Dec 15, 2021
Joe Biden Visits Kentucky, Addresses Tornado Damage Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden visited Kentucky on December 15, 2021 to address the tornado damage. Read the transcript of his speech briefing here.
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Andy Beshear: (00:00)
… fence and elderly alike, wiping out towns almost entirely and leaving our landscape almost unrecognizable. This town is part of who I am. I spent Christmases on a porch that thank God is still standing. Not too far from here. My granddad would put me on his tractor and drive me around town, which is a pretty big deal for a little kiddo. I buried my kin right here in town just down the road. To me, this was always a safe place. Bad things did not happen here until Saturday.
Andy Beshear: (00:53)
If you look around here or Mayfield, in Muhlenberg County and a number of other towns you might think that we are broken, but we are not. In Kentucky, we are good people, we love one another and we lean on one another. We open our homes to those in need not just today, but every day. And we will repair our homes, our businesses, and we will repair our lives. We will do all of that together. As a people, we’re not alone. The generosity and outpouring of love, pure unconditional love from around this country and around this world has been overwhelming. Millions of dollars and more water, diapers, sweatshirts, household goods than we could ever count have poured in.
Andy Beshear: (01:59)
As a state, we are also not alone. President Biden and the federal government have offered more aid and acted faster than we have ever seen in the history of the United States of America. I received three personal calls from the president on day one. First when could get through and then at the end of the day saying, “What else do you need?” We got an intermediate disaster declaration, which doesn’t happen. And just I think on the same day not even a full day later, a major disaster declaration. And you know what? Starting yesterday. There were people here in FEMA shirts walking house to house to start processing people’s claims to get them back on their feet.
Andy Beshear: (02:53)
We’ve gone from looking for our dead to starting to haul away the death and destruction around us and the steps to start rebuilding have already begun. I cannot thank the president enough. And I know our federal delegation feels the same way. They have been hugely supportive. Thank you, Congressman Comer for being strong for this community and for pushing for everything we need in Washington, D.C. You’ve been a wonderful partner.
Andy Beshear: (03:27)
I hope the people of Kentucky know that I care deeply about them. And the president does too. He’s here in Dawson Springs, Kentucky because we’re hurting. I am so thankful for the full unwavering support of our federal delegation. I am so thankful for the president that said yes to every ask we’ve made. And we’re always going to have some news about another ask that I made, one that I’ve thought there was no way that we could get a yes to. But it’s going to mean the federal government isn’t just here. Isn’t just doing things we’ve never seen before, but is fully behind every single family that has suffered any loss.
Andy Beshear: (04:19)
On behalf of Britainy and I to the people of Kentucky, we love you. And I never thought in my life, I’d be able to introduce a president and I wish there were different circumstances, but I’m still very honored to be able to introduce a president in my dad’s hometown, President Joe Biden.
President Joe Biden: (04:48)
Gov, thank you. I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine. This is Dane. Dane lived down the street and Dane and he has cousins who are all together. And one cousin, I don’t know where she is. There she is. Come on up here, honey. Can you see me? Come here. She is about to graduate from UK on Friday, on Friday. And I just want you to meet them. I’m sorry to keep you all waiting, but I got a chance to hang out with the whole extended family down there. And I want you to meet a soon to be graduate who wants to go on to graduate school. Come on up here, hon.
Speaker 3: (05:34)
We are proud of. We are proud of you.
President Joe Biden: (05:36)
What’s your first name?
Abby Parker: (05:36)
President Joe Biden: (05:37)
Abby is here and we’re going to figure something special for her graduation day, but imagine that this Friday she graduates from UK. I kid and say the best thing that ever came out Kentucky was my sister-in-law and is she’s all blue. She went to UK and then she went to Duke Law School and she married my brother. We’re all thankful to everybody for her marrying my brother. And at any rate, so you got to remember me when you’re president, right?
Abby Parker: (06:06)
President Joe Biden: (06:07)
Okay? Thank you. I just want you to meet the folks I was just hanging with. Thank you, honey.
Abby Parker: (06:12)
President Joe Biden: (06:12)
Andy, thank you, Gov for the introduction. Your forbearance is commendable. This has to be an emotional moment for you, the family, for the congressmen, for all of you congressmen. Thanks for the passport into your district. I appreciate it. I want to also thank everyone here that took the time to be here. And you know, one of the things, back in the 1900s, Dawson Springs was a place where people came to be healed because of the mineral waters. Literally, it was a place you came to heal. Now it’s our turn to help the entire town to heal.
President Joe Biden: (06:58)
You know, I granted the request for the first emergency declaration and a major disaster declaration the moment I received it because I got to know the governor’s father and I knew nothing would come if it wasn’t real. I mean it for real. And you know yesterday I also approved an emergency declaration for the state of Illinois and Tennessee. And I intend to do whatever it takes as long as it takes, as long as it takes to support your state, your local leaders, and as you recover and rebuild because you will recover and you will rebuild.
President Joe Biden: (07:36)
The scope and scale of this destruction is all almost beyond belief. When you look around here, it’s just almost beyond belief. These tornadoes devoured everything in their path. And you know as I flew over here in the helicopter, you can look down and you see a house 20 yards away from a house that’s devastated and the house is in good shape. I mean it’s just tornadoes are such devastating storms. Back where I’m from, we’re used to hurricanes and floods and high water, but these tornadoes are just something totally different. They devoured everything in their path, your homes, your businesses, your houses of worship, your dreams, your lives.
President Joe Biden: (08:18)
And you know the governor confirmed or I think you said 74 fatalities so far, Gov? In Kentucky and making these among the deadliest tornadoes to ever strike this state. Almost 14 people are confirmed dead in other states with dozens of people, still, still fearful of where they are. I met one of them. I don’t have permission to use their name, but I met one couple on the way up and said they’re still looking for four of their friends. They don’t know where they are.
President Joe Biden: (08:47)
And those who lost someone, there’s no words for the pain of losing someone. A lot of us know it. A lot of us understand it, especially around the holidays when everything’s supposed to be happy and joyful. It was a long time ago when I got a phone call around the holidays and found out. I was in Washington as a young senator, not sworn in yet about to be hiring staff and I got a call saying from a first responder, there’d been an accident. A tractor trailer broadsided my wife with a Christmas tree on top and my three kids inside. My wife and daughter are dead, but my mother, a God lover used to always say, “Out of everything terrible, something good will happen. Something good has to happen out of this. It just can’t be all bad. We’ve got to make it better.”
President Joe Biden: (09:34)
And so, folks, those who have lost someone know, know how tough it is and you know how tough it is. In Mayfield just hours before the storm, we just came from Mayfield, the Gibson Pharmacy had been full of families with children waiting to meet Santa. Now it’s completely gone. And so many businesses vital to the community have been so damaged and destroyed in your town as well. There’s a saying in small towns, “People know about it when you’re born and they care about it when you die.” They know about it when you’re born and they care about it when you die.
President Joe Biden: (10:11)
Well, in so many places, destruction was met with compassion. Neighbors and first responders racing to helping save each other’s lives and support. I mean, I asked, I’m not joking. I asked when I got to Mayfield what the first thing my first responders, FEMA, and what they heard. They said they were amazed. All they heard was about people just going out helping one another, everybody. Everybody just stepping up. It’s incredible. It’s incredible how you all step up. And so, folks, the fact is I’m going to make sure the federal government steps up and make sure we do every single thing.
President Joe Biden: (10:54)
For years and years as US senator and then as vice president, I come from Delaware. We have a lot of serious storms, hurricanes, oceans rising, a whole range of things, but you know what? It always took a long time. There’s no reason why it should take any time. We have the wherewithal to get it done. And we’re going to get every single thing you need. And I’m going to make sure the government does what’s needed. At the state’s request, four FEMA search and rescue teams are working here in Kentucky right now. For those without power, FEMA’s already provided 61 generators.
President Joe Biden: (11:29)
The Army Corps of Engineers has temporary power install teams ready to assist if needed. And we provided critical supplies thus far and a lot more to come. 144,000 liters of drinking water, 24,000 meals, 74,000. And look, thousands of cots and blankets. There are seven shelters open in Kentucky, which are now taken care of 300 occupants, but a lot more is going to occur. Of course, housing is a key. Because of COVID we want to make sure people are out of their shelters as quickly as they can because of COVID. And ultimately, we want to start to provide some certainty for people.
President Joe Biden: (12:11)
I’ve been involved in responding to a lot of disasters and you can see in people’s faces what they’re really looking for. And look around I say to the press. What they’re looking for is just be able to put their head down on a pillow, be able to close their eyes, take a deep breath, go to sleep and make sure their kids are okay. That’s what people are looking for right now. But a lot of hard work is going to happen in the next two and three months to bring it all the way back. And so folks, the gov and I want to provide you the certainty as well. I just approved the request that I wasn’t sure I had the authority to do, but turns out I do.
President Joe Biden: (12:46)
The government’s going to cover 100% of the cost, 100% of the cost for the first 30 days for all the emergency work from clearing everything. Every single cost, the federal government’s going to take care of it. And it includes debris removal, cost of overtime and law enforcement, emergency service personnel and shelter. And that’ll get you through. And by the way, I want to thank your wife. She started a toy drive for this part of the state to make sure how many … Come here. I’m taking credit for something I have nothing to do with.
Britainy Beshear: (13:20)
How could you?
President Joe Biden: (13:21)
Tell them what you got so far.
Britainy Beshear: (13:23)
Well, as of this morning, we think that we have around 20,000 gifts donated and we’ve got three more days to go.
President Joe Biden: (13:30)
20,000 gifts so no kids going to go to sleep we’re they get to sleep tonight without a gift. God love you. And look, we also need to recognize the people have suffered mental and emotional injuries. The cost of this sometimes are unseen and unknown. People talk about post-traumatic stress in the battlefield as I travel through Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, guess what? There’s a lot of post-traumatic stress that comes from lying in your house and all of a sudden the roof goes blowing off, and you wonder whether your kids are around. I really mean it.
President Joe Biden: (14:03)
So with the shock of losing a home in a business, the grief of losing someone, it’s happening right before the holidays. And I said and we’re going to make sure that you have all the help you need, including the kind of mental help that’s needed to help people through difficult times. And folks, FEMA has opened mobile disaster recovery centers in Mayfield and in Dawson Springs. And it has disaster survivor assistance teams on the ground here in Kentucky to help people register for assistance.
President Joe Biden: (14:33)
As I said when talk to the governor, only that you’re going to get what you need. We’re going to like make sure you know everything’s available because you don’t always know all that is available, all that is available. And that’s what we’re going to do. And folks, if you live in infected areas, which all of you who are standing here watching me do, you visit disasterassistance.gov, disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA. That’s 1-800-621-3362.
President Joe Biden: (15:11)
I promise you you’re going to heal. You’re going to recover. You’re going to rebuild. You’re going to be stronger than you were before. We’re going to build back better than it was. And when I come back, I got one beautiful lady and her husband promised me a meal. She’s apparently a hell of a cook. So I’m coming back for the meal. So thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. And to all the families here, keep the faith. We’re going to get this done. I promise you. The governor’s not walking away. Your county judge is not walking away. Your Congress is not walking away. No one’s walking away. We’re in this for the long haul. Thank you very much for your patience.
Speaker 7: (15:55)
[inaudible 00:15:55] Does FEMA need more money from Congress in order to pull this off?
President Joe Biden: (15:57)
Not now. We don’t need it yet. We don’t need it now. There has been because of weather disasters just this year, over $99 billion in losses. $99 billion in losses. And as I flew over, I was telling folks here as I was out with the governor of California and Idaho and other states. As you fly over those territories for the better part of an hour looking down, every single solitary thing is leveled because of the fires. Nothing there, the forests, the homes, the businesses.
President Joe Biden: (16:33)
And guess what? So much area has burned this year because of weather and climate changes that is larger than the entire state of New Jersey. The entire state of New Jersey. That’s how much land has been burned to the ground. So we got a lot to do. We got a lot to do, but the American people are ready to do it. This is the United States of America and there’s not a darn thing we can’t do. Thank you.