Remarks by President Biden and First Lady Biden Honoring Lives Lost in Buffalo, New York

The White House

Delavan Grider Community Center

Buffalo, New York

12:21 P.M. EDT

THE FIRST LADY: I just wanted to say thank you to the families for opening up your hearts to us and for letting us be with you today.

So God bless you, and thank you for allowing us to be with you. Thank you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: To Majority Leader — Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Higgins.

And, Gov, thank you for taking my call when I called. And I’ll never forget what she said. I said, “I’d like to maybe come up if it’s okay.” She said, “This is a big Scranton. Come. Come.” And I think you’re doing a heck of a job. Thank you. Thank you for your heart as well as your head.

And, Mayor Brown, you’ve been a — you’ve been wonderful. Thank you. And I know this is a lot of — when a vice presidential or a presidential trip shows up, it’s — there’s all kinds of paraphernalia and people, and I know it’s not easy.

I want to thank your law enforcement officers for not just what they did in this crisis, but for accommodating us.

And all the elected officials, and law enforcement officers, first responders, and faith leaders that are here today: Jill and I have come to stand with you.

And to the families: We’ve come here to grieve with you. It’s not the same, but we know a little bit of what’s like to lose a piece of your soul when you lose a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a mother, a father. The feeling of having that — as I said to some of you when we talked privately: You feel like there’s a black hole in your chest you’re being sucked into and you’re suffocating, unable to — unable to breath. That’s what it felt like, at least to us. And I’m sure some version of that — it feels that way to you. The anger. The pain. The depth of a loss that’s so profound.

You know, we know it’s hard to believe, and you’re probably not going to believe it, but I can tell you now from our personal experience and many others who we’ve met: The day is going to come — it will come — when your loved one brings a smile as you remember him or her — as you remember her; it’s going to bring a smile to your lip before it brings a tear to your eye. It takes a while for that to happen. It takes a while. It might take more than a season, but our prayer for you is that time comes sooner or later, but I promise you it will come.

As a nation, I say to the families: We remember them.

We’ve been reading about them. We visited the memorial where — the show of the love for them, and you’ve all shown, by the supermarket.

And Celestine Chaney, 65 years old. Brain cancer survivor. Churchgoer. Bingo player. Went to buy strawberries to make her favorite shortcake. A loving mother and a grandmother.

Roberta Drury, 32. Beloved daughter and sister. Moved back home to help take care of her brother after his bone marrow transplant. She went to buy groceries for dinner. The center of attention who made everyone in the room laugh and smile when she walked in.

Andrei Mackneil — excuse me, Andre Mackneil, 53. Worked at a restaurant. Went to buy his three-year-old son a birthday cake. His son celing [celebrating] a birthday, asking, “Where is Daddy?”

Katherine Massey, 72. A writer and an advocate who dressed up in costumes at schools and cut the grass in the park

and helping local elections. The glue of the family and the community.

Margus Morrison, 52. School bus aide. Went to buy snacks for weekly movie night with the family. Survived by his wife and three children and his stepdaughter. The center of their world.

Heyward Patterson, 67. Father. Church deacon. Fed the homeless at the soup kitchen. Gave rides to the grocery store to neighbors who needed help. Putting food in the trunk of others when he took his final breath.

Aaron Salter, 55. Retired Buffalo police officer for three decades. Three decades. Loved electric cars. A hero who gave his life to save others on a Saturday afternoon. And had that man not been wearing that vest that he purchased — bulletproof vest — a lot of lives would have been saved. A beloved father and husband.

Geraldine Talley, 62. Expert banker [baker]. And known for her warm, gentle personality. A friend to everybody. Devoted mother and grandmother.

Ruth Whitfield, 88. Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother who sang in the church choir. A caretaker of her husband, bringing him clean clothes, cutting his hair, holding his hand every day she visited him in the nursing home. Heart as big as her head.

Pearl Young, 77. A mother, grandmother, missionary of God. Public school teacher who also ran a local food pantry. Loved singing, dancing, and her family.

And all three are injured: Zaire Goodman, 20. Shot in the neck but fighting through it. Jennifer Warrington, 50. Christopher Braden, 55. Both treated with injuries, on a long road to recovery.

Individual lives of love, service, and community that speaks to the bigger story of who we are as Americans. A great nation because we’re a good people.

Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation’s soul: In America, evil will not win — I promise you. Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word.

For the evil did come to Buffalo, and it’s come to all too many places, manifested in gunmen who massacred innocent people in the name of hateful and perverse ideology rooted in fear and racism.

It’s taken so much. Ten lives cut short in a grocery store, three other wounded — three other wounded by a hate-filled individual who had driven 200 miles from Binghamton — in that range — to carry out a murderous, racist rampage that he would livestream — livestream to the world.

What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.

A hate that through the media and politics, the Internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost, and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced — that’s the word, “replaced” — by the “other” — by people who don’t look like them and who are therefore, in a perverse ideology that they possess and being fed, lesser beings.

I and all of you reject the lie. I call on all Americans to reject the lie. And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain, and for profit. (Applause.) Because that’s what it is.

We have now seen too many times the deadly and destructive violence this ideology unleashes.

We heard the chants, “You will not replace us,” in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I wasn’t going to run, as the Senator knows, again for President. But when I saw those people coming out of the woods — of the fields of — in Virginia, in Charlottesville, carrying torches, shouting “You will not replace us,” accompanied by white supremacists and carrying Nazi banners — that’s when I said, “No.” “No.”

And I, honest to God — those who know me — Chuck — you know I wasn’t going to run for certain. But I was going to be darned if I was going to let — anyway. Don’t want to get going.

Look, we’ve seen the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; El Paso, Texas; in Pittsburgh; last year in Atlanta; this week in Dallas, Texas; and now in Buffalo — in Buffalo, New York.

White supremacy is a poison. It’s a poison — (applause) — running through — it really is — running through our body politic. And it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes.

No more. I mean, no more. We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. (Applause.) None.

And, look, failure for us to not say that — failure in saying that is going to be complicity. Silence is complicity. It’s complicity. We cannot remain silent.

Our nation’s strength has always come from the idea — it’s going to sound corny, but think about it: What’s the idea of our nation? That we’re all children of God. All chil- — life, liberty, our universal goods — gifts of God. We didn’t get it from the government, we got it from — because we exist, and we’re called upon to defend them.

The venom of the haters and their weapons of war, the violence in the words and deeds that — that stalk our streets, our stores, our schools — this venom, this violence cannot be the story of our time. We cannot allow that to happen.

Look, I’m not naïve. I know tragedy will come again. It cannot be forever overcome. It cannot be fully understood either. But there are certain things we can do.

We can keep assault weapons off our streets. We’ve done it before. I did it when we passed the crime bill last time. And violence went down, shootings went down.

You can’t prevent people from being radicalized to violence, but we can address the relentless exploitation of the Internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism. We just need to have the courage to do that, to stand up.

Look, the American experiment in democracy is in a danger like it hasn’t been in my lifetime. It’s in danger this hour. Hate and fear are being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America but who don’t understand America.

To confront the ideology of hate requires caring about all people, not making distinctions.

Reverend, the Scripture is seeing that we’re all part of the Divine. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s the America I know, that Jill knows. And most deserve the most — we — look, we are the most multiracial, most dynamic nation in the history of the world.

Now is the time for the people of all races, from every background, to speak up as a majority in America and reject white supremacy.

These actions we’ve seen in these hate-filled attacks represent the views of a hate-filled minority. We can’t allow them to distort America — the real America. We can’t allow them to destroy the soul of the nation.

As President of the United States, I travel the world all the time, and other nations ask me — heads of state and other countries ask me, “What’s going on? What in God’s name happened on January 6th? What happened in Buffalo? What happ-…” They ask.

We have to refuse to live in a country where Black people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war deployed in a racist cause.

We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit.

We must all enlist in this great cause of America.

This is work that requires all of us — presidents and politicians, commentators, citizens. None of us can stay in the sidelines. We have to resolve here in Buffalo that from the tragedy — this tragedy — will come hope and light and life. It has to. And on our watch, the sacred cause of America will never bow, never break, never bend. And the America we love — the one we love — will endure.

So, to the families: From your pain, may we find purpose to live a life worthy of the loved ones you lost.

From a hymn based on the 91st Psalm, sung at my church: “May He raise you up on Eagle’s wings and Bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.” That’s my wish for us.

We can do this if we resolve to do it, if we take on the haters and those who don’t even care — it’s just about profit and politics.

May the soul of the fallen rest in peace and rise in glory. And may God guide the United States of America, now and always.

To the families: As my grandpop used to say when I walked out of his home in Scranton — he’d say, “Joey, spread the faith.” And my grandma would yell, “No, Joey.” I mean, he said, “Keep the faith.” And my grandma would say, “No, Joey, spread the faith.”

We’re thinking of you. Hold on to each other tightly. Stick together. You’ll get through this. And we’ll make Buffalo and the United States a better place to live than it is today. (Applause.)

12:38 P.M. EDT

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