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    Padilla Outlines Priorities to Keep the American Dream Alive in Maiden Speech for 118th Congress

    U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) today delivered his maiden speech for the 118th Congress on the floor of the U.S. Senate and outlined his vision for protecting and expanding the promise of the American Dream. Earlier this year, Senator Padilla was sworn in as the first Latino Senator elected to represent the state of California in the U.S. Senate.

    During his remarks, Padilla spoke to the historic significance of his election for his family, for his community, and for California. He then laid out the work that needs to be done over the next six years to keep the American Dream alive for all Americans. He spoke to the need to address gun violence in our country, provide Americans the resources necessary to prepare for and recover after disasters, transition to a clean energy economy, protect our federal lands and clean water, reform our immigration system, confront the ongoing mental health crisis, and secure the very foundations of our democracy. He concluded his remarks by reiterating the need to keep up the fight to ensure the American Dream lives on for generations to come.

    Key Excerpts:

    • “The very idea that a first-generation son of a short order cook and a housekeeper is now serving in the United States Senate is proof of the American Dream. But that Dream has never been about passive participation. It’s made possible by those who work for it and by those willing to defend it and expand it. It’s about hopeful goals for a better future, and the ambition to work towards them. […] So I ask: Who’s willing to defend the Dream? And what are we willing to do to defend it?”
    • “To my colleagues who have helped me hit the ground running from my first day in the Senate: thank you. That includes California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, who’s served the state of California for over three decades as a trailblazing public servant, and a model for principled leadership whom I’ve been honored to serve alongside.”
    • “Americans are sick and tired of the Republican excuses and the gun lobby talking points. No one can deny that we have a gun violence problem in America. When gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in America, how can we say they have every opportunity to achieve their Dream? I refuse to grow numb to the epidemic of gun violence.”
    • “And let me be clear: despite the record rainfall, California and our fellow Western states are still suffering under a crippling drought. Californians know all too well that natural disasters and extreme weather whiplash are the new normal in the 21st century. Each year we now brace for increasingly frequent and devastating wildfires, catastrophic flooding and mudslides, and searing drought. They all point to one thing: the need for climate action. Because our very survival depends on our ability to combat the climate crisis, we must continue to step up our efforts to protect the planet. […] At times, that means making difficult, creative decisions to preserve our resources and protect our communities. For Western states that rely on the Colorado River, that means coming together to find consensus on a water agreement that prevents disaster and preserves the human right to water.”
    • “At a time of rising nationalism around the world, we must secure the foundations of democracy. […] As long as Republican-led state legislatures work to pass voter suppression laws across the nation, or election deniers put our election workers in danger, we have more work to do. And as long as millions of eligible Americans have yet to exercise their right to vote—including the roughly 80 million who did not vote or were unable to vote in an otherwise record-breaking 2020 election—we have more work to do.”

    Remarks as delivered are below:

    Madam President,

    I rise today profoundly humbled by the people of California for placing their trust in me to serve and represent them for a full term in the United States Senate. It is a tremendous honor to return to this body—and I recognize that it is also a tremendous responsibility. To the people of California: thank you, and please know that I will work hard every single day to uphold that trust. To my colleagues who have helped me hit the ground running from my first day in the Senate two years ago: thank you. That includes California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, who’s served the state of California for over three decades as a trailblazing public servant, and a model for principled leadership whom I’ve been honored to serve alongside.

    And I’ll always be thankful for my parents, Santos and Lupe Padilla, for all that they did for my brother, my sister, and me growing up. And of course, I could not be here without the love and support, and often the patience and understanding, of my wife, Angela, and our three boys, Roman, Alex, and Diego.

    As the first Latino elected to represent California in our state’s history, it’s not lost on me what this moment means for millions of people back home. I understand that my family’s story is a reflection of what so many other hardworking families have experienced.

    As I’ve shared many times before, my parents immigrated from Mexico. They came to the United States in search of a better life. For forty years, my dad worked as a short order cook and my mom cleaned houses as they raised the three of us in the proud, working-class community of Pacoima, California, in the San Fernando Valley. I’m proud of our family’s journey—but it wasn’t without our share of challenges. I remember what it looked like to see our neighborhood neglected—navigating everything from buckled sidewalks to drug dealers as we walked to and from school. I remember what it was like for our family to live paycheck to paycheck—my mom at times bartering with the mechanic, offering some of her homemade tacos in exchange for just a little more time to pay the bill. And when it came time to figure out how to pay for college, I remember filling out financial aid forms and realizing that tuition alone at MIT was a larger amount than my dad’s W-2.

    It’s because of their hard work and sacrifices that I stand here today. The very idea that a first-generation son of a short order cook and a housekeeper is now serving in the United States Senate is proof of the American Dream. But that Dream has never been about passive participation. It’s made possible by those who work for it and by those willing to defend it and expand it. It’s about hopeful goals for a better future, and the ambition to work towards them. It’s about a drive to get up each morning before the sun rises, put on a white apron, and push through tired eyes and a sore back because you know someday your kids can have it better.

    And if my parents are my inspiration for being here, then my children are my motivation for fighting to keep the Dream alive. Madam President, I’m one of the few members of this body who still has young kids at home. When we talk about the future of our country—or the future of our planet—it’s not in the abstract. I think of Roman, Alex, and Diego and their generation. They are the generation who will carry on these monumental tasks, and fight for equality and opportunity in the future.

    Colleagues, we have to be focused on doing the work today to make sure the American Dream is alive for them tomorrow. So I ask: Who’s willing to defend the Dream? And what are we willing to do to defend it?

    ¿Quién está dispuesto a defender el sueño americano?

    Hoy me dirijo a ustedes como el primer latino elegido para representar a California en el senado. Es un sueño realizado, porque la historia de mi familia es un reflejo de lo que muchas familias trabajadoras han vivido en este país.

    Mis padres, Santos y Lupe Padilla, emigraron de México en los sesentas. Por 40 años, mi padre trabajó como cocinero y mi madre limpiando casas. Gracias a sus sacrificios yo estoy aquí, y su lucha sigue siendo mi inspiración. Y ahora nos toca defender el sueño americano para las generaciones que vienen.

    Cuando hablamos sobre el futuro de nuestro país, o sobre el futuro de nuestro planeta, pienso en mis hijos Román, Alex y Diego. Ellos son mi motivación para seguir trabajando por un futuro mejor, y para seguir defendiendo el sueño americano.

    Over my first two years in the Senate, we made real progress to keep the Dream alive for millions of Americans. From giving families the extra support they needed to get through a once-in-a-century pandemic, to lowering health care costs, to passing the largest investment in history to confront the climate crisis. But we can’t stop now. American prosperity over the next six years—the survival of the American Dream—means keeping up the fight to level the playing field.

    That starts with addressing some of the most urgent threats standing in the way of that Dream. Just last month, over the course of three days, my home state experienced three back-to-back-to-back mass shootings that claimed the lives of 19 Californians. I was returning home from visiting the victim resource center in Monterey Park, California, when I received word of two more shootings in Oakland and Half Moon Bay. Americans are sick and tired of the Republican excuses and the gun lobby rhetoric. No one can deny that we have a gun violence problem in America. When gun violence is the leading cause of death for children, how can we say they have every opportunity to achieve their Dream? I refuse to grow numb to the epidemic of gun violence. And I still have hope that we can prevent future tragedies with common-sense policies like universal background checks and an assault weapons ban that’s been proven to save lives.

    This winter, California also experienced a relentless stream of severe weather—rainstorms, flooding, and mudslides that’s caused over one billion dollars in damage. I welcomed President Biden and Vice President Harris to survey storm damage in California—and they’ve been exemplary partners, both in disaster response as well as in our efforts to rebuild our communities. But the process to rebuild is ongoing, and we’ll need to work together to get the impacted areas the resources they need. And Madam President, let me be clear: despite the record rainfall that dominated the news last month, California and our fellow Western states are still suffering from a crippling drought. Californians know all too well that natural disasters and extreme weather whiplash have become the new normal in the 21st century. Each year we brace for increasingly frequent and devastating wildfires, catastrophic flooding and mudslides, and searing drought.

    They all point to one thing: the need for climate action. Our very survival depends on our ability to combat the climate crisis. We must continue to step up our efforts to protect the planet. Yes, that means eliminating carbon pollution and transitioning to a clean energy economy. It also means fighting for clean air and clean water—particularly for the more vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution. And it means protecting and managing our federal lands and waterways. At times, that means making difficult, and innovative decisions to preserve our resources and protect our communities. For Western states that rely on the Colorado River, that means coming together to find consensus on a water agreement that prevents disaster and preserves the human right to water.

    We must also reform our outdated immigration system and do so in a way that better reflects our values. That means creating a pathway to citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who live in daily fear of deportation from the only home they’ve ever known and for all the essential workers who kept us safe and our economy going throughout the pandemic. It means making sorely needed updates to our legal migration system, like addressing the crippling visa backlogs that keep families apart and deny our economy the workforce it needs. And it means ensuring that individuals and families who are fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States are treated humanely and provided due process.

    Our nation is also confronting a serious mental health crisis. This crisis existed well before COVID, but we saw the pandemic further exacerbate the crisis. Demand for mental health care is way up, while we have an increasing shortage of health care professionals available. This is also a critical opportunity to fundamentally end the stigma surrounding mental health. If a family member or a friend breaks their arm or leg, we don’t judge them for going to the hospital to seek help. Nobody looks down on somebody going to the dentist for regular checkups. We need to treat mental health the same way.

    And finally, at a time of rising nationalism around the world, we must secure the foundations of democracy. For those who say that legislation to protect the sacred right to vote in America is too partisan, they’re only right in the sense that attacks on our right to vote are partisan. We must denounce Republican candidates across the country who choose to divide the American people with lies and conspiracy theories. As long as Republican-led state legislatures work to pass voter suppression laws across the nation, or election deniers put our election workers in danger, we have more work to do. And as long as millions of eligible Americans have yet to exercise their right to vote—including the roughly 80 million who did not vote or were unable to vote in an otherwise record-breaking 2020 election—we have more work to do. That work includes bolstering our cybersecurity efforts—not just to secure the infrastructure of elections, but to combat disinformation from bad-faith actors.

    Now, I’m not naïve about the challenges ahead. After two years of historic achievements, an extreme wing of Republicans now holds progress in the House of Representatives hostage. This group has shown that they’d rather undermine our democracy than defend it—they’d rather risk a first-ever default by the federal government than serve the interest of the American people. At stake for millions of Americans are programs that they’ve spent decades paying into, like Medicare and Social Security—American institutions that define how we take care of one another and how we provide dignity for seniors.

    And they’ve set their crosshairs on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. So we have a tall task ahead of us. But to the people of California, please know: I didn’t seek out this office because I thought it would be easy, I did so because the issues are too important. And I’m ready for the difficult fights ahead. Because today, we have a responsibility to write the next chapter of American progress into history—to join so many who came before us who made the American Dream possible.

    When “huddled masses” came to our shores with the belief in a better future—immigrants put in the work to build our economy and to make the Dream a reality. When we celebrate America as the land of freedom and equality—we recognize generations of civil rights activists who risked everything for the right to vote and to expand the Dream to groups often denied it. And when a man from Jalisco and a woman from Chihuahua immigrate to Los Angeles in search of a better life, it was them—Santos and Lupe Padilla—who toiled and sacrificed to secure the Dream for their children. 

    They are the American story. They are the American Dream. Madam President, in closing, I’d like to share that over the last two years, countless people have asked me if becoming a United States Senator is a dream come true.

    My honest answer is no.

    You see, for me, when I was a kid growing up, I never dreamt that anything like this was possible. But now that I’m here, I promise I will not take a single day for granted. And I’ll never stop fighting to keep the Dream alive for future generations.

    Thank you, Madam President, I yield the floor.

    Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)
    Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)https://www.padilla.senate.gov/
    The proud son of immigrants from Mexico, Senator Alex Padilla, believes in giving everyone a fair shot at the American dream. A progressive problem solver, Alex has dedicated his career to finding solutions to the toughest challenges and fighting for communities that are too often left out and left behind.
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