San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined local community leaders at Rosa Parks Senior Center to celebrate Social Security’s 87th anniversary and to call out Republicans’ renewed efforts to dismantle this vital program. Below are the speaker’s comments:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Dornesha, for your leadership of the Rosa Parks Senior Center. Rosa Parks was such a leader, so brave and so – the one who did the job. And she fought for that. She fought for this. So wonderful and also representing the wonderful diversity of our community. Thank you for your leadership, for your kind words – and my best regards to your daughter. It’s all about the future. It’s all about her.
I’m happy to be here with Cathy Davis – now we’ve just met – but Cathy and I have been friends for decades. Where’s Cathy Davis? There she is, right in front of me. Kathy Davis. Thank you. I’ll introduce Cathy in a moment, but it’s always beautiful to see – I’m always inspired by her work. She and her husband George were my friends for decades, and I always drew strength—and actually nourishment—from the hospitality because they met the needs of so many of our seniors in the community.
I’m happy to be here with Cindy Kauffman, deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. Thank you for being with us. Thanks – now without the masks.
And a real celebrity for us is Sascha Bittner. Sascha chairs the board of directors for San Francisco In-Home Supportive Services. She is, shall we say, a relentless, persistent advocate for people, persons with disabilities, and we just love her so much. It’s an honor for us to have you here.
But our real celebrity today, and I’m sure Sascha and others will agree, is Stephanie Hughes. She is a participant in Bayview Senior Services.
Okay, let’s hear it. Thank you, because you are what this is all about, and your message is the message we all hear when we greet this day: the 87th anniversary of Social Security. Again, it’s appropriate at the Rosa Parks Senior Center, which is a model for strengthening community bonds, as we see, empowering our city seniors, as we know, and raising their voices.
And what a privilege it is to observe our Day of Action, our Social Security Day of Action – part of a national drumroll of opposition to right-wing attacks on the initiatives of our seniors. And it’s something we have — usually we’re just here to celebrate Social Security, but with Republicans doubling down on their efforts to dismantle Social Security, this work has never been more important.
Nine decades ago, in the depths of the Depression, half of American seniors lived in poverty. Half of the seniors lived in poverty. Instead of rest and satisfaction, retirement in their senior years – they had uncertainty and hardship. President Roosevelt passed this legislation, and when he did, he said, “Getting old is not a tragedy, but getting old without a livelihood is a tragedy.”
And that’s what Social Security was designed for. By signing the Social Security Act, he established a pillar, a pillar – a strong pillar of financial stability that has lasted for generations. Today, it protects the well-being of millions of people, whether they are retired or living with disabilities. In our district alone, as you can see with our Social Security map here, more than 109,000 residents receive hard-earned Social Security checks every month, amounting to more than $100 million a month. It is remarkable.
Social Security is one of our country’s greatest legislative achievements — and one of the most backed. Still, Republicans want to end Social Security as we know it.
Some of you may remember that we had to fight this back in 2006. When they wanted to privatize, President Bush wanted to privatize Social Security. We won then, and we will win now. Because we have to.
House Republicans are openly fighting to raise the retirement age, cut benefits and push through privatization. Again, I’m just reminding – some of you have fought with us over the protection of the Affordable Care Act. When they went after the Affordable Care Act to repeal it, they simultaneously said, “We’re abolishing disability insurance.” So they did it back then on the Affordable Care Act.
A Senate Republican, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, wants to go even further: put Social Security on the chopping block every year—he tries to do this—thus jeopardizing the financial security of millions of Californians. Tens of millions across the country.
Make no mistake: Republicans want to turn back the clock to a time of instability and rampant senior poverty. Why would they do this? Why would they do this? They don’t believe in government. They never really supported Social Security. They tried to stop Medicare.
Democrats will stop at nothing to prevent their dark vision from becoming a reality. Our commitment to Social Security is absolute – unwavering and non-negotiable. The GOP only cares about its own power. Democrats put people above politics.
That’s why we stood still last week and fought against Big Pharma. Imagine, we had a bill on the floor that would allow the Secretary of HHS to negotiate lower prices for seniors on prescription drugs. Thank you, AARP, for being here. And the Republicans, none of them voted for making prescription drugs more affordable for our seniors. It was a historic day for us, as we had worked for decades to unlock Big Pharma’s stranglehold on Congress when it comes to prescription drugs, and we won that day. Not everything we wanted, but a big, big, giant step forward for our seniors, for American working families – where this is a matter of the kitchen table.
We also had language in that bill to protect the Affordable Care Act and, through subsidies, make it more affordable for many more families in our country. With the drug cost cutting down, I was — we had a win for The People. There was a stranglehold, and we loosened it – giving people a chance to breathe while we fight, while we fight for more.
And that’s why House Democrats across the country are sitting around the table with our seniors today to say, ‘Hands off our Social Security!’
“Hands off our Social Security.” That is our motto today. And thank you all for attending an Action Day. We will – as I have said to some of you while chatting earlier – only be able to do so much with our inner maneuvers. The outside mobilization you are involved in makes all the difference in the world. Makes better policy, makes it more durable and easier to protect. So I thank you all – be it AARP or any of the organizations, our friends in the labor movement and all the rest – who have made the external mobilization such a success.
We always say when they come up with these things, we don’t hurt, we organize. And that’s what today is about.
So it is my pleasure to introduce now a ruthless senior advocate, a persistent voice for justice, a loving guardian of the remarkable legacy of her late husband George, my personal friend, someone I admire so much for her personal integrity, her full dedication to our seniors in our community, Cathy Davis.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Stephanie. As you can see from Stephanie and Sascha’s stories, as Commissioner Kauffman and Cathy will attest, there is nothing more compelling than the personal stories. To have the clarity in the story you told us as Commissioner, the personal stories people have.
That’s right – it’s about having navigators and those who can give you advice on how to make use of what you’ve paid for. Remember this: This is Social Security that people have poured into. It’s their advantage, and we don’t want it taken from them or diminished. So as we celebrate, imagine the courage it took for the president – President Roosevelt, and at the time of the Great Depression, to say this is our priority for the people, for the poor people. And it is for the common good of our country that we promise in our Constitution.
And now we’re going to cut the cake. We’re going to cut the cake so we can celebrate this birthday, and also to say that we are — while we’re cutting the cake and celebrating the birthday, we’re going to make sure Republicans keep their hands off our Social Security.
We have to protect it for Stephanie, for Sascha, for so many people in our community. And as I talked about Cathy, I was reminded that then — the senior center that she and George Davis had been so much a part of, we were able to — that was part of Alice Griffith’s housing initiative, for which we got $30 million under president. Obama for that project. So housing, food, social security, health care, prescription drugs – it all comes together to respect the dignity and worth of every person in our community. And that Stephanie and Sascha give something back is something very remarkable. They are – real sense of community. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you, Sasha. Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner. And thank you, Dornesha. And let’s go over here and cut this pie.