Good evening, welcome to the Now This Presidential Forum, I'm Alejandro Alba. We're here in the East Room of the White House, sitting down with President Biden and six guests, to dive into the most pressing issues facing young people today: gun violence, the economy, trans rights, abortion access, the criminal legal system, and the climate crisis. Now, the stories shared will give younger voters a deeper understanding of just what is at stake this November, and the impact it has on real people across the country. Tonight's conversation is being streamed across all Now This channels, including YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. With that, I'd like to welcome President Biden. Well thanks for having me. I'm particularly, um, happy to be here, because this generation that's represented, uh, I am, make me incredibly optimistic. I know we're gonna talk about a lot of different issues, but the optimism that I have is borne out of a long experience of holding public office. You're the single most educated generation in American history, not a joke. You're the single most engaged generation in American history. You're the single most generous generation in American history. And you're also the single most... uh, how can I say it? Um... uh... open, and least prejudiced generation in American history. And to think of the subject we're gonna be talking about today, they, they couldn't even be talked about 30 years ago. I mean, literally, many of them would not even be discussed. And so I just want to thank you for letting me be here, and I'm anxious to... hear what's on your mind, and maybe get to ask you guys some questions too as we go along, so- But, thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. Then, let's dive right in. Our first issue is gun legislation. Here with us today is Natalie Barden, who, as you know, is one of thousands of Americans that have lost a loved one due to gun violence. Here's her story. [Video clip begins] My name is Natalie Barden. December will mark 10 years since my seven-year-old brother, Daniel, was killed in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with 19 students and 6 educators. Daniel was a ray of sunshine, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't miss him. Losing him was the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I feel a sense of urgency to prioritize this issue, as the United States has suffered over 4,000 mass shootings since the one that took my brother's life. I choose to speak up about the devastating, lifelong impacts of gun violence, with the hope that no one else has to experience the loss of a loved one in such a senseless act. [Video clip ends] Hello, Mr. President. First of all, thank you so much for being here today and for speaking with us. Um, as you know, my brother, Daniel, was murdered with an AR-15, which is one of the most commonly used weapons in mass shootings. You have talked a lot about wanting to ban weapons of war. Um, how, and more, most importantly, when do you plan on achieving that. Let me say, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of time in the school that this all happened. I met for with every single parent who lost someone, and I've become friends with their dad. So, full disclosure. And, I remember her when she was about as big as you saw in the film with her brother. And, um, it was a, a circumstance that, uh, was... I visited every mass shooting site that has occurred in all, a number of years, going all the way back to your school. And, one of the things that I saw was that, actually three things. One, you know, I did get the law changed, uh, uh, banning assault weapons back in the, in the, in '92 or 3, and, uh, but, I had, it can only do it for an X number of years. Had to come up for reconsideration, and when it came up for reconsideration in the Bush administration, they did not let it... They let it go. They wouldn't support it. And, uh, I've been trying to get it changed since then, but here's the deal. One of the things that occurs, there's two things, I think, what happened in your school. One was that, that was the mom who had all those weapons, his mother, and, uh, he had access to them. Right now, folks, if I left, if I, we were at a, this were not at the White House, we were at a, at a restaurant, and I left the keys in my automobile, and some underage kid came out, stole the automobile, was driving, and killed someone, I'd be liable. I'd be civilly liable, because I was irresponsible, leaving the kids in the car. I think anyone who owns weapons, any weapon, should have to lock them up, if they're legal weapons, lock them up. I have, I haven't shot them in a long time, but I have two shotguns. My deceased son had a shotgun. We used to have target practice. But, the fact of the matter is, they're locked in a case, so, no one should be able to access those, number one. No, I, I don't think that the AR, the, these assault weapons are just that. They're made for one reason, to kill people, as when I was trying to get it passed the first time and got it passed, hunters in Delaware would say, "Well, I want ..." I said, "How many deer are wearing Kevlar vest? How many folk, how many folks out there are there? What purpose is it to have a gun that can, a bullet can travel five times the speed of an ordinary bullet?" So, what we did was, this time around, we finally, and first time in 30 years, got gun legislation passed, and the House of Representatives, at my encouragement and of their own, passed the assault weapon ban, but the Republicans in the Senate blocked it. I, we only had 50 votes. We have to get every single Democrat, and we were not able to get it done. And, but, I promise you, I promise you that this next term, this next two years, I'm going to do everything in my power. The American people support doing away with those weapons. And honey, and I shouldn't say honey. I remember when you were little, but, you know, you know the tragedy that occurred, and what maybe you don't know is, folks, after what happened at her school, the state police has to meet with me, the state police who are doing the investigation. There are about 15 of them, and we went in a, in a room, and some of them started crying, and they said, "We need help." They were talking about, they needed mental help. What they saw, this carnage that this, this young man inflicted on that whole school, and on the teachers, as well. And so, it's just, I find no rational reason why assault weapons should be able to be sold, period. And, I promise, I'm going to do it. I'm going to go right at it again when we go back, when they go back in session. Thank you. But, your voice matters, by the way. I, I genuinely mean it. I really do think that, um, a ban on assault weapons should be made a priority, because, as you said, they're weapons of war that are not made to kill animals. They're made to kill people, so... And, I promise you, I made it a priority from the beginning, but you got to vote. Vote, vote, vote, vote. We need a couple more Democrats in the Senate. Um, and as you mentioned, the legislation that was passed recently, this past summer, um, that was very meaningful, as it was the first bipartisan piece of legislation in 30 years. However, um, it did not address a limit on high-capacity magazines, or it took a small step for background checks. So, what pathway has your administration identified that will close that gap so that we are more protected from individuals that want to use guns to harm us? I'm not being facetious when I say this. People voting, showing up to vote. For example, the idea that you could sell, my, my, my legislation says there can be no more than eight bullets in a round, okay? What these guys do in these mass killings, they have, they have magazines, they call them, as I know you know, that can hold up to 100 bullets in it. 100 bullets. That's where these ma -- I mean, people just, it's like having a automatic weapon, which is, we're not allowed to have, by the way, supposedly. And, uh, and so, it limits the size of the magazines. It limits the ability of any, any weapon, any weapon, including pistols, and it limits the use of the sale of an assault weapon, period, across the board. So, it's, it does both, and, uh, there's just... And, by the way, for every mass shooting that you read about, like it happened at her school, for every single one of those, there's a mass shooting taking place every day in a neighborhood, in a neighborhood. You know, you got 4,000 of these things, but, I mean, and they never get mentioned. People walk into a school, but in tough neighborhoods, there's mass shootings every single day, every single day, and it's wrong. It's just simply wrong. Thank you. Thank you, Natalie, and thank you, President Biden. Uh, we're now gonna shift to our next topic, which is economic instability. Now, young people across the country are struggling to break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, and the burden of student debt. Like many of those seeking college education, Joshika Kumaran fears the enormous debt she has to take on. This is her story. [Video clip begins] My name is Joshika Kumaran, and I'm a junior in college. A college degree matters because in the United States, education is linked to future earnings, and every potential penny could make a difference. My parents were stretched thin, and wouldn't be able to contribute anything towards my tuition. Both my parents had lost their jobs, and my brother's brain tumor went from benign to malignant. The burden of my college debt is on me, and that is daunting. Having any amount forgiven is a weight lifted that gives us more hope. I also know that millions of current and future college students will also be saddled by debt, unable to access this forgiveness, or because of a broken higher education system that seeks profit off of our quest to achieve the American dream. [Video clip ends] First I'd like to say thank you, Mr. President, for having us, and being able to have this conversation with all of us. This topic is near and dear to my family and my heart, so I'm grateful to be able to have this conversation with you. So my first question: I wanted to set myself and my family up for long term financial security by getting a college degree, but it comes at a huge cost, which makes it harder for me to help my family stay afloat and pay for my brother's brain cancer treatments. For people of color, the path to true financial security is often paved with advance degrees, and yet the cost of simply getting a bachelor's degree can be the ler, largest burden we bear financially. Federal student loan forgiveness will make a big difference, but it feels like the system itself is broken in some ways. What can your administration working with Congress do to help break this vicious cycle that is hurting the future of young people seeking an education for a better life? I used to have a good friend I went to high school with, and I'd say, "Bob, do you understand me?" He'd say, "Joe, I not only understand you, I overstand you." I overstand. I got into a... private university when I was out of high school, and even with the financial aid I couldn't go there. And I had to work, which is not a problem, to go to the University of Delaware, which is much, much cheaper. Now, just in the last 40 years, the four year university has, the cost of a four year university has tripled. Tripled, in the last 40 years, to go to the school to begin with. And, uh, Pell Grants use to cover 80% of a college, uh, um, tuition. Now, it's down to about 30%. And thirdly, what's happened is, the states for state-run universities, like University of Delaware, the University of Michigan, state universities, in fact, they've cut back significantly on what the state contributes to... going... the cost of the education. And all three are a gigantic problem, and it leaves a lot of people like you and, uh, and my family, before I was elected to the United States senate, in considerable debt. If you go to a private university, um, it's, you know, I had a son who passed away who was a... an Attorney General of the state of Delaware. He was still on, still paying off his debt. You go to a private university like where my son went, and I went to a great university, Delaware, they went to Yale and they went to, uh, you know, Penn. I'm joking, obviously, but you know what it cost? It cost $85,000 a year to go. How do you do that? And so my point is that we have to do three things, in my view. Number one: point out that universities, in many cases, are raising tuitions without any good reason to raise that, raise, raise those tuitions. Secondly, we've got to encourage state legislative bodies to say, "Contribute more to second, to, uh, college education as a profession to allow the state university to be run. So what I've done, I've provided a lot of money, particularly for HBCUs, Black universities and minority-serving industries, um, we're investing I think it's a total of roughly $40 billion dollars. Um... you know, overall, for education overall. And the other piece, what we're trying to do, is you're probably aware, I've just signed a law that's being challenged by my Republican colleagues, those same people that got PPP loans during the, for, up close to, in some cases up to five, six hundred thousand dollars, they have no problem with that. The individuals in Congress got those. But, um, what we've provided for is, if you went to school, if you qualify for a Pell Grant, you're qualified for two thou-, um, excuse me, you, you qualify for $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Secondly, if you don't have one of those loans, you just get 10,000 written off. It's passed, I got it passed by a vote or two, and it's in effect. And already a total of I think it's now 13 million people have applied for that service. And, uh... you know, what I think we should be doing as well is, right now there's a payment program that you never have to pay back more than ten percent of your disposable income for your colle-... I think that should be cut to five percent, and I think that should be kept. And I've proposed that, that's passed, and so on. So anyway, there's a lot of things, but the biggest thing we can do also is to help, uh, with Pell Grants, and I want to double the Pell Grants, the size of the Pell Grants, so we begin to bring this back into some kind of equilibrium again. There's a lot more to say but I probably already said too much. Thank you, Mr. President. If you want to ask me anything else, please. Um, I do have one other question, but your administration moved to cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt through an executive action. Those of us who do receive this relief fear that another administration could res... -verse the cancellation and resaddle us with the same debt. What does a sustainable solution look like that can't be reversed with a new administration? Well hopefully there's not going to be a new administration that's going to change in the next, uh, six years. It's about... making it clear... look, they talk about the cost of this. Well, at the same time that people are criticizing the cost of this, the same people who voted for a two trillion dollar tax cut for the very wealthy in corporate America. We did a couple things to pay for this. One, I was able to cut the federal debt my first year by 350 billion dollars. This year, the federal debt is gonna be cut in the fiscal year by one trillion dollars. And when we passed the inflation reduction act, which allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices so they're fair, we pay the highest drug prices of any country in the world, any major country, that's gonna create a 30 billion dollar cut over the next ten years. And so... I mean, 300 billion. And so the point is, we can afford this. We can afford this. And one of the things we did in order to pay for a lot of these things is we thought it's about time that some of the super wealthy corporations begin to pay their fair share. For example, in the year 2020, the year I got elected, the fact is that of the... 54, I believe, maybe 53 of the Fortune 500 companies that made 40 billion dollars, paid zero. Zero. Zero in federal taxes. Now I got it passed by a single vote, they're gonna pay 15%. And that's raising the money to be able to pay for things that are needed. And think about it. What's the single most consequential thing we could do in America, dealing with America's progress in the future? Education. And does anybody think if we were sitting down like we did in the beginning of the last century, and deciding how we're gonna move America along to be the most progressive nation in the world, we were the only nation that had 12 years of free education. Well, does anybody think 12 years is enough in the second quarter of the 21st century? Not a joke. I don't think we'd ever think that was enough. So at a minimum, we should be making sure that we have access, and I think free and reduced access, to community college and early education at three years of age. I pushed it, I haven't gotten it passed yet. And so there's a lot of things that we can do to increase the prospects of, of, uh, being able to have a better educated public where you're not indebted and have sort of a... a weight around your neck for a long, long time. Jessica, thank you so much. For your questions. Uh, we're gonna move on now to trans rights. There have been many anti LGBTQ+ bills introduced and enacted outlawing things like gender affirming healthcare and banning kids from playing sports. To go deeper into this issue, here with us today is Dylan Mulvaney, who's welcomed us into her life by, you know, showing on social media her girlhood series. Let's take a look. [Video clip begins] My name is Dylan Mulvaney. I am a trans woman, and I am documenting my transition publicly on TikTok for the world to see. When people started watching and the numbers kept getting higher, I realized quickly how public my transition would be. Of course, I knew that there would be backlash and negativity. I try to not let the Internet's words hurt me or my spirit, but do you know what does hurt? Seeing people in power and authority figures creating laws and bills that are actively trying to harm us trans humans, especially trans children. Our lives have become political talking points. Lawmakers in many states want to exclude us from participating in sports or getting proper healthcare. Some folks want to decide where we can use the bathroom. No one should have fear of living in a state that they call home, while being true to themselves. No one should have their lives put in danger because of who they are inside. That's why I'm sharing my story with the world. I'm using my platform to stand up for my community and for any of the little Dylans that deserve a clear path to their true identity. [Video clip ends] Uh, Mr. President, this is my 221 day of publicly transitioning. God love you. And... Oh, thank you. I am extremely privileged to live in a state that allows me access to the resources I need, and that decision is just between me and my doctors, but many states have lawmakers that feel like they can involve themselves in this very personal process. Do you think states should have a right to ban gender affirming healthcare? I don't think any state or anybody should have the right to do that. As a moral question and as a legal question, I just think it's wrong. You know, I think I was saying before we started that my son, my deceased son, used to be the Attorney General of the state of Delaware. He passed the f -- most -- the broadest piece of legislation that he as Attorney General can, uh, was able to convince the legislator and the Governor to sign that dealt with, uh, all gender affirming capab -- I mean, there's a lot of, you know, you -- sometimes they try to block you from being able to access certain medicines, being able to access certain procedures, and so on. None of that should be available. I mean, uh, you know, no -- no state should be able to do that in my view, so I feel very, very strongly that, uh, that you should have every single solitary right, including -- including use of -- th -- your gender identity bathrooms in public. Thank you. Thank you. And it -- it feels like Republicans have turned trans and non binary people into this thing to blame society's downfall on in some ways, and this narrative is not only dangerous to our mental health, but also our physical safety, particularly trans women of color are being at an alarming rate. More than any other group of people. Thank you. How can Democratic leaders be more effective in advocating for us trans people and our families and our lives and our opportunities? I'm not being facetious when I say this, being seen with people like you. No, I mean it. I genuinely mean it. People fear what they don't know. They fear what they don't know. And when people realize, individuals realize, "Oh, this is what they're telling me to be frightened of, this is the problem, this is...." I mean, people change their minds. People are just don't know enough to know. L -- and it's not because of I -- I -- intellectual incapability, it's just lack of exposure. And, uh, I think that, uh, it's really important that we continue to speak out about the basic fundamental rights of all human beings, and the idea, the idea that what's going in, you know, in some states, I won't get into any politics of it, but in some states, it's just -- it's outrageous, and I think it's immoral. The trans parts not immoral, uh, what they're trying to do trans persons is immoral. Thank you. And do you have any messages to the families of trans folks that are seeking, you know, um, options for their children, um, but are struggling to find resources? Do you have a message to those parents? Yeah, I do. Um, this is blood of your blood, bone of your bone. And, uh, um, it is, uh, a -- again speaking to my son, when he was -- he was -- spent a year in Iraq, and he was a decorated solider. He volunteered to go as a -- he had to give up the Attorney Generals job, then came back to it. And, uh, he started a -- a -- a -- foundation, I'm not allowed to talk about it now because I can't raise money for it any longer, but it was abused children. And one of the things he did is raise millions of dollars, this organization, to basically educate parents as to what they should not be afraid of, um, and to educate the community as to what is -- wh -- what is just pure hyperbole. And -- and, uh, so I just think it's a matter of leaders speaking out, and, uh, and saying, as I told you, I mentioned a young woman used to on the staff, used to be on my staff, um, who is now a state senator a -- a number -- and she's trans, and she's a -- a, you know, a state senator in the state of Delaware in a area that was historically very conservative, the part of the Delaware. And she, uh, she's running unopposed this time. Um, so things are changing. Things are changing, but it's a matter of us acknowledging that there's nothing to be... Just because it's different, there's nothing to be fearful about. Thank you for you questions, Dylan, and for using your platform to empower others. Mr. President, we are now gonna go into abortion access. Uh, the overturning of Roe versus Wade has many concerned that millions of people's health and overall wellbeing is now at risk. I'd like for you to meet Dr. Danielle Mathisen. The SCOTUS decision not only impacted her career, but also her personal life. This is her story. [Video clip begins] My name is Dr. Danielle Mathisen, and I'm from Fort Worth, Texas. As an OB/GYN, my job is to help women in every medical aspect of their lives. However, my schooling in Texas prevented me from receiving the proper training and education in family planning counseling or procedures, due to the state's negative stance on the topic. Now, medical students studying under these restrictions will have to resort to filling in these gaps on their own. My colleagues and I needed to create an off-campus, after hours club that allowed us to study the curriculum that wasn't offered to us. There's already a shortage of OB/GYNs, and with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, thousands of people will not have access to the necessary care they need, because there will be even fewer trained medical professionals where they live. An innumerable number of lives will be at stake. Everybody deserves access to healthcare. [Video clip ends] Hi, sir. Thank you so much for having me, and for speaking about a topic that is so polarizing, and doing so so publicly. It truly means a lot to the OB/GYN community, and anybody who's effective by, affected by abortion care, so thank you for having me. You announced earlier that the first piece of legislation you'll send to Congress after the midterm elections will be a bill codifying Roe. What is your plan to protect abortion rights over the next two years if Democrats aren't able to increase the majority in Congress? Well, first of all, um, it's the first time the Supreme Court has in fact, uh, made a lot of decisions, but it's the first time they've not only not proclaimed a constitutional right, but one that they acknowledge existed taking away, and it goes beyond... It goes beyond potentially the right to choose. Um, what I have done is, by executive order, when I am able, I don't have the votes, but by executive order, what I've been able to do so far, and that is, for example, making sure that a woman seeking to choose getting healthcare across a state line that permits abortion, that, in fact, from one that doesn't, like Texas to another state, that they are able to do that. They can't be held accountable for crossing the line. Making sure that you cannot, uh, making sure that women who are being looked at as to whether they might seek an abortion, that they're, that they're not able to be followed on their, on their accounts, so that they can know where they're going, making sure that there's access to, um, uh, a number of items that accommodate availability, OB/GYN help for the health of the mother, in, um, the states that still permit choice, uh, under Roe. Um, and so, there's a lot of things that I can do by executive order, but when I said the, and when you heard me say that the first bill I will send, if you give me the votes I need, a couple more senators, and I need to maintain the House, the House will vote. The House of Representatives will vote to codify Roe v. Wade, because, you know, senators, uh, uh, have on the Republican side made it clear. The first thing they want to do, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina wants to federally pass a law that, uh, they'd expect the president sign that would, in fact, outlaw the right to choose and f -- in most cases, no matter whether it's incest, the pregnancy consequence of incest, or rape, or, or a -- any criminal act. And, and he wants to codify that so that you can't have these choice in any state. Um, I think if I have a few more votes, I'm going to be able to do that, and get the Democratic Congress to pass this, and I will sign it. But, if they somehow, we don't do that, and the Republicans succeed in blocking abortion in every state by passing a federal ban on it, then I'm going to veto it. It's not going to happen as long as I'm president. Duly noted, sir. I really appreciate that support. Pregnancy itself can be a very dangerous and life-threatening condition, and there are countless ways a pregnant person can experience these, but in a state like where I'm from, doctors are often asked to wait for their legal counsel to allow them to perform lifesaving abortions, even in the case of medical emergency, stripping that decision away from the medical professionals and putting it into the hand of lawyers. So, my question for you is, apart from codifying Roe, is there more that can be done to protect our ability as providers to have the final say in what we think is best for our patients? It's being contested in the courts, but I've passed an executive order saying that you can't do that, where the health of the, of the mother is in question, whether, for example, you know, some pregnancies are not able to be terminated where the parent wants to keep the child, that it's too dangerous to go- Mm-hmm. ...and ends up with a miscarriage. Mm-hmm. And so, what we have to do is just make the case to the American people, and I don't think it's... Look, the Supreme Court ruling said, and I'm paraphrasing the line in the court, saying that because this is a state issue, not federally guaranteed, wo -- wo -- women can vote. Facetiously, women can vote. Let's see. Well, guess what? I'm counting on you voting in big, big numbers, like happened in Kansas. Kansas overwhelmingly turned out, a very conservative state, saying, "No, no, no, no. We're not going along with that law that's bans abortion, and bans it under any circumstance." The other thing that worries me, two things, one you said, and one you didn't say. How many universities around the country are like the University, did you go to West, is it West Texas, or did you go to U, what was the unive- I went to a university in Dallas. Okay, I won't mention it then, but how many have that same rule, where they don't teach you, OB/GYN, about the he -- health and safety relative to pregnancy? Pretty much across the board, whether it's a private or a public institution, um, just out of fear that that's somehow aiding and abetting achieving an abortion. I didn't realize that was the case. I'm going to check it out in most states, um, and, uh, because it's very worrisome, and it's an example of what the Dobbs decision is doing. The Dobbs decision is putting an incredible amount of pressure on doctors to not take and make judgments that really do affect the mother, unrelated to whether or not it's really related to abortion. For example, the case of a 14-year-old girl trying to get access to, uh, um, medicine relating to rheumatoid arthritis. Yes. Um, it's, and, and she goes, and for years been getting it, her mom buying it, go to the counter, drugstore said, "I, I, I can't sell it to you. I'm," because they're worried they'll be sued. They're worried they'll be sued. There's a lot of unintended consequences, as well, to this Dobbs decision. And so, I, I admire the hell, heck out of you for being willing to get together with other students and teach yourself. I mean, ho -- ho -- how, I'm curious, how'd you do that? A papaya is a very good representation of a uterus, and you can practice on the papaya fruit. But, who was teaching the practice? An outside physician, um, not rel -- not a part of our institution would come in and teach us. Gotcha. Yeah, she's wonderful. God love you. Um, on a more personal note, I had to travel s -- about 600 miles, and leave my family behind, and spend thousands of dollars to get abortion care for my own, very wanted, and very loved pregnancy. In the wake of Roe, some companies are offering funding and services for trips like this. Would you support a federal fund for individuals like myself who need to take time off work, obtain childcare- Absolutely. That answer's absolutely, but guess what? We need the same votes we need to overrule Do -- to, uh, reinstate, uh, the, uh, the decision that was struck down by the court. I mean, I do support that, and I've urged, publicly urged companies to do that. I've urged them publicly, as President of the United States, saying, "This is what you should be doing. I urge you to do it," because there's so mu -- And imagine the women who need that kind of assistance, but have no money at all to be able to do this. None. How, how do, wh -- what do they do? They don't, they don't have the option. Our, uh, our success relative to the rest of the world, in terms of the number of mothers who die in pregnancy, and our, is, is so high, especially among the poor in our country. Mm-hmm. I, I, anyway... It's very disproportionately affected, based on your socioeconomic status, and I appreciate you highlighting that fact, sir. Thank you. Well, we're gonna turn our focus now to the criminal legal reform. The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with over two million people in prisons and jails which comes at a huge cost. Jon-Adrian "JJ" Velazquez, is here to discuss the challenges for the criminal legal system and opportunities for change. [Video clip begins] My name is Jon-Adrian Velazquez. Most people call me JJ. When I was 22 years old, I was misidentified, arrested, and charged with a murder even though I was on the opposite side of New York City at the time of the crime. For 23 years, 7 months, and 8 days, I was incarcerated for a crime I did not commit. For decades, I worked relentlessly to prove my innocence behind bars. I missed seeing my children grow up because the system believed I was guilty. On August 17, 2021, I was granted clemency, and a month later, I was able to walk out of prison. I don't plan on wasting the time that I have in this new life I was given. I'm using my story and my experiences to help with reforming the criminal legal system. There were others like me behind bars, waiting for someone to give them a chance, and I wanna be that chance. [End Video] JJ, your questions for the President. Thank you. Good afternoon, President Biden. Obviously being wrongfully convicted is one of America's worst nightmares. It certainly was for me for almost 24 years. Yet, this is only one of the major flaws in our broken legal system. Fortunately for me, I was able to be released through executive clemency, and it was based on huge community support in the work that I was doing and the development of the Voices From Within, which is a movement that we created to help incarcerated people redefine what it means to pay a debt to society. Essentially, clemency is an act of grace that is often rewarded, or, actually, not often rewarded, to people who demonstrate extraordinary change in their personal development, and they also are able to prove that they are ready to become assets to their community upon their return to society. My question is: how can we create clear, uniform standards for clemency so that incarcerated people are motivated to change and know what they need to accomplish to show that they are ready to return to their families and communities? Well, first of all, on behalf of all society, I apologize for it. I mean, 23 years- Thank you Mr. President. -- my God. I got stopped when I was a young senator trying to see Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Afterwards, he heard I... when he got released, he heard, he came to see me in Washington, and he walked up to me. He said, "Thank you." And I said... I looked at him, I said, "How can you not hate?" He was then president of the country. How can he not hate? He said the most incredible thing to me, he said, "The jailers were just doing their job, just doing what they were paid to do." And as I left, they said, "Good luck, Nelson." I can imagine you not having such... Anyway, I just... I -- I admire the hell out of you. Thank you. Number one. Number two, you know, I don't think... I know you can't set a standard for clemency. You can't write a law saying, under these circumstances, and the chief executive authority to clemency like the governor did for you, or that I've just done for everyone who's ever been convicted of the possession of marijuana and/or, and/or smoking marijuana, uh, from... I can only do it in the federal prisons, for example. So I've changed the lives of thousands of people because, you know as well as I do, unless you're able to achieve the status you've -- you've achieved, even after you're released, what -- what do you do? Who... You know, you still go around with this stigma. In many cases, you can't, you can't apply for housing, you can't get [inaudible 00:04:28], you can't... and so on. And so what I've done, and I've had the Justice Department and the Department of Labor do, is go in and take a look at... While someone's in prison, for example, did you have access to education in prison? Yes, I did. Yeah. Every single prison... Many prisons don't have any access. You're absolutely correct. Every single one should have access to teaching a trade, and/or educating, or ge -- getting a degree. And when you are released from prison after serving your time, even those people are totally guilty. Right now there... In the past, they've been given 25 bucks and a, and a, and a bus ticket. They end up under the same bridge that -- that caused them to be arrested in the first place. So anybody... This is what I'm, we're -- we're doing in federally. Anybody who has committed a crime should have access to education in prison, in prison. If they're in there for a drug offense, they should have drug treatment. And that should not be... If that's the only crime, it should be mandatory drug treatment, not prison. We should also be in a situation where anyone who is released from prison has access to Pell Grants, to education, to public housing, to all the things that are out there that are available to everybody else, because what's the thing we wanna do? Give people a second chance. And you're -- you're -- you're -- you're providing society with a second chance. It's not like because you didn't do anything in the first place. Mm-hmm. But the point is it should be written into the law, which we're doing in the Justice Department, as well as the, as the, uh, the, uh, the Department of Labor, that people have access to education, access to opportunity, and access to everything that's available for any other citizen, any other citizen if you've done your time. Otherwise... And I point out to people who come after me for saying that. Is I say, "Look, what do you want? You want a safer community or do you wanna release someone who already was in there because they had a bad background and environment, and they probably didn't have this access? Or do you wanna condemn them for the rest of their lives and make sure that society is damaged as a consequence?" So it not only makes sense for the individual being released from prison, it makes sense for society. Society. And lastly, I don't think for most non-violent crimes there should be lo -- long prison sentences. I don't think it -- it should be a circumstance where you're denied the opportunity to make up for... And so probation should be a much broader application for non-violent crimes in most cases. There's some non-violent crimes that are horrendous, but... So the whole idea is how do we reduce violence and crime in America, and at the same time, do it in a way that is also fair to giving people a second chance? Um, you're asking me that question? Yeah, sure. Repeat it. Um, that's what I've done, but tell me what you think. I mean, what do you think we should be doing? Um, I think that you're onto something, but I feel for you, because of the politics that you have to deal with and the platitudes that you get from either other Democrats or Republicans. The reality is higher education is a very qualified tool to help bring down recidivism, which is the act of reoffending and coming back to jail, which means that somebody else is going to get hurt in society when these people are released. The system is not really designed... I'm talking about from lived experience, an innocent person who went into prison. The system is not designed to rehabilitate. I know. And what I've learned from my time in prison is that there are a lot of good people who made bad choices when they were too young to really understand the scope of what life consists of. Right? And over time... I'm -- I'm talking about what I've seen generally for 10 years. When a person does at least 10 years, there is a drastic change in that individual, yet parole, yet judges, prosecutors, and anybody else involved in the process of a person being released, because parole commissions reach out to prosecutors to get letters. They're boiler plate letters that are denying individuals their release, their -- their opportunity to return home without even having an opportunity to see what kind of changes did this individual make? The reality is beyond just, um, higher education, there needs to be more positive programs both in prison and outside of prison. And you're right, people have to be able to secure employment and housing, because the sad reality is the majority of individuals who are released into society can actually get their hands on a gun or some drugs before they can secure employment or housing. So until we start to look at this differently, and -- and -- and do a strategy reinvestment, and -- and reallocate some of the funding that's being used to punish these individuals, we are really not getting anywhere. Our recidivism rates indicate that the United States has been failing for decades because people are coming home worse than they went in. And a lot of the programs that individuals are supposed to get in order to become better citizens upon their return, they're getting in their last two years. Individuals that may have a situation of addiction. That should be addressed the minute you come through the door. Absolutely. You... In New York state, you are not eligible for that program until you are within two years of your release. So if I have a 25-year-to-life bid, my addiction is not being addressed until 23 years. And throughout that time, if I was to get high, I would be punished. Sometimes we need to really look at this whole thing. And the reason why I'm here is not really to have to ask you questions, it's to offer you my support. It's to tell you that I have experience and I know people who have a lot of experience, and we're willing to share that experience with you so that you can save this country. Everything you just said, I've already done federally, federally. Mm-hmm. Everything. And here's the deal. One of the things... One of the reasons I'm against capital punishment is, you know, we have confirmed there's at least 195 cases since 1972 that the person who was convicted and about to put to death was innocent. Flat innocent, never committed the crime. Like in your case, you never committed the crime. DNA's helping change some of that. There's some changes that are coming forward that make it easier. But everybody should in prison, in prison, should be able to have, graduate with a trade. Be able to come out with an associate degree. Be able to... When they come out, everyone in prison who's there for a major drug offense, they're addicted, they should be in mandatory drug treatment in prison. Absolutely. Mandatory in prison. And so what we're trying to do is change the dynamic of what makes society overall safer and what's more fair for the people who have been convicted rightly or wrongly. What's the, what's the wisest thing to do? And that's why the things you're talking to me about, and we have time, I can go through 'em, but we've done the vast majority of those by executive order in the federal prison system. I can't do it in the state prison system. What I'm doing in the state prison system is offering, excuse me, encouragement by providing federal assistance if they would do these things. Mm-hmm. But the idea that there is no access to anything other than to sit in a cell or walk the yard and not have anything to do and not, and better yourself- Exactly. -- intellectually or mentally is a big mistake. You're -- you're absolutely right. In fact, correctional institutions right now, for the most part, the standard is it's just a place for you to waste your time. Yeah. And I -- I have spent decades trying to get individuals to realize that we have to take it upon ourselves to invest in that time so that we can have a better return on our own investment and come home and be the assets that society needs. Speaker 2: JJ and Mr. President, we do have to move on into our final, uh, topic, but thank you so much for that conversation. Thank you. We'll talk afterwards Jon. Sure. Mr. President, onto our final topic. Now, climate and the environment. Younger generations are hoping for a more livable future, but uncertain of what that looks like without more aggressive action. Mari Copeny is here today. She's been fighting for environmental justice since she was eight. This is her story. [Begin Videp] My name is Mari Copeny. Most people know me as Little Miss Flint, even though I'm not so little anymore. At eight years old I became an activist when my city was faced with one of the worst water crises in American history, and none of the adults in charge seemed to be fixing it. My entire community, including thousands of children, were exposed to toxic drinking water. And, eight and a half years later, Flint is still not fixed. Even worse, water crises plague 100s of cities across America. At 15 years old, I should be focusing on school, cheerleading and just being a normal kid. Instead, I spent over half my life fighting for the most basic human right, access to clean, safe drinking water. That is why I continue to advocate for those who are facing environmental crises. [End Video] Good to see you again, kiddo. It's good to see you again. I met you in Flint when you were eight years old. [Laughs]. I can't vote yet, but my generation is going to be impacted by the climate crisis more than any other generation before us. What message do you have for the people who vote without the youth or greater good in mind. The message I sent was I was able to pass $360 billion, billion, to make sure that we start to deal with c -- climate crisis. And, in the infrastructure bill, it's confusing, in the, in the bill we passed for a $1,200 billion to fix our infrastructure. We're going to make sure that every single lead pipe in America is, which, is out. Too, we're gonna pay to have a new one put in, in all those hundreds of thousands of homes. And, what happened with you guys was, your city decided, in Flint, instead of going from a, taking the water from a Lake into the treatment plant, they took it from the Flint river, which was polluted. It was polluted. And, that, then, corroded the pipes and things, all, after they went to the devil from that point on. And, by the way, all those pipes are gone except you have 16% left in your state, and we're still, we're paying to make sure every single solitary lead pipe is done. No child should have to turn on the water in a fountain in the school and/or at home and worry about whether or not sh -- they're ingesting lead. And, there are even more chemicals that are more dangerous than that. Those forever chemicals. And they're in things like the foam used to clean runways and the like. And, what we're doing is changing that as well. You're not going to be able to use those chemicals. And, we're going to have to have different chemicals that are gonna be able to do the same job. And, so, the biggest thing is, though, that we have to change what we are, those things that are, affect the environment, because if we don't get it straight in the next, by 2050, if we go to, uh, 1.5 degrees, uh, uh, higher, in s -- I -- in temperature, we're going to be out of luck. There's nothing we can do to change what's going on. For example, Russia, just one example. They're in eight time zones, and all that permafrost around the arctic circle in that area. Guess what? The permafrost is melting. It will never freeze again. You know what's coming out? Methane, which is four times, four times as dangerous as CO2. Look what's happening, not only in Flint, but cities all across America, all across America in terms of clean water. In the sewer systems. The sewer systems are getting damaged, to fix them, I mean, the -- the -- the sew -- sewer treatment facilities that are being damaged have to be replaced. Their technology is 40, 50, 60 years old. Not much has been done. But, it cost billions of dollars to do it. So, that's why it was necessary to pass legislation, both, in both bills, that probably totaled at total of $500 billion to be spent now, now, to make sure your generation doesn't go through more Flints. And, so, that's, they're the things... There's much more to talk about. But, because of people like you, young people like you insisting this change take place, if you weren't out there hollering, I wouldn't be able to get any of this passed. Because, people are listening. And, by the way, I talked about the young vote, to begin with. It's not the... Now you're a very young vote and you're way ahead of your time. You're kind of a, uh, a progeny. You know? Uh, anyway. But, all kidding aside, the greatest concern and the greatest help that I get for my environmental stands are from young people, because you get it. You get what's happening. So, there's a lot we can do. And, by the way, we should be cleaning up the Great Lakes, overall. The Great Lakes are the single greatest source of water in the world, as one -- one source. Seriously, did you know that? More fresh water, drinking water in the Great Lakes than anywhere in the world. And, we rely heavily on it. But, we're everything from, for example, the fuel used in those -- those boats that transmit, that transfer material up and down the Great Lakes. Well, guess what? They're polluting the lakes; not all of them, but they're -- they're -- they're -- they're pollutants. The, for example, the cement that we make now, to lay down the cement. You can change it and reduce the, uh, the environ -- reduce harm to the environment, because making that cement causes a significant pollution of the, o -- o -- of the air. And, so, we're changing the way we make cement. The way we make steel. We can make steel better now, without having the negative impacts on the environmental impacts by the way we make the steel. So, and what we're trying to do is, once we get that done... I'm sorry, I feel... The way we get this done is, it's not sufficient that just the United States takes care of this. We have to help other countries take care of it as well, because it affects it's -- it's, you know, it's one atmosphere. It all goes into one atmosphere. So, what we're doing, as well, is we're rewarding farmers, for example, to plant crops that absorb carbon from the air, that absorb it, that suck it out of the air. For example, the Amazon, down in Brazil and other parts of South America, that absorbs, it's great, what they call a great carbon sink. It absorbs more carbon and pollution out of the atmosphere than is emitted by every single bit of negative thing we do in America on a daily basis. And, so, but guess what? We cut down all our forests, we did all these things to be economically viable. Now, they're coming along saying, "How about us? How about us?" So, we have to, the industrialized world, has to not only clean up our act, but we've got to help these countries do what they need to do, without further hurting the environment. And, we have to pay them, in my view, and to compensate them for what they're doing. And, so, there's a whole lot of things that we're doing. Last thing, I'll give you an example. You know all the electricity that's in here? It's transmitted over, there's a, there's a power station and that either burns coal or natural gas or oil in order to make, m -- m -- may generate the energy. And, it goes up on those big high tension wires and transmitted to wherever it needs to go. Well, guess what? Because of the research we did starting in the, in the administration, the last one I served in, the Obama Administration... The last one didn't do much. Didn't do anything, actually. Um, what happened was, that we made sure that we invested in how you can make solar cheaper and make sure that wind energy is a lot cheaper. And, so, but what happened was found out that people, even though we were able to do it much cheaper than a coal, than, you know, putting coal in a fire place to generate the energy to generate the electricity, it's a lot cheaper now to use wind and solar, than it is to use oil or -- or -- or coal. But, what happened was, you gotta be able to make sure you transmit it over those lines to get it places. But no one... "Not in my neighborhood". No one wants a new high tension stand going up in their neighborhood, or they don't want windmills that they can see. And President Trump was wrong. Windmills don't cause cancer, and they're, uh, and... But, here, I'll give you an example. I was in, in, uh, in, uh, Ohio. And, they have a experimental place that it's federal. You know, the blade of a windmill, you know, the -- the -- there's three blades in a windmill? They're now make them 104 yards long. Bigger than, longer than a football field. Longer than a football... And they generate enormous power, enormous power. So, what I've done is I've said you can't dig an oil well in certain parts off our shores in the Atlantic or in the Gulf, but you can put up these windmills. And, I was up in New England where the last major coal fired plant... They use coal to generate electricity. And, guess what? They want to go to wind or to solar energy and they want to do it, but, what they couldn't, now what we're doing is, "Okay. We're gonna transfer what you're doing here and you're gonna use wind or solar. And we're gonna use the same high tension wires to transmit the energy." And, so, we're gonna be able to clean the environment significantly, significantly. And, and one last thing. Battery technology. One of the things your g -- you're not gonna be driving a gas powered automobile. You're gonna be driving a -- a -- a -- a -- au -- au -- automobile that is an electric automobile. And, that's because we had in the back yard out here of the White House, we had all the three manufacturers come, the three major American manufacturers. And, they all committed. They're gonna go electric by 2035. That's gonna reduce expodentially, expodentially the impact on the environment. So, there's a lot of progress being made because folks like you hollered when you were eight years old, and now you're 29, I know. But, I'm joking. [Laughs] But, n -- n -- now you're getting up there. But, this is what we're gonna do. And, it's exciting. And the last thing I'll say, is it's gonna be, generate enormous economic growth. Remember, you may, you won't remember, kiddo. You may, you're so f -- f -- informed. But, when I was running, they said, "Why isn't Biden talking about his -- his green plan now?" This is in the beginning. Because, I wanted to make sure every labor union supported me, because they're all opposed to it until I sat down to talking with the IBEW, the electric u -- union, or br -- r -- br -- r -- the Brotherhood of Electric Workers. And I pointed out, their future lies in going electric. So, for example, we're gonna make sure that, tha -- you know, in gas stations on the interstates now? Well, guess what? There's gonna be electric re-charging stations. We're gonna have 500,000 of them. F -- I mean, fi -- fi -- fi -- fi -- 55,000 of them are gonna be put in. And, now, I'm sorry, I get too excited. [Laughs]. That's okay. I do want to make sure that she gets her second question in. Oh, let's hear your second question. Oh, okay. Um, there are countless communities in America dealing with toxic drinking water. Government solutions can take several years, if not decades to implement, even though lead exposure leads to long term irreversible damage, especially to children under five. That's why I helped to develop my filter that provides immediate relief to those families dealing with toxic water. What can be done to support short-term, immediate solutions for the millions of Americans dealing with toxic drinking water. Two things. One, if it's immediate, you mean I -- we find out tomorrow that there's this problem, we have to provide bottled water. That's a start. I mean, not, because you can't fix these pipes that go all the way back to the water station and go to toxic rivers, etc. Immediately. But, as I said, out in Flint. All, but 17% of all those, just as I've been in -- all those, all those lead pipes, they're out. They're out, they're gone now. But, you have 17% left. Now, granted, it's not 100%. But we're working diligently to get them all done; not only across America, we're providing billions of dollars to do this, directly to, not just the state, but to the locality. So, for example, Flint would get the money directly, to be able to get this done. They don't have to wait. They got a great governor who's pushing this really hard. Anyway, there are certain things that take time to change, and because that's the physical requirement of having to dig things up and put something new down. In the meantime, whatever is needed to assure that the water in your school, your, or your home is clean. If you can't make sure that it is clean, by getting the pipe changed immediately, you gotta provide the literal, the water. You gotta provide bottled water. Thank you so much, Mari, for your questions and for advocating for a better future. Now, before we wrap up, I would like to take this moment to thank all our six guests for being here, your questions, and for continuing these conversations on your platforms. And thank you, Mr. President, for welcoming us into the White House and taking the time to have the conversation around these issues that are top of mind for many young voters. Any final words? Every issue you have raised here is of enormous consequence, enormous consequence. As I said, this is the United States of America. If we don't lead in every one of these areas, every one of them, we're not gonna be what the rest of the world expects of us. As much as it sounds sort of, uh, bragging about America, the rest of the world looks to us. We have the largest economy in the world. We have the most diverse population and a democracy in the world. And it's critical that we are able to do what we need to do, not only to make life better here. Everything from transgender, the prison system, to the environment, to education, to access to healthcare. It's not only critical that we do it for us, but the rest of the world's looking at us and saying, "If we can do it, the United States as big as we are, and its consequences are, that we can make it happen around the world." And that's, that's my goal. My goal is when I leave this job, people say, "He kept his word." To say, "He did what he said he would do," in each of the areas you've all raised, prison reform, transgender, making sure we eliminate assault weapons, among other things, in terms of what, danger. Making sure the environment's clean, making sure education is affordable, and making sure that docs have the, all the training they need to deal with all the health issues relating to women. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to everyone watching online. We hope that everything you heard tonight encourages you to make your mark this November 8th by casting your vote for the future you want to see. Have a good night. Vote, vote, vote.