Benedict College Columbia, South Carolina October 25 2:40 P.M. EDT
Two great gentlemen. Thank you very much. And thank you all. Please, sit down.
We love you, President! (Applause.)
Thank you very much. And I want to thank Representative Donalds. There's somebody with a future. (Laughter.) I don't know if I'd trade him - that future - for the age. I'd love to pick up that age. That was a good age. But he's got a tremendous future ahead of him.
And a very special thanks to Matthew Charles. I saw him on television the first time when he had so much difficulty trying to get something that he was really entitled to. And I looked at that smile. That smile is infectious, and he's a great gentleman and we're very proud of him.
And I'm very proud of being involved with criminal justice reform and getting it done, getting it passed. And we had a lot of votes that normally wouldn't have gone that way. And they really - they were pushing me, some of them, at the end. And we have some of the folks here: Tim Scott and Lindsey. They're here. But I'm going to introduce them in a little while.
But we had tremendous help. This was a bipartisan bill. We had a lot of support on both sides. And people that you would've least expected really helped us a lot. So, they've been trying to get this passed for many, many years.
But to everyone at the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center: It's my great privilege to speak with you today, and my true honor to receive the Bipartisan Justice Award. I am very, very grateful for that. And it will be at a very high level in the Oval Office - a place called the Oval Office. Have you heard about that? (Applause.) It'll be right in the Oval Office with me. I'm very proud of it. Thank you.
I also want to thank everyone from one of our nation's incredible HBCUs - I've been working with them - Benedict College. We know Benedict College. (Applause.) And especially your very dynamic president, Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis. (Applause.) Where are you? Where is Doctor? Where are you?
And the outstanding students who are joining us today. You are outstanding and you have a tremendous future. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
We're thrilled to be on your campus and to celebrate all that we have achieved together and to discuss the actions that we're taking to build a future of safety and opportunity and fairness for all Americans.
Four years ago, 20 African American Republicans and 20 African American Democrats founded the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center to advance the cause of criminal justice reform. And I'd heard about it for so long and it was going nowhere. Nowhere. But they all got together, and you fought to fix a broken system. You sought to confront inequality and stop injustice. And you worked to restore hope and optimism where they are really needed the most and where there was very little.
With your help, last year we brought the whole country together to achieve a truly momentous milestone. They said it couldn't be done. Past administrations had tried and failed. Some didn't try very hard. I will sell- - I will say that. But they tried and they failed.
After years of waiting, we assembled a historic coalition. And it was indeed historic. We had them so liberal you wouldn't believe it, and so conservative you wouldn't believe it. And they got together. I said, "How did we do that one?" But it was a beautiful thing to watch. It really was.
And we rallied activists, and faith leaders, and law enforcement, and lawmakers alike. We worked across party lines very strongly.
After all of the work and effort, we passed the bill and I proudly signed it into law - the most significant criminal justice reform in many generations.
We call it the FIRST STEP Act. I sort of liked the idea of just calling it "Criminal Justice Reform." But FIRST STEP is good because that allows a second step and a third step. And that's okay because we can go there, too. (Applause.)
But the FIRST STEP Act proved that we can achieve amazing breakthroughs when we come together as a nation and we put the interests of our citizens before the interests of any political party.
Since we passed this landmark legislation, 10 states have followed our lead and passed legislation that takes critical steps to advance criminal justice reform at the state level. We gave it a beautiful stepping stone. And some states have come and they've really taken it to a level that you'd be very proud of. And it's only because of what we did that they were able to do it legally and in many other ways.
So I want to say congratulations to all of the leaders here today from Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Tennessee. Congratulations. Great job. Really great job. (Applause.)
We're also grateful to all of the mayors, city council members, and state legislators who are fighting for reform in your own communities. I especially want to thank the South Carolina leaders. And I have their names written down; there are so many of them. I'll do this before you, Henry. Is that okay? I want to introduce our great governor. They love Henry. (Applause.) They might like Peggy more, but that's okay. But we'll do this first.
State Senator - and they've helped so much - and President of the Senate, Harvey Peeler. Harvey? Where are you, Harvey? Thank you, Harvey. (Applause.)
State Senator Gerald Malloy. Gerald, thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
State Senator Katrina Shealy. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) I thought you were over there.
And statehouse members: Speaker Jay Lucas. Jay? Thank you, Jay. Thank you, Jay. (Applause.) Majority Leader Gary Simrill. Gary, thank you. (Applause.) And all members: Brandon Newton, Mike Burns, Bill Chumley, Peter McCoy, Sylleste Davis, Chris Murphy, Bobby Cox, Alan Clemmons. I want to just thank all of you for being here. And I'm sure that we probably left some out and they'll never speak to me again. You see? (Laughter.) But all we can do is try.
I have all these names written down. And they've worked very hard, and they've worked hard. And I said they really have to be mentioned because they've been tremendous supporters of all of us. So thank you all for being here. We appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)
With us this afternoon is a very special friend of mine. He was with me from day one, before it was fashionable. (Laughter.) And he picked a winner. It's like going to a horse race, isn't it? (Laughter.) He picked a winner. But he had good feelings, and he was tremendously loyal friend and he's a great governor. And he's become more and more popular. I never want to see his approval rating go above mine; otherwise, we'll have to come in and give it one slightly negative speech - (laughter) - about Henry McMaster. Thank you, Henry. (Applause.)
And also, please, Peggy McMaster, First Lady. Congratulations on a job well done. Thank you, Peggy. She has been by his side - I'll tell you. Thank you very much, both. Great job you're doing, too, as governor.
Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette. Pamela, thank you. Pamela Evette, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
And Alan Wilson is here someplace. Alan? Alan? Thank you, Alan. Great job, Alan. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Two friends of mine that are warriors - really, warriors. Two great people. And you have them both. They're senators and they fight. And somebody just said, Lindsey, we're up to 50 already and we - I haven't even made a phone call. Fifty. Fifty out of fifty-three. And they said, "If you get to 40, that's pretty good, if you haven't done anything." But we're up to 50. I don't know if you've heard that, Lindsey. Did you hear that? And Tim said that was going to happen.
But two really great men. They love your state and they love the people of this country. They love our country. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. Could you please - (applause). Thank you, fellas. Thank you.
All I can say is, thank goodness they're on my side - (laughter) - because if they weren't, I'd have big trouble, right? They're warriors. They really are. They've done so many different things: tax cuts and all of the things we've done for our military, and Choice. Military Choice. They were right in there. And, Tim and Lindsey, you never let the people down. Forget about me; you never let the people down. Thank you very much. Great job. (Applause.)
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