TRANSCRIPT: Address & Impromptu Q&A at the JT Wu for Georgia Campaign Launch Press Conference
Updated: Jan 15, 2022
Gwinnett County Public Library - Duluth Branch
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - 11:00 AM Eastern
A full recording of the event is available here (speech begins at 1:45).
Note: Additional media coverage of the launch event made available courtesy of the Georgia Asian Times, The Korea Daily, The Korea Times, News Wave 25, and KTN. The campaign's launch was also featured in The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Political Jolt newsletter.
===== Campaign Announcement Launch Speech / Press Conference =====
JT WU: Wow, what a turnout! Thank you guys so much, to everybody here today.
Good morning, y’all – and thank you so much for being here today. I know it’s cold, so we’ll keep this quick.
First of all, I’d like to acknowledge and to say thank you to everybody here today, who braved this chilly January weather down here in Georgia and who turned out to support a homegrown hometown guy like me, who is excited about serving this community that made me who I am today.
And a special thank you, as well, to our friends in the media who have made time to cover today’s launch, as well as to everyone tuning in from across our district – which includes the amazing cities of Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, my current home city of Norcross, and of course, my incredible hometown of Duluth.
And special shout-outs to folks near and far from across our great state of Georgia, and across our nation who are joining us live through the magic of the livestream.
And a special, special thank you, as well, to my parents, Dad and Mama Wu, who are standing over there, without whose love and support – and their decision to put down roots in Gwinnett County and, in particular, right here in Duluth so many years ago – without them, none of this would be possible.
See, y’all, my name is JT Wu. I’m a lifelong Georgian, a native Gwinnettian, and a proud first generation American.
And I am honored to stand here today, by the steps of my hometown public library, and to officially announce my candidacy for the Democratic nomination to the Georgia State House to be the voice of our community here in District 97.
And I’m running for one simple reason. To defend the promise of the American Dream for every Georgian.
It’s personal to me because I’ve lived it. My entire life story is a testament to the power of education, the promise of opportunity, the strength of community, and the hope of the American ideal.
See my mom and dad, my parents, they took a chance in the 1980s and they crossed an ocean to come to America.
They sacrificed daily because they believed that a strong education was the foundation for a brighter future for our next generation.
And thanks to them, and the generous supports of my hometown community here, I was able to go from kindergarten right across the street at Chattahoochee Elementary School here in Gwinnett County Public Schools to graduating on scholarship from Princeton University, where I got my start in public service working with the State Department on global economic policy and international human rights.
Since then, I’ve dedicated my career to fighting for education, to fighting for healthcare, and to fighting for greater opportunity for all right here at home.
I’ve worked with doctors and responsible business owners to expand healthcare access for folks who need it most – and I’ve advocated to get lifesaving treatments into the hands of folks suffering from opioid and substance use disorders – because addiction should be treated like the disease that it is, and not as a moral failing.
And in the face of a rising childhood illiteracy crisis in our state, I founded an early childhood literacy non-profit right here in Gwinnett called Preface, that’s partnered with our schools, been recognized by the Georgia Department of Education and Gwinnett County Public Schools, and has come alongside our expert educators, our parents, and our next generation of student leaders to help teach kids of all backgrounds and all languages that fundamental skill of how to read.
And especially as a kid who grew up runnin’ around in the stacks of the old Duluth Library, I’m honored to serve as Gwinnett County Commissioner Ben Ku’s appointee to the Library Board and to have both his endorsement and that of the Georgia Advancing Progress PAC. Because I’ve fought for living wages and pay raises for our staff during COVID and have already helped deliver results for our community here, opening two brand new branches in Norcross and this building right behind me in Duluth for our next generation.
I have a proven of record of bringing folks together from all walks of life to fight for real results and to get things done, because I believe in the promise of the American Dream.
But today, for more and more families, both parents and their children, that American Dream and our shared values of Community, Opportunity, and Progress are slipping further and further out of reach.
Over half of our kids won’t read proficiently by the third grade, because we are still chronically underfunding our schools. Our teachers and our parents deserve nothing but the best and they deserve a system and a state government that listens to and works for them.
Over 600,000 Georgians remain uninsured, yet our leaders seem more interested in tweeting and posturing than in listening to the science or in taking common-sense steps to expand Medicaid and make quality healthcare available for all.
In the midst of one of the worst pandemics in history, our small businesses and entrepreneurs – the backbone of our economy – deserve true leaders and partners under the Gold Dome that understand the private sector, that’ll embrace innovation, invest in climate friendly solutions and infrastructure, and use the levers of our state government to help create the high-quality jobs of the future.
And now, more than ever, we need to stand up for the truth, to fight against the Big Lie, and to stand up against discrimination. To defend marginalized communities, stand in solidarity against hatred with our AAPI and our African-American brothers and sisters and our state’s Dreamers - and to defend every Georgian's constitutional right to vote.
And that’s why I’m running.
Because it’s time for a new generation of leadership, one that stands gratefully on the shoulders of the giants who came before, and who will continue their fight to create a Georgia that works for all of us, that stands up for our kids, and that invests in our future.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “We have the capacity to make this the best generation in the history of mankind, or we can make it the last.”
And I believe his words ring just as true in today’s America as they did over a half a century ago. Because I believe we can make this the best generation.
Because if we leave here [today] with only one message about why our positive campaign, our unifying campaign, is running and what we believe in, it’s this:
Our children are our future.
한국어로 우리 아이들은 우리의 미래입니다.
Y por último, si bien no menos importante, en español, nuestros hijos son nuestro futuro.
Our children are our future!
So to everyone out there watching – both folks who I’ve met and folks I have yet to meet – know that I am here to work for you.
And as we approach the birthday of one of Georgia’s greatest heroes, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’m continually inspired by his life and by his famous calls to action.
And one that I’ve been reflecting on today in particular as we launch our positive and unifying campaign has been this, that “We must learn to live together as brothers (and as sisters, to paraphrase) or to perish together as fools.”
So come join our team. On May 24th, vote Democrat, and vote JT Wu for State House.
Together, with your help and with God’s grace, we can continue our quest towards that ever more perfect union and ensure that our diverse, multifaceted, and vibrant community here in House District 97, truly represents every voice, tears down the walls that divide us, and shows exactly what makes Gwinnett a beacon of the new Georgia.
Thank y’all, may God bless y’all, and may God continue to bless our great state of Georgia.
======= Impromptu Q & A =======
Q: What will you do for small businesses around Gwinnett County?
JT WU: Absolutely! We need leaders under our golden dome that are going to work with our small businesses, and who are going to incentivize looking out for employees like they’re family. and I think leaders should be taking every single step possible to listen to our private sector, to work with our business partners but also to make sure that we are standing up for our hardworking Georgians and families across our state, whether that’s pursuing potential incentives, for businesses who are first movers and who are willing to take that step and give their employees and fight for a living wage for them.
The state government [needs] to be by their side every step of the way. They deserve a partner under the golden dome who understands what they are going through and who knows how to read a P&L, who knows how to read the bottom line, and who knows how to get jobs created and sustained in our community; and that’s what I am here to stand for.
Q: How did you choose this place as your location for your announcement?
JT WU: Great question. Thank you. This library branch is one that means a lot to me. As I mentioned in the speech, as a kid, I grew up going and running the stacks in the old Duluth library. I still know my library card number by heart, and it’s been the same library card number since I was a kid! So it’s very easy to just go in there now. I don’t think I even have that card anymore, I just put in the number!
But for me, being able to be a part of seeing how this community has continued to grow and change since I was a kid to now, all these years later, how diverse, how multifaceted and how incredibly welcoming this community is - this library branch (and I think all the libraries that we’re working to build and to fight for) - are integral to what that can be for the community.
You know, it’s a place for the community to come and gather, not just a dusty repository for old books, but a community meeting space.
You know, we embrace innovation here: we have learning labs, 3-D printers, media centers, things that every Gwinnettian and every Georgian can come and use to learn about what the future can look like and to build their own future.
And so, to me, to be a part of opening this new library branch here, especially having that history and to see what the future is gonna hold, not just here in Duluth, but all across our great county, was just an incredibly remarkable honor and a privilege.
It also doubles down on our message on education. For the next generation, it is fundamentally important that we are giving our students everything that they need, giving our teachers everything that they need, to be successful in the classroom.
So, I can’t think of a better place to do it than the public library that I’ve worked with community leaders to already help open and build here in my hometown of Duluth that is poised to be really just a great community hub for generations to come.
Q: How are you going to work to unify people that value their beliefs more than unity?
JT WU: That’s a great question. And I think the first thing – it starts with listening. We need more grace and we need more civility in our political discourse today.
You know, as someone who is fighting to earn every single vote, first in this Democratic primary, but then, ideally, if I have the honor, in the general election - that is something I’m going to be out there fighting for every single day.
We need to be able to talk to each other again. We need to understand that, at the end of the day, most Americans do want the best thing for this country. We might disagree on some of the methods to get there, and of course there’s gonna be things we need to stand up against right? Domestic insurrection. Domestic terrorism. Standing up to big lies.
But on the broad spectrum of things, we can all find ways to come together and find more common ground than things that divide us. And that, as a state representative, is what I am going to be here to do.
Q: What are you going to accomplish in the first hundred days if you are going to be in the office?
JT WU: Absolutely. Well, if I have the honor of representing our great constituents in the Georgia State House, it will be as a Democrat. And I will tell you that I am under no illusions of what life might be like in the minority party!
But for me, personally, we’re running on a positive and unifying issues campaign, because we believe in changing the conversation around these issues – particularly around healthcare access, particularly around early investments and increased access to education.
So for me when we get to the golden dome, I’m going to make it a point to try and work with as many people as possible, to find a common ground to advance these common sense solutions that we can all have an agreement on. Like about fully funding our public schools, expanding access to scholarships for our hardworking Georgians, for HOPE and Zell, using funds that have already given to the state of Georgia by the Federal government and funds that are just sitting in our Lottery Trust, 1.3 BILLION dollars sitting in our Lottery funds right now that we can use. Instead of letting it gather dust, investing it in an education trust fund.
I think that for all Georgians, these are things that folks can get behind and that to me is what I want to have those conversations starting on day one and coming up with a plan of action.
And, look, if that is going to be working with Democrats, with Republicans, as a state representative I’ll focus on getting results here for District 97, in Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and Norcross and I wont stop until those fights are done.
Q: There is tremendous value in an ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse curriculum. What’s your plan to push that through as a lawmaker?
JT WU: Absolutely, I think that is going to be a top priority of ours. I think it is so important for our children to learn about our shared American history in their schools, especially in a state like Georgia.
But, also, to learn about the various multifaceted things that make our fabric and our community of the state of Georgia but also of America, who we are. That requires learning about diverse perspective, learning about the contributions that folks of all backgrounds, of all races and creeds have made to make this country great.
So, I absolutely stand in support of increasing ethnic learning and studies and curriculum in our schools and making sure that our kids know they can look up to themselves, not just in the books they’re reading, but also in the history they’re learning.
I think it is important for all of our students to have those conversations. You know for me as a leader of an educational non-profit, a childhood literacy non-profit, and also something that I know the library is deeply passionate about, is making sure that every child, every citizen in our community, can see themselves in the books that they are seeing around them.
So, for us, on the Preface side, at the non-profit, we have made it a point to work with each of our elementary school partners, and donate what we called Legacy Gifts, which are basically brand new library books collections specifically tailored alongside the teachers and administrations in those communities to give the students there a reflection of themselves in these characters. And not just in the characters but in the language of the books that they are reading.
So, I think from my perspective, I’m willing to work with anybody, and I’m willing to talk to anybody, who values that idea of representation as much as I do.
Especially when it comes to our public schools I think we owe it to our children to give them the broadest sense of that understanding of what American history is as possible.
These are great questions – keep them coming!
Q: JT What do you hope to accomplish as a representative that you’re not already accomplishing in the amazing work you’re doing?
JT WU: I did not plant him, just so you know!
No, I appreciate it. I think that we have great leadership in various capacities here in our community, and I am grateful for their service. I look forward to building on those legacies, ideally if I am honored to be chosen as the nominee and then make it into the state house, to build on that legacy of service and to stand up, as I said on the shoulders of the giants who came before.
You know I think leadership in our state government requires commitment, it requires passion, it requires dedication; and I think it also actually requires a track record of actually being able to bring folks together, to try to get things done.
And so, for me, I think one of the honors about serving in the state house is that ability to talk on behalf of our constituents, on behalf of the amazing folks in our district, and to make sure that we actually have a position where the levers of government can be responsive to not just our citizens but to our local cities.
I think home rule is very important, as far as allowing our local city councils, our mayors, our local officials, to have the flexibility that they need to respond to their constituents.
So, from my perspective, that’s how I view the job. I want to be a conduit of service, and a conduit into our state government for folks who might otherwise feel ignored and who might feel like they don’t have a place under the Gold Dome.
I want to change that for our younger generation, for our communities of color, for our marginalized communities but also just in general for the citizens of House District 97.
I want them to know that they can continue to have an active voice that is built on the leadership that has come before, and that will continue to invest in positive solutions for the next generation.
Q: We’re foster parents. And I’m wondering how you can help us?
JT WU: First of all, thank you for all that you guys do. It’s an incredible job that you guys have, and we are incredibly grateful for it.
I’ve spoken to a lot of folks not just in this district but all across Georgia who believe in more investments in our foster care system, making sure our foster care parents have all the support and resources that they need to further streamline and improve the experience with DFACS. [Inaudible]
I’m a man of faith, and I think you guys are doing God’s work by looking out for these kids and making sure they have a safe and loving home environment.
As your Representative in the State House, I want to come alongside y’all to make sure you have all the resources that you need, so you’re not having to wait you know days and days and days, and weeks and weeks and weeks to get answers to your questions.
Those things could be streamlined, they could be more efficient, and they could be getting answers to you sooner so you can just focus on doing the job that you signed up to do.
Q: A follow-up, one of the main issues in foster care is access to healthcare.
JT WU: Absolutely. I completely agree and that’s why one of my fundamental platforms tenets is expanding healthcare for all Georgians, especially now when it also makes economic and fiscally responsible sense, I think, to do so.
Given a lot of the funds that are flowing down from the federal government, there has never been a better time to use that 90% off coupon that we're getting from the Feds to expand Medicaid access, to make sure that we're compensating our providers accordingly, to reduce the burden of uncompensated care, and, yes, to your point of making sure that folks like y'all in the foster care system who are doing the good work of taking care of these kids yourselves are getting access to all of the quality affordable healthcare.
I like it! I’m never going to cut this off. So, if you guys are bored, you guys are cold, y'all just tell me but I'm here to serve. I'm here to answer questions.
Q: How are you prepared to use the infrastructure funds to help the District?
JT WU: Absolutely. Well, I think one of the best parts about, you know, kind of being here in the district and working with leaders locally already has been being able to establish, you know, working relationships with our local county, state, and federal leaders to make sure that we're hearing their concerns about, you know, when we have citizen comments and when we pass those on to our officials, making sure they get heard.
I'm excited to go on a listening tour basically for the next four months. I think a lot of folks in our community have a lot of really exciting ideas about how to improve our infrastructure. I know we've had MARTA referendums here in the past. I know we have had a very robust debate around public transit going on already.
So as a state representative, I want to be a conduit for a lot of these ideas. But I also do believe that we have a tremendous congestion problem here in Gwinnett County.
I think we need to be doing something to make sure that we're reducing that burden on our roads and on our existing system – and making it affordable and accessible for folks from all over our state and all over our county to be able to get to the places that they need to get without sitting in traffic for 3 hours.
I think it behooves us as a state government to make wise decisions on how to invest those funds and infrastructure. But we need to do it with local support.
So, I'm going to take my cues a lot of the time from local leaders, from local councils, and from county commissioners to make sure that everything that we're proposing under that gold dome is truly rooted in home rule and is truly representing what the people of Gwinnett County want.
Awesome. Well, thank y’all so much for being here, guys. We'll stick around for any final questions.