As prepared for delivery— I stand before you today as a proud member of the Congressional Black Caucus and former speaker of the California state assembly. Forty-seven years ago, in the face of opposition from those who said states should have the right to discriminate, America passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
People of all races, religions, and backgrounds joined together and fought for that law because every one of us deserves a fair shake and a fair chance at achieving our version of the American dream. The right to vote gives us the power to take our future into our own hands.
We must use that power today, so that we do not lose it tomorrow. Today, one of the darkest shadows of the past century is creeping into this one: one of our most basic rights—the right to vote, a right that we fought for and won—is under attack.
Throughout the union, governors and legislators have proposed or passed laws to make it more difficult for individuals to cast their ballots. We must build and be part of a nation where "justice" isn't just a catch phrase, but embodies the equality and fairness that our nation's founders envisioned.
More than 41 years ago, when the Congressional Black Caucus was founded, that was our charge, and it still is—a vote and a voice in choosing our leaders, passing our laws and setting the course for our nation. And for the future we seek, a future of greater opportunity for all of us, we stand with President Obama in setting that path forward.
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(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)