Pelosi Remarks at 83rd Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Luncheon
“Good afternoon everyone.
“You know, there used to be an expression some time ago: ‘Never follow children’s acts or dog’s acts because there’s no way you can win.’ They didn’t say anything about an act between [MC] Hammer and Carlos Santana – never follow them. Weren’t they just wonderful? And let’s hope that we can all act upon the values that they presented.
“It is my personal pleasure, as well as official honor, to be with the mayors. Really, it’s a personal connection that I value, and I always learn when I’m with you, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Mr. President – that has a nice ring to it – of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, an all-star, a champion, a great mayor, a forward-thinking leader in our country, a new generation of leadership. It’s an honor to be with you, and congratulations on your leadership.
“Baltimore Mayor – well, I’m from Baltimore, so we take very, very special pride in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. And that she’s becoming the new president, the incoming president of the United States Conference of Mayors.
“Monrovia Mayor Lutz, chair of the Women Mayors of America’s cities; Tom Cochran – he was on the job when my brother was mayor, that’s how far back his association goes with this – we’re blessed to continue to have his leadership, Tom. That’s an applause line.
“We were supposed to be joined by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. God bless him for seeing his community through Wednesday’s awful church shooting. He said something that I think we should all take with us in our own communities, of his community. He said: ‘The wonderful community of Charleston, when we have challenges – and nothing in the last century or more has been equal to this – that this community wants to come together in prayer and unity and help each other – and help each other.’ He has been a source of inspiration for 40 years there. But his words were so healing, and they’re words that should guide us all in whatever we do.
“It is my honor to join our mayor, Mayor Lee, here today in welcoming all of you to this long-awaited, long overdue visit of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to our great city of San Francisco. We take great pride in Mayor Lee, and you’ll be seeing so much more of him over the weekend. And I’ll join him in welcoming some of you to City Hall this evening, for another welcoming. But this is a mayor who gets results – values-based, respectful of every point of view – again, results-oriented. He gets the job done. We’re very proud of our mayor, Mayor Lee, thank you.
“Now, in the time that I have afforded me, I want to do a little business, but first to personally salute all of you. As was mentioned, my father was mayor. When I was in first grade, he became Mayor of Baltimore; when I was in college, he was still the Mayor of Baltimore. So I had a front row seat of what it takes to be mayor. People can probably tell you who the President is of the United States, and who the mayor is of their city or town. They may not know much about who their Congressperson is, or the rest. But the personal relationship with the mayor is one that has no buffer in times of challenges and needs that people have. My brother, again, was the Mayor of Baltimore later. And again, I understand how valuable you all are to our great country. And I have some things that I want to say about that. My brother, Tommy, is a big admirer of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. He would have been here, but couldn’t, but he wanted me to say to all of you: Baltimore is proud. He is proud. We’re all proud of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“I want to thank all of you mayors for standing in the front line for progress in America. When I watched and saw Mayor Rordam get the award, and also Mayor Stanton – congratulations to the two of you, and also to all who have received honorable mention, and to all who strove to do that. And I know that some of you have won in other years, because I’ve seen those awards given out every year. The mayors are in the lead. This week, His Holiness Pope Francis talked about climate change. Seven years ago, when the mayors put out their 10 point plan, number one was energy block grant and climate protection. You were in the lead, and your recognition each year of progress in that regard is progress for our country. So thank you for all of that, because mayors work where policy hits home, and that policy makes a difference in the lives of hard-working American people.
“I want to talk about a couple of issues that I need your help on, with that’s happening in D.C. Of course, we all can see that since the beginning of recorded history, the progress of cities has been the progress of civilizations. Cities and towns are the engines of human innovation – this is where people go for hope, and to bring their talent, their skills, their aspirations, and we all benefit. From ancient times to the present day, people have come to cities for opportunity, for education, for advancement – and today, cities provide the vast majority of jobs in our country. Healthy cities – the innovative, entrepreneurial, successful ‘Cities 3.0’ your President, Mayor Johnson speaks about so eloquently – require us to build an economy that creates opportunity in every community; that works for all hard-working families.
“This is our shared mission, and this is the great decision before our country: Will we build a future that includes everyone – founded in Middle Class Economics? Or revert to failed Trickle-Down economics – which have failed?
“I want to talk for a moment about President Obama, who will be your guest very soon, and how proud we are of him. It’s important to note that Middle Class Economics have produced results. Six years after President Obama took office, and with the work of Democrats in Congress, mostly, the fruits of Middle Class Economics are clear. When the President took office: unemployment was near 10 percent. It’s now near 5.5 percent. The stock market was under 7,000. It flirts with 18,000 every day. More than 10,000 points. The deficit was $1.4 trillion. It’s now coming under $500 billion. The auto industry was going down the drain and now it is in the lead in the world in terms of production. Over 60 straight months of private sector job creation. Millions of jobs created in public-private partnership. And, under the President’s leadership, more than 17 million Americans – previously uninsured – now have health insurance through the historic Affordable Care Act. I know that Bernard Tyson will be talking about that later, so I’ll just move on.
“But economic recovery has not hit home, though, for many working families in America. Too many Americans are still feeling squeezed. We know that more must be done – although these statistics are wonderful – we want to keep making more progress. But we won’t make that progress until we recognize that, as a consumer economy, we must have consumer confidence – that people will invest, will spend, will consume, and that consumption will inject demand into the economy, and it will create jobs. It’s about paychecks. In a consumer economy, when workers have the wages and confidence to spend, they generate demand. Now what’s really important about that is that so many people still feel burned from happened in 2008. They risked losing their homes, their jobs, their pensions. They were living off their savings. They were in fear of not being able to send their children to college. And that has hurt our economic recovery. But we must recognize that our recovery will not be complete until we recognize that middle income families are the source of economic recovery in our country.
“Mayors, you know this. Mayors see first-hand that the success of the middle class is the most important engine of our economic growth. And mayors know that bigger paychecks come from building better infrastructure. I know that Mayor Nutter knows that better than anyone. He’s been a champion on this issue. Let’s just talk about two things. There are so many reasons – there are two words that I want you to remember when you leave here. One, I hope will be useless to you in a short period of time – that’s sequestration, what’s happening with the budget, and how that impacts you, and how that impacts America’s working families. And the other one is spectrum. And I’ll explain that in a moment – why I bring that up in a moment.
“Two subjects – building the physical infrastructure, and building the human infrastructure of our country are essential, and you know that. Modern infrastructure is essential for our cities and our country. We have a tremendous deficit of infrastructure. Infrastructure building creates jobs, promotes commerce, improves quality of life, quickens commute times. It’s good for the quality of our air and our water. It helps connect our communities, and each other to new possibilities. Our beautiful distinguished guests – when I talked about their values a moment ago, they’re talking about connecting, making us one. Now is the time to make the big, bold investments in infrastructure that America needs to compete in the 21st century. And so, we need your help to get a bill to the floor that will do just that.
“It is essential to build – it’s not just bridges, water systems and the rest – it’s about broadband, and about broadband that takes us to building human infrastructure. If we are going to solve the opportunity gap in our country, we must address the education gap. And one way to do it is with technology. Today it is clear that one of the most important things from early childhood to lifetime learning is the power of technology, especially broadband. There’s a homework gap, because these kids go home, and they don’t have that technology. But they should, and they can. And we’ll make it happen.
“So when I talk about this spectrum – and you’re going to be hearing from a special guest, Vivek Kundra, and I’m so in awe of the work that he is doing at Salesforce, and he will go more into this. But that takes us to the words spectrum. I hope that you understand that there is a – and I’m sure you do, but I want you to know that your friends in Congress do too – there is, in order to get the broadband, municipalities must be in the lead. In some states, there are movements afoot to have the state dominate how cities and towns access the spectrum in order to provide the technology, whether it’s for education, whether it’s for meeting the needs of people, and the rest. So please, with your chief technology officers and the rest, join together to say: it has to happen at the municipality level, not the state level. That is very, very important.
“It’s important because as of 2012, only 37 percent of our nation’s schools had enough broadband for digital learning, placing 40 million kids on the wrong side of the digital divide. This is immoral. It has an obscenity about it because the opportunity gap and the education gap are only going to widen if we continue in that way. We must act to close that gap. We cannot afford to leave any one behind. And, by the way, nothing brings more money to the U.S. Treasury than the education of the American people. Nothing reduces the deficit more than investing in education.
“So we’ve talked about cities always being the engines of innovation – City on the Hill, we in San Francisco consider ourselves a city on several hills. But your cities and towns are cities on a hill as well because they give people hope and people bring their hope. Now our city – because listening to these beautiful values in the conversation with President Johnson, [MC Hammer] and Santana, listening to them I’m thinking they’re saying ‘Be light’ – Carlos was saying that, Santana was saying that. ‘Be light.’ And our city is named for Saint Francis. He’s our patron saint. His Song of Saint Francis is the anthem of our city: ‘Make me an instrument of thy peace/Where there is darkness sow light,’ despair, hope, hatred, love – you know it. But that’s what we have to do. We have to bring light. And when people see the light, they can make decisions.
“And that light must be shed on our campaigns. We want – as we go into this electoral season, we must insist that candidates on all sides of the aisle, whatever party identification they have, show us, shed light on what they believe in. And we have to tell them what need. This is so much bigger than Party. This is about America. It’s about the world. But on this fore, we can’t have a demolition derby as a presidential campaign about how we can keep tearing people down. It has to be about what is your vision to take us into the future. But I say to you as Martin Luther King said after Selma, the ballot, the ballot, the ballot. We must vote in to have legislation that improves the lives of people. And whether the good idea is on the right or on the left, it really doesn’t matter. It just matters that candidates who run know what the American people want, because ‘Public sentiment,’ as Lincoln said, ‘is everything.’
“So we can make much better progress – whether we’re talking about infrastructure, whether we’re talking about climate, whether we’re talking about immigration reform, whether we’re talking about gun safety – whatever the subject, we can do better as long as the people who are running know what the American people want.
“And one of the things that we have to do in order to make that happen is reduce the role of money in the political system so that every American believes that his or her voice is as strong as any other voice.
“Our Founders had a vision. They called it E Pluribus Unum – ‘From many, one.’ They couldn’t have possibly imagined how many we would be, how diverse, how broad our geography would become and the rest, but that was their wish and it is our command. No matter what our differences are as we debate them, we do so with respect that everyone in our country is important to our country that ‘From many, one’ has an integrity about it, a oneness. We pledge it: ‘One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’
“And when our special guests were talking about peace and fairness and the rest, I was reminded of Paul VI – I talked about Francis earlier. Pope Paul VI said: ‘If you want peace, work for justice’ – whether it’s economic justice, whether it’s environmental justice, whether it’s justice in terms of our courts and the rest. And I don’t think that any of these issues is partisan in any way. And I do think that we have an opportunity in this next campaign to have a debate that maybe will change policy even before we get to the election because the public’s voice will be heard.
“And that brings us back to the mayors, your close contact with people. They know what you think, you know what they are thinking. You are model to the country. Cities and towns are of such size that you’re big enough to be significant and contained enough to be resilient. You are the laboratories; you are the future. You come to us about many initiatives, community development, block grants, all of those kinds of things. Your ideas are wisdom to us because you are so close to the people. Your perspective is essential to the debate before America. Make your voices heard in these elections. Your vision is invaluable to the future of our nation. You give us hope. You’re an inspiration because you know of what you speak and you bring the values of your constituents and the people that you represent and that you serve as mayors. Together – that’s the word that Mayor Riley used – together in prayer, in unity, in health, we will help each other. Together, we will build better cities. Together, we will build a stronger country.
“I thank you for your leadership. I thank you for your entrepreneurship, your creativity. I thank you for your unyielding determination to secure a brighter tomorrow for all Americans.
“God bless all of you. God bless America. Thank you all.”