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Sen. Rand Paul's Speech at Howard University

Sen. Rand Paul's Speech at Howard University

By Sen. Rand Paul - April 10, 2013

Below are remarks, as prepared for delivery, by Sen. Rand Paul at Howard University on April 10, 2013.

I’d like to thank President Ribeau, the Howard University faculty, and students for having me today.

Some people have asked if I’m nervous about speaking at Howard. They say “You know, some of the students and faculty may be Democrats...”

My response is that my trip will be a success if the Hilltop will simply print that a Republican came to Howard but he came in peace.

My wife Kelley asked me last week do you ever have doubts about trying to advance a message for an entire country?

The truth is, sometimes. When I do have doubts, I think of a line from T.S. Eliot, “how should I presume to spit out all the butt ends of my days and ways, and how should I presume.”

And when I think of how political enemies often twist and distort my positions, I think again of Eliot’s words: “when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, how should I presume?

And here I am today at Howard, a historically black college. Here I am, a guy who once presumed to discuss a section of the Civil Rights Act.

Some have said that I’m either brave or crazy to be here today. I’ve never been one to watch the world go by without participating. I wake up each day hoping to make a difference.

I take to heart the words of Toni Morrison of Howard University, who wrote: “If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I can recite books that have been written, or I can plunge into the arena and stumble and maybe fall but at least I will have tried.

What I am about is a philosophy that leaves YOU -- to fill in the blanks.

I come to Howard today, not to preach, or prescribe some special formula for you but to say I want a government that leaves you alone, that encourages you to write the book that becomes your unique future.

You are more important than any political party, more important than any partisan pleadings.

The most important thing you will do is yet to be seen. For me, I found my important thing to do when I learned to do surgery on the eye, when I learned to restore a person’s vision.

I found what was important when I met and married my wife.

Although I am an eye surgeon, first and foremost, I find myself as part of the debate over how to heal our sick economy and get people back to work.

I truly believe that we can have an economy that creates millions of jobs again but we will have to rethink our arguments and try to rise above empty partisan rhetoric.

My hope is that you will hear me out, that you will see me for who I am, not the caricature sometimes presented by political opponents.

If you hear me out, I believe you’ll discover that what motivates me more than any other issue is the defense of everyone’s rights.

Of strong importance to me is the defense of minority rights, not just racial minorities, but ideological and religious minorities.

If our government does not protect the rights of minorities, then democratic majorities could simply legislate away our freedoms.

The bill of rights and the civil war amendments protect us against the possibility of an oppressive federal or state government.

The fact that we are a Constitutional Republic means that certain inalienable rights are protected even from democratic majorities.

No Republican questions or disputes civil rights. I have never waivered in my support for civil rights or the civil rights act.

The dispute, if there is one, has always been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or private purview.

What gets lost is that the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights and voting rights.

Because Republicans believe that the federal government is limited in its function-some have concluded that Republicans are somehow inherently insensitive to minority rights.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Republicans do, indeed, still believe many rights remain with the people and states respectively.

When some people hear that, they tune us out and say: he’s just using code words for the state’s right to discriminate, for the state’s right to segregate and abuse.

But that’s simply not true.

Many Republicans do believe that decentralization of power is the best policy, that government is more efficient, more just, and more personal when it is smaller and more local.

But Republicans also realize that there are occasions of such egregious injustice that require federal involvement, and that is precisely what the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Act were intended to do-protect citizens from state and local tyranny.

The fourteenth amendment says, “No state shall . . .” The fourteenth amendment did change the constitution to give a role for the federal government in protecting citizenship and voting regardless of race.

I did not live through segregation nor did I experience it first-hand. I did grow up in the South in public schools comprised of white, black, and Latino students largely all getting along with each other.

So, perhaps some will say that I can never understand. But I don’t think you had to be there to have been affected by our nation’s history of racial strife.

The tragedy of segregation and Jim Crow in the South is compounded when you realize that integration began in New England in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

In 1841, Frederick Douglas was pulled from the white car on the Eastern Railroad, clutching his seat so tightly that he was thrown from the train with its remnants still tightly in his hands.

But, within a few years public transportation was integrated in the northeast.

It is a stain on our history that integration didn’t occur until more than 100 years later in the South. That in the 1960’s we were still fighting to integrate public transportation and schools is and was an embarrassment.

The story of emancipation, voting rights and citizenship, from Fredrick Douglas until the modern civil rights era, is in fact the history of the Republican Party.

How did the party that elected the first black US Senator, the party that elected the first 20 African American Congressmen become a party that now loses 95% of the black vote?

How did the Republican Party, the party of the great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, for a century, most black Americans voted Republican. How did we lose that vote?

To understand how Republicans lost the African American vote, we must first understand how we won the African American vote.

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Rand Paul is a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

Sen. Rand Paul

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