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Special Event

Gore Speaks at Swearing in of Congressional Black Caucus

Aired January 3, 2001 - 10:36 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, we want to go live to Washington, D.C. This is Vice President Al Gore, haven't seen him since his concession speech. He is speaking at the swearing in of the Congressional Black Caucus, members of Congress who belong to this organization, swearing in to this organization, ahead of when they are sworn in to Congress.

Let's go ahead and listen to the vice president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

VICE PRES. AL GORE: ... But I had the honor to serve with him for 16 years in the Congress. I moved over to the Senate for half of those years.

But he came to the House of Representatives just one term after I did, and he quickly established himself as a tremendous national leader in the fields of budget policy, national security, intelligence gathering. And of course, he was a great leader for the right of self-determination and full representation here in the District of Columbia. And that is not far off either; that is part of our unfinished agenda.

(APPLAUSE)

And the best way to give tribute to Julian Dixon is to keep right on fighting for justice and opportunity in the 107th Congress.

Now, this is of course a time of great change in our nation's capital. For one thing, the country better get ready, because America is about to see some bold new leadership from the state of Texas. Of course, I'm talking about Eddie Bernice Johnson, the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

(APPLAUSE)

Hear what I'm saying. Hear what I'm saying.

(LAUGHTER)

She has been my great friend for going on two decades now. And I knew her when she wad a crusading state senator. And she's got proteges and people who have taken her as a role model around the state of Texas and around this country. And we look forward to your leadership.

And I want to congratulate your other new officers: Your First Vice Chair Elijah Cummings, Second Vice Chair Sheila Jackson Lee, Secretary Bobby Rush and Whip Greg Meeks. As always, I want to pay special honor to the two, still serving, founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, Charlie Rangel and John Conyers. We appreciate what you guys did.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, when this organization was founded, it was so long ago.

(LAUGHTER)

These were young men then.

(LAUGHTER)

I remember when they had their vim and vigor all about them.

(LAUGHTER)

I also want to acknowledge, of course, the departing founder who had such a great record and will not here in this Congress, Bill Clay, but I understand he has some consolation in having another Clay in the Congress here, so we welcome him.

(APPLAUSE)

I thanked Dick Gephardt at the start and spoke of our ambitions for him in the two years hence.

But you know what a great leader he has been and will be.

I also want to acknowledge David Bonior who is here as well, and the other members of the leadership who are present. I want to...

(APPLAUSE)

And I want to thank my friend Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is a voice of conscience throughout this country.

(APPLAUSE)

And I just want you to know that I have personally found out what many people between a rock and a hard place have found out in recent years, that he will show up when you need him to show up.

(APPLAUSE)

Mayor Williams, I really enjoyed that picture of you in the paper the other day.

(LAUGHTER)

And, Frank Raines, my former colleague in the Cabinet, Dr. Billington, thank you for hosting us. Johnnie Cochran and other distinguished guests, thank you all for letting me say just these few words.

You know, in all seriousness, we face more than a new president and a new administration and new leadership of honored institutions. Here in Washington, the House and Senate will be more closely divided than at any time in the history that any of us can personally remember. And across America, there are real and continuing disagreements about the issues and about what is now past and about what now lies ahead.

And now, you must choose, as public servants and as Americans, to heal our nation's divisions and move this country. I believe very deeply that we all must respect, and wherever possible, help President-elect Bush, because from the moment he takes his solemn oath, a great responsibility will rest in his hands.

And from the moment you take your solemn oath, building upon the one just administered here in this ceremony, you are charged with a special responsibility as well, one that you know in your heart and in your bones, because this institution has discharged that responsibility on behalf of the people of this country since its founding: To lift up those who have been left out or locked out, to honor those who fought and marched and died to have their voices heard and to secure the right to vote.

When you are the conscience of the Congress, you, of course, have to do your best to reach across party lines, but you also have to know when to draw the line. When you are the conscience of the Congress, you have to work to build majorities, but you also have to fight for human dignity. When you are the conscience of the Congress, you have to seek consensus, but you also have to seek justice and fundamental fairness.

On the great issues that you will face in the 107th Congress, you have to act from conviction and lead from your heart. You know full well that among your special responsibilities is a sacred one to all of those who took our advice last November and voted CBC. So for them, when you walk on to the floor of the Congress and you see their equities at stake, you have to vote CBC.

(APPLAUSE)

And so, I ask you, the next time you see a crumbling school with desks crowded in the hallways and rain dripping through the roof, vote CBC. The next time you see a sick child with no health insurance and a parent who cannot possibly afford her family's care, vote CBC. The next time you see whole communities choking from pollution and environmental injustice, vote CBC. The next time someone tries to shut down affirmative action instead of swinging open the doors of opportunity, I know you'll vote CBC.

(APPLAUSE)

The next time anyone argues that even the most vicious and violent hate crimes are just like any other crimes or that racial profiling is just a price that has to be paid, vote CBC.

(APPLAUSE)

And when I look at all these challenges that lie ahead, I see the great promise of a country that is stronger and more prosperous than at any time in our history. I see how much good we can achieve. But the values we fought for together, the causes we have championed together, across the years and in the final days of the election, cannot be measured in votes or victories.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Vice President Al Gore. He is speaking this morning at the Library of Congress. This is a swearing in of the Congressional Black Caucus, members of Congress who also belong to this organization. Later today, they will be sworn in as members of the 107th Congress. You will see parts of that live here on CNN.

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