Betty's speech from the 13th Annual Bruce Vento Dinner

October 25, 2015
Congresswoman Betty McCollum
13th Annual Vento Dinner
October 25, 2015
 
Good evening 4th District DFLers!
 
For the 13th time, we are gathered here as 4th District Democrats, as progressives, as supporters of labor, as Minnesotans, to honor the legacy of our former Member of Congress Bruce Vento.
 
After 13 years I know Bruce would be saying, “enough already!”
 
But Bruce’s lifetime of service to St. Paul and the Eastside, to Minnesota, and to our nation deserves to be recognized, remembered, and honored.
 
Bruce’s goal in Congress was service – not the spotlight.  He wanted people to know he was working hard, because he was working hard and he wanted to be re-elected.
 
But he cared about the people he served – the families, the workers, the small business owners.
 
As a former teacher, Bruce cared about children – what they learned in the classroom and the opportunities they could get to learn outside in nature.
 
Bruce was on my mind a lot this week. On Wednesday I was in Washington and it was a beautiful fall day. It was a sunny, warm afternoon and the trees were starting to change colors. And, like a kid playing hooky, 
I got out of the office and spent some time on the banks of the Potomac River for a very special event. I was joined by Sue Vento, former staff from Bruce’s office, leaders from the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, the EPA,
and a wonderful Minnesota-based non-profit called Wilderness Inquiry.
 
Wilderness Inquiry organized the event to kick-off 10 days of activities in which they will take more than a thousand of children from DC out on canoes in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers – exposing kids to the environment and giving them an adventure in their own community.
 
So, as we watched 4th graders put on their life jackets and go out on this majestic river for the first time in their lives, the adults then dedicated a beautiful 24-foot Voyageur Canoe called “The Bruce Vento.”
 
Nothing could have been more special than a beautiful fall day, school children in canoes, and honoring an educator, an environmentalist, and a terrific public servant – Bruce Vento.
 
As we all know, brief, perfect moments are just that – brief.
 
The next day I returned to work and, just like all of you, watched former Secretary Clinton be abused for 11 hours by the Benghazi Select Committee.  That was not a committee hearing – it was an interrogation, a shameful attack and display of partisanship unlike anything I have ever witnessed. That hearing was an embarrassment for the House and completely lacked any of the civility, decency, or integrity which Bruce Vento displayed during his 24 years of congressional service. The Benghazi committee should be disbanded immediately. But, I must say, Secretary Clinton looked strong, she was composed, and stood up to the attacks with grace … and steely confidence.
 
On Friday, in what has become a ritual in the Republican controlled House, we voted for the 61st time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In other words, for the 61st time to protect health care for millions of Americans who without President Obama and Democrats – would be without health care coverage or denied coverage.
 
Friends, the House of Representatives has become a very scary place.  The policies and politics of the Tea Party and the Free-Dumb Caucus have infected the Republican Party to the point in which they are willing to damage our economy, our security, our country to advance their extreme ideology. They are willing to deny people healthcare and take reproductive healthcare away from women.
 
2016 is going to be a very, very critical election year. Democrats must, we absolutely must win the White House. We can take nothing for granted – nothing! The prospect of a Trump, Carson, Rubio or Cruz in the White House – matched with a Tea Party Congress – is a terrifying thought.
 
We’ve got DFLers who support Hillary Clinton. We’ve got DFLers who support Bernie Sanders. We’ve got DFLers who support Martin O’Malley. We will have a nominee later next year. What is most important is that we will have a nominee who will stand with us for workers’ rights, women’s rights, and immigration rights. We will have a Democratic nominee who will fight to protect health coverage, the environment, and middle class families. We will have a Democratic nominee who will be proud to say: 
 
Black lives matter; 
Latino lives matter; 
Native lives matter; 
Asian lives matter; 
LGBT lives matter; 
Women’s lives matter.
 
Fighting for justice, economic opportunity, quality education and ending gun violence all matter! We need to support our candidates and then stand united, together behind our nominee against the Tea Party, against the policies of discrimination, hate and harm driven by Republican extremists. We need to stand together and we need to win!
 
Friends, thank you for being here tonight. I am always proud to remember, honor, and pay tribute to Bruce’s life and legacy.
 
I also want to thank J.P., Jen, Matt, David, and Megan for their work leading the 4th District DFL.
 
Let me finish by saying thank you for the opportunity to serve you, work for you and represent our Democratic Farmer Labor Party in Congress. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue the work Bruce and I care so much about.
 
Have a terrific night.