Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks during a celebration of Black History Month at the White House on Monday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday celebrated the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States during a White House event marking Black History Month.
Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, and Black members of the administration including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge and United Nations ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield joined Biden on stage at the event.
The occasion at the East Room was attended by about 150 people, including civil rights leaders such as the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and Opal Lee, a 95-year-old retired teacher from Fort Worth, Texas, who advocated for June 19, or Juneteenth, to become a federal holiday.
Both Biden and Harris touted the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court as a landmark achievement for their administration.
Harris called for Jackson's "swift confirmation," adding, "I don't have to tell everybody here, she has been confirmed on a bipartisan basis three times, and deserves therefore a swift confirmation."
Biden called Jackson an "incredible woman," adding, "We've nominated more Black women to the federal bench than any administration in the history of the United States."
The president also called for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act -- both of which have failed to advance mostly due to solid Republican opposition in the Senate.
Despite the setbacks, Biden said he's tasked federal agencies "to promote access to voting" and has doubled the number of personnel working on voting rights enforcement at the Department of Justice.
Biden issued a proclamation on Jan. 31 recognizing February as Black History Month.
"Our nation was founded on an idea: that all of us are created equal and deserve to be treated with equal dignity throughout our lives," Biden said in the earlier proclamation. "It is a promise we have never fully lived up to but one that we have never, ever walked away from.
"The long shadows of slavery, Jim Crow and redlining -- and the blight of systemic racism that still diminishes our nation today -- hold America back from reaching our full promise and potential. But by facing those tragedies openly and honestly and working together as one people to deliver on America's promise of equity and dignity for all, we become a stronger nation -- a more perfect version of ourselves."
"As we celebrate National Black History Month, let us all recommit ourselves to reach for that founding promise," Biden said in the proclamation. "Let us continue to fight for the equity, opportunity, and dignity to which every Black American is due in equal measure."