Las Vegas, NV – Hillary Clinton made the following remarks today to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials 32nd Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. She talked about early childhood education and immigration among other issues, and began her remarks with comments on the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina.
A full transcript of her remarks is included below:
“Thank you all. It’s wonderful to be here with you. I want to thank Pauleen and Alex, and I was delighted to hear from backstage former administrator Alvarez of the Small Business Administration. And I was cheering along with you as you heard from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. He did an excellent job in sounding the call to action on behalf of enforcing labor laws that will give middle class and working class people a fair return on their labor. And it is a great treat to be once again with so many of you. I was looking at the list of attendees, and I was delighted to see so many familiar names but also so many new names of people who are now elected and appointed officials across our country from local government to state government to the Federal level. And I honor each and every one of you for your service on behalf of your constituents, your community, and America.
Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. I was in Charleston yesterday. I went to a technical school—Trident Tech—where I met with young people who are serving apprenticeships. It was such a positive, upbeat, optimistic event. So many of those young people were for the first time seeing what they could do and being paid for doing it.
The administration and faculty of the school was so proud. The businesses that were employing the diverse group of apprentices were getting their money’s worth. And I left feeling not only great about Charleston, but great about America.
When I got to Las Vegas, I learned about the horrific massacre in the church. You know the shock and pain of this crime of hate strikes deep. Nine people—women and men—cut down at prayer. Murdered in a .house of God. It just broke my heart. That of course is the last place we should ever see violence. We shouldn’t see it anywhere.
In the days ahead we will once again ask what led to this terrible tragedy and where we as a nation need to go. In order to make sense of it, we have to be honest. We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns, and division.
Today, we join our hearts with the people of Charleston and South Carolina—people everywhere—who pray for the victims, who pray for the families, who pray for a community that knows too much sorrow. And we pray for justice. That the people of Charleston find peace and that our country finds unity.
The church where these killings took place is known as Mother Emanuel. And like any mother, it holds its flock close. Today is a day to hold each other even closer. More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told the families of the girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, “You do not walk alone.” Today we say to the families of Mother Emanuel and to all the people of Charleston, “You do not walk alone.”
You do not walk alone because millions of Americans—regardless of race or creed or ethnicity or religion—are walking with you. In grief. In solidarity. In determination. We are with you. And we stand with you as we seek answers and take action. How many innocent people in our country—from little children, to church members, to movie theater attendees—how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?
So as we mourn and as our hearts break a little more, and as we send this message of solidarity, we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence. This time we have to find answers together. I pledge to you, I will work with you—those of you who are local officials, those of you who are thinking hard about your own communities. Let’s unite in partnership, not just to talk, but to act.
Just as we turn sorrow into service, we need to recognize the many contributions that NALEO and all of you are making to our communities and our country. There is so much that is positive happening in America today. This full ballroom speaks volumes to that.
Promoting the full participation of Latinos in our politics and our government and our economy is good for our democracy; it’s good for America. So I thank you. I know how hard it is sometimes to get out there, to put yourself on the line to run for office, to accept a difficult, difficult appointment that will really stretch you, maybe even in the midst of controversy. So thank you, thank you for being willing to be a servant leader.
I also want to thank everyone who helped put this event together, especially those behind the scenes who never get the credit they deserve.
Earlier I was able to visit with some of the people who keep this hotel and this city working day and night. Las Vegas wouldn’t exist without the cooks and dishwashers who stand on their feet all day. (Cheers, applause.) Think of the housekeepers and food servers, and the porters and the dealers. Make no mistake: this is a city that runs on hard work — on grit as well as glitz.
And it’s that same determination, and a lot of hard work and sacrifice, that brought America back from the Great Recession.
Across our country, Americans made new beginnings. You worked extra shifts, you took second jobs, you postponed home repairs… families figured out how to make it work.
When I was in Las Vegas in 2007, I was going door to door in neighborhoods that were right on the brink of massive foreclosures. I was just talking to some of the elected representatives from those neighborhoods earlier and they were telling me how slowly people were pulling themselves back.
So we’re standing again. But, we’re not yet running the way America should.
This past Saturday at the Four Freedoms Park in New York City, a tribute to Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and his Four Freedoms speech, I laid out Four Fights we must wage and win together to make our economy and our country work for every American.
First, build an economy for tomorrow not yesterday…
Second, strengthen America’s families, the foundation of everything we are…
Third, harness all of our power, our smarts, and our values to lead the world…
And fourth, revitalize our democracy back here at home.
For me, this all goes back to the basic bargain of America. If you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead. And when everybody does his or her part, America gets ahead too.
I believe that success is measured by how many children climb out of poverty, not by how much the wealthiest Americans have at the end of the year.
I believe success is measured by how many start-ups and small businesses open and thrive, not how big and fat the paychecks of CEOs are, I believe success is measured by how many young people go to college without drowning in debt.
How many people find a good job with good benefits…
How many families stay strong and thrive.
I believe that in the greatest democracy on Earth, we should be making it easier for people to vote, not putting up new barriers that disempower and disenfranchise (inaudible). And who are those barriers aimed at? You know who they’re aimed at, young people, poor people, people of color, even the elderly. That’s why I’ve called for more early voting and for universal, automatic registration when a youngster turns 18.
I believe in America’s diversity, our openness, our devotion to human rights and freedom.
These are the qualities that prepare us for the demands of a world that is more interconnected than ever.
Now, I didn’t learn these values in politics. I learned them from my own family.
My mother taught me that everybody needs a chance and a champion. She knew what it was like not to have either one.
Her own parents abandoned her, and by 14 she was out on her own, working as a housemaid.
Years later, when I was old enough to understand, I asked what kept her going.
Her answer was simple: Kindness from someone who believed she mattered.
The first grade teacher who saw she had nothing to eat at lunch and, without embarrassing her, brought extra food to share.
The woman whose house she cleaned letting her go to high school so long as all of her chores were done.
Because those people believed in her, she believed in me.
And she taught me to believe in the God-given potential of every person, of every American.
That’s what animates the fights I’m taking on and the agenda I’m proposing.
As part of our first fight – to build the economy for tomorrow – this past Monday, in New Hampshire, I announced plans to make pre-school and quality childcare available to every child in America.
I think all our kids need the opportunity to get off to the best possible start. But too many of our children are starting off behind, especially in families where economic pressures on parents translate into less time for kids – less time reading, talking, and singing. And you know what, when children who hear fewer words, they learn fewer words. And they begin school with smaller vocabularies and then they struggle ever to catch up.
As you know, more than one-quarter of all American kids under 5 years old are Latino. And they are disproportionately affected by this “word gap.” They are also less likely to have access to formal childcare or preschool education.
And some parents have actually been told that they shouldn’t speak to their babies in their native language. But that is just not correct. The research is clear that whether it’s Spanish or English or Russian or Chinese, more talking to your babies is always better and helps to build their brains.
That’s why at the Clinton Foundation, I started an initiative called “Too Small to Fail,” to help support parents to become their babies’ first teachers. And we joined with Univision to specifically reach Hispanic families.
And to get that message out—you know, 80% of your brain is formed by the age of 3. So the more you talk, in Spanish, the more those neurons and synapses start to fire. And the more likely that your child will be prepared to be bilingual, which I really envy, since I’m barely monolingual (Laughter.) And everywhere I go when I meet children who are bilingual, I tell them “Oh you are so smart,” because they are. And their parents and their families and their teachers have helped them to be bilingual.
So let’s get the word out to everyone you can reach in your communities. Read, talk, and sing, from the very earliest days. And sometimes even when doing chores, part of our “Too Small to Fail” initiative is to put signs on bus stops and inside the buses and in doctors’ offices, and everywhere children and families gather with this message.
And of course with our new, amazing, brilliant, beautiful, eighth-month-old granddaughter (Laughter.), we are talking, reading, and singing so much that I am convinced that her first words will be: “enough, with the reading and talking and singing.” But when she gets to kindergarten, she will have heard 30 million more words than a child from a less advantaged background.
I want to close that gap, and then do everything we can to recognize that there’s so much talent among our youngest Americans, that we’ve got to do more to build those ladders of opportunity.
And that’s why in my campaign I’m making earning learning and child care top priorities, setting of course for every four-year-old in America to be able to access high quality preschool in the next ten years, everywhere, every community we represent, every state of our country (Applause.)
I want to double our investment in Early Head Start, a program I helped to create as First Lady (Applause.) And help middle class families deal with rising child care costs.
Now, I know that there will be some who wonder: “Now if she’s running for president, why is she talking about babies and toddlers, and early childhood? She should talk about the really important issues.”
Well it’s not just because I’m a mom and a grandmother, it’s because I know that if we’re going to prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow, we need to take seriously to task of giving those littlest kids, every opportunity to succeed.
So yes, do I love little kids? You bet I do. Always have.
But do I love this country and want it to be successful, so we that have people ready to do the jobs that will make us so? Absolutely.
So yes, I’m going to talk about early childhood education and preschool all through this campaign. And I’m going to do my best… (Cheers, applause.) …to make sure all our kids have the opportunity to succeed at every step of their development. That means staffing our primary and secondary schools with k-12 teachers who are second to none in the world, and get the respect they deserve for sparking the love of learning in every child.
It means making college affordable and available to all and lifting the crushing burden of student debt. I support President Obama’s plan for two years of free community college, and I will be rolling out my specific agenda in the weeks ahead. (Cheers, applause.)
And yesterday, in South Carolina, I called for a new $1500 tax credit that creates incentives for more businesses to invest in apprenticeships, with special bonuses for providing opportunities to young people, too many of whom are still out of work and out of school.
We have nearly 6 million young people in America between 16 and 24 who are neither in work nor in school. I think we can reverse that. But we’ve got to get back to teaching kids the skills that jobs are going to be available for in the future, and I will do everything I can to better prepare young people. And that means bringing back technical and vocational education not only in manufacturing, but in computer programming (Applause.)
As President, I’ll fight for young people working to break into the workforce. I’ll fight for older workers seeking a promotion or transition into to new careers. For moms who are reentering the workforce, for veterans who deserve the best chance possible to get the job that they can support a family; Everyone eager to learn and to work.
I’ll embrace public private partnerships that link high schools to community colleges and job training programs with employers, so there’s a real pipeline of opportunity.
From cradle to college and beyond we have to make sure our kids and our families have the tools and support they need to succeed. And I was thrilled to hear Secretary Perez talking about all of the apprenticeship and job training programs that he is championing at the Department of Labor.
Now strengthening families is the second fight. Parents today face so many pressures; they’re squeezing every minute out of a 24-hour day. Many are balancing unpredictable work schedules, not knowing when their next shift will be.
A lot of families are scattered across our country or even across continents, so it’s harder for relatives to pitch in.
Too many families have been ripped apart by prison or deportation or violence.
Families are the backbone of America. When families are strong, America is strong.
I’ll fight for more parents to have the right to earn paid sick days and paid family leave (Applause). No one should have to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.
And you should be able to look forward to retirement with confidence, not anxiety, and have the peace of mind that your healthcare will be there when you need it without breaking the bank.
And if we really want to strengthen families, then we have to finally, once and for all, have to fix our broken immigration system. Now this is an economic issue, of course, but it’s a family issue too.
I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform with a real path to citizenship for families. I will stand up against any attempt to expose DREAMers to deportation.
And, as I said… as I said recently here in Las Vegas, if Congress continues to refuse to act, as President I would do everything possible under the law to go even further that what President Obama has attempted to do.
I wish every one of you could have been with me at the high school here in Las Vegas, to have heard from those DREAMers. It would have made you so proud. You would have recognized people you know.
I was lucky, over the course of my life, to know people who may not have been called DREAMers at the time, because the term had not been adopted, but who were the children of farmworkers who made so much of their lives and contributed so much to our country. To the immigrants who came here, maybe without papers, but with a burning desire and ambition to make the most out of their own God-given potential. I know these people; you know them.
There are so many people with deep ties and contributions to our communities like many parents of DREAMers, who deserve a chance to stay, and I will fight for them too. (Applause.)
But I don’t have to wait to become President to take a stand, right here, and right now, against divisive rhetoric that demonizes immigrants and their families. It’s wrong, and no one should stand for it.
We are blessed to live in a tolerant and generous nation. We should celebrate those values and model them in our own lives, and in our politics. This ultimately is about how we treat each other. What kind of country and world we want to live in. It’s about the habits of our heart, which lie at the real foundation of who we are as a nation.
When I hear words of hatred and anger directed at any of our fellow human beings, I ask myself: “What is motivating that? Did the people who feel so much hatred and anger never look in the mirror and realize that they, too, are fellow human beings? Did they not learn the same lessons I did in Sunday school? Did they not sing the same hymns about how we are all one?”
We should work together to build an America where every family feels like they belong. An inclusive society, what I once called a village that has a place for everyone. Now this is not new wisdom, but it’s so fiercely urgent today.
I’ll never forget hearing Dr. King speak in Chicago, many years ago. I was taken there with my church youth group. I was just a girl, but the youth minister took some of us into the city to hear this man that we’d begun to read about, to hear his words with our own ears.
Dr. King’s sermon that night was titled, “Remaining Awake through a Revolution,” and he challenged us to stay engaged in the cause of justice, not to slumber while the world changed around us. Well, the world is still changing, and it’s up to us to shape that change, to build the future we want.
I’ve spent my life fighting for children, families, and our country, and I’m not stopping now. Like so much else in my life, I got this from my mother, too.
When I was a girl, she never let me back down from any bully or barrier. In her later years, she lived with us, and she was still teaching me the same lessons.
I’d come home from a long day in the Senate or the State Department, I’d sit down with her at the small table in our breakfast nook, and just let everything pour out. And she would remind me why we keep fighting, even when the odds are long and the opposition is fierce. I can still hear her saying, “Life’s not about what happens to you; it’s about what you do with what happens to you.” (Applause.)
“So get back out there,” she would say. That’s pretty good advice for all of us, I think. We all have a part to play in America’s story, and our families, our businesses, unions, houses of worship, schools, and yes, in the (inaudible).
I’m looking forward to a great debate from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. I’m not running to be a president only for those Americans who already agree with me; I want to be a president for all Americans.
So I hope you will join with me. To build an America again based on that basic bargain, where if you do your part, you can get ahead and stay ahead.
An America where we don’t leave anyone out or anyone behind.
An America where a DREAMer can see dreams come true.
An America where a father can tell his daughter, ‘You can be anything you want to be, even the President of the United States.’
Thank you all very much!” (Cheers, applause.)