U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told a crowd of South Carolina State University students and others that they can’t underestimate the power of their votes as they head to the polls on Saturday.

Harris spoke at a rally held at S.C. State on Friday during her ninth trip to the state as vice president.

She challenged the audience to cast their votes in what will be the first official Democratic presidential primary, which is being held in South Carolina on Saturday.

“Across our nation, fundamental freedoms are at stake. … Do we want to live in a country of liberty, freedom and rule of law, or a country of disorder, fear and hate? … Each of us has the power to answer these questions,” she said.

Harris said the freedom to vote, live without fear of hate and bigotry, be safe from the horror of gun violence, as well as the “freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body and not have the government telling her what to do” are among freedoms that are at stake across the country.

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“On these issues and so many more, who sits in the White House, it matters. And in this election, each one of us, we face a question: What kind of country do we want to live in? We each face the question,” Harris said.

“Do we want to live in a country of liberty, freedom and rule of law, or a country of disorder, fear and hate? … Each of us has the power to answer these questions,” she said.

Harris said she’s counting on the people of South Carolina to vote.

“South Carolina, you are the first primary in the nation, and President Biden and I are counting on you … to make your voices heard,” Harris said.

The Republican presidential primary is set for Saturday, Feb. 24. Voters can participate in either party’s presidential primary, but not both.

Harris reminded the audience how South Carolina helped propel her and U.S. President Joe Biden to victory four years ago.

“The people of South Carolina showed up to vote. You convinced your friends and your family members and neighbors and co-workers of the power of their vote, and the power they have when they show up to vote,” she said.

Vice President Kamala Harris has made history once again, this time in her role presiding over the U.S. Senate. In just over two years as Vice President, Harris has matched the record for the most tie-breaking votes cast in the U.S. Senate. The record was previously set by John C. Calhoun, who had 31 tie-breaking votes as vice president, a position he held for eight years under two different presidents in the early 19th century.

She touted the Biden administration’s efforts to expand high-speed internet, particularly within rural communities.

“Because you voted in 2020, President Biden and I are connecting every person in America with high-speed internet, including more than 100,000 families right here in South Carolina,” she said.

Student loan debt has also been addressed, Harris said.

“Because you voted in 2020, President Biden and I have canceled more than $136 billion in student loan debt for more than three and a half million Americans. Although the Republicans in Congress refuse to work with us to cancel more debt, we will not be deterred,” she said.

“President Biden and I will keep fighting for relief from student loan debt.”

She said huge investments have also been made in historically Black colleges and universities.

“We must do more to support them. They don’t have the kinds of endowments that some other schools have, although they produce leaders of our country and our world.

“So as a proud HBCU graduate, I made sure that we invested more than $7 billion in HBCUs across our nation, including nearly $60 million for the students right here at South Carolina State,” Harris said.

Lowering health care costs has also been addressed, she said, including capping what seniors pay out-of-pocket for insulin.

“For too many years, too many of our seniors had to make the choice of either filling their prescription or filling their refrigerator. But because you voted, President Biden and I took on big pharma, and we capped the cost of insulin for our seniors at $35 a month,” she said.

“And we capped the entire cost of prescription medications to $2,000 a year. So this is just some of what we have accomplished since we took office. Over the past three years, President Biden and I have lowered costs, created opportunity and are building an economy that works for working people,” she said.

Harris said consumer confidence is up and consumer spending is an all-time high.

“Although we have more work to do, let us be clear. America’s economy continues to be the strongest in the world,” Harris said.

The vice president said the Biden administration worked not for themselves, but for the people.

“We work for you, the American people, and every day we fight for you. Sadly, however, that is not true for everyone,” she said.

Harris claimed former U.S. President Donald Trump fought not for the American people, but for himself. Trump, a Republican, is running for re-election.

“He openly talks about his intention to weaponize the Department of Justice. He openly says that he is ‘proud’ that he overturned Roe v. Wade. Proud that he took the freedom of choice from millions of American women,” Harris said.

She continued, “For years, the former president has stoked the fires of hate and bigotry and racism and xenophobia for his own power and political gain. …

“As the great Maya Angelou once said, ‘When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.’”

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, attorney and political commentator Bakari Sellers and Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison were among the speakers at the rally.

“We’re now down to the final push. Always remember that you have a voice and you matter and your vote matters,” Butler said.

Sellers urged the audience to get out and vote to help change the country’s course.

“I believe in what this country can be. … Tomorrow will be better than yesterday. We’ve got show up to the polls (Saturday) and then handle Donald Trump in November,” Sellers said.

Harrison urged audience members not underestimate the power of their votes.

“Don’t be silent! Show up! That is the power that you have right now!” Harrison said. “That is how we make hope real.”

Clyburn encouraged individuals to vote because “one vote could very well decide what our future is.”

“Who are you going to put in charge of your future?” the congressman asked.

The Rev. E.J. Sutton of West Columbia said he is concerned about the future.

“I just don’t want us to go backward. That was not a good period for our country. I’m motivated. I enjoyed the time spent here,” Sutton said.

Sutton, the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in North, is also the moderator of the St. Matthews Baptist Association.

“We were invited to come to meet with the vice president, and I decided to come. I’m concerned about what the next four years will look like if we don’t have them re-elected,” Sutton said.

He continued, “So I’m here to support them and to help get the word out to our people to get out and vote. It’s not so much we want change. We don’t want to go back.”

He said, “I’m more concerned about going back to what the last four years were prior to them being in office than I am to making any changes. I believe we’re headed in the right direction as far as the country goes.

“They’re looking out on behalf of the people, and that’s what we need our leaders to do. … I believe that’s where their heart is and that they’re going to continue to do that.”

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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