Read Everything Joe Biden Said in His ‘Soul of the Nation’ Speech.
President Joe Biden issued a dire warning for the future of American democracy ahead of the midterm elections, saying former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies “threaten the very foundation of our republic.”
Biden gave the nationally broadcast speech Thursday from the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, where the U.S. Constitution was crafted in 1787. The address, which White House officials called the “battle for the soul of the nation,” saw Biden maintain his increasingly combative posture to the Republican Party and comes on the heels of recent legislative wins and a rise in his poll numbers.
During the speech, Biden called on Americans to preserve the Constitution and democracy, warning that “MAGA forces” are seeking to take the U.S. “backwards” to an era with fewer civil rights.
Joe Biden Soul Nation Speech
In a Philadelphia speech Thursday, President Joe Biden warned of forces trying to steal the “soul of the nation.”
Below is a full transcript of Biden’s address:
“I speak to you tonight from sacred ground and American Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“This is where America made its Declaration of Independence to the world, where two centuries ago with an idea unique among nations and in America: We’re all created equal. This is where the United States Constitution was written and debated.
“This is where we set in motion the most extraordinary experiment of self-government, the world has ever known.
“With three simple words, “we the people … we the people.” These two documents and the ideas embody equality and democracy … [and] are the rock upon which this nation is built. They are how we became the greatest nation on earth.
“They’re why, for more than two centuries, America has been a beacon to the world. As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault.
“We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.
“But tonight, I’ve come to this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threat we face, about the power we have in our own hands to meet these threats, and about the incredible future that lies in front of us if only we choose it.
“But never forget. We the people are the true heirs of the American experiment that began more than two centuries ago.
“We the people are burning inside of each of us. The flame of liberty that was led here in Independence Hall. The flame the lit our way through abolition, the Civil War, suffrage, the Great Depression. World Wars, civil rights.
“That sacred flame still burns.
“Now in our time—as we build an America that is more prosperous, free and just—that is the work of my presidency. A mission I believe in with my whole soul.
“But first, let’s be honest with each other and with ourselves.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
“I want to be very clear, very clear upfront. Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
“But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country. These are hard things.
“But I’m an American president. Not a president of red America, blue America. For all Americans.
“I believe it’s my duty, my duty to level with you, to tell the truth, no matter how difficult, no matter how painful.
“And here, in my view, is what is true.
“MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution, do not believe in the rule of law. They did not recognize the will of the people and refuse to accept the results of a free election.
“And they’re working right now, as I speak in state after state, to give power to the side elections in America. To partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers and undermine democracy itself.
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards, backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.
“They promote authoritarian leaders and they fanned the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, the rule of law, the very soul of this country.
“And look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists placing a dagger at the throat of our democracy, but they’re looked at as patriots.
“They see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
“They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people.
“This time, they’re determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people.
“That’s why respected conservatives, like federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig, has called Trump and extreme MAGA Republicans a clear and present danger to our democracy.
“While the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can: We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy.
“There are far more Americans, from every background and belief, who reject extreme MAGA ideology than those who accept it. It is within our power. Folks, it’s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy.
“I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now America must choose to move forward or to move backwards. To build a future or obsess about the past. To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear … and of darkness.
“I agree Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.
“Together we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path forward to the future. A future of possibility, a future to build and dream and hope. We’re on that path moving ahead.
“I know this nation. I know you, the American people. I know your courage. I know your hearts and I know our history. This is a nation that honors our Constitution. We do not reject it. This is a nation that believes in the rule of law. We do not repudiate it. This is a nation that respects free and fair elections. We honor the will of the people; we do not deny it.
“This is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We do not encourage violence. We are still Americans who believe in honesty and decency and respect for others. Patriotism. Liberty. Justice for all. Hope. And possibility.
“We are still at our core a democracy, and yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy. For a long time, we told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it’s not.
“We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us. That’s why tonight I’m asking our nation to come together and unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.
“We are all called by duty and conscience to confront extremists who put their own pursuit of power above all else. Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans must be stronger, more determined and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to destroying American democracy. We the people will not let anyone or anything tear us apart.
“Today, there are dangers around us, we can’t allow them to prevail. We hear, you heard it: more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It can never be an acceptable tool.
“I want to say this plain and simple: There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.
“You saw law enforcement brutally attacked on January the 6th. We’ve seen election officials, poll workers and volunteers of both parties subjected to intimidation and death threats. Can you believe it? FBI agents just doing their job, as directed, facing threats to their own lives? From their own fellow citizens?
“On top of that, there are public figures—today, yesterday, the day before—predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets. This is inflammatory. It’s dangerous. It’s against the rule of law. And we the people must say, ‘This is not who we are.’
“Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. They’re incompatible. We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It’s wrong. We have to reject political violence with all the moral clarity and conviction this nation can muster. Now, we can’t let the integrity of our elections be undermined, for that is a path to chaos.
“Look, I know politics can be fierce and mean and nasty in America. I get it. I believe in the give and take of politics and disagreement and debate and dissent. We’re a big complicated country. But democracy endures only if we the people respect the guardrails of the republic. Only if we the people accept the results of free and fair elections. Only if we the people see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences.
“Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes in an election: either they win or they were cheated. And that’s where the MAGA Republicans are today. They don’t understand what every patriotic American knows: You can’t love your country only when you win. It’s fundamental.
“American democracy only works only if we choose to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were set up in this chamber behind me. Only if we respect our legitimate political differences. I will not stand by and watch elections stolen by people who simply chose not to accept an idea. I will not stand by as the most fundamental freedom in this country, the freedom to vote and have your vote counted, be taken from you and the American people.
“As your president, I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being. And I’m asking everyone to join.
“Throughout our history, Americans often made the greatest progress coming out of some of our darkest moments, like you’re hearing that bullhorn (someone could be heard shouting in the background.) I believe we can and must do that again.
“MAGA Republicans look at Americans and see carnage and darkness and despair. They spread fear and lies, lies both for profit and power.
“I see a different America: an America with an unlimited future. An America that is about to take off. I hope you see it, as well. Just look around. I believe we can lift America from the depths of COVID, so we passed the largest economic recovery bill since President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt, and today, America’s economy is faster, stronger than any other advanced nation in the world.
“We have more to go. I believe we can build a better America. So we passed the biggest infrastructure investments since President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And we now embark on a decade of rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, highways, ports, water systems, high-speed internet, railroads.
“I believe we can make America safer. We passed the most significant gun safety laws since President Clinton. I believe we could go from being the highest cost of prescriptions in the world to making prescription drugs and health care more affordable. So we passed the most significant health care reform since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. And I believe that you could create a clean- energy future and save the planet. So we passed the most important climate initiative ever.
“The power we have is in our own hands. The cynics and the critics tell us nothing can get done. But they’re wrong. There’s not a single thing America cannot do—not a single thing beyond our capacity—if we do it together. It’s never easy. But we’re proving in America, no matter how long the road, progress does come.
“Look, I know the last years have been tough, but today COVID no longer controls our lives. More Americans are working than ever. Businesses are growing. Our schools are open. Millions of Americans have been lifted out of poverty. Millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits will now get what they deserve for their families in compensation. American manufacturers come alive across the heartland, and the future will be made in America.
“No matter what the white supremacists and extremists say, I made a bet on you, the American people, and that bet is paying off, proving that from the darkness of Charlottesville, of COVID, of gun violence, of insurrection, we can see the light.
“Light is now visible, light that will guide us forward not only in words but in actions—actions for you, for your children, for your grandchildren, for America. Even at this moment, with all the challenges we face, I give you my word, I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future … because of who you are.
“We’re going to end cancer as we know it. Mark my words. We’re going to create millions of new jobs in a clean-energy economy. We’re gonna think big. We’re going to make the 21st century another American century because the world needs us to. That’s where we need to focus our energy. Not the past. Not on divisive culture wars. Not on the politics of grievance. But on a future we can build together.
“MAGA Republicans believe that for them to succeed, everyone else has to fail. They believe America is not like I believe about America. I believe America is big enough for all of us to succeed. And that is a nation we’re building, a nation where no one is left behind.
“I ran for president because I believe we were in a battle for the soul of this nation. I still believe that to be true. I believe the soul is the breath, the life and the essence of who we are. The soul is what makes us us. The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God. That all are entitled to be treated with decency, dignity and respect. That all deserve justice and a shot and lives of prosperity and consequence.
“That democracy—democracy—must be defended. For democracy makes all these things possible.
“Folks, and it’s up to us. Democracy begins and will be preserved in we the people’s habits of the heart. In our character. Optimism that it tested yet endures. Courage that digs deep when we need it. Empathy that fuels democracy, the willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans.
“Look, our democracy is imperfect. It always has been. Notwithstanding those folks you hear on the other side there (Biden gestures to protesters). They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy.
“But history and common sense …
“Good manners is nothing they’ve ever suffered from (referring to protesters).
“But history and common sense tells us opportunity, liberty and justice are all most likely to come to pass in a democracy. We’ve never fully realized the aspirations of our founding [fathers], but every generation has opened those doors a little bit wider to include more people who have been excluded before.
“My fellow Americans, America is an idea: the most powerful idea in the history of the world that beats in the heart of the people of this country. It beats in all our hearts; it unites America. It is the American creed. The idea that America guarantees that everyone be treated with dignity. It gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in everyone the belief that no matter where you start in life, there is nothing you can’t achieve. That’s who we are; that’s what we believe.
“That’s precisely what we’re doing: opening doors, creating possibilities, focusing on the future. And we’re only just beginning. Our task is to make our nation free and fair, just and strong, noble and whole.
“And this work is the work of democracy. The work of this generation. It’s the work of our time for all time. We can’t afford to leave anyone on the sidelines. We need everyone to do their part. So speak up, speak out, get engaged. Vote. Vote. Vote.
“And if we do our duty—if we do our duty in ’22 and beyond—then ages still to come will say, we, all of us here, we kept the faith. We preserved democracy. We heeded not our worst instinct, but our better angels.
“We proved that for all its imperfections, America is still the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept. There’s nothing more important. Nothing more sacred. Nothing more American. That’s our soul. That’s who we truly are.
“That’s what we must always be. I have no doubt, none, that this is who we will be. And we will come together as a nation that will secure our democracy.
“For the next 200 years, we’ll have what we had the past 200 years: the greatest nation on the face of the earth. We just need to remember who we are.
“We are the United States of America. The United States of America. And may God protect our nation. And may God protect all those who stand watch over our democracy. God bless you.”