This week, as the world watched how our nation would respond to an attack on our democracy, I gave my first speech as a Member of Congress on the floor of the House of Representatives and cast one of my first votes in office.
Being a Member of Congress is an incredible honor and a privilege. It’s also a job—and for me, it’s a new job. I got the keys to my office less than two weeks ago. My team and I had been busy setting up our phones and computers. Most of our security equipment hadn’t arrived yet. One of my first thoughts on my fourth day on the job, when the Capitol was attacked by a violent mob, was that I couldn’t even find my way out of the House Gallery in the best of times, let alone now. I spent hours sheltering in an undisclosed location, having been told to remove any identifying items that would mark me as a Member of Congress. That wasn’t covered in orientation.
Exactly one week later, I found myself back in the House Chamber, preparing to speak out about what had happened. I’d spent the last year and a half campaigning for Congress—through a pandemic, a reckoning on racial justice, an economic crisis, and escalating tensions with Iran. I’d thought a lot about the first thing I wanted to say on the House Floor, and had been deciding between remarks on rebuilding America’s standing around the world or alleviating childhood poverty. I wanted to frame my perspective around the need for a new generation of leaders to help us rebuild out of these crises, and the stories I heard from folks across my district who were struggling to make it through such a difficult time.
I never would have thought my first speech would be about impeaching Donald Trump for a second time.
The response to political violence is accountability. Without accountability, more violence will follow. I learned that working at the UN and the State Dept in conflict settings around the world. We must hold this President accountable. It is the only way to protect democracy. pic.twitter.com/WRwbnI9Gr3
— Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (@RepSaraJacobs) January 14, 2021
But sometimes the moment finds you. And during the attack—as I hid, scared for my life under the seats in the House Gallery, running with a gas mask on to escape the mob—I knew exactly what we had to do.
I’ve spent my career working on conflict and political violence at the United Nations and the State Department. I’ve worked on post-coup transitions and responses to electoral violence and violent extremism in places like Fiji, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, sadly—encouraged and incited by the rhetoric of an American President—the United States Capitol is a conflict setting.
And the lessons from around the world are clear: the response to political violence must always be accountability. Without accountability, more violence will follow. That is why it is so important that we impeached President Trump, and it’s why we must hold everyone who encouraged and committed this violence accountable.
So while impeaching the President was not one of the first votes I wanted to take, it was the first vote I needed to take. It’s the only way to protect our democracy against future seditious attacks. It’s the only way to show our fellow Americans, people watching from around the world, and generations to come that political violence is unacceptable here in the United States. That while we will always have disagreements, here, in this country, those disagreements are decided through the ballot box and through our democratic institutions, not through violence.
We have so much work to do, to rebuild, remake, and reimagine our country. And that starts with accountability.
As I stood on the floor of the House of Representatives, only a week after a violent mob attacked it and came close to taking my life and the lives of my colleagues, I knew we were making the right decision. And now, it's time to get to work.
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