Sen. Warnock spoke about Georgia’s racist past of segregation and violence and the reason why, even through this all, he and others continue to “love America.” Warnock remarked that he now stood in the same place, in the same position as men who just decades before threatened with “pistols” to kill any Black person courageous enough to participate in their right to vote. His father, who lived and served through World War II was once asked to give up his seat on a bus, while wearing his military uniform, to a white teenager. “But he was never bitter. He had seen the arc of change in our country, and he maintained his faith in God and in his family and in the American promise. And he passed that faith on to his children.”
Sen. Warnock spoke of his mother, who spent her teen years picking “somebody else’s tobacco and somebody else’s cotton,” to make money. “But because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls in January and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator.”
Warnock turned to the main focus of his speech: voting rights and the attempts by conservatives to suppress those, so often Black, votes. “The right to vote is preservative of all other rights, it is not just another issue alongside other issues, it is foundational,” Warnock reminded everyone. But this fact continues to elude some of the people who have been to protect this very fundamental tenet. “Now just a few months after Congressman Lewis’ death, there are those in the Georgia legislature, some who even dare to praise his name, that, are now trying to get rid of Sunday souls to the polls. Making it a crime for people who pray together to get on a bus together in order to vote together. I think that’s wrong. As a matter of fact, I think that a vote is a kind of prayer for the kind of world we desire for ourselves and for our children.” Warnock deftly illustrated how political and irrational the filibuster had become, pointing out that “Surely there ought to be at least 60 in this chamber who believe as I do that the four most powerful words uttered in a democracy are ‘The people have spoken.’”
Then Sen. Warnock turned to reminding the Senate what its most important job is as a legislative body. A message that every single person in that chamber must hear and has to internalize. Our elected officials represent and protect the rights of all Americans, no matter who they are, what they looks like, what they believe in, or how much money they have. “It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in society…we must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.”
It is an important speech for anybody to witness. It is a speech that will, with hope and hard work, stand the test of time.
Watch the entire speech below.