Johnson-Jordan Dinner remarks – The Taco Truck Speech

Saturday, Sep. 17, 2016

Friends, fellow Democrats, I am glad to be with you here tonight. Looking out at all of you, I see those who represent the hard-working people of Texas. I see people who fight in the trenches for social justice, for reproductive freedoms, for workers rights, for economic equality.

So when Donald Trump accuses Democrats of being the elites, of representing wealthy insiders. I can’t imagine what he’s talking about.

Please excuse what I’m wearing. I’m not trying to put on airs (or do a parody of my now friend Mike Martinez’s campaign video). The thing is, I just came from a function for the ballet. This, obviously, is why I’m wearing a tux. I mean, It’s after six. I’m not a farmer.[1]

But seriously, the issues facing this country could not be more important, the situation could not be more dire. You are in the trenches and you deserve great oration. You deserve the likes of Churchill, Ecclesiastes, Lincoln, Grapes of Wrath, Pericle’s Funeral Oration, Hebrews, and, of course, St. Crispin’s Day Speech… and even 30 Rock…

But today, I speak from the heart. I want to put things plainly and simply. This is no time for to be dramatic. It’s important for me to put this in my own words.


Friends, every public servant must at one time be called to speak in praise of those who should require none, to hold aloft exemplary citizens whose deeds should raise them far above the power of any Mayor – no matter how well-dressed – to celebrate, honor, or laud. This is such a time.[2]

In this time of discord, of division, of sharp words and harsh sentiments exchanged at the highest levels of our discourse, it is in the small, day-to-day acts of community that we find our heroes, indeed, that we find ourselves.

Scripture tells us that bread is not always to the wise, and alas it is so. I come today to speak in praise of good and decent people whose noble pursuits have won them not the universal praise that is their due but the disdain, disrespect, and distrust of a Republican campaign and political party that at long last seem unable to tell good from bad or wisdom from foolishness.[3]

Friends, by now you will know who I have come to praise to the very limits of my mortal means. Let us here give due thanks and honor…

…to our taco trucks.

It seems incredible to me, but there are people in this country who dread the sight of these noble creations on every corner, people unable to recognize that vision for the earthly paradise it represents. But we in this room know better.

We in this room know taco trucks for what they are: the very ambassadors of community, of justice, and of guacamole – truly all that makes life worth living, the very bedrocks of our democracy, and of our breakfast.

And so I enjoin you friends to stand with me, to tell the enemies of taco trucks that we will fight them on the street corners. We will fight them in the parks. We will fight them with tortillas, cheese, and chorizo. We will fight them with growing confidence at breakfast and at lunch, and most of all, after closing time.

We. Will. Never. Surrender.[4]

And when it is over, we shall say, never before have so many eaten so well so often.[5]

This election, already ugly, may yet get worse. There seems no low to which our opponents will stoop. It is possible they may yet slander the noble enchilada. And that is why we in this room must commit ourselves to their defeat, to our victory, and to the promise that a nation of the taco, by the taco, for the taco shall not perish from the earth[6].

We are reminded daily that the tortillas are not always to the swift, nor the cheese to the strong, nor refried beans to the wise, nor guacamole to people of understanding, nor sour cream to people of skill. Yet this enlarges rather than defrays the hope that we confess[7].

This is, after all, Austin. We are first in war, first in peace, first in line for breakfast tacos.[8]

Maybe it’s like Hillary Clinton says. We’re stronger together.

This is why it matters that we are all here in this room together today. Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat tacos, we’ll be there. Wherever there’s a guy who needs a taco, we’ll be there. We’ll be there in the way guys yell when they can’t find a taco truck. We’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they want a taco and they know the taco truck’s comin’, and when there are people eatin’ the tacos and livin’ near the corners where the taco trucks are — we’ll be there, too.[9]

If anyone has no stomach for this taco, let him depart now. We would not eat tacos in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to eat tacos with us.

This day is call’d the feast of Johnson-Jordan.

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Johnson-Jordan.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say “Tomorrow is Johnson-Jordan.”[10]

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say “These wounds I got at a Johnson-Jordan after party.”

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember, with advantages,

What tacos he ate that day. Then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words—

Kirk Watson, Elliott Naishtat, Donna Howard, Eddie Rodriguez and Celia Israel,

as well as the legends of Johnson, Jordan and Richards—

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers… we band of democrats… ; For her today that defends the taco trucks with me   Shall be my comrade in eggs, onion and cheese (light on the salsa)…

And everyone in Austin who is now asleep

Shall think themselves cursed they were not here,

And hold their honor cheap when anyone speaks

That fought with us upon Johnson-Jordan day.


Once more unto the taco trucks, dear friends, once more.


I don’t know how to put it any more plainly than that.


Thank you.

[1] 30 Rock

[2] Pericle’s Funeral Oration is a famous speech from ThucydidesHistory of the Peloponnesian War. The speech was delivered by Pericles, an eminent Athenian politician, at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) as a part of the annual public funeral for the war dead.

[3] Ecclesiastes 9:11 “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. “

[4] “We Will Fight Them on the Beaches,” a speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 4 June 1940.

[5] “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” was a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940.

[6] The Gettysburg Address: “…government of the people…”

[7] Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

[8] Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee’s eulogy for George Washington.

[9] This is adapted from Tom Joad’s speech in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.”

[10] St. Crispin Day speech, Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 18–67