FULL TRANSCRIPT: Raphael Warnock’s speech in Fayetteville on Nov. 22

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Hello Fayetteville, Georgia. It is wonderful to be back. What’s up? Thank you so very much. This is beautiful. I mean, look around; take a moment — look around. You know what this looks like? It looks like the kingdom of God. Look at this diversity of humanity. This is what the Lord had in mind. Are you glad to be here?

Are you feeling good? Are you glad you showed up?Are you ready to win this election? I want to thank my brother who wears many hats. First of all, he is a veteran. He is the pastor of an AME Church. Give me the name — Flat Rock AME Church — and he is the mayor of Fayetteville. Let’s hear it for Reverend Mayor Ed Johnson. You mean you’re the pastor and the mayor? How you manage to do that? let’s hear for Commissioner Charles Rousseau of Fayette County, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Clark, Nick Ferrante, Representative-elect Tish Naghise and Zack Livsey.

So listen, let me get right to the point: It’s time to vote. Let me be really clear now. I won the majority of votes two Tuesday’s ago, but in Georgia we’re one of only a couple of states that’s got this little thing. You got to get over 50%, so even though I got the majority of votes in a three-way race, we came just a little shy of that 50% plus one. But I got a feeling that Fayetteville, Georgia, is getting ready to push me on over the finish line.

Ya’ll ready to win this election? So here’s what you’ve got to do. You got to make sure that everybody knows what they have to do. Because you all are plugged in. Folks who show up on a Tuesday afternoon at a rally vote, right? I’ve been preaching long enough to know when I’m preaching to the choir. I’m not worried about ya’ll — you’re going to vote. I didn’t come here to convince you to vote; you’re going to vote. I came to convince you to convince somebody else to vote.

Can you do that for me? That’s how we win. I want to convince you to convince somebody else to vote. That’s the job. Early voting begins Nov. 28 in Fayette County, and it goes through Dec. 2. So that’s next Monday through next Friday.

Tell your friends that if they can eat turkey on Thursday and spend money on Friday, they can vote on Monday. Tell them that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children. And our prayers are stronger when we pray together. So we need everybody to pray not just with your lips, but with your legs. We need you to show up. Tell your friends that your vote is your voice, and your voice is your human dignity. Tell everybody that democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea: this notion that each of us has within us a spark of the divine.

We were created in what the theologians called the Imago Dei, the image of God. If you’re not given to that kind of religious language, that’s fine. The tent is big enough for all of us. Put it this way: each of us has value. And if we have value, we ought to have a voice in the direction of our country and our destiny within it. And the way to have a voice in a democracy is to have a vote. Aren’t you glad that you live in a country where you get to vote, where you get to have a say? And the best way you can defend that right now, given what we are watching, is to show up. In other words, I’m telling you that democracy is on the ballot. And if John Lewis my parishioner were here, he would tell us that we must vote like we’ve never voted before. Do it for John Lewis.

All those like him who sacrificed so much. So, tell everybody it’s time to vote. Call everybody you know. If you’re married, tell your spouse it’s got to be a long, cold November on the couch if you don’t vote. If you’re single and they ask for your phone number, tell them to write it on the back of a voter registration card because we don’t date people who don’t vote. Call the people who owe you money, and tell them we can work something out but I need you to vote.

I’m laughing, but I’m serious. We got to vote, ya’ll. This is about turnout because the choice is clear. The differences could not be more stark in the history of Senate races. This race is about competence and character. I submit to you that they both matter. You need a serious person in the Senate. Now, it’s a shame I would have to say something so basic, but apparently it’s not that basic. You need a serious person in the Senate. Somebody who’s actually spent time thinking about these issues and working on these issues. I’ve been thinking about how to serve for a long time; I’ve spent my whole adult life focused on service. I started getting ready as a kid to serve. I went to Morehouse College just because I wanted to be where Dr. King matriculated.

I was born after his death, but his moral voice summoned something in my soul. And it has never let me go. It committed me to the lifelong commitment to service. I went to Morehouse College even though my folks couldn’t afford it. I was like, “I’m going.” I went on a full faith scholarship: That means you don’t have enough money for the first semester. My family was short on money but long on faith, long on love and we had a sense of humor. My folks were both Pentecostal preachers who clearly read the Bible, especially that scripture that says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” There were 12 of us. And they were always talking to us. Like they were quoting scripture; it’s something to grow up with two preachers in the house.

They were always speaking us in King James English. Even they would say normal things and it sounded like scripture. My mom would say, “Thou shalt wash the dishes, less thy smite me with my rod and my staff.” When I arrived on the campus of Morehouse College, I didn’t have enough money for the first semester. I looked at my dad, asking him to give me a few dollars, you know, to get through the first few weeks and my dad looked at me and he said — seriously I can’t make this up — he said, “Silver and gold have I none. But such as I have, given I unto thee.” The book of Acts, you know. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ go with you.” Gave me a great big hug. Mama gave me a great big hug. They got in the car, drove off into the horizon and left me standing there.

Four years later, some of those guys who had money and were from affluent families and were driving fancy cars, were driving past the stage. I was standing on the stage getting my degree. I got there through hard work, grit and determination, but that alone didn’t get me a Morehouse degree. Didn’t get me two Master’s degrees; didn’t get me a PhD degree. Grit, determination: that’s part of it. But somebody gave me some Pell Grants; somebody gave me some low-interest student loans. And before that, I’m an alum of Headstart, which invests in the young minds of poor children so that you can reduce the literacy gap, the word gap, where those minds are sharp. And after that, Upward Bound put me on a college campus. I’m telling you that you have a United States senator who understands the difference that good federal public policy makes; it’s not about a handout, it’s a hand up. You got to have personal responsibility and public policy to create a great society; don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

So the issue is, when you send someone to office, who are they looking out for? Because money is going to get spent. The question is, how is it being allocated and what’s driving that? Some folks on the other side are talking like we invented these bills. 2017, they passed their own $2 trillion bill. Don’t you remember? They passed their own $2 trillion dollar bill, except theirs was focused on giving a tax cut to the wealthiest of the wealthy of the wealthy. Now, when I say that don’t get nervous, because chances are I am not talking about you. I promise you, kids, I am not talking about you.

It amazes me. you know, the folk who think that they’re talking about them. They pass their own $2 trillion bill. Meanwhile, they were cutting resources from the Children’s Health Care Program, and I went to the Capitol not as a senator but as an activist. And I began to say that a budget is not just a fiscal document, it’s a moral document. Show me a nation’s budget, and I will show you a nation’s values: who it thinks matters and who doesn’t.

We were a group of clergy, and we were praying and singing in the rotunda of the Capitol. And I began to speak, and I said that if this budget that you all are trying to pass were an EKG, it would suggest that America has a heart problem. And so, we had come to the Capitol to perform moral surgery. I didn’t need an office to fight for health care, I’ve been fighting for health care; I’m not new to this; I’m true to this. They listened to my speech that day, and they took me to jail. I didn’t mind because I’m the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. served; going to jail every now and then for that which is right and true and righteous is part of the job description. And so, I went to the United States Capitol in 2017 as an activist, and they arrested me while fighting for health care.

That was 2017, but in 2021, you change my name. Nowadays, I walk through that Rotunda on my way to my office where I write health care bills. I wrote one bill that caps the cost of insulin for folks on Medicare to no more than $35 out-of-pocket costs per month. Now, I was trying to get that done for those of you who are on private insurance. Insulin should not be expensive. The only reason I couldn’t get it done is because some of my colleagues work for Big Pharma. They’re in their pockets.

And when I said to my opponent that I capped the cost of insulin in a state where 11% of the adults have diabetes, he said the people just need to eat right. That’s what he said. He’s running for Senate, and he didn’t know that you can eat right and exercise — as you should — and still have diabetes. And besides, I was talking about price-gouging; that is a public policy question. That’s what senators do. He said people should just eat right. Well, maybe he should run for dietitian; I’m running for the United States Senate.

This race is about competence and character. And in his response, you see the way in which he falls short on both counts. Because it occurs to me that not only was that an uninformed comment, it is part of a character issue, too, because — I don’t know — maybe Herschel Walker thinks that he is a dietitian.

I mean, he thinks he’s a police officer. He’s not. He thinks he worked for the FBI. He did not. He thinks he was valedictorian of his class. He was not. He thinks he graduated from the University of Georgia. He did not. So, if he thinks he’s a police officer and thinks he’s an FBI agent and thinks he’s a valedictorian of his class and thinks he graduated from the University of Georgia, maybe he thinks he’s a dietitian. Herschel Walker is good at saying things to himself so many times that he convinces himself that they are true. And then he started saying them to us as if him saying it over and over again will convince us that they are true.

Well, I dropped by Fayetteville, Georgia, to say that Herschel Walker is not a police officer. He’s not a member of the FBI. He’s not some brilliant business mogul. He was not valedictorian of his class. He’s not a graduate of the University of Georgia. And come Dec. 6, he’s gonna discover that he is not a United States Senator. Say it, “He is not.”

This race is about competence, and it’s about character. How in the world are we going to hire somebody who won’t tell us the truth about basic stuff? Why would you give that person the tools and the power of being a United States senator representing 11 million people if he won’t tell us the truth about basic stuff? His lies, his own staff says he lies like he’s breathing. I’m not being mean, I’m just telling you what his staff said. I take them at their word.

And so, here’s what has become clear the more this race goes on is that this race is not about Republican and Democrat. You know, as hard as the partisan lines are in our country, given given the the alternatives in this race, given the two choices that are in front of you — the only choices you have and the ones you have — given these two choices: this race is not about Republican and Democrat. It’s not about red and blue, it’s not about right and left, this race is about right and wrong, and Herschel Walker is wrong for Georgia. How can you tell your children to tell the truth and vote for Herschel Walker? And so I am betting on the people of Georgia. I know what the pundits are saying; they get paid to talk. Their polls, people telling me what the polls say; the only one that matters is Dec. 6.

So, we shall see in a couple of weeks, but I am casting my faith with the people of Georgia. I know the people of Georgia, because I’ve been criss-crossing the length and breadth of this state. I was born in this state, educated in this state, and I actually live in this state.

And I’ve got a feeling that the people of Georgia know that Georgia is better than Herschel Walker. Are you ready to win this election? So, tell your Republican friends that the tent is big. I can’t tell you —I’ve been moving all over the state — and I can’t tell you how many times Republicans have come up to me, you know, the rally will be going and they’ll off kind of on the side — don’t look at these people. I’m not talking about them. They’ll be over there, and they come and whisper to me — you know, sometimes they come by night like Nicodemus, they come — and they say, “Pastor, I have never in my life voted for a Democrat, but I’m going to vote for you,” or “I just voted for you.”

You know why? Because decency matters. Dignity matters. integrity matters. And we can disagree without being disagreeable. And we can talk through our disagreements and still find the things that we can do together.

Trust, I worked with Ted Cruz. Ya’ll didn’t know that? Don’t run me out of here. I did. I worked with Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz and I are both on the Commerce Committee. And most of the time when he’s talking, I’m saying to myself, ‘Really?’ Like I know why I came here, but you put on a suit and a tie and came all the way here to say what you’re saying right now. Really? But one day, as it turns out, there’s something that Ted Cruz wanted to get done that I also wanted to get done. We couldn’t get it done in committee, so we had to take it to the floor of the Senate. The night we passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Yeah, infrastructure: that’s roads and bridges and water and broadband.

Infrastructure is about fixing up the house we live in together. We live in it together. And so, he and I had to take our argument to the floor of the Senate because we couldn’t get it done in committee. And Ted Cruz stood up on his side of the aisle, and he began to argue about why he thought we should do this thing. And then it came my turn. And they only give you two minutes, as much as I could I mustered as much eloquence as I could could squeeze in the two minutes, and I began to argue about why I thought we should do this thing. And then I closed with words I never imagined hearing myself say. I said something like, “In closing, Mr. President, I’d like to associate myself with the words of Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas.”

My colleagues responded about the way you all are responding. Then, they erupted in applause and laughter, even Mitch McConnell was smiling. But you know what? They passed our amendment overwhelmingly, and it’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the president signed into law. Some may ask, what is it that Raphael Warnock and Ted Cruz could be working on together? It’s actually very simple. There’s a road in Texas; right now it’s only about 25 miles long. Senator Cruz wants to build that road out. It is Interstate 14, I-14. He wants to build that road out in Texas. Why did I join him? Because the same interstate that runs through Texas also runs through Georgia. And it would connect a lot of our military bases down near Warner Robins where they do great work at the Robins Air Force Base. And besides, that interstate would revitalize a lot of our communities that have been looked over for far too long by Republican and Democratic administrations.

So, I didn’t mind connecting with Ted Cruz in order to build out that road. Because if we build the road out, nobody asks when you want to get on that road if you’re a Democrat or Republican. It we build out the road everybody can get on the road. I’m telling you that there is a road that runs through our humanity that’s bigger than politics, that’s bigger than frank partisan arguments that’s bigger than racial and regional differences. And our job is to build out that road. Because if we build out the road, workers can get on the road and the people those workers work for can get on the road. If we build out the road, it doesn’t matter whether you’re red, yellow, brown, black or white, doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor. If you build out the road, everybody can get to where they need to go. Some folk will be going to the church, some will be going to the temple, others will be going to the mosque, some will be going to the gym, but let’s build out the road so that everybody can get to where they need to go.

That is our job in this moment. Let’s build out the road, making it long, make it wide, make it deep so that all of our children can get to where they need to go. So yeah, I work with Ted Cruz. Not only that, I worked with a Republican senator from Alabama to help Georgia farmers get their products to market.

I worked with a Republican senator from Indiana to deal with dangerous railway crossings. I’ll work with anybody that helps me to do some good work for Georgia. Yes, we’ll have our disagreements. But sometimes on the other side of our disagreements there is a moral continuity and we can find the nexus of that continuity in order to do some good work. Let me explain to you what I mean.

I am a pro-choice pastor. Yes, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. As a man of faith, I have a profound reverence for life. That’s why I got arrested fighting for health care. Because people die when they don’t have health care. It’s not, you know, a philosophical argument. It may feel philosophical to you because you have healthcare. But for somebody who doesn’t, people are literally dying.

So, I have a profound reverence for life as a man of faith. And as a man of faith, I have a deep respect for choice. And I think that a patient’s room is too small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor and the United States government; that’s too many people in the room. The appropriate public policy question is not whether you agree with abortion or not. The appropriate public policy question is whose decision is it? That’s the question. And that’s my position. But here’s the thing. There are sincere voices and people on both sides of the reproductive choice argument, and we should give each other that. But if your issue is life, then we ought to be able to find some places to work together.

I’m offended that when compared to all of its western peers of the wealthy nations, United States of America has a maternal mortality rate that is higher than all of its peers. And it is especially high in the state of Georgia. And all across our country, black women — and while it shouldn’t matter, even those who are well educated, have the income and have the insurance; everybody deserves dignity but I’m just trying to help you to see the issue here — even when they have all of those things going for themselves, Black women are far more likely to die, as as much as three-to-four times more likely to die in childbirth or as a result of childbirth than their white sisters. And so, if you care about life you ought to be offended by that. And here’s a place where a government can actually make a difference.

That’s why I partnered with Marco Rubio of Florida, with whom I disagree on the reproductive choice issue, and together we wrote a maternal mortality bill to get at the root of this problem we have to ask why are these women dying. Build out the road, make it long and make it wide so that all of God’s children can get to where they need to go.

So, Fayette County, thank you for trusting me. I really mean that. Because to elect somebody is a sacred trust. That’s people thinking about their families, thinking about their children, thinking about their mothers and their fathers as they age, thinking about the planet. And saying, since I can’t go, I’m going to send you. That’s a sacred trust. That’s not something to be trifled with and played with. And if you’re applying for the job, you ought to at least tell us what you’re going to do.

How are you running for over a year and you haven’t even told us what you want to do? What in the world does Herschel Walker want to do? I mean for the people of Georgia, not werewolves and vampires, the people of Georgia.

Well, I’ll tell you what I want to do. I want to cap the cost of insulin, not only for folks on Medicare but for folks on private insurance, because insulin shouldn’t be expensive. I want to create a federal guide path that helps the state officials of Georgia to do finally what they should have done a long time ago: expand Medicaid so that our hospitals will stop closing. Take 600,000 Georgians out of the health care coverage gap. I want to keep investing, as we’ve already done, in domestic manufacturing, investing in things like chips, so we’re not waiting on chips to come from China when we can make them right here in the United States of America.

I want to protect a woman’s right to choose. I want to make sure that our children can get ready to be the workforce of the future, whether they’re getting a four-year degree or a graduate degree or a vocational degree or technical school that there are all kinds of jobs that those jobs will be available.

I want to create a Georgia that embraces all of us, and so it comes down to this: I’ve been at this for three years. I must really want this job. I don’t even realize that until my staff pointed it out to me. Did y’all know that this is the fifth time my name has been on the ballot in two years for the same doggone job? I must really want this job. This is the fifth time. But you know what? When my name was on the ballot the first time, I finished first. When my name was on the ballot the second time, I finished first. And when my name was on the ballot the third time, I finished first. And two weeks ago when my name was on the ballot for the fourth time, I finished first. And come Dec. 6, I got a feeling that I’m gonna finish first again.

Are you ready to win this election? Are you ready to stand up for our veterans? Are you ready to stand up for our seniors? Are you ready to stand up for our children? If you stand with me for two more weeks, I’ll stand up for you for six more years. Let’s win this election and win the future for all of our children. God bless ya, Fayette County. Keep the faith.