Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke set the stage for his 2020 White House run in the streets of Downtown El Paso, just a few blocks from the U.S. – Mexico Border on Saturday morning.
The O’Rourke campaign says more than 6,000 supporters filled El Paso Street near Overland to view the historic event for El Paso. Not Only is O’Rourke the first El Pasoan to run for President under a major party, but he also chose the Sun City as the spot to kick off his campaign. O’Rourke cited his love for his hometown as the reason he’s running.
In the nearly 40-minute speech, the former El Paso Congressman spoke to supporters, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to attend the event in person.
“This is hope for me. I know Beto from a long time ago, I’ve seen him serve our community year after year, tirelessly,” O’Rourke supporter Claudia Cochran Miller said. “Beto is a strong progressive and he is a beacon of hope in the U.S.”
O’Rourke also took the time to address issues close to home. Border security and immigration were at the forefront of his campaign platform. He also expressed support for universal healthcare and women’s reproductive rights, among other topics.
“As President, I will sign into law a new voting rights act. Together we will end gerrymandering,” O’Rourke proclaimed to the thousands in attendance.
The former City Councilman and Congressman with an unsuccessful Senate run under his belt is pushing towards higher voting rates and accessibility at the polls.
O’Rourke also took the time to recognize El Pasoans who shaped the city before him like Dr. Lawence Nixon and Thelma White. He also took the time out to recognize public school teachers at Mesita Elementary who taught him as a young child.
“Perhaps most importantly El Paso to me represents America at it’s very best,” O’Rourke said, reiterating the statement he gave to KTSM when he broke the news of his campaign run.
After Saturday morning’s rally, O’Rourke jumped on a Southwest Airlines flight to Houston for a second rally where an estimated 10,000 people attended followed by a third rally in Austin near the Texas State Capitol.
Beto O’Rourke Speech Full Transcript:
Thank you. Thank you all for being here. So grateful to everyone who is here today, so grateful to this community of El Paso, and I’m very grateful to each one of you who made the trip to come here and join us in our hometown in this community. It was really important for Amy and me to launch this campaign from El Paso.
This is a city where I was born. It’s the city where Melissa and Pat O’Rourke raised me, my sisters Erin and Charlotte. It’s the same city where Amy and I are raising our three kids, and perhaps most importantly, El Paso to me represents America and its very best. For more than a hundred years this community has welcomed generations of immigrants from across the Rio Grande, some having traveled hundreds of miles, some having traveled thousands of miles trying to escape brutality, violence, and crushing poverty to find a better life in this country for themselves and for their kids, that’s for sure, but also because they were called to contribute to our shared success and to this country’s greatness, and they have.
El Paso has been home to leaders in the struggles of civil rights and workers’ rights, the Mexican-Americans who led the Chicano Movement, the women in this town who organized the Farah strike, and black El Pasoans like Dr. Lawrence Nixon, like Thelma White, who not only secured voting rights in this state, but they ensured that El Paso would be among the first cities of the former confederacy to desegregate our public places and integrate our education.
With Ciudad Juarez we formed the largest binational community in this hemisphere. And for 20 years running, we’ve been one of the safest cities in the United States of America. We are safe, not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We have learned, we have learned not to fear our differences, but to respect and embrace them. We see the languages spoken in this community, the traditions, the cultures, as a strength for El Paso. We understand, we understand that we are, in the words of Dr. King, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.
This community has offered me my inspiration in life and every single opportunity that I’ve had, to the world-class public school teachers at Mesita Elementary who believed in me and sought to bring out the very best in me, to the small business community who allowed me to work for them as we were starting our own small business here in this community, and those who joined that business creating high skill, high wage, high-valued jobs in a community that had so much talent, but was just looking for a way to express itself, and to those community leaders, Border Network for Human Rights, Annunciation House, the Women’s March, you have shown me what leadership is.
You elected me in 2005 to serve this community on the city council, not as a democrat, not as a republican, but as an El Pasoan, working with our fellow El Pasoans to improve this community, to turn around our mass transit system, to invest in neighborhoods and people, to protect our public spaces, and to never shy away from the fights in front of us, like extending healthcare benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees regardless of the consequences, regardless of the recall elections that would follow. And in 2012, we won a race against the odds and against the establishment to represent El Paso in the United States Congress.
We ran by talking and listening to you about tough issues like the veteran suicides that followed the fact that we had the longest wait times for mental healthcare access at a VA in the country. We talked about a war on drugs that had become a war on people. And thanks to you, once in office, we were able to deliver. We helped to turn around the VA in El Paso, expand mental healthcare for veterans nationally, expand our protected public spaces, improve our security and our connections with Mexico by investing in our ports of entry, and having the backs of every single service member and their families stationed at Fort Bliss or deployed around the world. You found, or you helped me to find those republican colleagues with whom I could walk across the aisle or drive across the country to get the job done for El Paso and for the United States, and we did.
In El Paso, it was your story that I told all over Texas in every single one of these 254 counties, all people, no PACs, all the time. Everyone counts, everyone matters, so we showed up everywhere to listen to everyone. Didn’t matter how red or how rural, how blue, or how urban, we showed up both with the courage of our convictions and a willingness to listen and learn from those who we sought to serve in the senate. And though we did not win that race, although we came awfully close, we all, we all got to be part of something absolutely transformational in our lives and in the democracy of this state.
We were able to win votes from republicans and independents, expand the number of democrats who voted in an election, and this state, this state, which before 2018 had ranked 50th in voter turnout, this state saw voter turnout approaching presidential year election levels. This state, this state saw young voter turnout up 500 percent over the last midterm election. This state and its 38 electoral votes count like they’ve never counted before. All of us have a seat at the table. All of us matter.
In the United States House of Representatives, two new members of Congress from Texas, both democrats, elected into what we thought, what we were told to believe were safe republican seats. The composition of the state legislature has changed. And in Houston, Texas, 17 African-American women winning judicial positions literally changing the face of criminal justice in this country’s most diverse city, you did that. You did that. Your votes, your willingness to volunteer, the pop-up offices that you hosted in your home, that’s how we made this happen. And that’s why I am so glad to be here with you today in my hometown, in my home state, to announce that I’m running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America. Thank you.
This, this is a campaign for America, for everyone in America. Like so many of you here, like so many more across the country, at this defining moment, Amy and I want to know that we’ve done everything within our power for this country. And though we know it comes at some sacrifice to our family, especially to our kids, we also know that our children and that your children and the generations that follow them are depending on us now at this moment. This is our moment of truth. This is our moment of truth, and we cannot be found wanting.
The challenges before us are the greatest of our lifetimes. An economy that works too well for too few and not at all for too many more. A healthcare system where millions are unable to see a doctor or be well enough to live to their full potential, and the last best hope of averting the catastrophe that will follow additional climate change fading before our very inaction. We must overcome these challenges, but we must first ask ourselves how this, the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the planet, the most powerful country that world history has ever known, has found itself in such a perilous position.
For too long in this country, the powerful have maintained their privilege at the expense of the powerless. They have used, they have used fear and division in the same way that our current president uses fear and division. Based on the differences between us of race, of ethnicity, of geography, or religion to keep us apart, to make us angry, to make us afraid of ourselves and of one another, unrestrained money and influence has warped the priorities of this country. It has corrupted our democracy. It has invited the citicism and the distrust and the disengagement of millions of our fellow Americans who see their very own government enthralled to those who can pay for access and for outcomes.
A vigorous democracy, both political and economic, is the only check against this inertia of power, the only way to free our institutions of their capture and corruption, and the only means by which we can lift the voices and the lives of our fellow Americans. But when, but when the safeguards of this democracy are manipulated by those in power, when members of Congress can choose their own voters, when the Supreme Court decides that corporations are people and money is speech, when PACs and special interests can buy the outcomes of elections and legislation, and when voting rights are not expanded, they are functionally withdrawn, then we run the risk of becoming a democracy in name only. And the idea that we are founded on the principle that we are all created equal, to equal opportunity, is justifiably seen as a lie to those who have experienced gross differences in opportunity and outcome when it comes to education or healthcare or economic advancement or justice. So whatever our differences, where you live, who you love, to whom you pray, for whom you voted in the last election, let those differences not define us or divide us at this moment. Let’s agree going forward before we are anything else, we are Americans first. We are Americans first, and we will put the business of this country before us.
So if you believe in guaranteed high-quality universal healthcare, because you have seen the cost and the consequence of millions of our fellow Americans who have no healthcare or do not have enough healthcare, then let us come together around a policy that begins by prioritizing affordability in prescription medications that ensures that we bring down the cost of our premiums and our deductibles. And in a country, and in a country where too many of our fellow Americans are dying of diabetes in the year 2019, dying of the flu, dying of curable cancers, in a community, in a state, in a country where one of the largest providers of mental healthcare services is the county jail system, and in a nation that is in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis three times as deadly for women of color, then let us ensure that universal healthcare means all of us can see a primary care provider, all of us can get mental healthcare help, and that universal care means every woman makes her own decisions about her own body. We can give every American, every business in this country the choice to enroll in Medicare without eliminating plans that many Americans like for their families because those plans work for their families. Everyone able to see a doctor. Everyone able to afford their prescription. Everyone able to take their child to a therapist. No one left behind. No one priced out.
We must get to universal guaranteed high-quality healthcare as soon as surely as we possibly can.
If we believe in an economy that works for all, we want to make sure that everyone has the chance to advance, then let’s begin with the very youngest among us and invest in a world-class public school system pre-K to 12 everywhere in every community, and then let’s do this. Let’s pay our teachers what they are worth a living wage. There is no reason that any educator, any teacher should be working two or three jobs when they have the most important job in front of them, unlocking that lifelong love of learning within every single child. Once we do that, there’s no stopping those kids. There’s no stopping this country. And when they graduate from high school, let’s make sure that they are both college ready and career ready, ready to go on to debt-free higher education, and ready to go to a job that provides purpose and pays a real paycheck.
Speaking of that, let’s also insist that we will not continue to diminish the power of unions. We will strengthen unions in this country. Unions who insist that one job should be enough for every single American, unions who will help us to provide apprenticeships, not just for that young woman or young man graduating from high school, but for that parent who has finished raising their kids, for that worker whose job has been automated out of existence, apprenticeships ensure that we have the skills and the trades that command a living salary for the rest of your life, so let’s strengthen those unions going forward.
And in rural America, if we want to lift up rural America, let’s begin by listening to rural America. Let’s partner with them in investing in hospitals, in schools, in infrastructure like broadband internet, and then let’s ensure that every farmer, every rancher, every grower, every producer can make a profit as they grow, what feeds and clothes not just America, but so much of the rest of the world. And those farmers, like anyone else, wants to make sure that we are meeting the challenge of climate change before it is too late, let’s open up technologies and markets to them that provide an incentive for capturing the carbon that we’re currently emitting in the air.
I want to make sure that your gender, that your race, that your family does not prevent you from advancing in this economy, so let’s do a few things. Let’s pay women equal to what men make in this country. Let’s sign into law paid family leave for every single family in this country. Let’s ban workplace discrimination, and let’s do this. Let’s make sure that there’s access to capital for communities who have effectively been shut out of access to capital, home loans, and the ability to build wealth in this country for generations.
And if we believe in justice for all in the face of the largest prison population per capita on this planet, one disproportionately comprised of people of color, then we must do the following; not only end the federal prohibition on marijuana, not only expunge the arrest records of everyone arrested for possession of something that is legal in more than half the country, we must not only end cash bail and for-profit prisons in the United States of America, but we must also confront the legacy of certain communities who have been criminalized and cut down based on the color of their skin, confronting, confronting the legacy and the consequences of slavery and segregation, and the continuing suppression of our fellow Americans is the only way that we will begin to repair the damage and keep ourselves from committing the same injustices.
And if we truly believe that we are a country of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees, and they are the very premise of our strength, of our success, and yes, our security, then let us free every single dreamer from any fear of deportation. Let’s bring millions more out of the shadows and onto a path to contribute to their maximum potential to the success of this country. Let’s not only, let’s not only follow this country’s asylum laws, but let’s make sure that we never take another child from another mother at their most desperate and vulnerable moment. Let us, let us reunite every single one of those families that are still separated today. And let’s remember that every single one of us, including those who are just three or four blocks from here, detained under the International Bridge that connects us with Mexico behind chain-linked fence and barbed wire, that they are our fellow human beings and deserved to be treated like our fellow human beings.
We will find security not through walls, not through militarization. We will find security by focusing on our ports of entry that connect us to the rest of the world so we have a better idea of who and what is coming in here, and we facilitate the trade and travel connected to millions of jobs around this country.
We will support our CBP officers, our Border Patrol Agents. We will treat every single American with the dignity and respect that they are owed as Americans and as human beings. And if, if we are really serious about security, we have a golden opportunity, republicans, independents, democrats alike, to work on comprehensive immigration reform, to rewrite this country’s immigration laws in our own image with our own values and in the best traditions of the United States of America.
For all, for all of the veterans here in El Paso, a community that has distinguished itself in service to country going back to Marcelino Serna in World War I, an undocumented immigrant who went over to France with the US Army and came back the most highly decorated veteran from the state of Texas, to the Milanos brothers in Vietnam, to every man and every woman who right now has their life on the line for this country, if we truly appreciate your service, not only will we make sure that we make the investments in the VA to care for you when you return from having borne the battle, especially for those conditions connected to service and combat, posttraumatic stress order, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, we will also ensure that there is a roof over the head of every single veteran who’s sleeping on the streets tonight. And then if we really mean it, if we really mean it, we will ensure that this country does not start yet another war before every peaceful, diplomatic, nonviolent alternative is explored and pursued, and those wars that we ask our fellow Americans, these service members to fight on our behalf, 17 years and counting in Afghanistan, 27 years and counting in Iraq, let’s bring these wars to a close and bring these service members back home to their families, to their communities, and to their country.
If, after 300 years, after the enlightenment we can still listen to and believe the scientists, and I for one do, who tell us that thanks to our own emissions, our own excesses, and our own inaction, this planet has warmed one degree Celsius just since 1980. And the fires and the floods and the droughts and the manmade natural disasters will only get worse if this planet warms another degree Celsius, and this is our moment with little more than 10 years to spare to do everything in our power to free this economy from a dependence on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, and to ensure, as we make the investment in new technologies and renewable energy, that everyone has the chance to benefit from this new economy, especially those communities, lower income and too often of color, that have borne the brunt of climate change so far.
This country has shown that we can do it. When the Western world faced the existential threat of Nazi Germany more than 80 years ago, this country harnessed the political will of hundreds of millions here of the Western democracy, not only to win that war for the following 80 years to make this world safe for democracy and to lift millions in this country into the middle class, this is our opportunity right now to do something for a far greater existential threat, to do more not just for those here with us today, but for the people of the future, our kids, and grandkids, and every generation that succeeds them.
We have to once again reassert our role on the world stage in order to do this. But if we’re going to do that, we’ve got to strengthen these historic friendships and alliances, so many of them forged in sacrifice. The service of men and women who put their lives on the line and lost their lives to this country, let’s make sure that that sacrifice was not squandered. Let’s make sure that we strengthen those alliances. Let’s end these love affairs with dictators and strong men all over the world. Let’s earn, let’s earn the respect of the people around the world, not just by how we treat those in other countries, but how we treat those within our country, and how we treat those who are at the border of our country.
If we do that, we can make sure that we once again become the indispensable nation convening the other nations of this planet around some of our shared challenges like climate change, like nuclear disarmament, like ending all of these wars that we are currently engaged in, we can do for ourselves what no other country can, and we have an opportunity at this moment to reprioritize this hemisphere those countries and people who are literally connected to us by land.
We can try to solve the problems of Central America here at our front door at the Texas-Mexico border, or we can invest in the opportunities to help the people of Central America where they are at home. It is our choice. But to do any of this, we’ve got to understand that our country’s success depends on the success of this democracy. It is a single greatest mechanism that human kind has ever devised to call forth the power, the potential, and the genius of a people around their challenges and their opportunities. And so every single citizen must be able to vote, and every vote must count.
As president, I will sign into law a new Voting Rights Act. Together we will end gerrymandering, we will get big money out of our politics, and all across this country, we will have automatic and same-day voter registration. That’s how we’re going to do it.
But a full political democracy is only possible if we vigorously pursue a true economic democracy. Every child, every man, every woman in this country must be able to see a future for themselves in this country, otherwise this country will have no future as a democracy. That means that this extraordinary, unprecedented concentration of wealth and power and privilege must be broken apart. An opportunity must be shared with all.
We will not allow ourselves to be defined by our fears or our differences. Instead, we shall be known forever after by our ambitions, our aspirations, the resolve, the creativity, the service and the sacrifice that we brought to bear in order to achieve them. Our ability to campaign in this way with people, not corporations or PACs, but people who come together not only to ensure that we win the nomination, not only to ensure that we defeat Donald Trump in November of 2020, but people in every state, in every territory, from every walk of life coming together to show that the power of people is what is necessary for us to accomplish our priorities.
I am so grateful to be able to run to serve you as the next president of the United States of America, and I am so grateful for every one of you who has joined or will join this campaign and sacrifice some part of your life towards the success of this great country. Together, together we can make sure that America fulfills its promise for ourselves, for each other, and for every generation that succeeds us. Thank you, El Paso. Thank you, everyone. God bless you, and God bless America.