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Public Statements

Life Without Hope

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CLEAVER. Mr. Speaker, first, let me associate my comments with those of my colleague Mr. Westmoreland.

Mr. Speaker, on each Wednesday night for probably the last 10 or 12 years, our church has provided food for those who are struggling. Not long ago a gentleman came to our church, picked up food. And then later that night, as I was leaving the church, I ran into him at a 7-Eleven. You can imagine how troubled I was when I saw him buying a lottery ticket. I thought to myself, this guy has just ripped off the church and then is using his money for a lottery ticket.

So I waited for him outside the 7-Eleven. And when he came out, I said to him, Look, I'm a little concerned because you picked up a sack of groceries, and then you just spent money on a lottery, and those two just don't match.

And he said, Well, I probably shouldn't have spent the money on the lottery, but you know, Reverend, a man's got to have some hope.

And while I think that hope is misplaced, the truth of the matter is he was absolutely correct. It is virtually impossible to live any kind of productive life on this planet without hope.

There are millions of Americans who, unfortunately, cannot place their hope in this body. I think that I can state without fear of contradiction that the dysfunctionality of the United States Congress is helping to erase hope from the men and women in this country who are struggling. All of the back and forth and blaming each other has nothing to do with providing hope. And quite often, we allow ideology to trump logic.

We decide almost every day that no matter what, I'm going to take the position of the Republicans or I'm going to take the position of the Democrats, and, as a result, we have polluted the public.

This is one of the nastiest moments in U.S. history. Just look at television. Look at all of the so-called reality shows. The ones that are most popular are ones where people are doing things to each other or insulting each other; you're fired, or you've got to eat live spiders. That's what we are coming to.

A perfect example of what we're doing is not addressing the expiring unemployment benefits. At the end of this year, almost 2 million Americans--they have names, they have faces, they have families--2 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits by mid-February.

A total of over 6 million Americans will lose benefits next year unless this body decides to become functional. In Missouri, my home State, 40,400 citizens depend on unemployment benefits. Many more are unemployed and not receiving any help at all. In Missouri, the unemployment rate is almost 9 percent.

I grew up in public housing. Yes, public housing. My father worked three jobs to get us out, worked three jobs to send me and my three sisters through college. And my mother started college when I was in the 8th grade. So I always resent any implication that people don't want to work.

So as we move into a holiday season, a season of hope, my hope is that the Congress of the United States will not snatch hope from over 2 million Americans.

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