Remarks by Barbra Streisand
Thank you. Thank you, Speaker Gephardt, for that kind introduction
and for coming all the way fromWashington with your busy schedule
to present me with this award. You’ve been a great leader inCongress
who’s done so much for the working people of this country and we’re
all looking forward toyour being the next Speaker of the House. I
promise never to write the Democrats a challengingletter again – at
least for a couple of weeks.
don’t like giving speeches. First, I don’t know what to say. Then
I want to say too much. ButI’m here tonight for one reason: I’m
a sucker for Jesse.
represents meaning to me because he doesn’t duck the hard case.
Against segregation in theSouth. Against racial profiling in the
North. Against apartheid in South Africa. For a livingwage. For
opening locked doors and lifting glass ceilings. For voting rights
– and for countingevery vote – even in Florida. For this,
he’s been vilified and scalded in the press. But he’sstood up,
made his case, marched and protested with passion and poetry –
and one thing for sure,he’s made America better.
I was making Yentl, I learned that the wise men who wrote the
Talmud believed it was ok toargue with God …be angry with God
…wrestle with God. What they didn’t want you to be wasindifferent
to God. Indifference was unacceptable then. And indifference is
is certainly true as our nation wrestles with serious issues that
can no longer be ignored -even in wartime. Across the country,
Americans have come together in the face of the tragedy ofSeptember
11th. In responding to that horror, we all became brothers and
sisters, where there wasno discrimination, no racial or national
divides. That day, ironically, brought out the best inpeople.
With lives on the line, people understood that the soul has no
color…that inside we’re allthe same. We saw the possibility,
as one rabbi put it, of the “Re-United States of America.”
the country stands united behind our president because we need
him to succeed. We all praythat President Bush gets good advice
and makes wise decisions. But heartfelt patriotism does notmean
we already see efforts to stifle independent thought and free
speech. I’ve even heard thatcertain right-wing commentators and
editors have announced that they were forming an organization
topolice the press. Bill Maher was threatened as host of Politically
Incorrect for being…politicallyincorrect. Professors and journalists’
jobs are under review simply for criticizing U.S. policy.
House press spokesman Ari Fleisher first warned that “We should
watch what we say,” as ifdemocratic debate were a threat to the
war on terrorism. But Fleisher had it backwards: We wagethe war
on terrorism precisely to defend the right to democratic debate.
now it’s particularly important to speak out, because the sudden
shift from peace and prosperityto war and recession raises fundamental
questions about the direction of our country.
this: Over 800,000 people have lost their jobs since September
11 and only one-third ofthem are eligible for unemployment insurance.
recessions, the federal government usually steps in, extends unemployment
benefits, and helps putpeople back to work. But in today’s Washington,
the Republican-controlled House passed a stimulusbill that contains
almost nothing for the unemployed, yet includes 25 billion in
retroactive taxcuts for big corporations. It’s the reverse Robin
Hood theory – take from the poor and give to therich. IBM would
get $1.4 billion… GM, $833 million … and Enron, whose executives
are among thepresident’s leading donors, would get $254 million
– if it stays in business long enough to collectit. That isn’t
a stimulus, it’s a scandal.
doesn’t make sense. We’re spending a billion dollars a month on
the war. We’ve got realdomestic security needs that have to be
met. We passed the last set of tax cuts, and now thePresident’s
own budget director says we’re looking at deficits for as long
as the eye can see, asthe Democrats predicted, I might add! The
country can’t afford these tax cuts. And it can’t affordindifference
September 11th, a lot of us took down articles and ads critical
of the president. Congressional Democrats embraced bipartisan
unity. Yet, only 10 days later, the Wall Street Journalurged
the president to use the crisis to force through the entire conservative
agenda – upper endtax cuts, oil drilling in ANWR, fast track,
even conservative judges – the full catastrophe. Sincethen, the
Republican Congress has tried to do just that. Attorney General
Ashcroft has gone evenfurther, claiming unprecedented police powers
in the name of national security.
he’s even got Bill Safire scared! All of us want this nation to
be safer. But you can’tdefend America by attacking the very rights
and liberties that we’re fighting for.
isn’t it a little hypocritical to suspend people’s rights, yet
not allow the FBI to checkwhether suspected terrorists have purchased
guns? It doesn’t make sense!
why is this administration cloaked in secrecy…from the Cheney
energy task force meetings, toissuing an executive order locking
up historical presidential papers that, by law, were set to bereleased
to the public? What is there to hide?
say it’s time for our representatives in Congress – even those
afraid of not being re-elected -and for our citizen leaders, for
each and everyone one of us to stand up and speak out. This is
nota question of party, but of principle.
worrisome is that too many people of conscience are biting their
tongues, fearing they’ll beperceived as unpatriotic. In fact,
we need to forcefully engage the argument about what makesAmerica
… America, the country we all love. Do we want corporate tax
giveaways, or help for theunemployed. Opening public lands to
oil companies and logging interests, or renewable energy andconservation.
An America where elections end up in the courts, or where election
reform insuresthat every vote is counted. A justice department
and judiciary that threatens a woman’s right tochoose and the
elderly’s right to a dignified exit, or a renewed commitment to
the freedom of choiceand liberty in a time of crisis.
have the debate. We can argue about this, wrestle with this…but
we can’t be indifferent tothis. I know it’s difficult to criticize
the administration in a time of war. But this is aboutour future…about
protecting the very essence of our democracy…freedom of speech.
Our leadersshouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth, even if it
is temporarily unpopular. As Dr. King said, “Truth crushed to the
earth will rise again.” Truth works. Truth has its own force.
Trutheventually wins out.
that’s another reason I’m a sucker for Jesse. All of his life,
he’s acted with the faith thatif Americans heard the truth, they
would choose the right path. And there’s no better time to testthat
belief than now.
belated birthday, Jesse. You’re a giant of our times. Thank you,
and Rainbow Push, for thishonor, and thank you all for being here.