Rep. Delgado Delivers State of the District Address
WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight, on the first full day of the 117th Congress, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado delivered a State of the District Address. The Congressman’s remarks focus on his work throughout his first term to be transparent, accountable, and accessible to everyone in the district, as well as his goals for the next two years. Below is a video of his address and the full text of his speech, as prepared for delivery.
Click here to watch Rep. Delgado’s State of the District Address.
“Good evening, everyone. With a new year upon us and a new session of Congress underway, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly with folks at home in NY-19. I want to talk about the challenges we’ve faced this past year, the challenges we’re still facing today, and my hopes for all that we can achieve in the next two years.
“As I speak with you, America has passed another difficult milestone in our struggle against the coronavirus: 350,000 deaths. As I do every night, I pray for those mourning the loss of a loved one, for those who are sick, and for our selfless healthcare workers on the frontlines.
“Like many of you, I’ve felt despair at times during the past 10 months. But I’ve also felt hope. I’ve witnessed first-hand how our community has risen to meet the pandemic’s challenges—local food banks serving record numbers of meals; small businesses adapting to keep their customers and employees safe; healthcare workers tending not only to those who have contracted the virus, but also to those struggling with the mental and emotional toll of months of isolation or financial hardship.
“As a community, we can be proud of the compassion, the heart and the can-do spirit we have brought to bear in response to this crisis. I’ve always found that difficult times bring out the best in people, and this pandemic has proven to be no exception.
“After months of partisan gridlock, in December I was glad to finally vote for another pandemic relief package that included measures to address the urgent needs of individuals, families, businesses, nonprofits, farms, and hospitals enduring through the pandemic.
“And yet, so much of what Americans find frustrating about Congress—what makes them lose faith in this institution—was on display during those months of negotiations: political gamesmanship, petty partisan fights, and an apparent indifference toward the pressing needs of the people we represent.
“While stimulus negotiations dominated headlines across the country, one of my bills, the Fairness for Local Veteran Cemeteries Act, passed through the House and Senate.
“When I first met with my bipartisan, locally-based Veteran Advisory Committee in early 2019, Captain Steve Massee—then the director of the Ulster County Veteran Services Agency—told me that he ‘had a bill’ for me. After he explained that a technical error in federal law was keeping our local veterans cemeteries from receiving federal support, my team and I drafted legislation that would correct the problem. And now, having passed both houses of Congress in December, that bill awaits the president’s signature.
“While it was the stimulus bill—and all the dysfunction that came with its negotiation—that dominated the 24-hour news cycle during those weeks, it was the passage of that bill that left me deeply inspired by the opportunity to serve. It reaffirmed my belief that truly focusing my time on listening to community members at home can not only yield legislative successes that bring about important changes, but also improve the quality of our democracy. Government for the people and by the people.
“On paper, my main responsibility as a member of Congress is to cast votes. And as one of only a dozen or so members who hasn’t missed a single vote in the last two years, I’ve cast many. I’m proud of that fact.
“But in my mind, my primary job is to listen. That’s for two reasons.
“First of all, I believe that the best ideas on how to empower our community don’t come from Washington, but from those who live and breathe the issues that Congress is working to address.
“Like my veterans cemetery legislation, I’ve introduced several bills based on suggestions from folks back home. And virtually all of my work in Washington is informed by the conversations I have regularly with community members and my bipartisan local advisory committees, which cover agriculture, healthcare, small businesses, and veterans issues—all areas critical to the well-being of our district.
“But I also put an emphasis on listening—and in particular, listening before speaking—because I believe that it’s the lifeblood of our diverse democracy. Listening is how we build bridges between ourselves and those with different backgrounds, different identities, different ideas, and different political affiliations.
“Think about today’s political climate. We speak past each other more than we speak to each other. We turn to new forms of media that reinforce our views rather than challenge and expand them. And our common narrative as a people—the ties that bind our nation together—have been relegated to second-class status in favor of our party identification.
“Listening takes effort and patience. It can be difficult. But I am convinced that it’s the key to making democracy work—that it’s how we get every member of our community to truly believe and lean into the democratic process.
“My commitment to listening is why I’ve held 50 town halls across all 11 counties in our district during my first term in office. It’s why I’ve visited more than 100 small businesses, farms, schools, and hospitals. And it’s why I’ve responded to every phone call, letter, and email—more than 200,000 of them in total—that came to my office these past two years.
“I’ve had plenty of legislative successes these past two years: four of my bills have been signed into law, two more are awaiting the president’s signature, and I’ve been recognized as one of the most bipartisan Members of Congress. But it’s a different set of metrics—town halls, farm tours, and constituent mail—that I’m most proud of.
“Accessibility, accountability, transparency. To me, these are not just words—they are my creed. I can’t promise that we will always see eye-to-eye on a particular issue. But I can and do promise you that I will listen to your views, that I will treat them and you with respect, and that, whether we agree on an issue or not, I will explain my position to you.
“As I look ahead at my second term in office, these principles will continue to guide me. I will remain a member of the Committees on Small Business, Agriculture, and Transportation and Infrastructure—not the most high-profile committees in Congress, by any means, but by far the most important for the needs of our district. That’s where I want to be.
“Using my leverage on these committees, I will redouble my efforts to help our 27,000 small businesses and self-employed individuals thrive despite challenging economic circumstances.
“I will keep fighting to ensure that our more than 5,000 farms—the backbone of both our upstate economy and our rural way of life—can compete in today’s farm economy.
“And I will keep pushing for investments in our region’s infrastructure—from roads, to rail, to broadband, to cell service, to hospitals, to public schools, to affordable housing—so that we can ensure a healthier, safer, and more productive future for ourselves and our children.
“Our first order of business in this new Congress, however, will be to confront the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. While public health experts tell us that the darkest days of the pandemic have yet to come—and it is essential that we remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to keep our loved ones safe—we can find hope in the fact that the scientific community has produced a safe and effective vaccine in record time.
“As of today, New York has administered more than 275,000 vaccine doses with almost 500,000 more doses on hand. While the vaccine rollout in New York and across the nation has gotten off to a slower than anticipated start, I’m confident that our state and our country will continue to accelerate the rate of vaccinations in the coming months. To that end, it is imperative that Congress provides more funding for state and local governments to support those on the ground doing the heavy lifting of coordinating the vaccine’s distribution.
“As some of you know, I received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine here in DC on December 18th, and I will receive my second and final shot here this coming Friday. I took the vaccine upon the advice of the Attending Physician and consistent with continuity of government guidelines.
“But I also took the vaccine in order to show that the vaccine is safe, and to demonstrate my trust in the public health officials whose expertise and advice has so often been ignored and undermined by those in elected office since the pandemic began.
“As I travel back and forth between home and Washington and then make my way all across the district engaging with constituents about the health and the safety of the vaccine, my goal is to build trust and faith in this treatment. When I look someone in the eye and urge them to get vaccinated, I want them to know that I’ve done it, myself.
“We have seen the impact of inconsistent leadership on important measures like mask-wearing, and I believe it is critical to clear up any confusion there may be around the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. I will continue to put my faith in this treatment while also ensuring that New York State, and the local governments therein, from counties to hamlets, have all the federal support needed to continue to roll out the vaccine at home.
“In closing, I want to say how honored I am to be representing New York’s 19th district for another term. It has been the privilege of a lifetime. On Sunday, I took a sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of this office.
“Tonight, I make another pledge to you: that I will continue to listen to your concerns and priorities for our nation; that I will always put what is right for our community above what is easy but wrong; and that I will strive to be an effective representative for everyone in our district.
“Thank you, and God bless you.”