Apr 30, 2021
Joe Biden Speech Amtrak 50th Anniversary Transcript April 30
President Joe Biden gave a speech at Amtrak’s 50th anniversary event on April 30, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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Bill Flynn: (00:13)
Good afternoon. I’m Bill Flynn, CEO of Amtrak. Joining me here today are our Amtrak Chairman of the Board, Mr. Tony Coscia, Board Director, Mr. Bert DiClemente, and several other members of our senior management team. We welcome you here to our 50th anniversary celebration.
Bill Flynn: (00:35)
On May 1st, 1971, the first Amtrak train rolled out of New York City en route to Philadelphia where we’re gathered here today. Certainly at that time, no one could have imagined what would lay ahead. Today we’re here representing our more than 18,000 dedicated employees. They operate a national system serving over more than 500 destinations across 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces. We have tens of millions of loyal Amtrak customers. I’m honored to be joined here today by perhaps one of Amtrak’s most loyal customers, the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden. Mr. President, I thank you for being here to mark this milestone with us and for your tremendous support of Amtrak throughout your career of serving our nation.
Bill Flynn: (01:35)
The American Jobs Plan, which includes $80 billion for rail, is just what the country needs as we built for the future. America needs a rail network that offers frequent, reliable, sustainable, and equitable train service. Amtrak has the vision and the expertise to deliver it. Now, we need Congress to provide the funding for the next 50 years. Our vision includes expanding rail service to connect to up to 160 new communities throughout the United States by building new and improved corridors in over 25 states. As part of this comprehensive plan, Amtrak will introduce new stations in over half of the United States, increase rail service to 47 of our top 50 metropolitan areas and create over half a million new jobs, new well-paying jobs.
Bill Flynn: (02:32)
But, we’re not stopping there. We’re investing in our fleet. Last week, we announced the procurement of 83 intercity train sets, which will operate on the Northeast Corridor and various state-supported and long distance routes. We will soon debut the new high-speed of Acela train sets, setting the stage for the next generation of train travel in America and on our Northeast Corridor.
Bill Flynn: (02:58)
We’re investing in our stations. In January, with our partnership with the state of New York, we opened Moynihan Train Hall, Amtrak’s new home in New York City, a world-class station providing an enhanced customer experience. We are advancing station modernization projects in other major cities, Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore, and right here in Philadelphia.
Bill Flynn: (03:26)
We’re investing in our infrastructure. We are making important strides on vital infrastructure projects up and down the Northeast Corridor. Projects such as our Gateway Program and the rebuilding and replacement of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. Planned infrastructure projects will increase track capacity, improve ride quality and offer greater reliability. All of these projects are investments in our future, but they’re also investments in our planet. Amtrak provides a more sustainable mode of travel and demand for rail travel will continue to grow. In fact, traveling on Amtrak emits up to 83% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than by driving and up to 73% fewer GHGs than by flying.
Bill Flynn: (04:14)
We have a truly dedicated workforce at Amtrak that carries on the legacy of the railroaders who served before them and who take great pride in connecting America. It’s because of our employees that Amtrak serves a vital role in our country’s mobility strategy. We continue to see their important contributions play out in real time as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. When the world stopped in many ways due to the spread of the coronavirus, our employees, really indeed all transportation employees, made sure America kept moving. They were on the front lines every day, providing the essential transportation services to those who needed it. Now more than ever, Amtrak is ready to provide the safe journey that travelers are seeking as our nation recovers from the effects of this pandemic.
Bill Flynn: (05:08)
It’s been an honor to lead Amtrak during this critical time. I come from a railroad family like so many other fellow Amtrak colleagues do. My father and uncle were both locomotive engineers. My brother David was an Amtrak conductor and local union chair with over 40 years of service. My brother Brian works at Amtrak now with over 15 years of service to the company. These connections deepen my pride in Amtrak and my commitment to further Amtrak’s important mission to serve our country.
Bill Flynn: (05:39)
We have much to celebrate today and more to look forward to in the future. In closing, I’d like to thank those who paved the way. We owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. I salute the men and women who make up Amtrak workforce, our partners, political leaders on both sides of the aisle and our many stakeholders whose tireless efforts keep our railroad running. Of course, to our customers. Thank you for your continued support.
Bill Flynn: (06:06)
Get ready, America. While Amtrak may be turning 50, we’re just getting started. Now it’s my pleasure to welcome to the podium, Mr. Blake Weaver, who’s an Amtrak conductor here in Philadelphia who will introduce the President. Thank you. Blake.
Blake Weaver: (06:36)
Thank you, Mr. Flynn. I too am part of a railroad, sorry. I too am part of a railroad family. My father was a conductor for over 40 years and I’ve been one for the last 18. I joined Amtrak on President’s Day in 2004 as assistant conductor. After a couple of years, I was promoted to conductor. I can honestly say I love what I do.
Blake Weaver: (07:02)
I like having the opportunity of working with my co-workers to serve Amtrak’s customers up and down the Northeast Corridor to get them safely and on time to where they’re going. I’m proud of Amtrak’s mission and especially proud of how hard they worked during this pandemic in keeping essential passengers across America moving. I’m also excited to see the rest of our passengers back on our trains. I’m very excited to see them on our brand new Acela Express sets.
Blake Weaver: (07:31)
One of my first lessons my father taught me as a conductor was to lookout for one of Amtrak’s most frequent riders, Senator Joe Biden. In 2006, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Biden on the train while collecting tickets. Before I had a chance to introduce myself, Mr. Biden stopped what he was working on, invited me to sit down to talk to him for a few minutes. I always remembered how he treated everyone. He always made time for both the passengers and the employees. He also treated everyone like they were family.
Blake Weaver: (08:04)
So Mr. President, I would like to thank you for all the support you have given Amtrak. I would like you to thank for all the miles you added up over the years. I’d like to thank you for being part of the Amtrak family. I would like to thank you for being part of my family. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to introduce the President of the United States of America, Mr. Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (08:25)
Hello, everyone. Great to be back in Philly. Great to be back to 30th Street Station. Blake, we didn’t treat each other like family, we are family. Please sit down, guys, sit down. Your dad, Greg, is here too. As far as I’m concerned, the Weavers are family. Justin Gray, speaking of family, your father and I fought a lot of fights together, planned a lot of those fights on Amtrak coming back to Philly. I didn’t come all the way to Philly. It’s a wonderful tribute to this station to bear his name. Bill Flynn, thank you for having me.
President Joe Biden: (09:42)
Governor Wolf, Mayor Kenney, Congressman Evans, thank you for the passport into the city. I appreciate it. We have another, I don’t know if they’re all here still, but I met a lot of really important friends that were here for this occasion. I understand Senator Blumenthal is here. There you go. One of the great senators, former attorney general, took care of my son, Beau, when he was attorney general. Thank you very much. Also, Dwight Evans, Dwight’s here. You can’t miss Dwight. Come on, Dwight. Stand up here, man.
President Joe Biden: (10:13)
A good friend of mine and worked like the devil to get me elected, Brendan Boyle, Brendan. That’s the Irish of it, man. Donald Payne, New Jersey. I keep telling Donald, because Delaware is so small, there was a case in the Supreme Court, Delaware, the state of, owns the Delaware River up to the high watermark in New Jersey. I just wants you to know that. You got to treat this with more respect. Mayor Kenney, thanks for the passport, great friend. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. You’re doing a heck of a job. A real close, close friend who was a co-chairman of my campaign and just a great friend our whole time, Governor Ed Rendell. Eddie, thank you, pal. This city owes you a lot.
President Joe Biden: (11:00)
Tony Casa, the chairman of the board, and one of my best friends in life, a guy named Bert DiClemente. We’ve known each other from high school. We went to rival high schools. Bert ran my operation in Delaware for years and years. The one election I got the most votes in was the last selection I ran for the Senate. I was also running for vice president at the time, because under Delaware law, if you’re not out of the Senate race in a certain time period, you got to stay in. So Bert ran. He was the Senator in Delaware campaigning for me. He got more votes than I got. So Bert, thank you very much. Also, Justin Gray. I’ve mentioned Justin already and his dad and Greg Weaver Jr., Greg, you are family. [I mentioned 00:11:48] Blake is family and Mary Kate, what a lovely kid and Bill Flynn of Amtrak.
President Joe Biden: (11:53)
You know, folks, the fact is that in the past, when I’ve ended up at the 30th Street Station, Amtrak station, it’s probably because I took the late train back from Washington and I slept through the Delaware stop. Literally, not figuratively. I only did it about four times, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.
President Joe Biden: (12:17)
It’s an honor to celebrate Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. I look forward to a bright future for all American rail. Back in 2016, I announced the federal loan that allowed Amtrak to purchase the new Acela trains, those sets that you see behind me. They look great. I can hardly wait to ride. They’re made in America and I wanted to see more of that. That’s why the investments in my American Jobs Plan are guided by one principle, buy American. Buy products who are made in America. American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products to create American jobs.
President Joe Biden: (12:56)
When I became Vice President, one of the Capitol Hill newspapers estimated that I had taken more than 7,000 round trips in Amtrak over my career. I think that’s an exaggeration. I’m going to rely on those two conductors that, Mr. Weaver will remember. One of them was a guy named Angelo Negri. Angelo, there was an article I guess my fourth or fifth year as vice president, saying, “Biden travels 1,300,000 miles on Air Force One.” The Secret Service didn’t like it, but I used to like to take the train home. My mom was sick and I’d try to come home almost every weekend as vice-president to see her. I was getting on the train and Angelo Negri came up and he goes, “Joey, baby.” He grabbed my cheek and started to squeeze it like he always did.
President Joe Biden: (13:53)
I thought, “He’s going to get shot.” I’m serious.
President Joe Biden: (13:57)
I said, “No, no, he’s a friend.”
President Joe Biden: (13:58)
He said, “Joey, what’s the big deal? A 1,200,000, 300,000 miles on Air Force Two. You know how many miles you’ve traveled on Amtrak?”
President Joe Biden: (14:07)
I said, “No, Angelo. I don’t know.”
President Joe Biden: (14:09)
He gave me the calculation and he said, “You traveled 1,515,000 miles on Amtrak.” The fact is I’d probably take Angelo’s word before I took the word of what the article said. But the point is, in the process, as Conductor Weaver will tell you, Amtrak became my family. I literally, literally every single day that I was in the United States Senate got either the 7:28, it became the 7:32 and, or and got home on, if I got lucky I got the Metro, the last one left at 6:00 or I got the 7:30 coming home. You get to know everybody. You get to know the folks.
President Joe Biden: (14:53)
I used to have a Christmas party for Amtrak employees at my home. It got so big we ended up having it as a summer party, because family and retirees kept coming back. I want to tell you, these guys and women, they worked like the devil. They really, really, really do. Amtrak wasn’t just a way of getting home. It provided me, and I’m not joking, an entire other family. A community dedicated as a professional, and that we’ve shared milestones in my life. I’ve been allowed to share milestones in their’s. I’ve been to an awful lot of weddings and christenings and unfortunately, some burials as well. We’re family.
President Joe Biden: (15:37)
I remember one night, my daughter was only six years old and it was my birthday. We were voting. I went to Bob Dole and I said, “Bob, when’s the next vote going to take place?”
President Joe Biden: (15:48)
He said, “Joe, why?”
President Joe Biden: (15:49)
I said, “Well, my daughter is really upset I’m not going to be able to be home for the birthday cake she made for me.”
President Joe Biden: (15:56)
He said, “What do you need?”
President Joe Biden: (15:57)
I said, “I need just time to catch the 5:00 Metro and I can get the 6:28 coming back,” because in the platform I guess in Delaware, you walk from one side to the other. Got off the train, my wife Jill was standing there. My daughter had the cake with the candle lit, I blew them out, gave me a kiss, walked across and got on the southbound. It has been part of my life. I’ve been riding an Amtrak for almost as long as there’s been an Amtrak. I’ve come to see that Amtrak doesn’t just carry us from one place to another. It opens up enormous possibilities. Especially now, it makes it possible to build an economy of the future and one that we need.
President Joe Biden: (16:36)
Last week, I announced the target of cutting greenhouse gases and gas emissions in half by 2030. Most of that of those emissions in this country come from transportation, but if just 10% of the freight shipped in the largest trucks went by rail instead, we would be removing 3,300,000 cars from the road. It’s the same as doing that or planting 260,000,000 trees in America. As I’ve said from the beginning, when I think about fighting climate change, I think about jobs and rail, and hopefully the expansion of rail provides good union jobs, good paying jobs, but also connects people to jobs and economic opportunities that can be reached from wherever you live.
President Joe Biden: (17:24)
Let’s put this in perspective. For years, I fought efforts to cut funding for Amtrak, because cutting funding for Amtrak would be a disaster for our environment and our economy. Amtrak carries four times as many riders between Washington and New York City as every single airline does within 50 miles of the shore from Florida all the way up the coast. Imagine what we’d have to do a single day without the Northeast Corridor for example, with Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor would cost the economy $100 million. If you’re shut down all passenger service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the projects that compensate for the loss, you’d have to add seven new lanes of highway on I-95 and consider that cost. Average of $30 million for a linear mile on I-95. This is this bargain of bargains and bargains. It’s economical and it’s environmentally a lifesaver.
President Joe Biden: (18:31)
That’s why in my American Rescue Plan, we have worked hard to keep Amtrak running. At the height of the pandemic because we weren’t traveling, Amtrak furloughed 1,200 employees. We were able to provide emergency relief to keep rail service running. We’ve now brought back 1,200 union workers who had been furloughed. By the way, you get a union wage, not $15 bucks an hour, a prevailing wage. But we have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better. Today, we have a once in a generation opportunity to position Amtrak and rail, and inner city rail as well, in general it will play a central role in our transformation of transportation economic future to make investments that can help America get back on track, no pun intended.
President Joe Biden: (19:22)
Before the pandemic hit, Amtrak’s ridership and revenues we’re on the upswing. The Northeast Corridor has been making money for a long while now, but last year, the whole of Amtrak’s system was projected to break even for the first time in history, but then we had the pandemic. But there are still a huge backlog in deferred maintenance, huge need to modernize our trains, our stations, our bridges, our tunnels. Well, we’re talking about critical jobs like the Hudson River Tunnel, the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnels and the Susquehanna River Bridge.
President Joe Biden: (19:55)
In my American Jobs Plan, I proposed spending $10 billion a year on passenger rail and freight rail. Of this, two thirds would support existing Amtrak routes, including the Northeast Corridor, but nationwide. We’re talking about union jobs, as I said. We’re taking care of the riders, lane track, wiring switches, fixing bridges, tunnels, modernizing stations, and repairing and rebuilding this vital infrastructure. This would allow for the potential to expand passenger rail service. Imagine a two-hour train ride between Atlanta and Charlotte going in speeds of 220 miles an hour, a two and a half-hour trip between Chicago and Detroit or faster and more regular trips between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a route that I imagine could be pretty popular on Fridays.
President Joe Biden: (20:49)
Bill, as you’ve said, your vision for Amtrak calls for a new inner city rail service, up to 160 previously unserved communities being connected. Think of what it will mean for opportunity if we can connect Milwaukee to Green Bay to Madison, Scranton and Allentown to New York, Indianapolis to Louisville, and much, much more. It’s going to provide jobs. It will also accommodate jobs. What this means is that towns and cities that have been in danger of being left out and left behind will be back in the game. It means families don’t have to sacrifice the cost of living or quality of access to opportunity that sometimes only occurs if they live in a big city. We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country. Transit is part of the infrastructure.
President Joe Biden: (21:41)
Like the rest of our infrastructure, we’re way behind the rest of the world right now. We need to remember, we’re in competition with the rest of the world. People come here and set up businesses. People stay here. People grow because of the ability to access, access transportation, access all the infrastructure. It’s what allows us to compete. With the rest of the world to win the 21st century, we’ve got to move. China already has 23,000 miles of high speed rail, 220 miles per hour, two thirds of all the high-speed rail in the world. 220 miles an hour and they’re working on a transit on trains that can go as high as 400 miles an hour. We’re behind the curve.
President Joe Biden: (22:36)
But folks, as I said the other night, America is on the move again. We need to remember that we’re in the United States of America. There’s nothing beyond our capacity, nothing we can’t do if we do it together. And we celebrate Amtrak’s birthday, I was thinking about Amtrak’s role, as I said, on my birthday when they allowed me to come home and blow out that candle. There’s a lot of things that Amtrak does.
President Joe Biden: (23:00)
The fact of the matter is if we’re able to, which is now beyond the ability to pay for it, but if we’re able to straighten out three curves from Washington to New York, you could make it from Washington to New York in an hour and 32 minutes, an hour and 32 minutes. Folks, there’s so much we can do. It has such an incredibly positive impact on the environment, incredibly positive impact on work, on opportunities. Again, all the things we have to do to put Amtrak in place and be one of the great, great contributors to our country is we have to invest.
President Joe Biden: (23:42)
If you think about it, when I was Vice President with Barack, he allowed me to put together a budget for Amtrak. It had money for high speed rail at 200 miles an hour from, excuse me, from Charlotte, and another line going from in Florida down to Tampa. Another line, if we had moved, Gov, we’d have that tunnel fixed in New York now. The money was there to get it done. There’s so much we can do. It’s the biggest bang for the buck we can expend.
President Joe Biden: (24:23)
On this momentous birthday of Amtrak, I want to thank you for making so many birthdays possible. I believe that the best days for Amtrak and for rail and for America are ahead. I really believe that. I’m just confident, I’m confident we can get this done. I must tell you, I’m anxious to see the new train. Thank you all so very much. God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.