its chamber 98-0. But then in 2013, the Supreme Court rejected the successful formula for supervision and pre-clearance, contained in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They asked Congress to fix it. That was nearly 8 years ago, and the American people are still waiting. Stripped of protections, voters in states with a long history of voting discrimination and voters in many other states have been thrown to the winds.

“We Americans have noisy and spirited debates about many things. And we should. That’s what it means to live in a free country. But access to the ballot ought to be nonpartisan. I submit that there should be 100 votes in this chamber for policies that will make it easier for Americans to make their voices heard in our democracy. Surely, there ought to be at least 60 people in this chamber who believe, as I do, that the four most powerful words uttered in a democracy are, ‘the people have spoken,’ therefore we must ensure that all the people can speak.

“But if not, we must still pass voting rights. The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues. It is foundational. It is the reason why any of us has the privilege of standing here in the first place. It is about the covenant we have with one another as an American people. E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. It above all else must be protected.

“So let’s be clear, I’m not here today to spiral into the procedural argument regarding whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. I stand before you saying that this issue—access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting—is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict the expansion of voting rights. It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. Colleagues, no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of the democracy and we must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.

“And so as I close—and nobody believes a preacher when they as I close—as a man of faith, I believe that democracy is a political enactment of a spiritual idea. The sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us, a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. Reinhold Niebuhr was right: ‘[Humanity’s] capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but [humanity’s] inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.’”

“John Lewis understood that and was beaten on a bridge defending it. Amelia Boynton, like so many women not mentioned nearly enough, was gassed on that same bridge. A white woman named Viola Luizzo was killed. Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, two Jews and an African-American standing up for the sacred idea of democracy, also paid the ultimate price. And we in this body, would be stopped and stymied by partisan politics? Short-term political gain? Senate procedure? I say let’s get this done no matter what. I urge my colleagues to pass these two bills. Strengthen and lengthen the cords of our democracy, secure our credibility as the premier voice for freedom-loving people and democratic movements all over the world, and win the future for all of our children.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.” 

40 thoughts on “A Powerful Speech

  1. A wonderful speech—made me tear up.
    Once again, the message must reach the people—over the heads of the self-serving, craven politicians who’ve turned their backs on the foundation of our democracy,
    What a fine debut from a senator who will clearly be a vibrant new voice of conscience in a chamber that’s burdened by so many who have their hands covering their ears— and their principles…who knows where?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree … the message must reach the people, and the people must be willing to listen, to understand, to act. I agree, I think Senator Warnock just may be the person we’ve been needing in the Senate for so long …


    • Let’s just hope he is listened to. I’m hoping he is the next MLK or John Lewis, for he certainly has a way of getting his point across! Don’t you guys have a newbie for whom there is some hope? I cannot remember the name right offhand … And at least you got rid of the ignoble Piers Morgan! Sigh. The world is a mess, my friend, but we’re still alive to keep fighting the good fight! 🙋‍♀️


      • As long as we do there is hope. 🤗 A newbie? Haven’t heard of one but am following a very inspirational Labour MP on Instagram. Her name is Zara Sultana. Happy Saturday despite everything 🙋‍♀️🐝

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          • Ah good old Steir. He is the Labour leader. He is decent but to me he doesn’t really pack a punch. With all the lies and the breaking the law the Tories do he could have brought them down already but in the UK ministers can break the law, admit to it and stay in their jobs. It’s soul destroying. He is not doing anything besides talking in PM’s questions. I am very disappointed in him. 🙋‍♀️🐝

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            • I guess I didn’t dig deep enough! Ah well, I had hopes for a while that there was a bright star over there. It seems the bright stars in both our countries have all faded away. Have a great Sunday evening anyway, my friend! 🙋‍♀️


              • Well, I might not be the best judge on politicians currently. They all get on my nerves and I am rather disillusioned about democracy. No, not democracy but any political system besides Island maybe 🤔🙋‍♀️🐝

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                • I hear you! They all get on my nerves too, and I’m a bit tired of the lies, lies, and more lies. However, in our case, I am happy to have a man at the helm now who is intelligent, well-spoken (he can actually form whole sentences!!!), and cares more about the people of this nation than his own ego. Sigh. This world is headed down a rocky path and where it ends, I do not know. Hugs, sweet Bee! 🙋‍♀️

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                  • You can’t imagine how I enjoy hearing Joe Biden speak. A human who has gone through hell and back and sees the suffering not the dollar signs. And as for our world… We can only go on the ride with her 🙋‍♀️🐝

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                    • I’m with you on that! He speaks, he doesn’t yell, and what he says actually makes sense. Such a welcome change from the former guy. He has a stutter that he works hard to control — I can relate, for so do I. But he is a wise man and speaks carefully and thoughtfully. 🙋‍♀️

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                    • I know about the stutter and find him very inspirational. Am currently listening to Obama’s “A Promised Land” and continuously wonder how the other guy could get into power after someone so sensible. But I guess Yuval Noah Harari is right: humans are not logical! 😁🙋‍♀️🐝

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                    • Ahhh … the other guy got into power exactly because of Obama! The movement was, at least in part, a pushback against having a Black guy in the Oval Office for 8 years. It began shortly after the beginning of Obama’s first term in what was called the “Tea Party” movement. Though they didn’t come right out and say their reasons for pushing back were racism, it was clearly so. No, humans are not logical … at least not always. 🙋‍♀️

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                    • Ah, I remember the tea party movement. Wasn’t it rumoured the other guy thought of joining them? And wasn’t there that Alaskan … I wanted to write lady but she is or wasn’t one at all … woman spearheading it? I did think that it was because of the Obama’s. Seems logic and illogical at the same time. They are so accomplished and must make some feel jealous to the bone. I listened to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” and now to Barack’s “Promised Land”. It’s good to know about the “other” side of a celebrities life. To see that they struggle or struggled with similar worries than I do helps me a lot to keep going. Happy Wednesday despite everything 🙋‍♀️🐝

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I think you probably mean Sarah Palin who was once the governor of Alaska. A right eejit she was/is … she probably cost John McCain the presidency back in 2008, but that was fine with me, for Obama was my choice anyway. She’s the one who said she could see Russia from her back porch! An airhead if ever there was one.

                      Yes, my friend, this is even more of a racist nation now than it was 50 years ago. Republicans cannot even say Obama, but must call him “No-bama” or “that Black man”. I read “Becoming”, and have “Promised Land”, but haven’t yet started it. They are such kind, literate, intelligent people … comparing his speeches to Trump’s … there just isn’t any comparison. Happy Wednesday to you, too, dear Bee! 🙋‍♀️


                    • Yes, that was her name. My memory for names is awful. I am glad I can remember my own 😎 yes, they are very intelligent and compassionate. And no I don’t want to compare their speeches. I still have nightmares of the other dudes ramblings 😁🙋‍♀️🐝

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Ha ha … I’m like you, often thankful that I can remember my name and where I live! If I walk into the next room for something, it’s almost guaranteed that by the time I get there (3 seconds, maybe?) I will have forgotten what it was I was going for. Sigh. 🙋‍♀️


                    • ‘Tis a product of intelligence, I think. Too many things on the mind, so the mind dumps the meaningless trivia like people’s names, what you had for supper last night, and whether you paid the electric bill yet this month! 😊 🙋‍♀️🐺


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  3. Amazing speech. But I wonder how many repubs were busy doing crossword puzzles or checking Twitter during it. I don’t have a lot of faith anything this important to preserving democracy in America will actually pass the folks in who’s interest it is NOT to pass it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The Republicans in Congress seem to have very short attention spans and are quite easily distracted! He did, as David mentioned, get a standing ovation at the end of his speech, but I’m not sure if it was the entire Senate, or only those on the left side of the aisle. No, sadly I don’t have much faith in anything right now, as the Republicans in Congress continue proving to us on a daily basis that our lives mean absolutely nothing to them. Sigh.

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