Jan 6, 2022
Joe Biden Speech on Anniversary of January 6 Capitol Attack Transcript
President Joe Biden gave a speech on the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. He discussed the state of American democracy. Read the transcript of his speech here.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (03:24)
My fellow Americans, good morning. Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault, dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory, December 7th, 1941, September 11th, 2001 and January 6th, 2021. On that day, I was not only vice president elect, I was also a United States Senator, and I was here at the Capitol that morning at a classified hearing with fellow members of the Senate intelligence committee. Hours later, the gates of the Capitol were breached.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (04:27)
I had left, but my thoughts immediately turned not only to my colleagues, but to my staff, who had been forced to seek refuge in our office, converting filing cabinets into barricades. What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders. What they sought to degrade and destroy was not only a building, hallowed as it is. What they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed and shed blood to establish and defend.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (05:28)
On January 6th, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful, the lawlessness, the violence, the chaos. What was at stake then and now is the right to have our future decided the way the Constitution prescribes it by we the people, all the people. We cannot let our future be decided by those bent on silencing our voices, overturning our votes, and peddling lies and misinformation by some radical faction that may be newly resurgent, but whose roots run old and deep.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (06:38)
When I meet with young people, they often ask about the state of our democracy, about January 6th. And what I tell them is January 6th reflects the dual nature of democracy, its fragility and its strength. You see, the strength of democracy is the rule of law. The strength of democracy is the principle that everyone should be treated equally, that elections should be free and fair, that corruption should be given no quarter. The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people. And the fragility of democracy is this, that if we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand. It will falter and fail. The violent assault that took place here, the very fact of how close we came to an election overturned, that reflects the fragility of democracy.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (08:03)
Yet the resolve I saw in our elected leaders when I returned to the Senate chamber that night, their resolve not to yield, but to certify the election, their loyalty, not to party or person, but to the Constitution of the United States, that reflects its strength. And so of course does the heroism of the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other law enforcement officers who answered the call that day, including those who later succumbed to wounds, both visible and invisible. Our thoughts are with all of the families who have lost a loved one.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (08:58)
I wonder, how will January 6th come to be remembered in the years ahead? Will it be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest, greatest democracy in the world, or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come? The American spirit is being tested. The answer to whether we will meet that test resides where it always has resided in our country, with you, the people. And the work ahead will not be easy. Here in this very building, a decision will be made about whether we uphold the right to vote and ensure free and fair elections. Let’s be clear. We must pass-
Vice President Kamala Harris: (10:03)
Let’s be clear. We must pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate and the American people must also do something more. We cannot sit on the sidelines. We must unite in defense of our democracy in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our prosperity and posterity. That is the preamble of the Constitution that President Biden and I swore an oath to uphold and defend, and that is the enduring promise of the United States of America. My fellow Americans, it is my honor to introduce a public servant with the character and fortitude to meet this moment, a leader whose life’s work has been moving our nation toward that more perfect union, President Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (11:44)
Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans, to state the obvious, one year ago today in this sacred place, democracy was attacked, simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The constitution, our constitution, faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered in the face of the brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We, the people, endured. We, the people, prevailed. For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
Joe Biden: (13:02)
I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. This is where the House of Representatives met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War. On this floor is where a young congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at 191. Above him, above us, over that door, leading into the rotunda is a sculpture depicting Cleo, the muse of history. In her hands an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below. Cleo stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years. She recorded what took place, the real history, the real facts, the real truth, the facts and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.
Joe Biden: (14:13)
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth. Well here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol, a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never ever happened. But it happened here in 2021. What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears, fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured. We all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it “a medieval battle,” and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
Joe Biden: (15:50)
They repeatedly asked since that day, “How dare anyone, anyone, diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through?” We saw it with our own eyes, rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America. But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president who had just rallied the mob to attack sitting in the private dining room off the oval office in the White House watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation’s Capitol under siege. This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people, they were looking to deny the will of the people. They weren’t looking uphold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one. They weren’t looking to save the cause of America, they were looking to subvert the constitution. This isn’t about being bogged down in the past, this is about making sure the past isn’t buried. That’s the only way forward.
Joe Biden: (17:23)
That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth. They face up to it. It sounds like a hyperbole, but that’s the truth. They face up to it. We are a great nation. My fellow Americans, in life there’s truth, and tragically there are lies. Lies conceived and spread for and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. And here’s the truth. The former President of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest than America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our constitution. He can accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said he lost. That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
Joe Biden: (18:57)
He has done what no president in American history, the history of this country, has ever, ever done. He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people. While some courageous men and women in the Republican party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principle of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes. But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the role of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where it possible. Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible. Anything. And so at this moment, we must decide what kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a-
Joe Biden: (20:03)
… Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but of the shadow of lies?
Joe Biden: (20:23)
We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it. The big lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Think about that.
Joe Biden: (20:50)
Is that what you thought? Is that what you thought when you voted that day? Taking part in an insurrection, is that what you thought you were doing? Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting? Former president’s supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection. And the riot that took place here on January 6th as a true expression of the will of the people.
Joe Biden: (21:25)
Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country? To look at America? I cannot. Here’s the truth. The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country. More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history.
Joe Biden: (21:48)
Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day. In a pandemic. Some at great risk to their lives. They should be applauded, not attacked. Right now in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote, but to deny it. Not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it. Not to strengthen and protect our democracy, but because the former president lost. Instead of looking at the election results in 2020, and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. It’s wrong, it’s undemocratic and frankly, it’s un-American.
Joe Biden: (22:49)
The second big lie being told by the former president and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted. The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted. Every legal challenge questioning the results and every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected.
Joe Biden: (23:24)
Often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself. From state courts to the United States Supreme Court. Recounts were undertaken in state after state. Georgia, Georgia counted its results three times with one recount by hand. Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states, none changed the results. In some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly. So let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.
Joe Biden: (24:06)
Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively so in doubt about the election results. He built his lie over months, wasn’t based on any facts. He was just looking for an excuse, a pretext, to cover for the truth. He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated, former president; defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
Joe Biden: (24:43)
There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced, an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case. Just think about this. The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd. The elections for government, United States Senate, House of Representatives. Elections that close the gap in the House. They challenged none of that. President’s name was first. Then we went down the line: Governor, senators, House Representatives. Somehow those results are accurate on the same ballot but the presidential race was flawed. And on the same ballot, the same day cast by the same voters. The only difference, the former president didn’t lose those races. He just lost the one that was his own.
Joe Biden: (26:04)
Finally, the third big lie being told by a former president and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots. Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through the desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of Congress? Patriots? Not in my view.
Joe Biden: (26:40)
To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box. The election workers who protected the integrity of the vote. And the heroes who defended this capital.
Joe Biden: (26:56)
You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.
Joe Biden: (27:10)
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage. Not in service of America, but rather in service of one man. Those who incited the mob, the real plotters who were desperate to deny the certification of this election, defy the will of the voters, but their plot was foiled. Congressmen, Democrats and Republicans stayed. Senators, representatives, staff; they finished their work the Constitution demanded. They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Joe Biden: (28:10)
Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us, to we the people to stand for the rule of law. To preserve the flame of democracy. To keep the promise of America alive. The promise is at risk targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy. Fear over hope, personal gain over public good.
Joe Biden: (28:44)
Make no mistake about it, we’re living at an inflection point in history, both at home and abroad. We’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy. Between aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self-seeking autocrat. From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracies’ days are numbered. They actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing and complicated world. They’re betting, they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us.
Joe Biden: (29:38)
They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strong man. I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be. Our founding fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world, literally-
Joe Biden: (30:02)
[inaudible 00:30:00] in motion an experiment that changed the world, literally changed the world. Here in America, the people would rule. Power would be transferred peacefully, never at the tip of a spear or at the barrel of a gun and they committed to paper and idea they couldn’t live up to, but an idea that couldn’t be constrained. Yes, in America, all people are created equal. A rejective view that if you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.
Joe Biden: (30:47)
A former president who lies about this election and the mob that attacked this capital could not be further away from the core American values. They want to rule or they will ruin. Ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord. At Gettysburg and Omaha Beach. Seneca Falls, Selma, Alabama and what we were fighting for, the right to vote. The right to govern ourselves. The right to determine our own destiny.
Joe Biden: (31:33)
With rights come responsibilities, responsibility to see each other as neighbors. Maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary. Responsibility to accept defeat. Then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case. Responsibility to see that America is an idea. An idea requires vigilant stewardship.
Joe Biden: (32:03)
As we stand here today, one year since January 6th, 2021, the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw on this place, they have not abated. So we have to be firm, resolute and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted. Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort. Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capital rotunda, not once, but twice in the wake of January sixth.
Joe Biden: (32:42)
Once to honor officer Brian Sicknick who lost his life the day after the attack. And the second time to honor officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capital as well. We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day, from those defending this Capital to members of Congress and both parties and their staffs to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.
Joe Biden: (33:16)
Don’t kid yourself, the pain and scars from that day run deep. We’ve said it many times and it’s no more true or real when we think about the events of January 6th. We are in a battle for the soul of America, a battle that by the grace of God, the goodness, and gracious and greatness to this nation, we will win. Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is and I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces. But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope from the death and destruction as the vice president referenced in Pearl Harbor came to triumph over the forces of fascism. From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.
Joe Biden: (34:24)
So now let’s step up, write the next chapter in American history. For January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play. I did not seek this fight, brought to this capital one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation and I will allow no one to place a dagger to the throat of democracy. We will make sure the will of the people gets heard, that the ballot prevails, not violence. That authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
Joe Biden: (35:12)
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it. To lift us up, not tear us apart. See about us, about us, not about me. Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago of liberty, freedom and equality. This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats. We’re a nation of laws, of order, not chaos. Of peace, not violence. Here in America the people rule through the ballot and their will prevails. So let us remember together we’re one nation under God, indivisible. That today, tomorrow and forever at our best, we are the United States of America. God bless you all. May God protect our troops and my God bless those who stand watch over democracy.