tv Senator Kamala Harris Town Hall Meeting CSPAN September 3, 2017 6:38pm-7:51pm EDT
policy institute talks about the impact of minimum wage laws. be sure to watch "washington journal" live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion. on wednesday, senator harris held a town hall meeting in oakland. among the issues she discussed was health care and immigration. this is an hour and 15 minutes. ï»¿sen. harris: i am so proud of you. i started in thousand oaks, look where you are going to end p. >> i'm so proud of you. and i saw you in thousand oaks and look where you are going to end up. that is so wonderful. keith, i cannot thank you enough. you have been such a leader and
a friend. thank you for everything you do, always. keith comes to d.c., walking the halls, pounding the pavement, always fighting for oakland. thank you. and our dear reverend haynes. we have been friends a long time, and our friendship is ased on ongoing conversation we've been having about how each of us can use the pulpit to figure out how to lift folks up and do it in a way that is about an ongoing commitment to social justice. i cannot thank you enough for opening this beautiful house of worship to us as afternoon. thank you. sen. harris: it is so wonderful to be home, i cannot even tell you guys. it is so wonderful to be home.
i am a proud daughter of oakland, california. a proud daughter of oakland, alifornia. thank you all for being here. you have taken out time from your busy lives and days to be here and have this onversation. i think you could there is a lot of talk about -- i thank you. there is a lot to talk about. i'm going to talk about a little bit, the bulk of our time will be we are going to have a conversation. the microphone will be passed around so i can know what you are thinking and answer uestions if i can. let's start with this moment in time in which we live. you know, many of you know my background. my parents met when they were graduate students at the university of california berkeley in the 1960's, if they met when they were active in the civil rights movement. i have joked many times, my
sister and i have joked, we have been surrounded by adults marching and shouting about this thing called justice. when we look about what has been happening in just the last eight months of our country, we know we are living in a truly challenging moment in time. an inflection moment, i would say to similar to when my parents met. it is challenging the country to look in the mirror and answer a question, which is, who are we? folks, i believe the answer is a good one. i believe we are a great country, flawed though we may be. but this is a moment in time that is challenging us to fight for who we are and the ideas upon which the country was founded. underachieved so many of them
may be. this moment in time is challenging us to fight, to stand up, to be heard, to not turn a blind eye but to face and confront the truths that are hallenging this country. when we look, for example, at what happened in charlottesville. man, really? t was devastating. it hit all of us, i know, to a really raw core. when we had to look at an image of folks marching with torches and swastikas, and then have the president of the united states talk about both sides? i believe we should always keep
n open mind, this is what we teach our children, look at both sides, there are other perspectives, we should always think of other perspectives and be open to different pinions. there is no question about that. on most issues, there is a rational and reachable -- and reasonable debate that invites consideration of both sides. but the line gets drawn and it becomes clear that there are not both sides to consider when it is so clearly the right side and wrong side. for those confused about the wrong side, there are just a couple of simple fines. the wrong side is the side with torches and swastikas. sen. harris: that is the wrong side. and we can not have the leader of our country or those who profess to be leaders in any way
condoning or being complicit with the kind of behavior that is dividing our country. sen. harris: it is wrong. it is wrong. and when we look at the history of our country, we know we have had those moments before. listen, you know, some of you knew my mother. we would have this ongoing debate, i would say sometimes, mommy, she would be fighting and marching back in the day. sometimes i would say, mommy, you are a bit of a pessimist on this. she would say, you are an idealist. i would say, i'm an optimist. and she would say, i'm a realist. i write back home from washington, d.c. to find myself somewhere between an optimist and realist. on this subject, let's be
clear. we have had these moments in time where people will suggest a right side and a wrong side in terms of separate but equal or jim crow or all of these issues we have had. marriage and marriage equality. all these issues we have had in our distant and recent future. on some of these issues, they are not debatable. so this is a challenging moment in time. it is requiring us to stand up, the vocal and fight. but i believe strongly, still do it with a sense of optimism, and at least let's not be tired and et's not be overwhelmed. and let's not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves. so let's look at where we are in terms of this moment in time, then, and the specific challenges and fights we have in front of us. but let's do it in a way that as we go forward is also reflective on recent history in terms of
our success. part of what i wanted to bring everyone together this afternoon was to thank you. to thank you. folks have been saying, what does it matter? what can we do? will it make a difference? what you all data, what communities -- what you all did, what communities around our country did in fighting against the repeal of the affordable care act was phenomenal. sen. harris: you guys stood up and the folks who can't be here this afternoon but who were right out there, whether they were marching on the streets, whether they were writing emails or texting or calling, made a difference. and let's put this in perspective. for seven years they were saying they were going to get rid of this thing. they had politicized something so fundamental, the fundamental right of health care, they politicized it.
they slept the name obamacare on it and decided it was about anybody who wanted to defeat the president. and for seven years they said they were going to get rid of it. then they came into office and said this would be the first thing they were going to do. the first priority. and truth be told, i think all of us, and i certainly, was a bit worried. we don't have the majority in the house or senate, and you know about the white house. and we were worried. but the thing that happened was i think it became very clear that though we may not have the power in the house, may not have the power in the senate, may not have the power in the white house, we have power. the people have the power. sen. harris: and that is what happens. that is what happens. so people were marching and they
were shouting and showing up at town hall meetings. it was funny to watch sometimes in the townhall meetings of so-called red districts and red states, people showing up there, you've got to love it, some said i do not want obamacare but i do want the affordable care act. sen. harris: i will go with that. but the people spoke. and it was an interesting experience because that night of the vote, which i'm sure many of you saw, it was early in the morning by the time it happened. afterward, there was a group -- i am sure somebody here was probably there. lots of people came from all over the country and were holding vigil outside the capital. after the vote, i went outside to speak with the folks out there to thank them. one of the things that occur to me was that, and again, silver lining point about what we do
makes a difference and so we can't give up. o it was a travesty, the motivation behind trying to repeal the affordable care act, because it was all about tax cuts for the most rich. travesty because it was about saying health care care is a privilege and not a right. also that we have to have that battle. but the beauty about what happened is that in spite of everything that was going on, it showed our democracy can ork. that is the beauty of what happened. our democracy worked, the people spoke and the people won. so when i come home to share my thoughts with you, i do that from a perspective of here and the experiences i have had in d.c. and i want to leave everyone as we go through this ext phase of the fight
remembering that the voices, the marching, the shouting, it does matter. so then let's think about, ok, what are the battles ahead? i'm going to start with something that is imminent, meaning next tuesday, september 5. that is the issue of daca. it is an acronym that stands for a policy that was initiated by the previous, our president, and the policy relates to these young people we call reamers. who are dreamers? it's a name we have given to a opulation in california of 220,000 people, in california, and many more across the country. young people who are brought into the united states, many of them before they could walk or
talk, brought into the united states with their parents. they have only known -- this is their only home. and they are undocumented immigrants. and so these are dreamers, we set up a policy that said, let's figure out who they are and epending on whether they fit criteria and clear a vetting, we are going to the further deportation. we are going to say they should not be deported. so we have this system was designed to do that and that is what it did. we went through asking these kits a bunch of questions. what -- personal questions about their background, the circumstances around their arrival, who are their parents, have they committed crimes, are they living a productive life? we asked them to give up all that information and we explicitly said, if you give us this information so we can determine if you qualify, we will not share that information
ith ice. now, i will step back a moment to give you some recent history on this before i get to september 5. i serve on many committees, you have heard about those from the reverend. one of those is the homeland security committee of the united states senate. in the various committees that i serve on, we early on in the process, months ago, have the responsibility for reviewing denominations the president made to the fill his cabinet. one was the secretary of homeland of security, which was the agency that have the most authority for dealing with immigration in our country. this candidate comes before us, general john kelly. a series of folks and senders ask questions. asked him about daca. i held up excess of -- held up a piece of government paper that
had frequently asked questions that we gave these kits. guess what we said on this ease of government issue paper? we said no, if you give us this information, we will not share it with ice. so i asked dude, will you keep america's commitment to these ids? he would not say he would commit to keep our promise. i asked him in private, will you keep the promise? he would not make the commitment. i asked him in a question for the record, will you keep the commitment? he would not say he would keep the commitment. fast-forward to today. we're looking at it situation where ten state attorneys general, all republicans, are threatening to sue the united states government if the
president does not resend -- recend daca. they are threatening that if there is not an indication to recend it by next tuesday, they will sue the united states overnment. let's be clear about what this means. we as californians have 220,000 dreamers who are right now living in terror. right now. they don't know what is going to appen. -- frankly, none of us know what is going to happen. and we have an attorney general of the united states that says if those attorneys general sue, he will not defend the country against the lawsuit. you know, jeff sessions.
we have a fight on our hands. and regardless of what happens on tuesday, this issue about dreamers, this issue about daca, the issue about their parents, the issue about needing to pass conference of immigration reform is a fight that is front and center and present and we cannot lose any steam on marching and shouting about the need to recognize a truth. unless you are a native american, your people were mmigrants. sen. harris: we are a nation of immigrants. and we have got to stop vilifying and criminalizing whole populations of people, because they came and arrived here from south of the order.
this fight is real and it is present, and we have to speak truth about the issue that is at play. let's look at what is happening in terms of this ban on our trans brothers and sisters who have stepped up and said they are willing to sacrifice their lives in defense of our country y serving in our military. and now they have issued, this administration, a ban on their ability to serve to protect our freedom. that is fundamentally a violation of people's civil rights, which is to treat them differently under the law based on, in this case, their ender. sen. harris: we have to fight. e have to fight. sen. harris: we have so many fights ahead of us. let's talk about the ongoing fight against trans
arenthood. and a woman's right to make a decision about her own reproductive health. sen. harris: don't make women suffer because our bodies were created to perpetuate the human species. but we have a fight. we have a fight, as we know, around the reality of climate change. let me just tell you -- weight. we all agree, i know. let me tell you what is going on. another committee i am on is environment and public works, they call it epw. we had a hearing which essentially questioned whether science should be the basis of public holocene -- public policy. right.
meanwhile, and here is the underlying issue in terms of the seriousness of the irresponsibility of it all. uess what? this at its core, and at the height of what is most important, on the issue of climate change, it is about the need we have to have clean air and drink rainwater. and that is an issue that impacted flick, michigan, that impacted alabama and mississippi and florida and texas and california and everywhere in between. and they are playing ticks for the benefit -- playing politics for the benefit of big oil. let's be clear about that. and . we have got to fight on the issue of criminal justice. we have an attorney general of the united states who wants to bring back the war on drugs, which was an abject failure. [applause] sen. harris: an abject failure.
he wants to bring back mandatory minimums. they are talking about private prisons. we have got to fight. here is an opportunity, however. we also know, again, with the understanding that so many of the issues we all, regardless of where we live as americans have more in common than what separates us, let's talk about the opiod crisis. i started my career as a deputy da in alameda county during the height of the crack epidemic. one of the things i know is how seriously we criminalize what is essentially a public health matter. we criminalize a public health matter.
i see an opportunity, perhaps now in a way we didn't have then, we know what is going on and what was going on, but let's look at the opportunity we have now without ever forgetting our history. but this might be a moment in time where collectively we can reach out to our brothers and sisters in those states, including our own, that are suffering from this opioid epidemic, and join hands together and say we have to deal with it and deal with it as a public health matter. i see an opportunity in this crisis, even though we have an attorney general trying to reinvent the war on drugs. -- reinvoke the war on drugs. there is an opportunity there. i see an opportunity in terms of what we are doing in one of the first bills i passed, which is to deal with the cash bail system in our country. [applause] sen. harris: and what we need to do the work toward getting rid of what is essentially a debtor's prison system where we are punishing people and keeping
them incarcerated because they can't afford to get out. we have got to fight to change that. we are working to do that. understanding that this, by the way, is not just a criminal justice matter, this is an economic justice matter. [applause] sen. harris: i'm just sharing a few of my thoughts. i will close my comments for now and we will have a discussion, by saying, there is a lot to be concerned about and a lot to be troubled about. i'm trying to figure out a new word for troubled because i find myself saying that is troubling a lot. [laughter] sen. harris: a friend of mine said, just call it a hot mess. [laughter] sen. harris: look in the dictionary, synonyms for hot mess. i will say this. there are two things that happened in recent history that,
again, leave me with a sense of optimism and realism, and optimism. one is a situation that happened, a tragic situation that happened many months ago in kansas. you all may remember this. what happened was essentially the facts were that there were two indian-american men in a bar in kansas, and there were other patrons in the bar, and a fellow came in, and he said, you don't belong here, get out of here. that kind of thing. you don't belong in our country. and essentially the patrons in the bar were like, you are a jerk, get out. the guy left, he came back with a gun and started shooting up the place. the patrons in the bar came -- and he killed one of the indian-american men. the patrons in the bar came to their defense, so much so that i -- that one of them was shot, i
believe. why are you talking about that? here's the thing, i don't know any of the people who were in that bar and at that tragic scene, but what i do know is that kansas voted for the president by double-digit numbers. so i am willing to wager that the patrons in the bar, some of them, maybe all of them, voted for the president. but when confronted with a moment where they had to make a decision about what was the right thing to do, they did the right thing. houston. people have been getting their boats, they have been putting on their slippers, going from all kinds of places to help the families in houston. houston has at least half of its population, it seems, i don't know the exact number, but a significant black and brown
population who have been very, very impacted by the storm. and the folks are bringing in their boats. they are not asking these families who did you vote for, what party are you registered with? they are getting out there and helping them. let's take away what we can from these moments to remind ourselves about who we are as a country. and when we see injustice, and when we see what is wrong, let's speak up, stand up and fight. but let's take away those moments, also, where we are reminded of our better selves. with that, i thank you. i am happy to answer questions. [applause] >> before we take questions, i want to a knowledge several
individuals who are with us today. we want to acknowledge supervisor keith carson. [applause] >> we want to acknowledge the oakland fire color guard. [applause] >> let's recognize supervisor malia corn from san francisco. [applause] >> let's recognize nancy o'malley, district attorney for alameda county. [applause] >> let's recognize venus johnson, oakland department of safety. [applause] >> last and not least, let's honor our mayor. [applause]
>> at this time, we will take two questions from in person participants. i believe we have some mics available for those questions. i see one to my left and one will be up front. there is one on the side. one on this side, one on the side. i want to make sure it is equal. sen. harris: we will take more than two questions. [laughter] sen. harris: just one side or the other. i think we gave you the wrong information. thank you. >> hi, senator harris. i am a fourth year medical student at the university of california san francisco. first, i want to say you -- to say thank you so much for taking the time to come here today to the bay area to have a public town hall. my question is regarding the role of the federal government
in ensuring true equality in education in schools. a 2013 report produced by the equity for excellence commission for the department of education found three really startling facts. first, it found that while our system is legally desegregated it is now ever more segregated , by wealth and race. second, it found the achievement gap between students from different demographic groups continues to persist today. third, it found that school finance continues to generate pupil inequality in per funding. taken together, while we are now more 60 years removed from the segregation, our schools remain separate and unequal. my question to you is, what can be done legislatively at the federal level to equal the playing field for all children? because i believe that this is
one system where white supremacy is truly in action even to this day. [applause] >> and we see these persistent gaps even in truly progressive blue states like california, even in truly wealthy districts like san francisco county and oakland county. so my question is, what can be done at a federal level? in terms of legislation, can we increase the percentage of federal funding to public schools beyond the customary 10% so we are not reliant on property taxes? and second, can you personally watch the documentary "teach us all" that will be released on netflix on september 25 that addresses this? sen. harris: yes. are you a part of it? >> i am not part of it. i am really lucky. my family came from nigeria. i am a medical student and i see
we need more people like you in these areas of power. if we don't have proper public school education, affirmative action is not going to solve the problem. we have to get equal education for k-12 regardless of race and -- regardless of your income regardless of race. , [applause] sen. harris: i appreciate that. first, congratulations on what you are achieving and stepping up and voicing what should be one of the highest priorities for people at every level of government. federal, state, and local area -- local. i have long worked on the issue of education. as a career prosecutor, my perspective is that there is a direct relation between public safety and public education. you can pay on one side or the other, so let's make a choice about what we are going to do that is most productive. the obvious point there being it
is more productive for a community and more healthy and will allow us to grow more if we are invested more in public education than in the reaction to the lack of public education, which has to do with public safety. in terms of the federal government piece, i am starting -- studying what the inroads are. the piece about what needs to come out of the federal department of education, we have a person who is there. [laughter] sen. harris: who i did not vote for. [applause] sen. harris: i am, frankly, very concerned about the arection that they attempting to take it, based on her history and what she has indicated. i'm concerned they are devaluing public education and prioritizing private education.
and that is an obvious problem. there is the piece about incentives and creating incentives for states through grant funding and what we can do in terms of direct federal funding. the connection is more in terms of the issue of disparities, also about what happens around federal grants in terms of pell grant. that is a real area of focus for me, and has been. pell grants are $5,500 a year. i'm sure you see these disparities playing out in medical school and colleges. that is very real. that has been my focus on the federal piece. also, what we are or are not doing about student loan forgiveness. you may recall when i was attorney general, i sued a for-profit college that engaged in massive fraud, reaching out
to a lot of young adults of color and convincing them that if they paid the money, that they would get a meaningful education that would lead to a meaningful job, and it was not true. so, we sued them. part of the work we did was to negotiate with the federal department of education, that they would forgive the loans. and on that point, the new administration is saying they resend and go -- and go back on that agreement. it is troubling. again, like with public health, it seems their perspective with public education is that education is a privilege and not a right. this is something we have to fight against. i think california and a lot of what we need to do around central roles of government, these days we are to have to
rely more on states than the federal government to come up with creative resourcing and priorities. frankly, i don't see it right now out of the federal government, to be honest with you. i hate to not give you hope in that regard, but i feel good about what our states can do as a model on some of these issues. [applause] >> i am karen. up inith indivisible sonoma county. i know there are a lot of indivisible's appeared today. thank you so much for your courage, courage over courtesy. we appreciate it. you thought out our organization -- you thought about our organization recently. your opening remarks for moving and keep fighting.
my question is about taxation. the daca fight is huge. we have affiliated with the not one penny movement. we have a pledge that says we want to support those like you who fight back against tax cuts for the wealthy. we know as middle-class individuals that paying our taxes they are tax giveaways to millionaires and billionaires. we would just love to know you are on board with the not one penny pledge. we have had a great relationship with a coworker of yours. and we would actually like to bring that pledge to him, have you take a look at it and see if it would work for you. sen. harris: absolutely. thank you. [applause] sen. harris: thank you for your work. you are right. the last chapter in terms of the last several months has been a
collective fight around the aca and repeal of coverage and affordable access to health care. the next fight will include the issue of taxes, and we have got to be ready for that, so thank you. >> to our left, i believe this -- let's get this young lady and come back to you, sir, if that is ok. >> good afternoon, senator harris. my name is courtney king. i am in my last year of law school at uc berkeley. [applause] sen. harris: that is wonderful. >> i don't have an issue-based question. i more so would love your wholesome advice on what it means to break down political barriers as a black woman, because i aspire to run for president. [applause] sen. harris: fantastic! [applause] [cheers and applause] sen. harris: fantastic.
that's right. that's right. so, there is so much to talk about. [laughter] sen. harris: the first thing is, a lot of my focus in terms of politics right now is on what we need to do around the 2018 election cycle. [applause] sen. harris: the other area of focus that folks are not talking enough about is the 2020 census. we need to be talking about that. have a seat. the census is about one of the points that you are making, which is about making sure we are accurately counting who is going to be impacted by public policy so we can make sure we
are directing resources appropriately and accurately. we need to account. where is my staff? i don't know where anybody is. unless someone got appointed in the last week and i wasn't paying attention, it is my belief, and i will tell you that the person who is supposed to be the head of the census has not put it in place. it takes at least a couple years to build up to do the census, which must be completed by the end of 2020. indivisible, that is some serious ground game stuff. that is about walking the streets, walking the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, walking up and down hills, apartment buildings, doing what needs to be done, connecting with the people to count. they have not with that person
in charge. we know the demographics are changing. and we know that our policies should not be about, again, from the past, to be about looking forward and knowing who the people are today. we are going to have to count. one of the things i would urge on your road to the presidency is that -- [applause] sen. harris: that we use all of the big brains to also figure out how we are going to make sure that the people are heard in 2018 and 2020. part of what i would like to urge everyone to do is to think about the work that has been done historically to make the census the most robust, meaning the most accurate. usually, it has been because there is a meaningful public-private partnership, meaning the government does its
role, but it doesn't look like they are putting resources into that. our nonprofits and others putting in the resources and on that good volunteer spirit to get out and knock on doors. it may be mundane, but an an important detail about that. if people don't trust the person knocking on their door, they will not answer the door. then they will not be counted. it is important that we populate the effort with folks that are from and of the community and trusted by the community. [applause] sen. harris: that is going to be critically important. so, 2020 census, 2018 we have got even more senate seats up than ever before. we have got to hold down the numbers. and in the house, we have seven
folks in california who are up that hillary clinton won and they didn't vote for hillary. we should be thinking about those, because those are folks who did not vote. i would urge that part of it is that anyone who wants to run for office, and you are already so engaged. uc berkeley law school, you are already right there. let's think about some of the work that we have ahead, to use your voice to organize folks around these things that are front and center and coming up right away. because anything that happens after will be a function of the foundation we are setting now on these really critical issues that are not getting a lot of coverage right now, but are important. getting involved in campaigns, come and talk to me, let's figure out a way we can talk and figure that out.
and surround yourself with the folks in this room, but you and i are going to stay in touch. [applause] >> we are going to mix this up just a little bit. we do have some online questions from our online audience. a question from twitter. this question is from melinda. she asks the question, what actions is the government taking to ensure future elections will be fair and free of russian involvement? [applause] sen. harris: yeah. so, you know, let's start with talking about the importance of the united states supreme court. some of the most important decisions that impact us as it relates to any issue that is a civil rights issue, and most issues are, get decided or may
be decided by the united states supreme court. one of them, sadly, was the gut the to get -- to voting rights act. in doing so, certain states interpreted that as a license to start putting in place rules that are essentially suppressing the vote. again, it is going to be about the activism at the grassroots level, to do what we can each election cycle to get people out to vote. and know that their voice matters and to do everything we can to make it easier for people to vote. again, california is a greater leader on that. we have had discussions on how people can vote, extending the time that people can vote, keeping city halls open on saturdays and sundays, things like that.
there is that piece. the other piece is, i would encourage you to also support all of our legal aid because here is how i am thinking about it. if you think about democracy as being a tabletop, the legs upon which it stands or the three independent, coequal branches of government, and the free and independent press. but systematically there has been an effort to cut down each of those legs. but the lovely thing about it is that it is only emphasizing the power of each of those legs, an important -- judiciary and the press. a lot of the fight that we need
to wage and the defense we need to set up is coming also through our legal aid organizations and the lawyers and good folks who are fighting in courtrooms to fight against the things that are happening. that is what happened with the muslim ban. right? think -- i thank everybody. everybody here, family members were calling me up. kamala.ebody, and i did. i called secretary kelly at home and he didn't like that. , [applause] [laughter] sen. harris: the lawyers were showing up. my first bill ever was the access to counsel bill, which, if passed, will make it a law that when lawyers show up in a
situation like that to help an immigrant or refugee, the law will say they cannot be denied access to counsel. [applause] sen. harris: for that very reason. part of the issue on this voting issue is we need to be prepared to encourage folks to report to a lawyer or legal aid organization when they are having anything that would prevent their ability to vote so we can start collecting those cases where they exist so we can take them to a court of law. because we have to keep all of our defenses up. there are the pieces about what we need to do in the court and there is the piece about telling the story to the press. >> absolutely. i'm going to let these two young next twooose the participants. >> good afternoon. my name is nina joiner.
i own a retail business. oaklandsex shop in called feel more. [cheers and applause] [laughter] sen. harris: i am sorry, reverend. the ship it is good. >> he is my minister. [laughter] >> my question -- thank you, guys. my question has changed so much, but what i really want to know, we see so much on the internet. everything is in turmoil. if we look at it, the world is ending tomorrow. what does it feel like to get from this point in oakland to d.c. and walk amongst the
giants? i consider you 1 -- i moved to oakland because of the history and legacy. there are so many people that we walk amongst that are legends that don't stand where you are standing. so what i want to know for all of us is, how can we disseminate that power and energy to all of us so we can make a difference in our community? it is not just about looking to you to make a difference. it is about us to stand together and make a difference. sen. harris: that is wonderful. thank you. [applause] sen. harris: thank you. that is wonderful. thank you. you are right. that goes back to the power of the people. the power that each of us has. by virtue of you standing up and asking that question, you know each of us is a leader and has the ability to have impact. it is a matter of whether we are encouraged to know that or whether we are finding ourselves in a circumstance where it is required.
but it is critical. i think that part of our ability to be effective as leaders is also having moments like this where we can all be under the same roof and remind each other that at the very least we are not crazy. but also, reminding each other that to be effective leaders, we need to walk in rooms where people don't necessarily have the same perspective as us. it is important that when we are in those rooms that we speak up, and know that there are many people who may not be in that room with us who are applauding us being in that room. and speaking up and sharing of -- sharing a perspective and making a point. that is really critical. i strongly believe that the vast majority of people have so much more in common than what separates them. part of what i would suggest is
that our power as leaders also derives from our ability to know that, and then make that a -- make that apparent at every opportunity we have. here is what i am talking about. my husband and i have a now 18-year-old. she was 17 at the time. it was after i got sworn in as senator, and she asked me to come to her high school and speak to the seniors. and so i did. i looked at this bunch of bright eyed 17-year-olds, and i have been going to speak to high school students everywhere. but i will just recall this one in particular. one of the young women raised her hand, and her question was, what are we going to do about a divided america? and it broke my heart.
because these are our california kids who just got through teaching about the constitution of the united states and all of the principles behind that. we taught them about the declaration of independence and those words we spoke in 1776 that we should all be treated as equal. we encourage our young people to go out and thrive she asked, what are we going to do about a divided america? i said, i reject the premise. i do not believe we are divided. i believe we have so much more in common than what separates us. but it is really important that we remind people of that.
we remind people of the 3:00 in the morning thought. have i talk to you about that? 3:00 in the morning, how many of us have woken up with a something troubling us? that is the witching hour. waking up at 3:00 in the morning with that thing that has been troubling us and weighing on it. 3:00 in the morning. when we wake up, and the average american wakes up with that thought, it is never through the lens of what party they are registered to vote in, are they a democrat or republican? it is never through the lens of some demographic a pollster put us in. and that thought usually has to do with one of a few things. our personal health, the health of our children our parents. can i get a job, can he keep job? can i pay the bills? can i retire with dignity?
the vast majority thought that's what it's about. we have so much more in common than what separates us. it is incumbent on us in our roles of leadership to remind folks of that. and to seek out the commonality. if you see it as a math equation, the constant is we are diverse. we have great diversity in our country. what we want to achieve is unity. the constant is diversity, and we want to achieve unity. i think the way we arrive at that point of trying to come close to unity is that we add to diversity, commonality. i think it gets us closer to unity. recognizing and accepting, and embracing that we are diverse and understanding the coexisting with that are the commonalities between all people. that is how i thinking about it.
we have to get to a point of also understanding that when we think about our issues, we can't play to the idea that it is a red or blue state. california vs. kentucky. i am going to tell you a story about that. i am going to tell you a story. i have been working on criminal justice issues for a long time. i get to the senate, and i knock on the door of a senator from the state of kentucky. his name is rand paul. i say, i hear you have been talking about criminal justice reform and i have this idea i want to talk to you about cash bail. what do you want to talk to me about? i said, here is a typical scenario. just for the sake of illustration, a woman goes into a department store and steal
something of value. because of the value, it is grand theft, not petty theft. she gets arrested. she gets charged. she goes to jail, first court appearance, and the judges sitting there, looks at a sheet of paper and says, you are charged with this crime, and the judge looks at another sheet of paper and says, for that crime your bail is $20,000. although the average bail in california is $50,000. you pay $20,000 and you can get out of jail pending your trial. it might be days, weeks, months, possibly even years. what average american has $20,000 sitting around? they don't. we don't. nobody does. then, the family sitting in the courtroom says we have got to get our aunt out of jail. let's go across the street. the bail bondsman.
so the family goes to the bail bondsman and the bondsman says i will give you $20,000, but you have to give me 10% that you will not get back. that's $2000. the average american family does not have $2000 sitting around. what ends up happening? equally possible, her attorney says the guilty and you will be credit for time served and you're out. even if she has a defensible case. let's imagine she has a job. if she is sitting in jail, she is going to lose that job. let's imagine she is a single mother with two children. the kids are at home with no supervision. equally likely, child protective services comes in and takes those services, all because she
could not pay. meanwhile, somebody who has money with the same crime writes the check and they have their freedom. that's called a debtor's prison. that is an economic justice issue. we talked about that earlier. the bill i am proposing with rand paul creates an incentive for states to replace their cash bail system with instead a risk assessment. meaning that the court will review the risk of that person to their community, and on that basis make the determination of whether they get out, not how much money you have in your back pocket. that's the bill. rand paul is cosponsoring it with me. we actually wrote an op-ed,
which got published in the "new york times. i got in touch with him after it was published and i was like, how are you doing? everything cool with you? how are your people reacting? and he said, kamala, appalacia loves it. [cheers and applause] sen. harris: because we have so much more in common than what separates us. so, i thank you for that question and i hope this is helpful. the most important thing is, know that nobody is going to thank you for being a leader, but we are here to thank you. it's difficult, and you know that as a business owner coming to be out there and invest in people and to have your dreams and set something up, but it does make a difference. thank you for that question. [applause]
>> my name is curtis. i'm with indivisible san francisco. [applause] thank you for having this town hall. lgbtq people have no federal civil rights protection. the trump administration is determined to roll back the quality gains. what will you do to push forward debate and passage of senate bill 1006, which would provide lgtbq citizens with antidiscrimination protections. sen. harris: first of all, i support that, it is about finding in terms of making sure and fighting for the change in federal law to make sure this is a protected class.
because you are absolutely right. this gets back to we must speak the truth. racism is real. homophobia is real. antisemitism is real in this country. sexism is real. we must speak that truth. then, do what we can to fix the problem, and that includes making sure that the laws reflect our values. protected when we are treated differently. that law is very important that we fight to get it passed. i was proud and despite on the civil rights issue to be an early and strong proponent for marriage equality. as you know, i had the honor of performing the ceremony of the first marriage in the country in san francisco after the ruling by the court. but it's an ongoing fight and
ongoing struggle. i don't want to leave today without also -- back to the point about, what can we do in our roles of leadership? i got this from being a daughter of oakland and the community that raised me in that moment in time. i believe one of our strongest tools with all of these civil rights issues, one of our strongest tools is the coalition. that gets back to the point of commonality. bringing everybody together. we must stand with each other. we must stand out when we see injustices against anyone. and not say, i stand with them as though they are apart from us. we stand together because anything that impact that person impacts me, and i take it personally. and so on this issue, everyone must stand together.
that makes us so much more powerful and effective. speaking again truth, we have got some work to do. we can do better. maybe at this moment in our history, this may be one of the positive results of that, is it forcing everybody to come together and understand we have to be in this together. thank you for raising that point. [applause] rev. hames: i want to recognize two individuals i have been trying desperately to get to my church. san francisco police chief bill scott and the oakland police chief anne kirpatrick. let's recognize both of them. [applause] rev. hames: i am going to take an online question.
this comes from agnes ferrera. in congress do something about the understaffed and gutted departments? i'm very concerned about the lack of seasoned professionals who serve us. sen. harris: i am, too. and i'll tell you. again, unless something has changed, it's my understanding that every position it is an undersecretary in the department of state is empty. i sit on a committee for the united states senate, and i had a responsibility to sit on a panel with other senators and review the nominees. in this case, it was the head of the epa.
i did not vote for him. [applause] sen. harris: and i am going to tell you why. when he was attorney general of oklahoma, i was attorney general of california. and i was acutely aware of the lawsuits he brought. since he's been in office, he has systematically attempted or accomplished on doing very important protections that are about making sure our babies can have clean water and clean air, and ensuring things like what we have done in california. those regulations he is tyring
to undo. you look at the devos division. same deal. you can look at in the cabinet individuals were reading the agencies in which they challenge. there are folks right now leading federal agencies who challenge the very purpose of those agencies existence. it's phenomenal. and the only thing again, i don't want to leave you all leaving like, oh goodness gracious. why did i get out of bed? [laughter] sen. harris: the only thing that gives me hope, and this is where we have to honor people quietly doing great work. in a lot of those agencies, there are great people love
dedicated her life to those agencies who are kind to hold it up and molded together. that is important to remember. when you come across those folks who work for those agencies, thank them. because they are, in spite of what is going on with the so-called leaders, they are trying to keep the glue together and hold it together. it's challenging. rev. hames: so, we have a question in the back. >> thank you very much. thank you, senator harris. we appreciate you being here. i am with a coalition of the eight community health centers in the county. we serve a primarily medicaid population and a large immigrant population. and also a very large immigrant
population, about 60% are immigrants. one in seven alameda residents are served by community health centers. and the reason i'm here because of our great concern over the funding cliff that will end $3.8 billion of funding for community health centers, and at risk are funds for teaching health centers. we all know there is a lack of primary care physicians. that is another $300 million. we have about $4 billion at risk for community health centers and for teaching health centers. part one is, we know you are working on our behalf and we would like to hear more about what you are doing. and part two is medicaid. it pays for 67% of all of our seniors in skilled nursing facilities. sen. harris: one out of two california children. yep. thank you for your work.
here, i will break the news. i intend to cosponsor the medicaid for all bill. [cheers and applause] sen. harris: because it's just the right thing to do. it's just the right thing to do. [applause] sen. harris: somebody should tell my staff. [laughter] sen. harris: you're right. you're right. and if you look at it again, this is part of our ongoing fight to make clear that this should not be a partisan issue. it shouldn't even be a bipartisan issue. babies are born not with something on them that says they are a democrat or republican. or red state or blue state.
again, one in two california babies. this is about understanding that health care should be a right, not a privilege. but it is also about being smart. it is about being smart. it's so much better that people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage of life from birth on, because the alternative is that we as taxpayers are paying huge amounts of money for them to get their health care in an emergency room. it's not just about what is morally and ethically right. it makes sense from a fiscal standpoint. thank you for your work. i'm with you. [applause] rev. hames: let us thank senator harris for fielding our questions and answering them in such a wonderful way. let's put our hands together. [applause] sen. harris: thank you.
thank you. [applause] rev. hames: as you share all of this love for her, i want to give her also the opportunity to have any closing remarks. sen. harris: first of all, reverand hames, thank you for your leadership. you are an incredible leader on so many levels, and i can't thank you enough for hosting us in your incredible church. yes, please, can we give a round of applause? [applause] sen. harris: cause the way he leaves this church is really about a community church,
about a community meeting place, it's about uplifting people, and empowering people. thank you all, everybody. this is a lot of time out of your day when you could be doing other things. you being here is part of a continuing role of leadership that everyone here has been playing. and i said it during the course of this conversation, but i want to end with the emphasis that what you are doing matters. it really does matter. and we got to just keep doing it. please have a moment to look around and let this image being your head always of remembering that we are all in this together, and let's reflect on our successes along the way, but rededicate ourselves to fight ahead. and that is it. thank you, thank you, thank you. [applause] >>