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Covenant Church
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

11:54 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Bishop Garlington, thank you for those inspiring words.  Thank you to Covenant Church, to the judge, and to the pastors and friends who are here.  As Bishop Garlington just said, I’m here to listen.

And I’m looking forward, as I know Senator Toomey is, to gaining your insights about how we — we continue to move our nation forward in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  I mean, there was no excuse for what happened to George Floyd.  And President Trump has made it clear that justice will be served.

I know I speak for people across this country when I say there’s also no excuse for the violence and the rioting and the looting that took place here in the Pittsburgh area and all across the country.  And we commend the leadership at the national level and state and local level and our law enforcement community that quelled that violence and allowed the peaceful protests to continue.

As I said, the death of George Floyd was a national tragedy.  And it’s brought us to a moment where the President and I are intent on listening and learning, not just how we might equip people that serve in law enforcement with more tools and more training in the days ahead, but how we also might deal with some of the historic underlying inequities that have beset minority communities, particularly the African American community, for generations in our major cities.

And let me say, you know, one thing that we will not do is we’re not going to defund the police.  My uncle was a police officer in Chicago, Illinois, for his entire career.  And, Bishop, I know I speak for millions of Americans when I say we know that most of the men and women who put on the uniform of law enforcement in this country are the best of us.  They walk out of their homes every day, leave their families behind.  They risk their lives to protect and serve our families, and they have our thanks.

But I’m pleased to report to you: In recent days, the President and I have been sitting down with law enforcement leaders in Washington, D.C. and from around the country to hear about ways that that we might assist law enforcement in raising standards, particularly with regard to the use of force, providing additional training resources.

And the President, in Dallas yesterday, announced that he’d be signing an executive order in the days ahead that would support efforts by police departments around the country to meet the very highest standards and to be trained in de-escalation efforts.

And so we’ll work with law enforcement, respecting the extraordinary role and sacrifices that men and women on the Thin Blue Line make every day.  We’ll work with them and work with community leaders to identify ways that we can improve.

But let me also say that we’re not going to stop there.  The President yesterday spoke about the progress we have made over the last three years.  I’m proud to have been part of an administration that saw the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for African Americans.

My friend and colleague from the White House, Scott Turner, was tapped by President Trump to lead our effort to create Opportunity Zones in cities around the country — now more than 4,000 Opportunity Zones that are — that have attracted literally billions of dollars in investment to create jobs.  I want to thank Senator Toomey for his strong support and work with Senator Tim Scott in bringing those reforms about.

As the President said, we’re going to work on building on that record of success.  We’re going to — we’re going to look for ways that we can — we can give African American businesses greater access to capital to create jobs and opportunities in communities that, for too long, were left behind, even in times of economic growth.

The President also spoke yesterday of our continued determination to expand educational choice in this country.  The truth is the African American community has been years ahead of the broader population in understanding the justice behind allowing parents to choose where their children go to school, whether it’s public, private, parochial, or religious school.  The African American community has led in this cause, and President Trump and I have been proud to oversee a doubling of the school choice program in the District of Columbia, and we’re going to work to expand educational choice opportunities for minority families, African American families, in the days ahead.

And finally, in my role as lead of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, all of us, with real heartbreak, have observed the consequences of historic disparities in healthcare between African Americans and other minorities and in the broader population, and we’re going to address that.  We’re going to address it with the kind of reforms that expand the kind of choices and access to healthcare that our minority communities have.

And so, Bishop, I’m — I’m grateful.  I’m grateful for your hospitality today.  My prayer coming into today was just to have ears to hear, and eyes to see, how we might work together.

But I want to — I want to assure you, on behalf of the President of the United States, that for the progress that we’ve made in expanding prosperity and respecting religious liberty and respecting the values that we cherish in churches just like this one around the country, we’re — we’re going to do our level best to seize this moment, not just to ensure law and order and make sure that we have — we have justice for every American and that our law enforcement community has the resources they need to do their job, improve in the way they do their job every day, but we’re also going to look — we’re also going to look to seize on this moment, as you said from that movie, “Equalizer 2,” which I — (laughs) — there’s — you’re the first pastor I’ve met that said that was his favorite movie.  (Laughter.)

But if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t be surprised.  There’s a lot of — a lot of truth in that movie.  And we’re going to try and seize this as — as you said, as an opportunity.  The President and I are absolutely determined justice is served, we have law and order, we support law enforcement, we look for ways to improve.

But we are absolutely determined to work with you, the great leaders that are gathered around here and people around the country, to find ways in the long term that we can make progress on some historic inequities, particularly impacting our African American communities and our cities, in jobs, in opportunity, in education, and in healthcare.

And I thank you for the opportunity to come and to hear how we can best do that together.


12:01 P.M. EDT