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tv   Former President Bill Clinton Remarks at Former Rep. John Conyers Funeral  CSPAN  November 10, 2019 1:39am-2:02am EST

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c-span2, former ambassador to the ukraine will appear before the committee. and the head of the hearings will read witness testimony from deposition. announcer: former president bill clinton spoke in detroit at the funeral for former michigan congressman john conyers who died at the end of october. mr. conyers served in the house of representatives from 1965 until 2017, making in the longest-serving african-american member of congress and the sixth longest-serving member in u.s. history. john conyers was 90 years old. >> i will bring to the mic at this time, our friend, one who we love dear. our 42nd president of these
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united states of america, the honorable william jefferson clinton. [applause] former pres. clinton: thank you very much, bishop. it is an honor to be back. i thank you and the other bishops and pastors who are participating and the other religious leaders who are in the audience. i want to thank monica, john, paul, nathan, the entire conyers family for inviting me. i come to pay tribute to my friend. i want to thank this amazing
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array of political leaders who have come here. john conyers was 90. the governor, the lieutenant governor, the senators, members of the house of representatives, the leaders of the congressional black caucus, the mayor, the county executive, the chief federal judge, reverend jackson, the professor to deliver the eulogy. don't worry. it says "professor," but it means "preacher." you will be just fine. [laughter]
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former pres. clinton: i would like to thank the people of detroit for electing him 27 times. [applause] former pres. clinton: i would like to thank you for giving him the space and support, not just to faithfully represent his district but to represent people all across the country and even around the world on the things that we should all care about. he was out there, banging the drum against apartheid in south africa long before it was a widely popular cause. [applause] former pres. clinton: he always supported the people of haiti, even when he did not support their government.
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he said that the people deserve a better deal, and the united states should be a good neighbor. [applause] former pres. clinton: he worked for all of our cities for jobs and employment and opportunity and peace and justice everywhere. not every district gives their elected representatives the elbow room to do all of those things, so i thank you for giving john his head. he never forgot about you either. when someone serves as long as john did, it is daunting to make sure you list every bill that he sponsored or cosponsored or had something to do with, and in a way, that is a mistake, because
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it tends to turn history into dry bones. the most important thing is to remember how different the playing field was when he began than when he ended, how steep the mountains were, how long the battles lasted, and how many lives were improved by his labors. when john conyers came to washington in january of 1965, i had just turned 18 years old. there were zero african-american senators. the civil rights act had been on the books for six months, but still, millions of
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african-americans could not exercise their constitutional right to vote. when john was on the judiciary committee, its only african-american member, the first big piece of legislation he worked on was the voting rights act. and -- [applause] former pres. clinton: he kept reminding his colleagues that civil rights bills were passed in 1957, 1960, and 1964, and they kept getting bigger, and better and better and better except for one thing. they did not protect and guarantee the right to vote. he said he was afraid if we missed this last chance with president johnson and the high level of popularity and enormous majorities or the democratic party in the house and senate, it might never come this way again. and when it passed, he said it
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was the most important thing he would ever work on. he had no way of knowing then that he would hang around in congress for 53 more years. but he was probably right. for all of the power in our democratic system flows through our willingness and our ability to intelligently and consistently exercise the right to vote. the effects of that bill were immediate. by 1968, the percentage of african-americans registered to vote had gone from 6% to 60% nationwide. even in the south, where there had been extreme efforts to register voters then, registration in alabama went
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from the 60%, from 19% to 51% in louisiana, and when he did all of this, there were fewer than 1000 african-americans, think of that, in any form of local, state, or national office, in this whole country. today, there are more than 10,000. [applause] former pres. clinton: the congressional black caucus, of which john was a cofounder, began this session with a record 55 members. [applause] former pres. clinton: they are getting very close to having the actual percentage of african-americans in the united states, and i am grateful that nearly half of them are women, including the current chair.
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[applause] former pres. clinton: i am also grateful because barack obama, jimmy carter, and bill clinton would have never become president without the voting rights act and the support. [applause] former pres. clinton: over the years, john cosponsored every single reauthorization of the voting rights act, as well as the voter lot to make it easier to register, which was one of the first laws i signed as president. he fought tooth and nail against every encroachment on the right to vote, including sponsoring legislation to support crucial
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elements of the voting rights act that were unforgivably gutted by that supreme court decision in 2014. john knew there were no permanent victories in human affairs, but he also knew there were no permanent defeats, so he kept on going, right to the very end. one of the things that i liked about them is that he didn't care about things he thought were not important. i think he is the first person to ever quote to me, saying "power can cease nothing without a demand." never did, never will. he understood that. the day dr. king was killed in memphis -- [indiscernible] on his his birthday, martin luther king day. it took 15 years to pass.
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he kept reaching out to republicans. he passed it 15 years later, and president reagan then signed it into law. it was more than a day on the calendar, it recognized the struggle for equality served a special place in the nation's awareness, reverence, and dedication, and we could find no better way to do it than by honoring its most eloquent spokesperson, who paid the ultimate price for convictions we should all share. after matthew shepard and james were murdered, he sponsored our bill, my administration's bill to strengthen and expand the
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federal government's power to prosecute hate crimes. we tried and tried, and i couldn't get it passed, but john kept on reproducing it. finally, it was signed into law in 2009. it took all that time. but john kept on pushing. i could give you a lot of examples, his devotion to health care, civil rights, and safety legislation. john was a co-sponsor of the brady bill for background checks. two million felons were denied guns with background checks. it would be far worse if that bill had never passed. we should honor john conyers for
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making those universal now. he cosponsored the family and medical leave law. in the time i left office, 35 million people, when a baby was one or a parent was sick, it has now gotten so important, to see so many people in the workplace, that it helped last year alone 20 million people who could advantage from the family and medical leave law. people think policy is horrible until they need it. right? john conyers got up every day and worked his mind, and a very fine mind it was.
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he also did some simple things that proved that his brain was connected to his heart. which is, i find as i grow older, quite important. there was no better example than how he responded to moving to detroit. this funeral will be reported on. it is important that every american knows this. even an icon has to eat, buy clothes, have a place to sleep.
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we often forget that. john conyers, a young congressman then, hired rosa parks. [applause] former pres. clinton: and, she worked for him for 20 something years, 23 years, i think, until she retired. probably never got a vote out of it. but, it is something, to me, that said as much about who he was and what he believed and cared about as anything he ever did.
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i wish hillary could have come with me today, but she and my daughter, chelsea, are off promoting a book. she sends her regards and prayers. she said, "don't forget to tell the truth about john, bill, why you really like him." i said, "because he stuck up for me when they were trying to string me up?" [laughter] she said, "no, he was quite good at that." "but, no, you really like him because he said news would be important in heaven."
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i have two wandering memories of john conyers. one was when he, beautifully dressed, went with me, or took me, to the detroit auto show. as a kid, i grew up hanging around dad's little buick business in a town of over 6000. later, when he moved to another town and ran a parts department, my job was to take inventory. it was a big deal then. i remember when you could still fix your own car. and not everything was automated. it was a car that you would be able to fix it if you bought it. the second thing i remember is, an incredible gift he got lionel hampton to come play for me at the white house.
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it was 1998, and the band was there, they were no longer young, still in great form, i think they played "my sunny valentine." here's the thing, there was a tune you have to know, a key you have to play it in, and a chord structure you had to follow. but you had to make up a little as you went along, you had to be creative about how you used the tools. that is how politics is.
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the constitution is the tune, the law is the key, the rule, and the fact, well, they form the basis on which we live or don't, and are creative or destructive. john conyers had a fundamental language. so i ask you to think about that. his friends, lionel hampton, the greatest hit, was called "flying home." our friend john, he is finally
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flying home. he made some beautiful music. in the key of life. like all great jazz musicians, coltrain, parker, that made his achievements all the more important, and all the more meaningful. remember, when you go home, remember the circumstance, the action, and the impact, and make your own music. god bless you, friends. thank you. [applause] ♪
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announcer: "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. sunday morning, concerned veterans for america senior advisor dan caldwell discusses veterans issues and his opposition to so-called endless wars. then, super majority co-founder joins us to talk about women's influence on campaign 2020. watch live at 7:00 a.m. eastern sunday morning. join the discussion. announcer: watch the c-span networks live next week as the house intelligence committee holds the first public impeachment hearings. the committee led by chairman
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adam schiff will hear from three state department officials, starting wednesday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3, william taylor, and deputy erie secretary of state george ted -- deputy secretary of state george kent will testify. yovanovitchmarie will appear before the committee. ahead of the hearings, read witness testimony. find the transcripts at east berlin tonight, tens of thousands of people crossing into west berlin, pouring through the berlin wall, which opened today. not waiting for officials or even daybreak, they are still coming. host: those are the words and images that nbc used to open its special report on the night of november 9, 19 89. 30 years later, we are remembering that earth and concrete shattering day.


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