Good Morning. I'm Congressman Jim Clyburn, Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives. I am honored to give this week's Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address.
During the month of February, we celebrate the vast contributions of African Americans to our country. It is part of our honoring the diversity that makes us who and what we are as a nation.
In the words of Maya Angelou, "Diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color," reminding us to embrace our differences and recognize the strength they add to the overall fabric of our nation.
The House Democratic Caucus is a microcosm of that diversity. Our Caucus is made up of seven distinct caucuses — the Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, the Blue Dogs, Progressives, New Democrats, Women's Caucus and Asian Pacific Islanders. We are former doctors, teachers, minimum wage workers, small business owners, union members, soldiers, and first responders. We are Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and Buddhists.
As Majority Whip, the person in charge of gathering the votes to pass bills through the House, I know first-hand the difficulty of bringing the diverse views of these groups together to support a common agenda, but I believe that diversity is the great strength of our Caucus.
The Democratic Caucus values the exchange of different ideas. It was the diverse ideas and perspectives of our Caucus that came together to develop our successful First 100 Hours agenda.
This agenda was the Democrats' immediate response to the call for change by the American people.
In the first 100 hours of the legislative session, we ushered through broad reform measures and a widely bipartisan legislative package that honored the promises we made during the campaign season. It was not a Black agenda or Hispanic agenda. It was not an Asian agenda or a middle-class agenda. Yet it was all those agendas because it was an American agenda.
We approved an ethics package and put new House rules in place to restore the public trust in Congress. We passed legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations to strengthen our national security.
We raised the minimum wage for the first time in a decade. We passed legislation to expand stem cell research and allow the government to negotiate lower drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
We cut interest rates on student loans and directed subsidies for big oil companies to investments in renewable energy.
The first 100 hours began a New Direction for America under new leadership in Congress, leadership that reflects the diverse vision, experience and values of the American people.
In the coming days, we plan to tackle the tough issues that face our country — we will conduct oversight of the Administration's conduct of the war in Iraq and seek a de-escalation of combat, and redeployment of our troops.
We will tackle the threat of global warming and our reliance on foreign oil by investing in renewable energy and home-grown American- owned biofuel energy.
We will face up to the challenge of emerging world economies with our Innovation Agenda which includes investments in education, research and development, and small business growth. And we will relieve the burden on future generations of a large and growing federal debt by paying for programs or tax cuts we implement and balancing the budget.
The challenges and promise of America's future are great. To be successful in our efforts to move this nation in a New Direction this Congress must rely on the diverse views and experiences of its membership to help us craft an agenda over the next 100 days and weeks that will address the needs of the American people.
The rich tapestry of this nation, and its reflection in the current Congress, is our greatest asset.
We must always remember, especially as we celebrate Black History month, and next month Women's History, and all the other weeks and moths we celebrate each other's backgrounds and heritages, that each of us is a thread with equal value that when woven together become strong and vibrant.
Working together, America can do better and we will.
I'm House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and I thank you for listening.