Transcript: Former Gov - transcription powered by Happy Scribe

[00:00:13.05]
Gamy, I told you, gonna a look younger. Hi, how are you? I'm sorry about the. Just don't do. He said, hey, you need to step back just a little bit, just a little bit. Just about to step to there, right there. Right there. Just to stay. You can smell my going here. All right. Hey. Hi. How are you? Good to see you. Oh, OK. Good.

[00:01:21.05]
Right. All right. All right. Coming up, Senator, are you okay?

[00:01:44.00]
Thank you. Thank you. Hey, get back that guy. Give me some room, guys. Good. The senator. Senator. Senator, speak. All right. Well, it's been a long, long journey.

[00:02:05.06]
That's right. I'm bruised and I'm battered. I'm bloody. It's been a long time since I've shave with a normal razor and it takes a little practice. I'm sorry about that. I got to keep dabbing the blood. I have to apologize for his tardiness. He couldn't find where I put his socks this morning. Lot's changed in the nearly eight years that we have been here. Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, the obvious.

[00:02:32.00]
I want to say that I know I speak for Patti and Amy and Annie. And obviously for me, we I want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump. How do you properly thanks someone who has given you back the freedom that was stolen from you? He didn't have to do this. He's a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor from Brooklyn. Doing this does nothing to help his politics. President Trump is a man who is tough and outspoken, but he also has a kind heart.

[00:03:01.03]
And this is an act of kindness. And I also believe it's the beginning of the process to to actually turn an injustice into a justice. Sorry about this blood. All these years away, I never stop reminding myself of the words from a poem. It's called The Gate of the Year. Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you. Better than light and safer than a known way. It's been a long time since I've been home.

[00:03:38.00]
Nearly eight years. Nearly 3000 days, I suppose. A better way to measure how long it's been to our daughters, Amy and Annie. When I left home so long ago, Amy, our older daughter, was a sophomore in high school and it will be two years this spring since she's graduated from college. And now, just recently, Amy earned a master's degree. And we're very proud of you, sweetheart. And Andy, our younger daughter, was eight years old when I left.

[00:04:09.01]
She was about this high. Now she's 16 and now she has her driver's license and she's doing good in school and she plays the piano. And we're very proud of her, too. Look at you, sweetheart. Look at you. My baby's grown up so fast. Again, on behalf of my family, we want to express our profound gratitude to President Trump. It's been a long, unhappy journey. These are the hard years for our children.

[00:04:37.07]
They've been hard years for Patti and for me. I spent my first 32 months in prison, nearly three years behind what the inmates call the razor wire, the barbed wire fence. You can't go near that fence if you do. There are prison guards there. They're armed with machine guns who have the discretion to shoot you. Right. I didn't go near that fence. The buildings behind that fence where the inmates live in sleeper, squalid places, they're cold and dark like tombs.

[00:05:08.07]
There were about 900 inmates there. Drug dealers, cartel members, gang bangers, bank robbers. There were men. There were committed murder, con artists, a lot of sex offenders. About 2 percent of the population when the so-called white collar category for most of my time there in my home was a six foot by twelve foot, six foot by eight foot prison cell with four cement walls, a big, heavy iron door that can shut you in a small window with bars on it and a bunk bed.

[00:05:41.07]
I slept on the top bunk often late at night. I would look through that window and pass those bars out into the night sky. And I think of home. I think of my children. I think a patty sometimes. Sometimes I could almost feel her near me. I was I would say to myself, one day, one day, I'll make it back to you and hold your hand, sweetheart. And I remember what a gracious thing it's been to walk through life with you.

[00:06:19.00]
Thank you for doing so. She still us. What's there as a soldier? She sure is. She was right. Yeah. Anyway, so I again, on behalf of Patti and Amy and Andy and me, we want to again express our our deepest gratitude to President Trump. Like I said, as a Republican president and a Democratic governor, he didn't have to do this. But President Trump is not a typical politician. Right. He's tough.

[00:06:45.01]
He's outspoken. He gets things done. He's a problem solver in a business where too many politicians don't want to solve problems. All they want to do is play politics and get nothing done for the people. He's he's he's got a Trump. The trouble, Chris? That's right. If I had the ability to vote to vote for him. Well, I don't know that either. Allow me to vote. But I'll get into that in a minute.

[00:07:09.06]
But let me just say that that a year that our president is. He's tough and outspoken and he has the courage to challenge the old way. That's right. He's the one who's actually fighting to bring real change. That's why he gets so much pushback. But not withstanding being tough, he's also a man with a kind heart. He seems wrong and he tries to ride it just like he did in the case of Alice Marie Johnson. You know who she is, the grandmother from Alabama who served 21 years in prison on a life sentence as a first time non-violent drug offender, a life sentence as a first time nonviolent drug offender.

[00:07:46.06]
The first little Alice Marie Johnson's case is probably one of the better illustrations that shows how the federal criminal justice system disproportionally discriminates against African-Americans and people of color, and how the 1994 crime bill has led to the over sentencing and to the creation of what the author, Michelle Alexander, has called the new Jim Crow in America. I don't know what I'm talking about. Right. Dr. Clinton's. 94 crime bill passed by my fellow Democrats before I got to Congress.

[00:08:18.06]
Fortunately, as soon as President Trump learned of the injustice against Alice Marie, he immediately put a stop to it and he sent her home to her family. And fortunately, because this is a president who gets things done through his leadership and with the help of organizations like Cut 50, President Trump was able to build the necessary bipartisan support to pass the historic first step back, a new law that begins the process of reforming a broken criminal justice system and putting an end to the racist injustice caused by that racist 1994 crime bill.

[00:08:51.07]
Now, as for me, obviously I've got ten thousand reasons to be thankful to President Trump. I'm obviously thankful to be home that my freedom back to just be able to hold my wife's hand. But most of all, I'm thankful to you, Mr. President, for giving my daughters their father back. My daughters are growing up and the day is not too far off when they will go out into the world on their own. Now, I wish I could slow down time, but no matter where their life's journey may lead, they will always take with them the realization that the kindest gift they've ever received in their lives came from you.

[00:09:28.03]
Thank you, Mr. President, for what you've done for me. But better, far, far better. Thank you for what you've done for them. I'd like to thank a few people real quick. I'd like to thank my old friend, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, for his voice and for his help and for his support. I want to thank my friend and former colleague in the Congress, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., for his friendship and his support.

[00:09:51.01]
I want to thank Patty's dad for Alderman Richard Mell, for his love and support to our daughters and to his daughter, Patty. I want to thank this mystery man, a young man who brought all this about. I just met him yesterday. And this is Mark Vargas. He's quite a guy. And he's a he. He's the kind of guy who can get you out of prison if you find yourself stuck there. And I'm really grateful to his efforts and what he's done on my behalf.

[00:10:20.05]
I'm sorry, I just. Yeah, I got it. Sorry, I just came in second, my friend. The scriptures teach us and history shows that in the long run, Wright defeated will in the end overcome history. The Scriptures teach us that history shows that in the long run, Wright defeated will in the end overcome wrong triumphant. And as Dr. Martin Luther King used to say, truth crushed to Earth will one day rise again. Because no lie can live forever.

[00:10:53.08]
I'm returning home today from a long exile. A freed political prisoner. I want to say again to the people of Illinois who twice elected me governor. I didn't let you down. I would have let you down if I gave in to this. But resistance to tyrants is obedience to God. Not long ago, United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned about this. He warned about federal prosecutors bringing criminal charges against government officials for what he described as routine practices.

[00:11:24.08]
Justice Breyer went on to point out, and I'm quoting him, to give that kind of power to a criminal prosecutor who is virtually uncontrollable, is dangerous to our separation of powers. And quote, I've learned the hard way just how dangerous that is. From beginning to end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution. I got into politics to help people. I didn't get into politics to make money. I think in the politics, Rich, my family or my friends, I got into politics because I was fortunate to live in the greatest country that's ever existed.

[00:11:58.05]
My immigrant father fought the Nazis. He spent four years in a prisoner of war camp. After that war, he spent three years in a refugee camp waiting for the day that one day the Congress that one day his youngest son would become a member of would pass a law called the Displaced Persons Act to allow him and millions of others like him. Immigrants from all around the world with long and hard to pronounce last names to be able to come to America to pursue freedom and opportunity.

[00:12:22.08]
My dad basically did about seven years in prison. I got him beat. I had an almost day but day, I believe in America. He took the gift of freedom not for granted because he knew what it was like to live under oppression. He didn't go back to his country, Yugoslavia, because it was a communist country where freedom wasn't allowed. So he came here and he got a job working at a factory. And for most of his life, all of his life in the United States, my dad was a working man, a factory worker, and my mother was a working mother who worked for the Chicago Transit Authority, passing out the transfers at the subway stations.

[00:12:55.07]
They never had a chance to live the American dream and older owned the home of their own. But they worked hard and sacrificed so that their kids can have opportunities they didn't have. This is the American story. My mother father lived that. And so I'd like to think that as governor, what I did was to try to draw on my own life experience and try to take those experiences and turn them into something real to help people. That's why we provided health care to all the kids in Illinois through the all kids program, because I saw as a young child, a cousin passed away from leukemia at the age of 12 and didn't have insurance, and his mother and father lost what little they had.

[00:13:36.08]
We provided free transportation. Every one of our senior citizens or for the disabled, because I remember my father as a senior citizen being part of a senior citizen discount card he had. We could take the bus for half the price and we were able to take that and apply that to everybody in the state of Illinois. I wouldn't allow that swamp in Springfield and my fellow Democrats down there who just want to raise taxes on the working people to raise their taxes.

[00:14:00.00]
And so it was always a struggle, a constant battle to try to remember who I was supposed to fight for. And so I hope now looking to the future that I can draw from my life experience, particularly those over the last eight years in prison and 11 years since this all came to us and do something to try to fight to help people who've been wrongfully incarcerated or those. And this is probably the rule and not the exception. Those who have been over sentence, nonviolent offenders who made a mistake did wrong.

[00:14:32.02]
But I've been sentenced to years in prison that not only destroyed their lives and steal from them their futures, but they hurt their children, their family. I saw what they do to families because I saw it happen to my own. And every time I go into the visiting room to visit with my family, I'd look around that room and I'd see mothers with their children. And you can tell it was a mother because you can see it in the sadness of her face.

[00:14:53.09]
I would see fathers with young children and you can see the discomfort that the family feels. So I hope that as I move forward, I can take some of that experience that I've had and try to do what I can to try to improve what is a broken. And I believe in many cases, a corrupt criminal justice system when it comes to crime and punishment in America. The United States incarcerates six. Ten times more people than any other industrialized nation in the world.

[00:15:23.07]
We put more people in jail than China and Russia. Federal prosecutors like to boast about their 97 percent conviction rate. But doesn't that both show just how big the system is? Unless you're the undefeated boxing champion Floyd Money Mayweather. Who else ever wins 97 percent of the time at anything? He's not even anymore. Term and not war criminal. No, he hasn't lost. Oh, no. No, Floyd Mayweather has not been defeated. Don't say that.

[00:15:50.09]
You probably get a phone call from everyday people every day. People who who find themselves caught up in the system have no chance. And they many of them recognize the futility in fighting for their rights. So they just give in and under duress because they're being threatened with long sentences. They agree to plead guilty to things they didn't do. Unfair, unfair and cruel over sentencing is the rule. It's not the exception. Equal protection under the law doesn't exist.

[00:16:18.03]
Wildly unfair disparities in sentencing for the same or similar offenses are not uncommon and defy common sense and in way too many cases. Way too many non-violent offenders are given way longer prison sentences than violent offenders and sex offenders who've actually caused great physical and emotional harm to their victims. It is a broken criminal justice system and it has been for a long time and it's a racist criminal justice system. But there is hope. And one of the great ironies of history is that so far, up till now in the history of our country, no one has done more or is currently working to do more to fix this broken and racist criminal justice system that President Trump and Jared Kushner is right.

[00:17:02.05]
One last thing. I dabbed his blood again. Am I good? I'm doing all right. I just feel a mommy. I'd like to say one thing about. I'd like to say something about adversity. And I'd like to direct my remarks to all of my fellow underdogs out there who find themselves up against powerful forces and long odds to anyone facing hard circumstances who've suffered loss or hurting or who, like me, have hit rock bottom. You may be down.

[00:17:34.00]
All your hope may seem to have disappeared. The road you have to travel is a long one at home. That's where you want to be. It's so far away you can't even see the flicker of a light at the end of the tunnel. But don't give up. Don't give up. Think of the people you love. I'll get it out. Hang on. Think of the people you love. That's where you'll find your purpose. My love for my family and my faith in God is what sustained me during this long and seemingly never ending trial.

[00:18:11.04]
It gave me purpose to stay strong and along with Patty, to try to set the right example for our daughters, to show them that when adversity enters your life, even when your calamity comes on like a whirlwind and just about everything, just about everything has been taken away from you and your heart's broken. Don't quit, fight, fight. Keep fighting and persevere in storms and through the dark passages and when you find yourself alone, all alone in the lonely wilderness.

[00:18:46.08]
Because it is there in that lonely wilderness where we are tried and tested, that we must rise to our circumstances, we must rise above our circumstances and dare to dream. It is not an ending, but a beginning. Well, out of weakness. We are made strong every mile I ran, every push it by did, every book I read, every word I wrote was my way of fighting back. My way of using the time in the wilderness to prepare for a better day.

[00:19:13.05]
Waiting in the shadows, waiting for justice, waiting and hoping. So I live in faith, hope and love. VidCon faith. He, Esperanza, he or more. And if you have to take a stand and don't be afraid. You're not alone. You never go alone. It is so often the case that in the sadness of life, we look for God. My faith in him. Turn despair into hope. It made me strong, trusting that one day through the grace of God, he would turn darkness into light.

[00:19:50.02]
Come on and lead me home.

[00:19:52.09]
Thank you again.

[00:20:04.01]
Makes you laugh about the fact that, like. How do you think of that mostly? Governor, I want to ask you some questions. Yes, my son, Governor, Daddy, we talked to you. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Governor, governor, governor, governor. Name. Why would you sign that sign? Amy. Amy. Amy, you have a question for the governor. Thank you so much.

[00:21:00.07]
How are you doing about those cars? Well, I was really governor. Governor, you saw the signs. That's one question I got. Wait. I don't want to touch you. I'll get.