Congress Needs to Act, No Time for Politics As Usual
MICHIGAN–(ENEWSPF)–February 7, 2016. Hillary Clinton spoke at a community meeting with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in Flint, Michigan, today where she heard firsthand from local residents about the water crisis that is harming families and what our leaders need to do to fix it. Clinton urged the Republican-controlled Senate to approve the Senate Democrats’ initiative to help Flint.
In her remarks, Clinton said “This is not merely unacceptable or wrong, though it is both. What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children in any other part of America.”
A full transcript of her remarks as delivered are below.
“Well, this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. You know, it doesn’t get much better than being in a House of Prayer. Introduced by your great pastor, who hails from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. It’s a small world, but great world. I am so grateful to Pastor Stewart, to this congregation for giving me the chance to come to say a few words that are in my heart about this community. And I want to thank and lift up your mayor—a mayor who is a true servant leader, someone who is working every way she knows how to provide the help and support that all the people of Flint deserve to have, and in particular the children of this community.
I feel blessed to be here with you, wishing it were for a different reason. I wish I was here only to celebrate the good things that are happening in this church and in this community–young people starting out for themselves as community leaders, working to bring the city together, the ministers that guide you in faith and worship. I am here because for almost two years, Flint’s water was poisoned. I’m here because for nearly two years, mothers and fathers were voicing concerns about the water’s color, the smell, the rashes it gave to those bathing in it. For nearly two years, you were told, Flint was told the water was safe.
I have just met with two young mothers who have told me the stories of their experiences and particularly what has happening to their children. ER visits that had never occurred before, strange behavior that had never been a problem before. Worries about what’s down the road in terms of the development and life of these precious children. One young woman said, I’m not supposed to be talking to my friends about how much medication we’re taking, what kind of stresses we’re under, but that’s what we talk about now.
I thank the elected officials that are here, the pastor asked them to stand, and I appreciate the work they do greatly at the city, the county and the federal level. I had the opportunity to be with my friend and your Senator, Debbie Stabenow, who is working hard, along with your other Senator, Gary Peters, and the Congressmen who are here as well, Congressmen Kildee and Levin and others, to try to get support and help from the federal government. But I want you to know that this has to be a national priority, not just today or tomorrow. Clean water is not optional, my friends. It is not a luxury. I said weeks ago, if the same thing that’s happening in Flint had happened in Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Hills, I think we all know that we would’ve had a solution yesterday.
This is not merely unacceptable or wrong, though it is both. What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children in any other part of America. They are just as deserving of good health care, a good education, and of bright futures. My first job out of law school was working for the most extraordinary Marion Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund. I went to work there because I believed because of the lessons and examples of my mother and my church, that every child, every single child, should have the chance to live up to his or her god given potential in this country of ours. We don’t yet know how many children have been affected by lead poisoning. We don’t yet know how many challenges they might face in the years ahead. But what we do know, we know that even a single child suffering lead poisoning due to the state’s neglect is one child too many.
And we also know we need action now. Not next month, next year, down the road–we need action now. Senator Stabenow and Peters, and your other congressional representatives are working to pass an amendment to get $200 million dollars to fix Flint’s water infrastructure. Congress needs to pass that bill immediately. This is no time for politics as usual. Flint should be able to start making the repairs you need to restore safe water as soon as possible. But it’s not only the physical infrastructure that needs to be fixed. It’s the human beings. We need to do so much more to provide health care and educational supports for Flint’s children. To test for lead and its effects on an ongoing basis and treat them. You can’t just take one test and know you’re safe. We need to make sure Flint’s kids are getting good nutrition, to help counter the effects of the lead. We need to expand Early Head Start, nurse home visiting programs, special education funding, all of which must be used to address the damage that lead poisoning can cause. I have seen for myself, my friends, the incredible things these programs can do. For eight years, I represented New York.
Our problem with lead poisoning in New York was not the water, it was the lead based paint on the old houses that people lived in. It was the crumbling, turning into dust of that. It was little toddlers, crawling on the floor, picking things up, licking things as babies do. It was breathing it. And we had in so many places, especially in New England and the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest with a lot of older housing stock and a lot of challenges, we had problems. So as a Senator I fought for children struggling to bear heavy burdens, and I will fight for you in Flint, no matter how long it takes.
We also need to repair the bonds of trust that have been broken here in Flint. That means giving you transparent information about every part of the response to this crisis. The people of this community should know what the plan is for repairing the infrastructure, when the work will be done in your neighborhood. You should know whether you need to replace pipes and fixtures in your own homes. And I also, as the Mayor and I were just talking, I want to figure out if there is some way that we can empower and hire citizens of Flint to do the work that needs to be done in this city.
And in addition, I think we should send a lot more Americorps volunteers to come here as we put young people to work in Flint, working side by side with those who are part of the national service, of our federal government, realizing that yes, this is problem that affects Flint, but I dare say there are other communities with similar problems. This is not the only place where children are being harmed by what they breathe and what they drink. And you should have all the information you need to know what this means for your children and grandchildren, what’s true about what lead poisoning and what isn’t, what the challenges are, what you could do to help and where you can turn to help.
Now I know this is going to take time and it’s not going to be easy. But repairing trust is as important as repairing pipes. We need to be able to lift each other up again, we have to trust each other, to count on each other to truly be our brother’s and our sister’s keepers. When I first heard about what was happening here, I was so angry. I was outraged. And I know you must feel exactly the same. When I talked to those three young women before coming out here, when I looked at the children of one of them, I was just heartsick. You try to do everything right, don’t you?
As a parent and a grandparent you want the best for those children that are such gifts and something out of your control that you think you could trust has made it so much harder, has erected obstacles where there weren’t any before. I wanted to come today and support your mayor and other officials who are fighting for you, also to support the faith community, which I know Pastor, will have to play a big role in working to get information out and helping to organize people and trying to empower members of congregations. And I want you to understand that this is, for me, a personal commitment. I will stand with you every step of the way. I will not for one minute forget about you or forget about your children, I will do everything I can to help you get back up, to get your strength and resilience flowing through this community again, because what happened here should never have happened anywhere.
As you may know, I am now a grandmother and it is the best experience ever. And I am lucky enough that my daughter and son-in-law send me pictures all the time, because when I cannot see her I miss her so much. And I was looking as some of those pictures on my phone as I was coming here this morning. And I literally could not imagine what I would be feeling if that little face I was looking at was one of the faces of the children that you know and love so well.
So I want to thank those who have been calling for action for so long, your Mayor, the mothers, the fathers, Dr. Mona, Marc Edwards, Senator Stabenow and Peters, Congressman Kildee, all who are working to try to get the help that you need. I also want to encourage Americans across our country and I’m pleased that the press is here because we need to keep the spotlight bright. And I want to encourage Americans to donate Flintkids.org and other organizations as a way of helping. I want to single out a group that came to my attention. Inmates at Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia have pledged as much as a third of their monthly prison incomes. They want to help you buy filters and bottled water. They don’t earn much but they are moved to help this city.
We know we need more action, do not grow weary doing good, do not get discouraged, do not give up, the road is long and I know that there will be a lot of bumps along its way, but this is the most important work we are ever called to do, to reach out in every way we can no matter who we are, to lend that helping hand, that support, that love, that sense of possibility again for every single person in Flint.
I will be there with you, and I will make sure in any way I can that America stays with you too. And I look forward to coming back to Flint, to seeing this community rise, rise again, rise with determination, resilience, support, service, leadership, we can do this. Let’s make sure we take care of the people of Flint and give every child a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. Thank you all and God bless you.”
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