Building a More Perfect Future, Together
Chairman Jaime Harrison’s Remarks from the 2021 DNC Winter Meeting
Hello, everyone. Thank you to President Biden and Vice President Harris for having the faith and confidence in me to lead our party and to serve our nation during these historic and uncertain times.
Most importantly, I want to thank all of you: my friends and colleagues, DNC Members who are activists, organizers and community leaders. Thank you for your support, your vote and your confidence. Thank you for your inspiration as well. Your commitment to service has been a guiding light throughout my career, and it shines even brighter now.
I also want to thank my wife, Marie, my two beautiful boys, and all my family who are watching from across the country, for their love and support. Thank you for always believing in me. I literally wouldn’t be here without all of you.
My friends, in spite of everything we have been through in the past year, I am excited. Because today, we are embarking on a new mission to build back better and bring hope back to this great nation.
Together, we are working to create opportunity so that more people can tell a story similar to my own. As the son of a single mom in Orangeburg, I didn’t grow up with much. We lived with my grandparents, and even though they worked hard, we relied on food stamps and government assistance to make ends meet. My grandparents had to stop school in 4th and 8th grade. After I learned to read, I would sit at the kitchen table and help them read their bills each month. The words didn’t always make sense to me, but their faces said everything. We didn’t have the money to pay.
But regardless of what we were missing, we always had our values. My family taught me to work hard, tell the truth, say what you mean, and mean what you say. And they showed me that there is no greater honor than serving your community in any way you can. I have dedicated my life to those values, and they will continue to shine through in my new role at the DNC.
Now, Chair Perez, he is a hard act to follow. This time four years ago, we didn’t have the White House, we didn’t have the House, we didn’t have the Senate. But under Tom, that changed. From the Organizing Corps to Every ZIP Code Counts, we rebuilt our party from the ground up.
This was no overnight success. It was hard work. It was the result of smart and strategic investments. It was the result of tireless grassroots organizing and engagement and so let me say, on behalf of a proud Party: thank you, Tom.
And thank you to all of our outgoing officers, the brilliant DNC staff, and the tens of thousands of volunteers who have been working so long and so hard. The party — and the country — are standing on your shoulders. We are all a part of a movement you started.
And we are nowhere near done. I have no intention of letting victory turn into complacency. Because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t invest everywhere. I plan to get to work, to lift up the Biden-Harris administration, build on our progress, and strengthen our party.
A record 81 million Americans made their voices heard and cast their votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Their message was clear: They wanted new leadership in the White House. Leadership grounded in hope and compassion, not cowardice and hate. Leadership that unites, not divides. Leadership based on science and facts, not falsehoods or conspiracy theories. Leadership that sees them, hears them, and values them. Yesterday, we swore in those leaders at the United States Capitol, and in doing so, we ushered in a new era of progress for our nation. And I know that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will lead an administration that represents and fights for all Americans, not just those who voted for them.
My friends, there is important work ahead of us, as the president and vice president outlined yesterday. This pandemic still rages. Our economy struggles, and our climate crisis demands bold action. And we as a party will fight to empower workers and protect everyone’s right to health care.
The DNC will offer complete support to President Biden and Vice President Harris as they take on these challenges. And our work begins by building on the strategies of chairs like Tom Perez and Howard Dean and yes, my friend, the late Don Fowler. I’m committing to a 50 state and 7 territory strategy that takes no voter and no community for granted. We are done looking at the map and ignoring the red while we focus on a few purple areas. We are done with just focusing on our cities while forgetting those living on dirt roads. When I look at the map, I see an entire country that is at stake. As my old boss and mentor, Jim Clyburn, likes to say: “We are no more or less than the sum of our experiences.” And that is true with this country. We are no more or less than the 50 states and 7 territories. And in spite of our differences, our total is one big and beautiful nation looking for leadership, looking for opportunity, looking for hope.
My friends, instead of planning just for the next cycle, let’s plan for the next 10 years.
- Let’s continue to invest, build, and fortify our infrastructure. We know progress doesn’t come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up.
- Let’s learn from the successes of organizers like Stacey Abrams and maintain a constant presence in communities, not just leading up to an election. Because the Democratic Party can’t just be a political organization, we have to be a community organization addressing the needs of people across this country.
- Let’s heed the advice of Black, Brown, Native, and Asian organizers on the ground, empower them, and register voters in every part of the country from cities to rural towns.
We’re the party of working people, and we cannot take them for granted.
- It’s on us to win back our union brothers and sisters and their families.
- It’s on us to take action for the people of color who consistently give us their support.
- It’s on us to reach out to rural voters who don’t feel heard by our party.
- It’s on us to inspire the young people, just starting out, who placed their trust in us.
And we will not turn anyone away. Just like our president, we will unite rather than divide. If you stand for opportunity, safety, and hope for a better future, then you stand with the Democratic Party.
The America of 2030 will be built by the diverse and youthful Democratic bench we will build together. We will find and nurture talent on the local level, and that will come by working closely with our state and county parties.
As a former state party chair, I have no illusions about the challenges the state parties face each and every day. The success of the DNC depends on the strength of our state parties.
And I want to say something directly to every DNC Member. Being a DNC Member will mean more than just sitting through a series of meetings a few times a year. Through training, workshops, and committee work, we will help you shine brighter and speak louder. I will listen to you and support you to be effective leaders back home in your communities. I will always be in your corner.
You know, my friend John Lewis once said democracy is not a state, it is an act. It is not guaranteed. It cannot be taken for granted. And we have to continue working at it to make it work. What happened at the Capitol two weeks ago was a stark reminder. We suffered an assault on the most important symbol of our democracy. I had the honor and privilege of serving under that dome for nearly a decade. In the evening, walking home, seeing the dome lit up, a beacon of hope, I was humbled to work in a shrine to the idea of government of, by and for the people. For me, it was a reminder of Dr. King’s words that darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. My friends, the future of democracy is under assault. We cannot — we will not — let it wither. We all have a role to play in protecting our democracy.
And I’m grateful to have such an amazing team joining me on this journey. Our vice chairs: Mayor Bottoms, Senator Duckworth, Congressman Vela, and Governor Whitmer. Our treasurer, Virginia McGregor. They represent the diversity of our party’s grassroots. Our returning secretary Jason Rae. And our returning finance chair, Chris Korge. All of them are dedicated public servants and savvy political minds. And all of them are patriots.
Patriots. You know, that word has been distorted in recent years. Claimed by those who harbor hate for any part of our country that doesn’t look, talk, and think like them. Those who stormed the Capitol, those in Congress and the White House who incited the insurrection, they called themselves patriots.
But we are not fooled by prejudice dressed up as patriotism.
Because we know patriotism is not determined by the color of your skin or the country of your origin. It is not defined by the language you speak or the faith you practice. It is not decided by who you love or how you identify.
No, the true measure of a patriot is one’s fidelity to the fundamental American values of opportunity, justice, and democracy.
It’s believing that the American people can come together to achieve great things. It’s believing in the endless possibility of this country — a place where a little round-headed boy from Orangeburg, South Carolina can grow up to work in the United States Congress, run for the United States Senate, and serve as Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
It’s about our dedication to building a more perfect future.
That’s what makes someone a patriot. That’s what makes President Biden a patriot. That’s what makes Vice President Harris a patriot. And I am proud to join all of you—my fellow patriots — in this fight. And I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.