Secretary Of State Simon Chokes Up Over Voting Rights

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Minnesota’s new Secretary of State Steve Simon is passionate about voting rights. So passionate he got choked up when speaking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Simon was speaking just after he was sworn in Monday at an inauguration ceremony for Minnesota’s constitutional officers. He recalled that when the landmark federal act passed in 1965, it was very controversial. Present in the audience was one of the people who voted for the act — Walter Mondale.

“And Vice President Mondale knows, he was then U.S. Senator and was part of that delegation, the members of our (Minnsota congressional) delegation disagreed sharply on many prominent issues of the day: Vietnam, Medicare, immigration,” said Simon.

“But when the roll was called on the voting rights act…,” Simon’s voice trailed off and he paused and struggled with his emotions. He then continued.
“Minnesota’s delegation spoke with one voice. All of our voting members — senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — voted to affirm the fundamental right for all Americans to have a direct voice in their government. That is the Minnesota way.

“Now, it doesn’t mean we always agree with one another. It doesn’t mean that we set aside politics. It means we always remember that politics is the means to an end. Not an end in itself, especially when it comes to the fundamental right to vote.”

Full video of inauguration ceremony for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Attorney General and State Auditor here.

Complete text of Secretary of State Steve Simon’s remarks

Thank you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, it’s a great honor to be with you here today.

I first want to thank Secretary of State Mark Ritchie who is with us here today for his years of service and devotion during a time of close elections and unparalleled scrutiny. Mister Secretary…(applause)

I want to thank my fellow Minnesotans for allowing me the great honor of serving as secretary of state an honor I take very seriously.

The office of secretary of state, of course, has many duties from helping businesses to protecting victims of domestic violence. But most Minnesotans think of the secretary first as the chief administrator of elections. In Minnesota, we know how important elections can be. We know that voting matters. We know that we have to make democracy real for everyone. And we know that finding common ground is the best way to get results.

That vision of voting has been the Minnesota way.

This year, America will mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. When President Lyndon Johnson signed that act into law on August 6th, 1965, he rightly called it a “triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that’s ever been won on any battlefield.” The Voting Rights Act brought millions of Americans out of the shadows by bringing an end to their silence. We didn’t just make a promise, we made it policy — the law of the land — to give millions of Americans a voice by giving them a vote.

Now, like most landmark legislation, the Voting Rights Act was controversial at the time. And the debate in Congress was sometimes bitter. But Minnesotans did what they do best. They found common ground.

In 1965, Minnesota had a congressional delegation that was very divided politically. And Vice President Mondale knows, he was then U.S. Senator and was part of that delegation.

The members of our delegation disagreed sharply on many prominent issues of the day: Vietnam, Medicare, immigration.

But when the roll was called on the Voting Rights Act…
Minnesota’s delegation spoke with one voice. All of our voting members — senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — voted to affirm the fundamental right for all Americans to have a direct voice in their government. That is the Minnesota way.

Now, it doesn’t mean we always agree with one another. It doesn’t mean that we set aside politics. It means we always remember that politics is the means to an end. Not an end in itself, especially when it comes to the fundamental right to vote.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve put those principles in to practice in our state elections system. And that Minnesota system has become one of the copied and envied in the nation. But there’s more to do. And we can do new things, bold things, the Minnesota way.

We can make it easier for all eligible Minnesotans to vote. We can reduce the gap between those who vote regularly and those who don’t. We can ensure that our elections are open and honest, safe and trustworthy.

As Secretary of State, I’ll work with anyone of any political affiliation from any part of our state to secure and strengthen our right to vote in Minnesota. To help make our democracy worthy of our best traditions together the Minnesota way.

Thank you, and may God bless us all. Thank you.
(applause)

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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