President Joe Biden delivered a fiery speech as he painted a dire picture for the nation’s future elections during a full-throated speech on voting rights while in Atlanta on Tuesday. Biden said that he supports changing Senate rules in order to pass voting rights legislation, saying changing the rules would be to protect the “heart and soul of our democracy.” He expressed his frustration at Republicans who blocked voting rights legislation and calling on the US Senate to change its filibuster rules to accommodate the bills’ passage.
The President’s speech in Atlanta – a city at the heart of the civil rights movement – pointed out that while Republicans are wearing the face of hypocrisy, Democrats are faced with either standing on the side of civil rights leaders like King or on the side of segregationists like former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
“Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” Biden asked. “This is the moment to decide, to defend our elections, to defend our democracy. If you do that you will not be alone.”
Before Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage and set the tone. Speaking at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of two historically Black colleges — Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College — Harris called on the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, aimed at restoring key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the For the People Act, intended to expand ballot access, among other provisions.
“The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American in every community in every political party. And if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come,” Harris said, warning that it is uncertain when there will be another opportunity to pass the legislation. “As Dr. King said, the battle is in our hands. And today, the battle is in the hands of the leaders of the American people, those in particular that the American people sent to the United States Senate.”
Rev. Al Sharpton met with both President Biden and Vice President Harris after the speech and released the following statement;
“I met with President Biden and Vice President Harris shortly after their remarks in Atlanta. I told the president he gave a monumental speech and, though I have been challenging him for months to be forthcoming, it was better late than never. His words issued a clear call to Democrats to challenge whether they’ll be on the side of Dr. King and John Lewis or be on the side of George Wallace and Bull Connor by voting against a sitting president on King holiday. For Democrats to not stand up and support the sitting Democratic President will show that they have betrayed their party and the American people, and their legacies will be forever tainted. I also shared with Vice President Harris that I am thankful for her continued advocacy on this issue and congratulated her on her speech.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James also shared her support of speeches given by the President and Vice President on efforts to protect the right to vote;
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are right – now is the time to do away with any obstacle that infringes upon the people’s right to vote and have their vote counted. In order to safeguard our democracy, we must safeguard the right to vote. The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are essential to ensuring that our elections are fair, our ballot boxes are accessible, and the voices of all Americans are heard. I join the President and Vice President in supporting these two pieces of legislation, and I urge the Senate to take swift action to protect our sacred right.”
Years ago, during the Civil Rights Era, many fought, bled and died for us to have the right to vote. Years from now our children and grandchildren will look back on what we do now. To our elected officials, History has its eyes on you. What side of history will you be remembered for your actions today? If we do not fight and secure our right to vote and right for our vote to count, nothing and I mean nothing else we are fighting for will matter. Not criminal justice reform, not women’s right to choose, healthcare equality, wage equality, nothing. Because we will never be able to vote in those who have our interest at heart to pass the legislation we are fighting for. Be clear this is the single most important issue we face.
Call you Congress members and Senators and demand they pass these two bills. Urge family and friends in other states to do the same. We say we want these freedoms; we guess what FREEDOM IS NOT FREE! It’s time for us to put public pressure on our elected officials.
While some may feel the President went too far with his comparisons, “Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” For far too long, we have underestimated the treat to our democracy. President Biden painted a dire picture for the nation’s future elections because the time is now! We are in the middle of a fight for the very soul of our democracy. Will the words of the President and Vice President be enough? Is this speech too little, too late? We will have to wait and see. But I do know this, History has its eyes on us and whatever happen next will affect not just us, but the next few generations. I think the President gave a good speech and said what needed to be said. The question is, did it fall on deaf ears, or did it move enough senators to get it done?
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.