tv Virginia Gov. Northam Delivers State of the Commonwealth Address CSPAN January 14, 2021 3:54pm-4:57pm EST
washington, because we are resilient, we are in solidarity, and at the end of the day, we have each other. thank you. >> president-elect joe biden today will be talking about his covid-19 response and proposed legislation he will be sending to congress. live coverage begins at 7:15 p.m. eastern on c-span. you can also watch at c-span.org or listen with the free c-span radio app. use our website, c-span.org /coronavirus, to follow the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak. watch our searchable video anytime on demand and track the spread with interactive maps, all at c-span.org/coronavirus. virginia governor ralph northam talked about his state's response to the covid-19 pandemic and postelection threats to virginia and the u.s. it was part of his state of the state address from richmond.
>> the joint to simply will come to order. --joint assembly will come to order. [indiscernible] the members will stand and receive the governor of the commonwealth of virginia. [applause] joint assembly and guests, please be seated. as speaker of the house of delegates and president of the joint assembly, it is my pleasure to present to you his excellency, the governor of the commonwealth of virginia, the
honorable ralph s. northam. [applause] gov. northam: please be seated. well, good evening. madam speaker, madam president, lieutenant governor fairfax, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for inviting me to speak with you tonight. to my wife, pam, to attorney general herring, justices of the supreme court, members of the state corporation commission, and my cabinet and staff, thank you for your service to this commonwealth. you know, we do this every year. this speech is one of our rituals as virginians, is when elected leaders come together from different branches of
government, different political parties representing every part of virginia and every person who calls our commonwealth home. it is part of who we are and what we do, and it is important to maintain this tradition. even in this most unusual year. but many things are different this year, of course. normally, more than 200 people are in this chamber. but tonight, this chamber is practically empty. another thing that is different is a part of the ritual that i will miss. in a normal year, when i say something that my friends like, they stand up and cheer, and that's a nice feeling. at the same time, the other side
of the aisle sits quietly. but i know that you are secretly cheering in your hearts. so here is some good news -- tonight, you don't have to be quiet. if you are watching from home, when i say something that you like, feel free to stand up and cheer me on. nobody has to know. [laughter] gov. northam: during these challenging times, kindness and calmness must prevail. so many things are different in all parts of our lives right now. the changes are always on our minds and in our hearts. we miss what was comfortable, and we don't like uncertainty. we don't like being apart, and we long for the day when we can come together again. we are social people, and we are
meant to be together. the separation and the absence remind us of what has been lost. more than 5000 virginians have died from covid, including our friend, senator ben chafee from , from russell county in southwest virginia. he was my friend. and i miss him. whether on the senate floor or in my office, his presence always brightened my day. the stories around his initials, abc, are always entertaining. i hope that fond memories of ben will help his family through these difficult times.
i ask you to join me in a moment of silence to honor ben, and everyone who has lost their lives to covid. thank you. we have all experienced loss this year, and it made us all ask ourselves some basic questions. what is really important? what do i believe in? mi taking actions that reflect my values -- am i taking actions that reflect my values? these are some of the most fundamental questions of life. we need to ask these questions as a commonwealth too, and that is what i want to talk to you about tonight. we need to talk about who we are as a state, what we believe in, and the actions we are taking to
live out our values. i want you to know that my heart is filled with optimism and hope when i think about this, because while we have just come through a tough year that brought everyone pain and sacrifice, i have seen something remarkable. over and over again, i have seen you taking care of one another. i have seen neighbors helping neighbors, people like anthony gaskin, a ups driver in chester. he has been delivering packages for 16 years, delivering more than 180 packages a day, always with a smile. patty friedman lives on his route, and organized her neighbors to thank anthony. so one day, as anthony drove
down the street, he saw his route lined with people to thank him with signs and cheers. patty said she did it to show gratitude and appreciation for simple acts of kindness on his part. when anthony saw the response, he got emotional. he said, "i was in shock. my heart was overjoyed." in a world regardless of what is going on, people still genuinely care. or emily, a nurse who lives in southwest virginia who spoke to us about caring for patients and their dying hours, how painful it is to care for them, and how dangerous this virus is. she had the courage to share her story and empathy to care for people who are sick. there are thousands more like her, our health care heroes
across our commonwealth. or katie gaylord, a school counselor in williamsburg who created a t-shirt that said virginia is for kindness. she did it to raise money for the local food bank. when people asked why, she said, when we help someone, you feel more connected to each other, and i think we feel less afraid. or our national guard members, who have their own jobs and lives but have spent months working to help checked others during this pandemic response, helping with testing and soon, yes, vaccinations. but here is my favorite example, the virginia state troopers who protected the capital of the united states during the insurrection last week, when the
mayor of washington and the leaders of congress said to me, please send help. these men and women dropped everything and raced to defend our country's temple of democracy. our guard members went there too . while others hesitated, virginians were first on the scene. it made me proud to see that line of state police cars racing across the 14th street bridge. senator tim kaine told me that when all 100 senators were evacuated to a secure location during the insurrection, they sought tv footage of virginia troopers entering the capital, and they cheered them on knowing that help was on the way. but sadly, many were injured because of the coup attempt, and two virginians lost their lives.
there were officers in the united states capitol police. please join me in a moment of silence for officer brian sicknick and officer howard li bin good -- howard liebengood. thank you. while the fact that our help was needed is terrible, i am proud that we were able to help avert more tragedy. there is nothing to celebrate about the fact that our nation needed help, especially to defend our capital from fellow americans. but we can all be proud that virginia stepped up. that is what virginians do. that is what service means. and this is what it means to live out our values. and that is how i know with all
my heart, and with all my soul, that we will get through this pandemic. it is because of our limitless ability to care for one another. we are one virginia. these stories inspire me. and i want you to know that your government is following your lead, taking action to help people. and we are going to move even faster in this new year. when we met a year ago, before anyone had even heard of covid-19, we met in a spirit of celebration. we celebrated new leadership, and the first women to lead the house of delegates in virginia. congratulations again to the speaker pro tem.
[applause] what a difference their leadership has made. together, we embarked on a path was more progressive and forward-looking than ever before. we took the steps because voters sent us here to take action. and so we did. we passed landmark lean energy legislation. we passed common-sense gun safety measures. we raised the minimum wage. we advanced important criminal justice reforms, such as raising the felony threshold and taking away -- and ending the taking away of someone' is drivers license because they couldn't pay their court fees. we took steps forward in treating everyone with dignity and respect, becoming the first southern state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and requiring schools to develop plans for transgender students.
we repealed nearly 100 instances of racist and discriminatory language from our law books. these actions were about living out our values. virginia is a large and diverse state that welcomes everyone, and we took action to demonstrate that. we ended last year's winter session on a high note, having delivered on commitments that we made to you. we were just finishing this historic session when the covid pandemic hit us. it seemed as though when minute, we were living our normal lives, and the next, those lives were literally turned upside down. over the months that followed, we all took a lot of hard actions to protect ourselves, our families and each other. i want to thank the general
assembly, our local elected officials across the commonwealth and you, virginia, especially the nurses, the doctors, first responders and volunteers. nothing about this has been easy. in the past 10 months since then, we have learned a lot about this virus. today, we have more tools to fight it. we now have the best tool, vaccines. as a doctor, i can tell you the incredible effort and cooperation it took to develop these vaccines. it shows us what we can do when people work together for the common good. the vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. the vaccines, and continuing to follow the guidelines on masks, distancing and handwashing. so tonight, virginia, i urge you
to get vaccinated when your turn comes. i will do it, and so will my family. this is how we get back to eight near normal. -- back to a near normal. this is out we reopen our schools and rebuild our economy, through the vaccine. it is literally the light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. and while it is a massive undertaking, and it will take some months to get to everyone, i promise you, your turn is coming, and soon. so here is where we are. according to the cdc, only nine states have given more doses than virginia, and each of those states is larger than we are. we are currently receiving initial shipments of about 110,000 vaccine doses each week for virginia, and we expect to
be receiving more soon. i appreciate the hospitals, local health departments, and everyone working to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. i have personally set a goal of ripping up to 25,000 vaccinations per day as soon as. just last week, i called on our federal partners to release all the doses that they had, and i am pleased that the incoming biden administration has agreed to do that, and the outgoing administration has agreed as well. also yesterday, they advised states to go ahead and start vaccinating people aged 65 and up. we will be moving forward with that quickly. i will be talking with local health directors and hospitals tomorrow, about how we make this happen.
the teams are moving fast. this week, some local health districts again vaccinating older people and essential workers, like our teachers, our front-line workers, law enforcement and more. vaccinating teachers and other k-12 staff is an important step forward in getting our schools open, a goal i know we all share. i am counting on the people who work in our public health departments to push hard to get this done. and i will tell you, you are not alone, we are all with you. we have partners in hospitals, businesses, colleges and universities. everyone in virginia is ready and willing to help. getting everyone vaccinated is the largest deployment of volunteers that we have ever seen, and we need you to help. the virginia medical reserve corps is already training new
volunteer vaccinators. if you have medical experience, if you are a retarded doctor or nurse or just want to help with the logistics, please reach out to that program. that is a message we have heard over and over again this past year, in every part of our country, i want to help, and let's get moving. people sent a clear message throughout the year -- move faster. people are no longer willing to wait for change, and they expect their public officials to act. and this year, we will continue taking actions to help people. when our team and i wrote the budget i proposed last month, we focused on two things -- helping virginians who are hurting because of this pandemic, and laying the groundwork to help our economy rebound.
so let's start with health care and some good news. virginia is the only state in the nation where the rate of people without insurance actually dropped from 2018 to 2019. that was the first year that we had the medicaid expansion program in virginia. and thank goodness we took that action. ahead of the pandemic, we were seeing best improvements in health metrics, hospitals seeing fewer uninsured patients, more new mothers with health coverage in the first year after giving birth, fewer people with medical debts or unmet medical needs, and a reduction in health disparities. when we expended medicaid three years ago, we could not have foreseen the pandemic, of course, but the pandemic has
proven that was the right decision. i am so grateful that when the crisis came, the safety net was in lice. just -- was in place. just a few weeks ago, we marked 500,000 virginians who are covered through the expansion program. that is half a million virginians who would feel a lot less secure about their health during this pandemic if they were uninsured. so i want to thank everyone who came together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation get this done -- cooperation to get this thing done. it was the right to do. now, it is time to take further steps, because the pandemic has highlighted the need to modernize the way we pub -- the way we fund public health in virginia. here is the issue. in virginia, both the state and local governments have a role in operating our public health departments.
that takes money, of course. but we locate state money to cities and counties using an updated formula, written a generation ago. virginia' s op elation has nearly doubled since then -- virginia's population has nearly doubled since then we have grown into much more of an urban and suburban state. but the funding plan has stayed the same. in 2021, we are funding public health like it is 1980. in a lot of places, local communities are paying more than their fair share because the state is paying less than it should. counties that thrived a generation ago with the economy are now hurting. they are paying more to the state each year for basic health services like opioid recovery, even as the population decreases. at the same time, urban areas such as richmond and petersburg are paying more too, even as
their tax has changed. this is fundamentally inequitable, and it is wrong. the formula should have been updated all along, but it wasn't, and that has created winners and losers. so this year, we are taking action. i want to thank ella get lamont bagley -- delegate lamont bagley for introducing legislation to address this. we will make sure that localities that need resources will get them, and no one will get less. it is the right thing to do, and now is the time to act. our budget proposal also includes funding for dola services for pregnant women. dolas provide services for pregnant women after they give birth, and multiple studies show that improve health outcomes for mother and baby. i am grateful to delegates for
their advocacy on this issue. we know it means a better outcome for mothers and babies, and we are providing dollars to increase access to long-acting reversible contraceptives. these actions help women control their own reproductive decisions. there is no excuse that a group of legislators, most of whom are men, should be telling women what they should and shouldn't be doing with their bodies. but i am glad that more and more women are entering our legislature. a record number of women are serving in our general assembly now, and i hope that number will only go up. it is also time to help people by taking more action on a fertile housing. we have -- on affordable housing. we have made record investments
in the virginia housing trust fund that makes affordable housing available, and the rent relief and mortgage program has put dollars into helping people make rent and mortgage payments during the pandemic. that program has helped nearly 17,000 families so far. we have also worked to put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for those having trouble paying their rent or mortgage. now, we need to take action to do more, so we have proposed 25 million more dollars for the trust fund. this number is more than we have ever invested toward helping that that toward helping true people have stable housing, and we need to get it done this session. we need to take action to protect jobs, especially in small businesses. we know small businesses need a
lot of help to make it through the pandemic, restaurants, small gyms, barbershops and thousands of other small businesses that are struggling to keep the doors open. the rebuild virginia program has given nearly $120 million in grants to more than 2500 virginia small businesses and nonprofits to help them get through this. two thirds of those grants have gone to businesses that are minority, women or veteran owned. more than $40 million has gone to businesses in low-income areas. that money was exhausted fast, but the need is huge. this need won't around forever, but for now, it is urgent, so i am proposing to use revenue from the so-called game machines to
help small businesses. these gaming machines are inconvenienced stores, truck stops and restaurants across virginia. they bring in a lot of money, upwards of $90 million to $100 million in revenue from these taxes. the last spencer -- the last special session, we did the right thing and earmark this money for education in the event revenues slipped. well, they didn't slip, and this money can once again be used or its original purpose, to help our small businesses. that could double the number of small employers who get help, and for many, that could mean surviving instead of going under. the need is great. rebuild virginia has helped nonprofits like the blue ridge discovery center in troutdale, restaurants like the alpine chef restaurant in fredericksburg, and small businesses like the richmond barbershop, they cut to
perfection. that sounds good, doesn't it? it almost makes you feel like, i need to go there. [laughter] more businesses are in line for help, so we need to take action now. we also need to take action on broadband. broadband is as critical now as electricity was in the last century. making sure more virginians can get access to it has been a priority since i took office, and the pandemic has highlighted how urgent this is for workers, for businesses, for students or for telehealth. for the past 10 months, you have been fortunate if you have a job that can be done from home, and access to a fast internet connection to make your meetings easier and your child's virtual education possible. but if you have a job that can't be done remotely, or you live in an area where internet access is
out of reach, that you have had a very different experience during this pandemic. you have put on a mask and crossed her fingers when you go to work. you have driven your child to the public library parking lot so she can get a good enough internet signal to do her schoolwork. make no mistake, this is about equity. in 2018, we estimated 660,000 virginians didn't have access to broadband. since then, we have cut that number by 20% with projects that connected more than 130,000 homes and businesses. and we are far from finished. our budget provides $50 million each year to maintain our historic level of funding for broadband. we need to get it done. we need to take action on education.
i know that everyone, everyone wants to get our schools open and our students back to their desks, and to do it safely. so do i, so we are taking action. just yesterday, i visited tc williams high school in alexandria, were teachers and school staff are getting the covid vaccines. vaccinating teachers is dust one way we are working for the shared goal of reopening schools, and making sure students are getting for support that they need just getting the support that they need. education is the best to we have to make our commonwealth a better, more equitable place for everyone. education helps start our smallest virginians, our littlest learners, off on the right foot. it trains workers for new jobs. and when we do it right, it gives everyone access to opportunity to build the life
that they want. in this pandemic, it is especially important that we continue to invest in education so that when it is over, we are not just in a position to rebuild, we already have a strong foundation, one built not on sand, but on solid rock. that is what we are making sure that schools don't suffer harm from the challenges of this school year. that means putting $500 million into schools, to make sure they don't lose funding from drops in enrollment this year. we have reposed more than 26 million dollars to increase the number of school -- proposed more than $26 million to increase the number of school counselors and more resources for english-language learners. students need counselors now more than ever. school staff and teachers have
made great sacrifices this year. and on behalf of regina, i thank you. -- of virginia, i thank you. but our children have been champions and i want to thank them as well. they have been through a lot these past months. they have made sacrifices and endured a lot of change, and we are grateful. investing in education includes giving our teachers a pay raise. we were all proud in contee 18 to give our teachers the largest single-year pay raise in 15 years. last year, i proposed an additional 3% pay raise. that had to be cut from the budget last year. when he first proposed the bonus for teachers a few weeks ago, i said that if revenues improve enough this month, we should convert that one-time a bonus into a permanent raise. well, tonight, i have good news.
revenues look good, and we are going to have more money than we thought. we need to make this teacher bonus a race -- a raise, and make it more than 2%. [applause] i look forward working with you all to get that done. for children who have not yet entered kindergarten, i am proposing a pilot program to provide three-year-olds access to early childhood education programs and grants to address pay equity for early childhood educators. we want every child to enter kindergarten ready to learn, and to provide equal opportunities to underserved children. i want to thank my wife pam, the first lady, for her work and leadership in early childhood education. [applause]
to help people get the skills, training or education they need, particularly if they are out of work because of the pandemic, our budget invests in the g3 program, get scaled, get a job, and get back. that program helps people get tuition-free job skills training in high need feels through our community colleges -- high need fields through our community colleges and provides financial aid to help them do it. we allocated $30 million more for financial aid at public colleges and universities throughout our commonwealth, and we will increase tuition assistance grants for students at private institutions to $4000. this helps a wide range of schools like hampton university, virginia and union -- virginia union and marymount university, recently recognized as the first
hispanic-service institution in virginia. we also propose additional tuition assistance for our national guard members. i sat down with major general timothy williams last weekend told him how grateful i am for the work of our guard. he said that one thing we can do to help those guard members is to provide more access to an affordable education. our guard members have been a huge support with the pandemic, and now with the threats of violence in washington, and i look forward to working with the general assembly to get this done. we have also proposed additional assistance for public, historically-black colleges and universities. virginia state and norfolk state university, which have long been underfunded. while virginia is not immune to the economic impact of the pandemic, we are doing better than many states. they have had to lay off
workers, cut services, and borrow money to cover operating costs. but here in virginia, our finances are solid and the actions we have taken have kept our aaa bond rating secure. and while those other states are borrowing money or rating their retirement plans, we are doing the opposite. our budget proposes investing $100 million in our retirement plan for public school teachers, the state employee credit insurance program and benefits for first responders during the -- first responders with the line of duty act. this is sound fiscal policy and it means more security for our public servants. we need to take action to protect the outdoors. the pandemic is reminded us of this too. from the coast to the mountains,
virginia is simply a beautiful state, including our 40 amazing state parks. we are committed to keeping it that way, and to helping virginians and visitors enjoy all the natural beauty we have to offer. that is why our budget includes $5 million to develop more regional trails, specifically those more than 35 miles long. anyone who lives near the virginia capital trail here in richmond or the virginia creeper trail in southwest virginia knows they are great assets to a community. they are places for locals to walk or ride bicycles, and they attract visitors, and visitor dollars, from oliver. the -- from all over. the pandemic has shown us how important it is to be able to get outside. more trails means more opportunity to enjoy nature. i want to thank the general
assembly outdoor recreation caucus and senators and delegates for their work to put a spotlight on outdoor activities. we are also putting nearly $12 million into water quality, air quality and land conversation -- land conservation initiatives. this includes deq staffing, to make sure the permanent process is more robust and thorough. these are important investments to ensure that we don't fall behind in protecting these critical assets, and ensuring deq can continue to protect our natural areas. and we are investing and making it easier to move around this great commonwealth. our budget invests $50 million more in right-of-way, to open up more rail services into the roanoke area. this has been a priority for a generation.
we know it is needed. in the past decade, amtrak ridership along u.s. 29-interstate 80 has increased 77%. and the current roanoke train is the only amtrak service in virginia that covers 100% of its operating costs through ticket sales. so we need this, and it is time that we do it. we also need to keep taking action to treat people more equitably. that starts with humility and forgiveness. those are two words we don't hear much these days, but they matter. humility means acknowledging that we may have done wrong ourselves sometimes. we are all human. forgiveness is welcoming other people back after they have done wrong.
we have begun that journey, and we must keep taking action. if you break the law in virginia, you will be punished. but right now, part of the punishment follows you for the rest of your life. even after you have paid your debt to society. you lose your civil rights, like the right to vote, and you don't it them back unless the governor acts to give them back. virginia is one of just a few remaining states where, if you have a felony conviction, someone has to act to restore your civil rights vote or run for office. it is not automatic, but it should be. so i have made it a priority, restoring civil rights for more than 40,000 people, and i have pardoned more virginians than any other governor in our commonwealth history. but that shouldn't be up to one person, and you shouldn't have to ask for your basic civil
rights to be restored. so i am proposing to change virginia's constitution to make that process automatic. if we want people to return to their communities and participate in society, we need to welcome them back fully. it is wrong to keep punishing people forever. this is the right thing to do. it will take a constitutional amendment, and that will take two sessions, so i am calling tonight on the folks in the general assembly now, and the people who want to be in my position and in the general assembly next year, to please commit to doing it. it is also time to acknowledge ways that our criminal justice system treats different people in fairly -- different people unfairly. marijuana is a great example.
we know that while white people and black people use marijuana at similar rates, black people are three and a half times more likely to be charged with a crime for it. and they are almost four times as likely to be convicted. that happens because that is how the system was set up generations ago. in fact, one of the early leaders of the federal drug enforcement agency was clear that marijuana laws should be written explicitly to target people of color. and so they were. and they have been targeting people for years. it is time to join and 16 other states and make marijuana legal, and end the current system, rooted in inequity. we have done the research and we can do this the right way, leading with social equity, public health and public safety.
reforming our marijuana laws is one way to ensure that virginia is a more just state that works better for everyone. marijuana has become a cash crop that rivals tobacco, even right here in virginia. but as an illegal crop, it makes no money for virginia. by legalizing and taxing it, we can use the revenue to help communities most disproportionately impacted by the equity -- impacted by the inequities in our laws. for example, just half of the potential annual revenue could pay for two years of quality pre-k for every one of virginia 's three-year-old and four-year-olds, children who deserve the best start in life. reaching out inequities includes expunging the records of people who were convicted of this, and
certain other crimes, in the past. it is time to act during this session to have the robust debate about how to best conduct the process of expunging people's records. this will make our system more just and equal, and it needs action this session. you know, forgiveness is important. but when we all agree that a crime deserves the strongest punishment we can give, it is still vital to make sure our criminal justice system operates fairly and punishes people equitably. i know the death penalty doesn't do that. but make no mistake, if you commit the most heinous crimes, you should spend the rest of your days in prison. but here are the facts about the death penalty. virginia has executed more
people than any other state, more than 1300 people. and here is truth -- here is another truth. a person is more than three times more likely to be sentenced to death when the victim is white than when the victim is black. now, some of that is because virginia is an old state, 401 years of history. but it is also true that we are near the top of the list in the modern era too, since federal law allowed executions to return in the 1970's after a long moratorium. over that time, most countries in the world turned away from capital punishment, so what parts of the worlds continue to use capital punishment? here is a list, in order. china. i ran.
-- iran. saudi arabia. iraq. egypt. and the and i did states. but -- and that united states. but that is changing. in the u.s., 22 states have said no longer will the state take a life, even when someone has killed another. and there are a lot of reasons for that. it doesn't work as a turned. it is very expensive. and the drug companies, the pharmaceutical companies, refuse to supply the lethal chemicals. there is another important reason. what if the system gets it wrong? if you think it can't happen, you are wrong. it can happen and it has happened here in virginia. let's remember the case of earl washington. in 1984, he was convicted of capital murder. he spent 18 years in prison in virginia, including nine and a
half of them on death row. but he didn't do it. by the early to thousands -- by the early 2000s, dna technology show that he was innocent. in the time it took for the right people to look at that evidence, this innocent man came within nine days of being executed. ladies and gentlemen, we cannot do that in virginia. if 10 days had passed, we would ask ourselves today, how did virginia execute an innocent man? so for all these reasons, the death penalty is much less common in virginia than before. today, only two people are on death row. it is time to change the law and end the death penalty in
virginia. we are taking these actions because we value people, and because we believe in treating people equitably. that matters in policy and yes, in symbols. no accounting of the state of our commonwealth in 2021 would be complete without examining how we are moving away from the burden of our past. virginia's history is deeply complicated and progress has not come without struggle. the lost cause has had a long reach here. for 150 years, the confederate insurrection against the united states has been celebrated here in virginia. we started changing that last year, ending holidays that celebrate confederate leaders,
giving cities and counties the right to remove monuments, and changing the way virginia represents itself in the halls of the united states capital. it was important progress. and throughout the year, we heard the call move even faster. the people said, it is past time for these monuments, these echoes of revisionist history, to calm down. -- to come down. we saw that most clearly in our capital city and virginia's largest monument to the insurrection will soon come down. but that is just a first step. now is the time to engage the community and ask what is next? so i have proposed a plan to help our capital city reimagine what the famous monument avenue should look like as virginia consigns the confederate cause to the dustbin of history.
the virginia museum of fine arts is one of the world's leading museums and is an ideal partner in this work. it is an important step in showing who we are and what we value. another important step is in another part of our capital city. it is just outside the windows of this room, as a matter of fact, at the bottom of the hill, just a few blocks from where i am standing. virginians operated one of the country' his largest slave trading markets there in the early days of this country -- country's largest slave trading markets they are in the early days of this country. in time, it would become second only to new orleans. it was a place where virginians would sell men, women and children for profit. that is an important part of our history.
it is not pretty, but it is part of who we are. people need to know about it, and children need to learn about it. and that his heart, because right now, there are just a few small plaques around the area. so that is not enough. so i have proposed to work with the city of richmond and mayor levar stony to preserve the site known as devil's half-acre and the ground nearby. this project will turn this sacred ground into a heritage site that will tell the story of slavery and the people who experienced it. i want to thank delegate dolores mcquinn for her advocacy on behalf of this project. north of here along the potomac river, we will restore gravestones that were taken from columbian harmony seminary, a historic african-american burial
ground in the district of columbia. people buried there included one of d.c.'s first black policeman, many black union army veterans, a confident of -- a confidant of mary todd lincoln, the two sons of abolitionist frederick douglass, and philip reed, who helped create the statue of freedom atop the u.s. capitol dome. in the 1960's, this cemetery was moved to make way for commercial development. the grave markers were dumped or sold for scrap stone, a dehumanizing act. and that was part of the goal. today, they are being used as rocks to protect erosion on the potomac river. it is time to change this. and i want to thank senator richard stewart for his leadership on this issue.
and in our nation's capital, we have removed the confederate statue that represented virginia for more than a century. soon, civil rights pioneer barbara johns, who fought to right the wrongs of racism, will represent virginia there. that is thanks in large part to the work of senator louise lucas and delegate ward, thank you so much for your leadership. [applause] they told me this work was one of the most important experiences of their legislative career. thanks are also due to congressman donald mceachin and congresswoman jennifer west. let's get this done this year together. we honor barbara johns for her work to integrate public schools in virginia, but at the same
time, virginia also continues to celebrate a man who worked against integration. yes, democrat harry byrd, the architect of massive resistance which closed public schools to children like barbara johns. it is time to stop this celebration too, and remove this monument from this capitol square. [applause] one week from now, this nation will inaugurate our next president, joe biden. and just one week ago, a mob of domestic terrorists stormed our nation's capital. they were egged on by conspiracy theories and lies from a president who could not accept losing. their goal was simple -- overturn a legal and fair
election. those were scenes i don't believe any of us ever expected to see in our lifetime, but none of that just happened. none of it was an accident. and nothing about it was spontaneous. those who want a government that serves only themselves, they don't care about democracy, and they will always come with violence to try to end it. so tonight, i say to every elected official in virginia, you can be part of our democratic institutions or you can use falsehoods to try to destroy them, but you can't do both. words have consequences. inflammatory rhetoric is dangerous. this is not a game. when elected leaders purposely
reject facts and truth and fan the flames of conspiracy, all in pursuit of power, they are taking dangerous steps. we have now seen where those steps can lead. god for bid we see anything worse. we have a duty to tell the truth. voters deserve the truth, even when it is hard to hear, not lies that will comfort them. because as we saw last week, lies do not quell outrage, they encourage it, and that creates real damage. americans are better than this, and i pray that we all can summon the better angels of our nature in this new year. i also pray that we take action.
people are hurting, and they sent us here to do a job. they are counting on us. we can do a great deal of good this session. i'm excited to get to work with all of you so we can keep making progress in and for this commonwealth. a wise man once wrote, "adversity does not build character, it reveals it." the adversity of the past 10 months has revealed a strong, resilient virginia. virginians have lost a great deal, jobs, livelihoods and unfortunately, loved ones. but we are still here. we are poised and ready to rebound. we have laid a strong foundation
for our self-sustaining government services you rely on, using pandemic funds to help our neighbors get through this, using targeted investments in our long-term success. we are moving past the burdens of our history, taking action to shape a virginia reflects who we are and what we value. we step into this new year with a lot of hope that the vaccines will end this pandemic, that we can get back to normal life and that we can return to a time when government was just part of the background noise of daily life, not the top headlines. but i hope we don't just move back to those times when this crisis is over. i hope we move forward with a new understanding of what is important, things like hugging people, sending our children to
school every day, work lunches, concerts, all the experiences that we missed. we need to remember that we care about each other. we have learned a lot in this past year, but the main thing is that we are all connected. what i do affects you, and what you do affects me. we are one virginia and we need to keep taking care of each other. i am so proud of the state of our commonwealth and the foundation we have built to get through this pandemic and recover in a way that is equitable and fair. and i am proud of you, virginia. you have made this the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world and together, we are shaping a virginia that once again leads the nation. so now, let's get to work.
thank you, all. and may god bless our country and the commonwealth of virginia. good evening, and thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ >> you are watching c-span, your unfiltered view of government. c-span was created by merrick's cable television companies in 1979. today, we are brought to you by these television companies that provide c-span to viewers as a public service. ♪ >> president-elect joe biden today will be talking about his
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where the new president plans to take the country. jfk's and doctoral, there was a feeling of freshness and turning the page on an older generation toward bringing in a new one. you get that sense for inaugural spirit this is going to be an opportunity for president-elect biden to offer what he thinks the tone of this moment ought to be. >> if you look at inaugural address is history, the best ones, the most effective are the ones in which the new president points forward and really talks about his agenda, not necessarily in great specificity, because you don't have the time, but point clearly and confidently forward. governor northam: presidential inaugural -- >> presidential inaugural addresses sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. >>