Weekly Democratic Address
November 27, 2020
Hello, I’m Congressman Anthony Brown and I represent Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. For 30 years, I served our country in the United States Army as a helicopter pilot and a Judge Advocate, on active duty and in the Reserves.
Today, I’m the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a committee that takes pride in the bipartisan work that we do to support our nation’s Armed Forces.
This week, as we do every year during the Thanksgiving holiday, we give thanks for each other, count our blessings and reflect on what unites us as a people, particularly during difficult times, such as what we’re facing this year.
As always, our heartfelt thanks go out to our brave women and men in uniform, and their families, who sacrifice so much to keep us safe. We give thanks for the freedoms they defend – which truly are our greatest strength and make us a beacon to the world.
The celebrated history of our military serves as an inspiration to generations of Americans. From the patriots at Lexington and Concord to those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, we salute the long line of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have secured and renewed the promise of our nation.
But we must also acknowledge that our military faces challenges. A rise in white supremacy and extremism within the ranks tarnishes our military’s moral standing and puts us at risk, as well as the safety of men and women in uniform, and the readiness of our force.
A military criminal justice system that treats people of color differently, which mirrors racial injustices seen throughout this country. And the bond of trust and respect between our military and the citizens they defend is frayed when our military is deployed in our cities and used to advance political ends.
Today, the United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of systemic racism and debates over monuments and symbols glorifying those who fought for the Confederacy to defend that system and slavery.
Our military – which prides itself on leading the way – must reflect our nation’s founding ideal. This summer, the Marine Corps and Navy banned Confederate symbols, and the Confederate battle flag has been effectively banned on military installations.
But these moves only address a fraction of the Confederate symbols that are embedded within the armed forces, including ten major Army bases named after Confederate leaders.
This year, I led the effort in Congress to finally remove the names of Confederate soldiers from military property. With overwhelming, bipartisan support, both the House and Senate voted to mandate the removal in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
It should come as no surprise that a majority of Americans support this effort, as do active duty servicemembers and our most senior military leaders.
But on his way out of office, President Trump is threatening to block Congress’ effort to correct this historical injustice. He promised to veto any bill that includes renaming bases. If he does, he would also block pay raises for our servicemembers, critical funding to ensure readiness and programs that support our troops and their families.
This standoff and showdown by President Trump are yet another example of his racially charged embrace of division and discord.
The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter. They matter to troop morale and readiness. And they reflect the value our military is fighting for.
Bases honoring Confederate leaders were designated during the height of the Jim Crow era. And these names continue to sow hatred and division in our country. They’re not passive tributes to historic figures, but rather active symbols of intolerance.
I learned to fly helicopters at Ft. Rucker, deployed to Iraq from Ft. Bragg and earned my jump wings at Ft. Benning. All bases honoring leaders of the Confederacy. Men who wouldn't want me or other Black Americans serving in uniform, let alone in Congress.
We cannot ask today’s young servicewomen and men to defend our nation, while housing and training them and their families on bases honoring those who betrayed our country in order to enslave others. This is a question of what values this country and our military stand for.
Our country went through a Civil War to offer a new birth of freedom. We stormed the beaches of Normandy to safeguard that freedom for the next generation. And we saw ordinary people march in the streets to extend freedom to every man, woman and child.
That’s the history, those are the people, we should honor.
As Congress contemplates its work and completes it on the National Defense Authorization Act, we must recognize that national security isn’t simply defined by the planes and ships we buy – but in the values we set for our military and ourselves.
Happy Thanksgiving, and may God bless you and protect our troops.