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The Lead with Jake Tapper

As Vaccinations Climb, U.S. Begins A Quick Return To Normalcy; President Biden Delivers Remarks On 100th Anniversary Of Tulsa Race Massacre. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 01, 2021 - 16:00   ET





JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They are even opening some of those Vegas buffet lines. Talk about a gamble.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Hit the lights. Las Vegas leading the way as a new month begins and more cities fully break out of their COVID hibernation as one expert warns it would be a, quote, monumental error to act as though the pandemic is over.

Any moment, President Biden will speak to mark one of the worse acts of racist terrorism in American history, essentially since a white mob destroyed Black Wall Street and killed hundreds. Biden will commemorate this as he discusses plans to close the racial wealth gap in the country. We'll bring that to you live.

Plus, an activist in Belarus stabs himself in the throat in a courtroom instead of giving false testimony. The latest horror spotlighting the brutal dictatorship there.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin today with our health lead and a return to normalcy for millions of Americans. New cases, deaths, hospitalizations all at their lowest points since about last year. For the first time since March 2020, 14 months ago, the seven-day average is below 20,000 cases. Just a month ago, cases were around 50,000.

Now, this rapid drop is in large part due to vaccinations, half of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose. More than 40 percent are fully vaccinated.

But a new study reported finds vaccinations alone will not stop this pandemic, even though they reduce sickness and deaths considerably. Masks and physical distancing, experts maintain, are still needed to get transmission rates down because so many millions of Americans continue to refuse to get the vaccine.

So, as CNN's Alexandra Field reports for us now, one expert says it would be a, quote, monumental error to think the pandemic's over.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the best feeling in the world to finally see this.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The triumphant return of travel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a real excitement in the community about having the tourists come back to our town. It's what we live and breathe for.

FIELD: The unofficial day start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, marked the busiest air travel stretch we've seen during the pandemic with nearly 9 million people passing through airports.

MICHAEL WOODY, GALVESTON CHIEF TOURISM OFFICER: We're really seeing a faster recovery than anticipated. I think everyone nationwide had expected about a (AUDIO GAP) recovery ramp.

FIELD: With the average number of new COVID cases dropping below 20,000 for the first time since March of 2020, more masks are coming off, more people are getting out and the incentives to get shots are ramping up.

In Arkansas, starting today, a choice of a scratch-off lottery ticket or a gift certificate for hunting and fishing license for people getting vaccinated. And in St. Petersburg, Florida, tickets to a punk band concert are going for $18 to vaccinated fans but unvaccinated fans must pay nearly $1,000.

MIGUEL CHEN, TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET BASS PLAYER/TOUR MANAGER: There's 250 people who bought tickets to the show understanding that those were the stipulations, and I think they are all very happily going to show their vaccination records so that they can come party and have a good time.

FIELD: Health experts are hopeful that vaccine confidence could soon get a boost among hesitant. Moderna announcing is applying for full FDA approval for its vaccine for people aged 18 and up following a similar announcement from Pfizer last month. Both are currently available through an emergency use authorization.


vaccinated, the more protected we are.

FIELD: All over the world, including Japan where a big push is on to get more shots in arms, they have started vaccinating is hundred Olympic athletes and staff ahead of the international games as the first international athletes travel from Australia.

IAN CHESTERMAN, AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: It's going to be very different time. There's no doubt about that.

FIELD: For the athletes and for the fans. Spectators may have to show proof of a negative COVID test and will only come from Japan.


FIELD (on camera): So, Jake, even if you can't go to the Olympics in Japan this summer, you could have a chance at winning free tickets to a Knicks playoff game. That is if you get your shot here at Madison Square Garden.

We should also point out that this is something of a landmark day for New York City. The city is reporting a positivity rate of .83 percent.


That is the lowest number we've seen since the city started keeping track -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's great news.

Alexandra Field in New York, thank you so much.

Sin City is also back in business. Casinos are taking down the plexiglass and entertainment venues are throwing their doors open for full occupancy events, but with so many folks continuing to refuse to get the vaccine and so many of these events indoors with poor ventilation, this is a high-priced gamble as CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In downtown Las Vegas, a countdown to mark Sin City's comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is officially open right now, my friends.

KAFANOV: As of 12:01 today, pandemic restrictions now a thing of the past.

Maskless tourists celebrating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just have to see it in order to believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels good though to be back free. Hopefully everybody goes and gets vaccinated and be back out here.

KAFANOV: For the first time in over a year, visitors rocked out to live music.

Casinos, restaurants and hotels back to full capacity. Those plexiglass dividers meant to keep gamblers safe during the pandemic, officially coming down. In most places, fully vaccinated visitors can now ditch the mask and scratch social distancing but health officials worry not everyone will play by the rules.

BRIAN LABUS, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNLV SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, the challenge is to get people to wear their masks if they have not been vaccinated. It's on the honor system. We have a lot of people on town on their first vacation in a year and a half.

KAFANOV: But for a city so reliant on tourism, it's a tricky balance. Last year, the coronavirus pandemic turned Vegas into a ghost town. Casinos were ordered to shut their doors, costing thousands of jobs and billions in lost revenue.

The Vegas jobless rate shot to 33 percent last April to 7 percent in March, one of the worst in the nation. Large trailed shows and conventions came to a halt.

How critical are conventions to the Las Vegas economy?

STEVE HILL, CEO AND PRESIDENT, LAS VEGAS CONVENTION AND VISITORS AUTHORITY: They are so critical that what you see on the strip would not make sense to build without meetings and conventions as a major component of that.

KAFANOV: Conventions bring in big bucks, and crucial weekday bookings, contributing more than $11 billion in 2019 alone. Next week, the Las Vegas convention and visitors authority will debut its nearly $1 billion expansion to host America's first major trade show since the pandemic began.

HILL: World of Concrete which is tens of thousand people will be here June 8th. It will be the first what have we call a citywide event to happen in the United States.

KAFANOV: It's an economic test where the stakes are high, even more a city accustomed to high stakes.


KAFANOV (on camera): And, Jake, it certainly feels like things are coming back to normal. There's a ton of optimism here, but there's still a long road ahead. International travel has yet to return and that's a big missing economic piece and we're not out of the woods in terms of the pandemic. Another case surge, a scary variant, all that have could make the Las Vegas gamble effectively backfire -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Lucy Kafanov in Vegas, thank you so much.

Let's discuss all of this with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, thanks for joining us.

So, it seems many Americans decided to essentially forgot the pandemic for the Memorial Day weekend, traveling and gathering in record numbers.

Is this still risky behavior even though so many millions of American adults and many teens, too, are vaccinated?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Yeah, so let's start with the good news, Jake. The good news is that every one of us who is fully vaccinated is for the most part protected against this virus.

You know, as we've talked about, that's why the CDC lifted its recommendations for those of us who are fully vaccinated to mask. The trouble is that as you go across the United States, the percentage of folks who are fully vaccinated varies dramatically.

In my home state, about 60 percent of us are fully vaccinated. In some states, in the South and West, it's only around 30 percent. In those states, it's much riskier going back to normal because there's a higher percentage of folks who are not fully vaccinated and are at risk of cask the virus or potentially some of the new variants that we're seeing spread across the world.

We're starting to see cases tick up in Britain among unvaccinated folks and I'm worried that we could see that here in states with lower rates of vaccination.

TAPPER: So, on that subject, a new study in "JAMA" out today finds that vaccinations alone are clearly won't be enough to stop the pandemic, that masks and physical is distancing are still required to get transmission rates down because of so many people who are not getting vaccinated, whether it's because they refuse to or they don't have access, they don't -- can't figure out how to get a shot.

Do you think that states, some states, the ones you're referring to, have gotten rid of their mask mandates too quickly?


RANNEY: You know, it depends on how many cases of COVID they want to see. There is an attitude it's each person out for themself. If you get sick, it's your fault. You've had the choice to go and get a vaccine. If you didn't want, it it's on you.

I would like to think that's not how we work as a country, that we look out and we take care of each other. That's where universal masking in inside locations in particular, not so much outside, but inside, really is important in stopping the spread of this virus among the vulnerable.

And, of course, it's worth making the point, Jake, that there are some folks who even after they are fully vaccinated may still need to mask, people who are immuno-suppressed, folks on chemo or with other immunosuppressant diseases, they need to stay masked and we need to create a community where that's okay for them. But I am worried about those states, particularly the ones who have lifted mask mandates for schools, they're putting those kids at risk.

TAPPER: Put into context this news that we've read today that the Chinese government has just reported the first possible human case of a strain of bird flu. The Chinese government says the risk of large- scale spread is low. Obviously, a lot of people are very skeptical of what the Chinese government says these days.

How do you view this news?

RANNEY: So there's two things about this. One is that we have a great bird flu surveillance program that is set up nationally. We didn't have that for coronavirus.

So we pick up these human or animal-to-human transmissions really early. They happen fairly frequently. Picking up a new case doesn't worry me in and of itself. What's going to matter is if there's human- to-human transmission.

The second thing that this points out even if we do vanquish COVID-19, right, and we're on track to do that in the United States, if we do get vaccines out to the rest of the world, we'll be in a better situation.

Even if we make COVID-19 just a low-grade infection that kind of springs up during the winters and goes away other times, there will be other infectious pandemics, and it may not be this one, this bird flu, but there will be others in the future. And so, I hope we've learned our lesson from the half year and a half and set up better systems to protect us the next time around.

TAPPER: Don't throw out your masks.

Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

President Biden speaking any moment marking one of the worst racist massacres in American history. He also will be presenting plans to help with the healing 100 years later.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: President Biden about to take the stage there. He is at the dais speaking in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a speech marking 100 years since the deadly racist attack of Tulsa. Let's listen in.

I'm not sure who he's talking to there, some kids, it looks like.

President Biden about to commemorate the 100 years since that racist attack.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had to make sure that the two girls got ice cream when this is over.

Imagine how excited you would be when you're 4, 5 -- almost 5 years old coming to hear a president speak. My Lord. In my faith, we call that purgatory.

Lauren, thank you for that gracious introduction. Aand in case, you're wondering, I -- in Delaware, we are a small state. We have the eighth largest black population in America and we have one of the most talented members of Congress.

And so if I didn't walk around and pay my tribute to Lisa Blunt Rochester, my congresswoman, immediately, that would --


How are you, Rev? Good to see you.

We've got a distinguished group of people here and I want to thank Lauren for sharing the powerful story and helping the country understand what's happening here.

And to all the descendants here today and to the community and civil rights leaders and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus that are here, thank you for making sure that we all remember and we never forgot.

You know, there's a verse in First Corinthians that says, for now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, now I know in part then I shall know fully.

It is -- I just toured the Hall of Survivors here in Greenwood Cultural Center, and I want to thank the incredible staff for hosting us here. And --


And if I didn't say as my father would say, please excuse my back, I apologize.

But the tour -- in the tour, I met Mother Randall who is only 56 years old.


God love her.

And mother Fletcher who is 67 years old. And her brother, her brother, Van Ellis, who is 100 years old, and he looks like he's 60.

Thank you for spending so much time with me. I really mean it. It was a great honor, a genuine honor.

You are three known remaining survivors of a story seen in the mirror dimly, but no longer. Now your story will be known in full view.

The events we speak of today took place 100 years ago, and yet I'm the first president in 100 years ever to come to Tulsa.


I say that not as a compliment about me but to think about it, 100 years, and the first president to be here during that entire time. [16:20:04]

And in this place, in this ground to acknowledge the truth of what took place here. For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness, but just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing.

Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous they can't be buried no matter how hard people try. And so it is here only, only with truth, can come healing and justice and repair, only with truth, facing it.

But that isn't enough. First, we have to see, hear and give respect to Mother Randall, Mother Fletcher and Mr. Van Ellis.


And to all those lost so many years ago, to all the descendants of those who suffered, to this community, that's why we're here, to shine a light, to make sure America knows the story in full. May 1921, formerly enslaved black people and their descendants are here in Tulsa, a boom town of oil and opportunity and a new frontier. On the north side, across the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law, they built something of their own, worthy, worthy of their talent and their ambition.

Greenwood, a community, a way of life. Black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers, running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools, black veterans -- like the man I had the privilege of giving the command coin to, who fought, volunteered and fought and came home and still faced such prejudice.


Veterans have been back a few years helping after winning the First World War, building a new life back home with pride and confidence who are mom -- and they were at the time, mom and pluck -- mom and pop, black diners, grocery stores, barber shops, tailors, things that make up a community. At the Dreamland Theater, a young black couple holding hands falling in love, friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls and at the Monroe roller skating rink. Visitors staying at hotels like the Stratford.

All around, black pride and the professional class and the working class who live together side by side for blocks on end. Mother Randall was just 6 years old, 6 years old living with her grand mom. She said she was lucky to have a home and toys and fortunate to live without fear.

Mother Fletcher was 7 years old, the second of seven children. The youngest being Mr. Van Ellis who was just a few months old. The children, former sharecroppers, and they went to bed at night in Greenwood, Mother Fletcher says, they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth, not real wealth but a different wealth, a wealth in culture, and community and heritage. (APPLAUSE)

But one night, one night changed everything, everything changed. While Greenwood was a community to itself, it was not separated from the outside. It wasn't everyone, but there was enough hate, resentment and vengeance in the community. Enough people who believed that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal. Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Black Americans, a belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood and by noose that speaks to that lit the fuse.


It lit it by the spark that it provided, a fuse of fury was an innocent interaction and it turned into a -- a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a black male, teenager, attacking a white female teenager.

A white mob of a thousand gathered around the courthouse where the black teenager is being held, ready to do it -- still occurred, lynched that young man that night. But 57 black men, including black veterans, arrived to stand guard. Words were exchanged and then a scuffle, then shots fired.

Hell was unleashed, literal hell was unleashed. Through the night and into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood, tortures and guns, shooting at will. A mob tied a black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off, a murdered black family draped over the fence of their home outside.

An elderly couple knelt by their bed praying to God with their heart and their soul and they're shot in the back of their heads.

Private planes, private planes dropping explosives, the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa. Eight of Greenwood's nearly two dozen churches burned like Mount Zion across at Vernon AME.

Mother Randall said it was like a war. Mother Fletcher says all these years later, she still sees black bodies around.

The Greenwood newspaper publisher A.J. Smitherman penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night, and here's the poem. He said: Kill them, burn them, set the pace. Teach them how to keep their place. Rain of murder, theft and plunder was the order of the night. That's what he remembers from the poem that he wrote.

One hundred years ago, at this hour, on this first day of June, smoke darkened the Tulsa sky, rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, razed in rubble.

Less than 24 hours, in less than 24 hours, 1,100 black hopes and businesses were lost. Insurance companies, they had insurance many of them, rejected claims of damage. Ten thousand people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps. As I was told today, they were told, don't you mention you were ever

in a camp or we'll come and get you. That's what survivors told me. Yet no one, no arrests of the mob were made, none.

No proper accounting of the dead. The death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people. That's all, 36 people.

Based on studies, records and accounts, the likelihood -- the likely number is much more in the multiple of hundreds. Untold bodies dumped into mass graves. Families who at a time waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendants who have gone 100 years without closure (ph).

But, you know, as we speak, the process -- the process of exhuming the unmarked graves have started, and at this moment, I would like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers and mothers, sisters, sons and daughters, friends of God and Greenwood. They deserve the dignity and they deserve our respect. May their souls rest in peace.

My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre.



BIDEN: Among -- among the worst in our history, but not the only one, and for too long forgotten by our history.

As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory, our collective memories, from the news and everyday conversations.

For a long time, schools in Tulsa didn't even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere. And most people didn't realize that, a century ago, the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded, the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded.

A friend of mine, Jon Meacham, I had written -- when I said I was running to restore the soul of America, he wrote a book called "The Soul of America," not because of what I said.

And there's a picture about page 160 in the book showing over 30,000 Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia, Reverend, the pointed hats, the robes, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Jesse (ph), you know all about this.

Washington, D.C. if my memory is correct, there were 37 members of the House of Representatives who were open members of the Klan. There were five, if I'm not mistaken -- it could have been seven -- I think it was five -- members of the United States Senate open members of the Klan. Multiple governors were open members of the Klan.

Most people didn't realize that, a century ago, the Klan was founded just six years before the horrific destruction here in Tulsa. And one of the reasons why it was founded was because of guys like me who are Catholic.

It wasn't about African-Americans then. It was about making sure that all those Polish and Irish and Italian and Eastern European Catholics who came to the United States after World War I would not pollute Christianity.

The flames from those burning crosses torched every region of the country. Millions of white Americans belonged to the Klan, and they weren't even embarrassed by it. They were proud of it.

And that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture. We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or it doesn't impact us today, because it does still impact us today.

We can't just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know.


BIDEN: We should know the good, the bad, everything.

That's what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides. And we're a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild.

I come here to help fill the silence, because, in silence, wounds deepen.


BIDEN: And only -- as painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal.

We just have to choose to remember. We memorialize what happened here in Tulsa, so it can be -- so it can't be erased. We know here, in this hallowed place, we simply can't bury pain and trauma forever. And, at some point, there will be a reckoning, an inflection point, like we're facing right now as a nation.

What many people hadn't seen before or simply refused to see cannot be ignored any longer. You see it in so many places. And there's greater recognition that, for too long, we have allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester, the view that America is a zero sum game, where there's only one winner.


If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine. And, maybe worst of all, if I hold you down, I lift myself up, instead of, if you do well, we all do well.


BIDEN: We see that in Greenwood.

This story isn't about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and posterity and possibilities that still reverberates today.

Mother Fletcher talks about how she was able to attend school in the fourth grade and eventually found work in the shipyards as a domestic worker.

Mr. Van Ellis says has shared how, even after enlisting and serving in World War II, he still came home to struggle with a segregated America. Imagine all those hotels and dinners (sic) and mom-and-pop shops that could have been passed down this past 100 years.

Imagine what could have been done for black families in Greenwood, financial security and generational wealth. If you come from backgrounds like my family, working-class, middle-class family, the only way we were ever able to generate any wealth was in the equity in our homes.

Imagine what they contributed then and what they could have contributed all these years. Imagine a thriving Greenwood and North Tulsa for the last 100 years, what that would have meant for all of Tulsa, including the white community.

While the people of Greenwood rebuilt again in the years after the massacre, it didn't last. Eventually, neighborhoods were redlined on maps, locking black Tulsa out of homeownerships.


BIDEN: A highway was built right through the heart of the community.


BIDEN: ... was talking about our West Side, what 95 did to them after we were occupied by the military after Dr. King was murdered.

The community cutting off black families and businesses from jobs and opportunity. Chronic underinvestment from state and federal governments denied Greenwood even just a chance of rebuilding.


BIDEN: We must find the courage to change the things we know we can change.

That's what Vice President Harris and I are focused on, along with our entire our entire administration, including our housing and urban development secretary, Marcia Fudge, who's here today.


BIDEN: Because, today, we're announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward black wealth creation that will also help the entire community.

The first is, my administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a black family is too often appraised at lower value than a similar home owned by a white family.


BIDEN: And I might add -- and I need help if you can answer this one -- I can't figure this one out -- Congressman Horsford.

But if you live in a black community, and there's another one on the other side of the highway, it's a white community, it's built by the same builder, and you have a better driving record than the guy with the same car in the white community, you're going to pay more for your auto insurance.


BIDEN: Shockingly, the percentage of black American homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago.


BIDEN: Lower today. That's wrong. And we're committed to changing that.

Just imagine if, instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own their own home and build generational wealth, we made it possible for them to buy a home and build equity into that -- into that home and provide for their families.

Second, small businesses are the engines of our economy and the glue of our communities. As president, my administration oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts for everything from refurbishing decks of aircraft carriers to installing railings in federal buildings, to professional services.


We have got a thing called -- I won't go into it all. There's not enough time now.

But I'm determined to use every taxpayers' dollar that is assigned to me to spend going to American companies and American workers to build -- that build American products. And, as part of that, I'm going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including black and brown small businesses.

Right now, it calls for 10 percent. Going to move that to 15 percent of every dollar spent will be spent...


BIDEN: I decided to do that.

Just imagine if, instead of denying millions of entrepreneurs the ability to access capital in contracting, we made it possible to take their dreams to the marketplace to create jobs and invest in our communities.

The data shows young black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding, given the chance, as white entrepreneurs are. But they don't have lawyers. They don't have -- they don't have accountants. But they have great ideas.

Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off from the investments those people make? And I promise you, that's why I set up the National Small Business Administration that's much broader, because they're going get those loans.

Instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, let's get each and every child three and four years old access to school, not day care, school.


BIDEN: In the last 10 years, studies have been done by all the great universities. It shows that it would increase by 56 percent the possibility of a child, no matter what background they come from, no matter what, if they start school at 3 years old, they have a 56 percent chance of going all through all 12 years without any trouble and being able to do well, and a chance to learn and grow and thrive in a school and throughout their lives.

And let's unlock more than an incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation's historically black colleges and universities.


BIDEN: I have a $5-billion-a-year program, giving them the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories and high-demand fields to compete for good-paying jobs in industries like -- of the future like cybersecurity.

The reason why they don't -- their students are equally able to learn as well and get the good-paying jobs that start at 90,000 and 100,000 bucks. But they don't have -- they don't have the back -- they don't have the money to provide and build those laboratories.

So, guess what? They're going get the money to build those laboratories.


BIDEN: So, instead of just talking about infrastructure, let's get about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet, creating space, space to live and work and play safely.

Let's ensure access to health care, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores stocked with fresh vegetables and food, that, in fact, deal with...

(APPLAUSE) BIDEN: I mean, these are all things we can do.

Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off with these investments? The rich will be just as well-off. The middle class will do better, and everybody will do better.

It's about good-paying jobs, financial stability, and being able to build some generational wealth. It's about economic growth for our country and outcompeting the rest of the world, which is now outcompeting us.

But just as fundamental as any of these investments I have discussed is maybe the most fundamental, the right to vote.



BIDEN: The right to vote.


BIDEN: A lot of the members of the Black Caucus knew John Lewis better than I, but I knew him.

On his deathbed, like many, I called John to speak to him. Rev, all John wanted to do was talk about how I was doing. He died, I think, about 25 hours later.

But you know what John said? He called the right to vote precious, almost sacred, he said the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society.

This sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like I have never seen, even though I got started as a public defender and a civil rights lawyer, with an intensity and an aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.


It's simply un-American. It's not, however, sadly unprecedented. The creed "we shall overcome" is a longtime mainstay of the civil rights movement and Jesse Jackson can tell you better than anybody.

The obstacles to progress that have to be overcome are a constant challenge. We saw it in the '60s, but with the current assault, it's not just an echo of a distant history. In 2020, we faced a tireless assault on the right to vote -- restrictive laws, lawsuits, threats to -- of intimidation, voter purges and more.

We resolved to overcome it all and we did. More Americans voted in the last election than any -- in the midst of a pandemic than any election in American history.


You got voters registered. You got voters to the polls. The rule of law held. Democracy prevailed. We overcame.

But today, let me be unequivocal. I've been engaged in this work my whole career, and we're going to be ramping up efforts to overcome again. I will have more to say about this at a later date, a truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, an effort to replace non- partisan election administrators and to intimidate those charged with tallying and reporting the election results.

But today, as for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and to educate voters.

And June --


And June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear folks on TV saying, why doesn't Biden get this done? Well, Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends, but we're not giving up.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed For the People Act to protect our democracy. The Senate will take it up late they are month and I'm going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage. The House has also worked on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to provide new legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to vote.


To signify the importance of our efforts, today, I'm asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities. With her leadership and your support, we're going to overcome again, I promise you, but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work.


And finally, we have to -- and finally, we must address what remains the stain on the soul of America. What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with the through line that exists today still.

Just close your eyes and remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK coming out of those fields at night in Virginia with lighted torches, the veins bulge as they were screaming. Just close your eyes and picture what it was.

Well, Mother Fletcher said when she saw the insurrection at the Capitol on January the 9th, it broke her heart. A mob of violent white extremists, thugs said reminded her of what happened here in Greenwood 100 years ago. Look around at the various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, hate that never goes away, hate only hides. Jesse, I think I mentioned this to you. I thought after you guys

pushed through with Dr. King, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, I thought we moved. What I didn't realize -- I thought we made enormous progress and I was so proud to be a little part of it.

But you know what, Rev, I didn't realize hate is never defeated. It only hides. It hides.

And given a little bit of oxygen, just a little bit of oxygen by its leaders, it comes out of there from upped the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.

And so, folks, we can't. We must not give hate a safe harbor. As I said in my address to the Joint Session of Congress, according to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today, not ISIS, not al Qaeda, white supremacists.


That's not me. That's the intelligence community under both Trump and under my administration.

Two weeks ago, I signed a law, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the House had passed and the Senate. My administration will soon lay out our broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.

But I'm going to close where I started. To mother Randall, Mother Fletcher, Mr. Van Ellis, to the descendants and to all survivors, thank you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being able to spend some time up earlier today.

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your commitment, and thank your children and your grandchildren and your uncle -- and your nieces and your nephews. To see and learn from you is a gift, a genuine gift.

Dr. John Hope Franklin, one of America's greatest historians, Tulsa's proud son, whose father was a Greenwood survivor said and I quote: Whatever you do, it must be done in the spirit of goodwill and mutual respect and even love. How else can we overcome the past and be worthy of our forbearers and face the future with confidence and with hope.

On this sacred and solemn day, may we find that distinctly Greenwood spirit that defines the American spirit, the spirit that gives me so much confidence and hope for the future that helps us see face to face the spirit that helps us know fully who we are and who we can be as a people and as a nation.

I've never been more optimistic about the future today than I am today. I mean that. And the reason is because of this new generation of the younger people. They are the best educated, they're the least prejudiced, and the most open generation in American history.

And although I have no scientific base for what I'm about to say, but those of you who are over 50, how often did you ever see -- how often did you see advertisements on television with black and white couples. Not a joke.

I challenge you. Find today when you turn on the stations, sit on one station for two hours. And I don't know how many commercial you'll see, 8:00 to 5:00. Two to three out of five have mixed race couples in them.

That's not by accident. They're selling soap, man.


Not a joke. Remember old peccadillo (ph) used to say, you want to know what's happening in American culture? Watch advertising because they want to sell what they have.

We have hope, in folks like you, honey. I really mean it. We have hope, but we've got to give them support. We have got to give them the backbone to do what we know has to be done because I doubt whether any of you wouldn't be here if you didn't care deeply about this. You sure the devil doesn't come to hear me speak, but I really mean it. I really mean it.

Let's not give up, man. Let's not give up. As the old saying goes, hope springs eternal. I know we've talked a lot about famous people, but I'm -- my colleagues in the Senate used to always kid me because I was always quoting Irish poets.

They think I did it because I'm Irish. They think I did it because -- as we Irish, we have a little chip on our shoulder a little bit sometimes. That's not why I did it.

I did it because they're the best poets in the world.


You can smile. It's OK. It's true.

There was a famous poet who wrote a poem called "The Cure at Troy", Seamus Heaney. There's a stanza in it that I think is the definition of what I think should be our call today for our young people. It said: History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave, but then once in a lifetime, that long forth tidal wave of justice rises up and hope and history rhyme.

Let's make it rhyme. Thank you.



TAPPER: You've been listening to President Joe Biden speak in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to mark 100 years since the city's deadly racist massacre against the black population of Tulsa.

President Biden noted he's the first president in the last century to visit the city and acknowledge the horrors of that day when a white mob descended on a prosperous Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street, robbing and killing hundreds of black residents, looting and burning down entire city blocks.

CNN's Abby Philip is live in Tulsa for CNN.

And, Abby, President Biden, he said he thinks this is a infliction point for the U.S. saying what some people refuse to see cannot be ignored anymore.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. He said great nations confront their history and I think that's exactly what this visit was all about. The highest office in the land acknowledging for the first time what happened here in Tulsa, and, you know, it's not just that there were individuals who perpetrated violence and crimes here 100 years ago. One of the things that Black Tulsans talk about all the time was that there was almost a state sanction of the massacre.

The fire departments that didn't come out to take out fires, the National Guard that was involved. Planes that rained down fire on this community and so to acknowledge that from President Biden I think is very, very significant here.

He also spoke at length about the three remaining survivors who experienced and witnessed that massacre, all of this in a effort to say that this is not -- not the time to erase this kind of try, especially at a time when we've been discussing as a nation what is the true history of this country, Biden making it clear today that he believes that this is part of our history in order to remember and recount in order to never have something like this happen again.

TAPPER: And, Abby, President Biden also used this speech to detail some new policies he's rolling out in an attempt to close the racial wealth gap.

PHILLIP: That's right.

You know, where I stand right now, you can see behind me most what have is behind me would have been Greenwood 100 years ago, Black- owned, prosperous. Now, it's being redeveloped but being redeveloped by mostly white businesses. Black businesses own nothing in Greenwood. And today, one of the things that Biden was talking about was trying to reinvest in black businesses, reinvest in black communities, but starting with the federal government.

The federal government has an enormous amount of purchasing power. He said he would increase by 50 percent the contracts that are given to minority-owned businesses. He also talked about proposals that would reinvest in black communities in infrastructure and in transportation.

Now, Jake, some of these proposals are going to require congressional approval. They are part of his American Jobs Plan that has not been approved by Congress, but it's part of what the White House is trying to -- to talk about today which is not just what happened 100 years ago here in Tulsa, but in the 100 years in that time, there were decades and decades of systemic racism, policies that were put in place by governments and cities that made it impossible for black people and black families to own and accumulate wealth, and some of the proposals are designed to rectify that, although many people say much, much more needs to be done.

TAPPER: All right. Abby Philip in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss, global civil rights leader, Martin Luther King III, and professor of the practice of public policy at Harvard University, Cornel West.

Thanks to both of you for joining us on this august day.

Mr. King, let me start with you. Your reaction to what you just heard from President Biden.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHT LEADER: Well, I think that the president's speech was very genuine, and the goals are appropriate, but as has been said there's a tremendous amount of work that has to be done because of the vestiges of racism, what happened in 1921 and other areas.

I mean, this is significant to focus on, Oklahoma today. But, you know, around the same time, you had Rosewood in Florida, you had Ocoee in Florida, and many incidents throughout the years that have occurred over and over again.

So the question is maybe we need to be talking about reparations today as the discussion point. I know there's a commission in place, and I think because Americans don't know this history, maybe there's been resistance, by think the more and more that history is revealed because of people who do not remember their history are, in fact, doomed to repeat the mistakes of past. But this history has been buried.

So, today, it's being revealed more and more.