Political Musings April 19, 2014: Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Biden announce 500 million in economic opportunity job training grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama with the help of Vice President Joe Biden announced the latest effort in his economy opportunity program a competition for $500 million in grants for job training programs on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at Community College of…READ MORE
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Political Musings April 8, 2014: Obama announces economic opportunity agenda Youth CareerConnect Education grants

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama announces economic opportunity agenda Youth CareerConnect Education grants

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Starting off the week on Monday morning, April 7, 2014 President Barack Obama announced at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland that he is giving out gifts in the form Youth CareerConnect grants for high school education. The grants with…READ MORE

Political Musings March 10, 2014: Obamas promote education, college opportunity and financial aid initiatives

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

The first couple President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama collaborated together on Friday, March 7, 2014 to promote a higher education and financial aid initiatives both have working on; the Free Application for Student Aid or FAFSA, appearing…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, College Opportunity and Federal Student Aid

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

A World-Class Education for Every Student in America

Source: WH, 3-7-14
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Florida, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Fla., March 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama and the First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami to discuss the President’s plan to equip all Americans with the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Preparing for College

Source: WH, 3-7-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity
March 07, 2014 5:36 PM

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity

Coral Reef Senior High School
Miami, Florida

3:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Hello, Cuda Nation!  (Applause.)  Hello!  It is good to be here at Coral Reef Senior High.  (Applause.)  You guys are just happy because it’s warm down here all the time.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the rest of the country is cold.  (Laughter.)  Listen, Michelle and I are so grateful for the warm welcome.  It is great to be here.  I want to thank some people who are doing outstanding work.

First of all, your superintendent, Superintendent Carvalho, is doing great work.  We’re really proud of him.  (Applause.)  Your principal, Principal Leal, is doing great work.  (Applause.)  All the Coral Reef teachers and staff, you guys are all doing a great job.  (Applause.)  And you’re doing what is necessary to help young people get ready for college and careers.  So that’s why we’re here.  We are proud of what’s being done at this school.

I want to mention a few other folks who are here who are fighting on behalf of the people of South Florida every day.  We’ve got Congressman Joe Garcia is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Congresswoman Frederica Wilson here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  Your former Governor Charlie Crist is here.  (Applause.)

And most of all, I want to thank the people that Michelle and I came all the down here to see, and that is the students of Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  We had heard great things about your school.  We had heard great things about the students.  We wanted to come down here and just see what was going on.  (Applause.)  And Michelle and I just had a chance to visit with some of your classmates who are going through some of the scholarship applications, and we had a chance to talk to them and hear what their plans were.  And first of all, Michelle and I looked and we said, these must be actors playing students, because they were all smart and good-looking and organized.  (Laughter.)  And I asked them, what are you going to do?  And they’re — well, I’m going to be applying to business school, and then I’m going to start a company, and then I — when I was your age, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was lucky if I had gotten out of bed on time.  (Laughter.)  So you guys are ahead of the game.

And we’re here to tell you that you’ve got to keep up the good work, because by working hard every single day, every single night, you are making the best investment there is in your future.  And we want to make sure you’ve got everything, all the tools you need to succeed.  We want every young person to have the kinds of teachers and the kind of classes and the kind of learning experiences that are available to you here at Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  Because that’s the best investment we can make in America’s future.  (Applause.)

Now, keep in mind, Michelle and I, we’re only here today because of the kind of education that we got.  That was our ticket to success.  We grew up a lot like many of you.  I was raised by a single mom; she was a teenager when I was born.  We moved around a lot, we did not have a lot of money, but the one thing she was determined to see was that my sister and I would get the best education possible.

And she would press me.  Sometimes she’d make me wake up, do my lessons before I even went to school.  She was not going to let me off the hook.  And at the time, I wasn’t happy about it, but now I’m glad she pressed me like that.  Because, thanks to my mother and my grandparents, and then great teachers and great counselors who encouraged me, and a country that made it possible for me to afford a higher education, I was able to go to college and law school.

And then when I met Michelle, I saw that — (applause) –there were a couple of things I noticed.  I noticed she was smart.  (Applause.)  I noticed she was funny — she’s funny, she’s funnier than I am.  (Laughter.)  Obviously, I noticed she was cute, yes.  (Applause.)  But one of the things I also realized was, even though we had grown up in very different places, her story was a lot like mine.  Her dad worked at a city water plant.  He didn’t go to college.  He was a blue-collar worker.  Michelle’s mom — my mother-in-law, who I love to death — she was a secretary.  No one in her family had gone to college.  But because she had worked hard and her parents understood the value of education, and she had great teachers and great opportunities, and because the country was willing to invest to make sure that she was able to pay for college, she ended up going to some of the best universities in the country.  (Applause.)

So the point is she and I have been able to achieve things that our parents, our grandparents would have never dreamed of.  And that’s the chance this country should give every young person.  That’s the idea at the heart of America.  (Applause.)

What makes this country great, what makes it special when you look around, and Miami is a great example of it, you’ve got people coming from everywhere, every background, every race, every faith.  But what binds us together is this idea that if you work hard, you can make it — that there’s opportunity for all.  The belief that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, if you are responsible and put in the effort, you can succeed.  There’s no limit to what you can do.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

Opportunity is what drew many of your parents and grandparents to America.  And we’ve got to restore that idea for your generation, so that everybody has the same chance Michelle and I did.  That’s why we’re working on what we call an opportunity agenda to create more jobs and train more workers with new skills; to make sure hard work is rewarded with a paycheck that supports a family; to make sure that everybody can get health care when they need it, so that nobody has to get into financial trouble because somebody in the family gets sick.  (Applause.)

And for the students here, a lot of you, you may not think about these issues all the time.  You’re spending a lot of time on homework and sports, and this and that.  But you also oftentimes see your own family struggling and you worry about it.  And one of the single-most important parts of our opportunity agenda is making sure that every young person in America has access to a world-class education — a world-class education.  (Applause.)  So that’s why we are here.

I believe we should start teaching our kids at the earliest ages.  So we’re trying to help more states make high-quality preschool and other early learning programs available to the youngest kids.  (Applause.)  I believe that our K-12 system should be the best in the world.  So we started a competition called Race to the Top, to encourage more states like Florida to raise expectations for students like you, because when we set high expectations, every single one of you can meet them.  (Applause.)  You’re recruiting and preparing the best teachers.  You are turning around low-performing schools.  You’re expanding high-performing ones.  You’re making sure every student is prepared for college or a career.

I believe that every student should have the best technology.  So we launched something we called ConnectED to connect our schools to high-speed Internet.  And I want to congratulate Miami-Dade and your superintendent, because you have achieved your goal of installing wi-fi in every single one of your schools.  (Applause.)

So the good news is, in part because of some of these reforms we’ve initiated, when you add it all up our nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  The drop-out rate has been dropping, and among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  Miami-Dade’s graduation rate is higher than it’s ever been.  That’s all because of the efforts of so many people, including the parents and students who have been putting in the effort.  It’s because of the teachers and administrators and staff who are doing such a great job.  You should be proud.  We’re making progress — we’re making progress.  (Applause.)

Yes, you guys — by the way, you can all sit down.  I didn’t realize everybody was still standing up.  Sit down.  Take a load off.  You guys can’t sit down though, because you don’t have chairs, although bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the key thing, Coral Reef:  We still have more work to do, all of us — elected officials, principals, teachers, parents, students.  Because, as Michelle says, education is a two-way street.  Folks like us have to work hard to give you the best schools and support that you need.  But then, you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain by committing to your education.  That means you’ve got to stretch your minds.  You’ve got to push through subjects that aren’t always easy.  And it means continuing your education past high school, whether that’s a two-year or a four-year college degree or getting some professional training.

So I want to talk about an easy step that high school students like you can take to make college a reality.  And it’s something you already know here at Coral Reef, but I’m speaking to all the young people out there who may be watching.  It’s called FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It is a simple form.  It used to be complicated; we made it simple.  It doesn’t cost anything — that’s why the word “free” is right there in the name.  (Laughter.)  It does not take a long time to fill out.  Once you do, you’re putting yourself in the running for all kinds of financial support for college — scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs.

For the past five years, we’ve been working to make college more affordable.  We took on a college loan system that gave billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big banks to manage the student loan system.  We said, we don’t need the banks, let’s give the money directly to students, we can help more students.  (Applause.)  We can help more students that way.  So we expanded the grants that help millions of students from low-income backgrounds pay for college.  We’re offering millions of people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes once they graduate.

Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  That is a great thing.  But we still need to do more to help rein in the rising cost of tuition.  We need to do more to help Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt — because no striving, hardworking, ambitious, young American should ever be denied a college education just because they can’t afford it — nobody.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of young people all across the country who say the cost of college is holding them back.  Some of you may have sat around the kitchen table with your parents wondering about whether you’ll be able to afford it.  So FAFSA is by far the easiest way to answer that question.  And I know the Barracudas know all about FAFSA.  (Applause.)  Last year, you had the second-highest completion rate of any large high school in the state.  (Applause.)  You should be proud of that.  Your teachers and parents should be proud of that.

But last year, almost half of high school graduates in Florida didn’t fill out the FAFSA form.

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  That ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  Not only is it not right, but it also ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  And as a result, they lost out on over $100 million in Pell grants.  Think about that — $100 million that could have helped Florida students help pay for college was just left on the table.  That’s just in Florida.  Nationwide, over one million high school students did not fill out the FAFSA form.  That happens every year.

So my challenge today to every high school student in America:  Fill out the form.  Even if you think you might not qualify for financial aid, fill out the form.  You might qualify.

And we’re making it easier than ever.  We put the FAFSA form online.  We made it shorter.  It takes about half an hour to fill out.  And it could change the rest of your life.  We’ve updated it to save your parents a lot of hassle as well.  And today, I’m announcing another improvement.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Education to tell every governor that, starting today, they can, if they choose, confidentially let high school administrators know which students have filled out the FAFSA form and which haven’t.  So that way, if Principal Leal wants to check in with the seniors –

AUDIENCE:  Wooo –

THE PRESIDENT:  I know, everybody is like, wow.  (Laughter.)  I know she’s already on top of stuff, but this way, she could check and seniors who had not filled it out, she could then help them answer the questions and figure out what’s holding her back — what’s holding them back.

Anybody will be able to go online and find out the number of students who have filled out the form at each high school, so we can track it.  So if you want to have a friendly competition with Palmetto High or Miami Killian — (applause) — to see who can get a higher completion rate on your FAFSA, you can do that.  (Applause.)  You achieved the second-highest rate in the state, but I mean if you want to settle for number two, that’s okay –  you might be able to get number one.  (Applause.)  Huh?  I’m just saying you could go for number one.  (Applause.)

So these are things I can do on my own, but I’m here to also tell you I need — I could use some help from folks in Washington.  There are some things I don’t need Congress’s permission for, and in this year of action, whenever I see a way to act to help expand opportunity for young people I’m just going to go ahead and take it.  I’m just going to go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

So earlier this year, Michelle and I hosted a College Opportunity Summit, where over 150 colleges and universities and nonprofits made commitments to help more low-income students get to college and graduate from college.  (Applause.)  But I’m also willing to work with anybody in Congress — Democrat, Republican, don’t matter — to make sure young people like you have a shot to success.

So a few days ago, I sent my budget to Congress.  And budgets are pretty boring — but the stuff inside the budgets are pretty important.  And my budget focuses on things like preschool for all; like redesigning high schools so students like you can learn real-world skills that businesses want — (applause) — like preparing more young people for careers in some of the fields of the future — in science and technology and engineering and math to discover new planets and invent robots and cure diseases — all the cool stuff that we adults haven’t figured out yet.  (Laughter.)

These are not just the right investments for our schools; they’re the right priorities for our country.  You are our priority.  We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to make sure all of you are prepared for the new century, and we’ve got to keep growing our economy in other ways:  attracting new high-tech jobs, reforming our immigration system — something Congressman Garcia is fighting for.  (Applause.)   And the rest of Congress needs to stop doing nothing, do right by America’s students, America’s teachers, America’s workers.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get busy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got work to do. All of us have work to do — teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents, parents, grandparents.

We all have work to do, because we want to see you succeed, because we’re counting on you, Barracudas.  (Applause.)  And if you keep reaching for success — and I know you will, just based on the small sampling we saw of students here — if you keep working as hard as you can and learning as much as you can, and if you’ve got big ambitions and big dreams, if you don’t let anybody tell you something is out of your reach, if you are convinced that you can do something and apply effort and energy and determination and persistence to that vision, then not only will you be great but this country will be great.  (Applause.)  Our schools will be great.  (Applause.)

I want us to have the best-educated workforce in America.  And I want it to be the most diverse workforce in the world.  That’s what I’m fighting for.  That’s what your superintendent and your principal are fighting for, and I hope that’s what you fight for yourselves.  (Applause.)  Because when I meet the students here at Coral Reef, I am optimistic about the future.  Michelle and I walked out of that classroom, and we said, you know what, we’re going to be in good hands, we’re going to do okay.  (Applause.)  Because these young people are coming, and nobody is going to stop them.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
3:25 P.M EST

Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama launched the most personal program to date when on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2014 he announced in the White House’s East Room another part of his economic opportunity program, called “My Brother’s Keeper…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color

Source: WH, 2-27-14

This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper – his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014.President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative

Source: WH, 2-27-14

East Room

3:43 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction.  And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do.  (Laughter.)  Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you.  I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today.  But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school.  (Laughter.)  And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back.  (Laughter.)

As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago.  I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house.  And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.”  It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me.  And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.

They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves.  And it works.  One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school.  (Applause.)

So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories.  They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing.  And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them.  I didn’t have a dad in the house.  And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold myself short.

And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?”  (Laughter.)  I said, yes.

And the point was I could see myself in these young men.  And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe.  I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself.  And if I didn’t listen they said it again.  And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances.  They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.

I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had.  And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.

This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on.  It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country.  (Applause.)  That’s the core idea.

And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency.  Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few.  And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education.  It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs.  It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on.  It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.

Those are national issues.  They have an impact on everybody.  And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country.  My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success.  That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations.  And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.

Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long.  My presence is a testimony to that progress.  Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger.  Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.

Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways.  So there are examples of extraordinary achievement.  We all know that.  We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there.  But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.

If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.  We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.

As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade.  By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.  There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime.  Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men.  And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.

And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics.  We’re not surprised by them.  We take them as the norm.  We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is.  (Applause.)  That’s how we think about it.  It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television.  We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that.  But these statistics should break our hearts.  And they should compel us to act.

Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters.  We don’t have a son.  But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there.  And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility.  And I’d want him to have independence and confidence.  And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion.  I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.

I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children.  (Applause.)  And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country.  It’s also an economic issue for our country.

After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population.  They are our future workforce.  When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers.  Our family structure suffers.  Our civic life suffers.  Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust.  And our country is a little less than what we know it can be.  So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.

That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.  (Applause.)  And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.

In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential.  And that’s what today is all about.

After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success.  And we’re committed to building on what works.  And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”

Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program.  In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.  We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody.  And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress.  And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.

Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them.  But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time.  And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role.  We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.  (Applause.)

In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us.  Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework.  (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them.  Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there.  Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.

So we all have a job to do.  And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican.  So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before.  But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works.  It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us.  And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.

Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up.  (Applause.)  To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school.  Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.

As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.

A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country.  Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.

So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.

They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue.  Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play.  And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community.  In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.

And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything.  And that’s our focus.

While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait.  And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country.  (Applause.)

Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time.  What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well.  And my administration is going to do its part.  So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.

And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that?  Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks.  We know the data.  We know the statistics.  And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.

First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family.  And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up.  A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up.  And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills.  So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off.  So that’s point number one right at the beginning.

Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can.  And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate.  So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.

Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school.  Black kids are nearly four times as likely.  And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.

That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school.  We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.)   And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.

Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law.  If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school.  By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail.  And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.

And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working.  We’ve got to reconnect them.  We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors.  We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood.  We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job.  We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.

In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try.  But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference.  Any adult who cares can make a difference.

Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work.  And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different.  A world opened up for them.  It doesn’t take that much.  But it takes more than we’re doing now.

And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future;  building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.  And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works.  There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact.  We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it.  Let’s do things that work.  And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it.  If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.

And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.

So, in closing, let me just say this.  None of this is going to be easy.  This is not a one-year proposition.  It’s not a two-year proposition.  It’s going to take time.  We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds.  And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain.  Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home.  Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.”  Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for.  But you’ve got responsibilities, too.

And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort.  It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future.  It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals.  Nothing will be given to you.  The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard.  But I know you guys can succeed.  We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.

And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today.  I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.

When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx.  His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood.  Crime was high.  A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse.  But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find.  And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.

She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school.  And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better.  And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way.  And he ended up going to college.  And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force.  And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff.  (Applause.)  And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.

Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example.  Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there.  (Applause.)  Good job, Moe.

So Moe didn’t make excuses.  His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe.  We need more young men like Christian.  We will beat the odds.  We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential.  Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle.  And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.

So let’s get going.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
4:17 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 19, 2014: Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 
Since causing an uproar when he mocked the importance and relevance of graduating university with an art history degree, President Barack Obama has been publicly trying to make up for the “glib” remark, showing he truly “loves…

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President Barack Obama looks at the Edward Hopper paintings now displayed in the Oval Office, Feb. 7, 2014.

Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper paintings now adorning the Oval Office

President Barack Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper painting now adorning the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2014; Obama is trying to rehab his image relating to the arts after joking about art history degrees in a speech about technical job training, Jan. 30, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

University Musings February 16, 2014: Obama puts the humanities vs professional degrees debate back in the spotlight

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

EDUCATION HEADLINES

Obama puts the humanities vs professional degrees debate back in the spotlight

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Obama needs to look back at President Kennedy’s idealism to recognize the importance of the arts
The debate of the importance of the humanities, liberal arts and social science university degree versus a professional degree, or a degree…READ MORE

Political Musings February 10, 2014: Obama focuses on economic opportunity through executive orders in weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama focuses on economic opportunity through executive orders in weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For the second week in a row President Barack Obama centered his weekly address on the economic opportunity program he introduced in his State of Union Address, outlining both the economic initiatives and his “go-it-alone strategy”….READ MORE

University Musings February 6, 2014: Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

EDUCATION HEADLINES

Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Princeton Review has released one of its college rankings listing on Jan. 28, 2014 this time is was their annual best value public and private colleges. The Princeton Review list compromises 150 colleges chosen from over 2000 colleges, that…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education and ConnectED Wireless Internet Access Initiative

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Visits a Middle School Classroom

Source: WH, 2-4-14

Watch on YouTube

President Barack Obama records video on an iPad

President Barack Obama records video on an iPad using an app from NASA during a classroom visit at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., February 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Earlier today, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on his ConnectED initiative. Before his remarks, however, he stopped by one of the school’s math classes to chat with students – and have some fun with their technology….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on ConnectED

Source: WH, 2-4-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on ConnectED
February 04, 2014 5:14 PM

President Obama Speaks on ConnectED

Buck Lodge Middle School
Adelphi, Maryland

11:37 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, can everybody please give Nelson a big round of applause for the outstanding job that he did?  (Applause.)  So Nelson just told me backstage he plans on being a Navy SEAL.  So I was really nice to him now so he doesn’t mess with me later.  (Laughter.)  We are very proud of him, proud of all the students who are here today.

I want to thank Principal Richardson for the great job that he’s doing.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the wonderful teachers who are here at Buck Lodge Middle School.  Go, Vikings!  (Applause.)

I brought along some people who very much care about the future of these young people.  We’ve got America’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and two of his fellow commissioners who are here, doing great work.  (Applause.)  Congressman Steny Hoyer is in the house.  (Applause.)  County Executive Rushern Baker is here.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got some business leaders who’ve made some very big commitments today — because they know that your education is the very best investment that all of us can make in America.

Now, last week, in my State of the Union address, I spent some time talking about opportunity for everybody, which is at the heart of this country — the idea that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like — if you have a chair feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t actually my line, but I thought — (laughter.)  But at the core of America, the essence of it, what makes us exceptional is this idea, no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to live up to your responsibilities, you can make it here in America.

But each generation has to work hard to make sure that dream of opportunity stays alive for the next generation.  And the opportunity agenda that I laid out last week will help us do that.  It’s focused on four areas:  Number one, more new jobs; number two, training folks with the skills to fill those jobs;  number three, making sure our economy rewards hard work with decent wages and economic security; and number four, the piece I’m here to talk about today — guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.  Every child.  Not just some, but everybody.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m only standing here today because my education gave me a chance.  I’m not so different than a lot of these young people.  I was raised by a single mom, with the help of my grandma and my grandpa.  We didn’t have a lot of money, and for a while my mother was working and going to school at the same time as she was raising a couple of kids.  And there were times where times were tight.  But with a family who loved me, and with some hard work on my part — although it wasn’t always consistent — as my mother and my grandparents would point out.  And then, ultimately, with the help of scholarships and student loans, I was able to go to college.  I was able to go to law school.  And entire worlds of opportunity opened up to me that might not otherwise have been available.

So the country invested in me.  My parents invested in me, my grandparents invested in me, but my country invested in me.  And I want America to now invest in you — because in the faces of these students, these are future doctors and lawyers and engineers, scientists, business leaders.  We don’t know what kinds of products, services, good work that any of these students may do.  But I’m betting on them, and all of us have to bet on them.

So five years ago, we set out to change the odds on all of our kids.  Our Race to the Top challenge has helped raise expectations and performance in states all across the country.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it’s been in more than 30 years.  (Applause.)  That’s an achievement.  The dropout rate among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000 — a really big deal.  (Applause.)  We reformed our student loan programs, so that more young people are able to afford to go to college, and now we’ve got more young people earning a college degree than ever before.

Teachers and principals across the country are working hard to prepare students like you with the skills you need for a new economy — not just the basics of reading and writing and arithmetic, but skills like science and technology, engineering, critical thinking, creativity — asking, what do you think about that idea, and how would you do things differently.

Now, we still have more work to do to reach more kids and reach them faster.  And some of the ideas that I’ve presented will require Congress to act.  But while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I said at the State of the Union — and I want to repeat here today — I will act on my own.  Wherever I have the opportunity to expand opportunity for more young people, wherever I have a chance to make a difference in their lives, I’m going to act.  I’m going to act.  (Applause.)

So in this Year of Action, we’re going to work with states and communities to help them make high-quality pre-K available to more young children.  We know it’s a good investment.  (Applause.)  We want to keep working to partner high schools with colleges and employers to offer real-world education experiences that can lead directly to jobs and careers.  And we want to do more to make sure no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education and, obviously, no poor kid is priced out of a college education.  That’s got to be a priority for us.  (Applause.)

But today, we’re here to announce some big strides that we’re making to put the world and outer space at every child’s fingertips — whether they live in a big city or a quiet suburb or in rural America.

Last year, I launched something called ConnectED — a new initiative to close the technology gap in our schools and connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years.  Now, this is something we can do without waiting for Congress.  We do need some help, though.  So we picked up the phone and we started asking some outstanding business leaders to help bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century.  Today, thanks to the leadership of some of these companies, we’ve got some big announcements to make.

But first, I want you to know why it matters that we make sure technology is available to every child.  Technology is not the entire answer, by the way, when it comes to educational excellence.  We’ve got to make sure we’ve got outstanding teachers.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make sure that parents are doing what they need to do.  (Applause.)  We need young people to make the effort and to have high expectations for themselves.  (Applause.)  But technology can help; t’s a tool, it’s just one more tool.

So today, the average American school has about the same Internet bandwidth as the average American home, but it serves 200 times as many people.  Think about it.  So you’ve got the same bandwidth, but it’s a school — it’s not your house.  Only around 30 percent of our students have true high-speed Internet in the classroom.  In countries like South Korea, that’s 100 percent.  We shouldn’t give that kind of competitive advantage over to other countries.  We want to make sure our young people have the same advantages that some child in South Korea has right now.  In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools.  (Applause.)

Now, here at Buck Lodge, you are showing how we can use technology to teach our young people in innovative ways.  And by the way, the principal told me that part of how this got started was some of the stimulus dollars that we put in place almost five years ago now.  But every student here has access to their own iPad.  And you don’t just write papers or take tests; they’re animating movies, they’re designing blogs, they’re collaborating on multimedia projects.  In the word of an 8th grader, Annie Gomez, she says, “You can learn even more, you can take in more, and then you know more about the world.”

And new technologies are helping teachers.  So in Mr. Jeter’s science class, students take quizzes on their tablets; he then can check the answers in real time and he can figure out who needs extra help. In Ms. Galinat’s language arts class, students learn vocabulary not just with flashcards, but with online video. In Ms. Stover’s math class — I was just over with Ms. Stover — students bring their tablets home to watch lectures about concepts like ratios and rational numbers, and then use the next day’s classroom time applying those concepts to the real world.  So technology allows teachers here to spend more time being creative, less time teaching to the test, giving continual feedback, being able to pinpoint where a young person is having trouble because they’re able to see their work right away in a pretty efficient way.

And I will say, I was just in a classroom — there was a lesson plan that was organized around the Curiosity Rover on Mars.  And the young people there were doing some amazing stuff  — making their own iBooks with video and multimedia.  And as I was walking out, I was talking to Steny Hoyer about how I remember using gluesticks — (laughter) — and scissors to cut stuff out and it didn’t look very good.  (Laughter.)  These guys were making books you could publish.  (Laughter.)

But it makes learning exciting, it makes it interesting.  If you’re studying science and you are actually seeing the engineers who built Rover talk about what it is — or the Curiosity Rover  — talking about what they’re doing and how they did it, and being able to see the Rover on the Martian landscape, it makes vivid and real math and science in a way that is more interesting to students, which means that they’re more likely to be engaged and can potentially do better.

And this is how it should be for every student and every teacher at every school and library in the country.  That’s how it should be for everbody, not just some.  (Applause.)

Today, almost eight months after we launched ConnectED, we can announce some very big commitments that are going to go a long way towards realizing that vision where every child has the access to the technology that they can use to help them learn.  So, under Tom Wheeler’s leadership, the FCC is announcing a down payment of $2 billion to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed broadband over the next two years — (applause) — 15,000 schools, 20 million students.  (Applause.)  It won’t require a single piece of legislation from Congress.  It won’t add a single dime to the deficit.

And even better, some of America’s biggest tech companies have decided to join this effort, with commitments worth more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.  So let me just give you some examples.

Apple will donate $100 million worth of iPads, MacBooks, and other products to schools across the country.  (Applause.)  That’s an enormous commitment.
Sprint will provide free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, so their 21st century education isn’t confined to the classroom.  (Applause.)

AT&T will donate over $100 million worth of wireless service to middle-school students, so that they can continue to do homework when they get home.  (Applause.)

Autodesk will make its 3D-design software available for free to every high school in the country.  (Applause.)

Microsoft will offer products like Windows to students and teachers at a deep discount, and provide 12 million free copies of Office to our schools.  (Applause.)

O’Reilly Media and Safari Books Online will donate more than $100 million worth of eBooks that will help students learn technology skills like coding and web design.  (Applause.)

And finally, because no technology will ever be as important as a great teacher, Verizon will expand a program to help train educators to use all these new tools in all 50 states.  (Applause.)

So I want to thank all the business leaders who are here today for stepping up.  Why don’t you stand up?  Let’s give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  We’re very proud of them. Thank you.  (Applause.)

Now, this is an extraordinary commitment by these business leaders, but they’re business leaders, so they’re not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart.  They want the country to do well, but they also understand that they want educated customers.  They want customers who are able to get good jobs, who are going to be using these tools in the future.  They want that next young architect coming out of here to be familiar with using that iPad so that they’re designing buildings and using their products.

They know that the entire economy will be lifted if more of our young people are doing better.  So they’re doing good, but it will also help them succeed from a bottom-line perspective by this kind of participation.  They are united in their support of young people like you, even though sometimes they compete against each other — because all of us have a stake in your education and in your future.

And that’s why we have to build on this progress together.  Later this year, I’m going to ask Congress to do its part and give teachers using cutting-edge technologies the training they deserve.  (Applause.)  Because it’s important — as I said before, technology is not a silver bullet.  It’s only as good as the teachers who are there using it as one more tool to help inspire and teach and work through problems.

And although I’ve noticed that these days when I visit schools, most teachers are much younger than I am — (laughter)  — I’m getting on in years, obviously, which means that I’m not always as familiar with iPads and technology as I need to be.  We want every teacher in every school to understand from soup to nuts how you can potentially use this technology.  And that oftentimes requires a training component that makes sure that the technology is not just sitting there, but is actually used and incorporated in the best way possible.

So I’m going to ask every business leader across America to join us in this effort.  Ask yourself what you can do to help us connect our students to the 21st century.  Ask yourselves what you can do to support our teachers and our parents and give every young people every shot at success.

And we can make this happen.  And just imagine what it will mean for our country when we do.  Imagine what it could mean for a girl growing up on a farm to be able to take AP Biology or AP Physics even if her school is too small to offer it, because she’s got the access to technology that allows her to take those classes online.  Imagine what it means for a boy with an illness that confines him sometimes to home where he can join his classmates for every lesson with FaceTime or Skype.  Imagine what it means for educators to spend less time grading tests and papers, more time helping young people learn.  Imagine more businesses starting here and hiring here, because they know for a fact that the young people here are going to be equipped with the skills that are better than anybody else on Earth.

That’s the future we’re building.  That’s what these companies are investing in.  And if America pulls together now — if we do our part to make sure every young person can go as far as their passion and their hard work will take them, whether it’s to Mars or to the bottom of the ocean or to anywhere on this planet where you’ve got an Internet connection — if we commit ourselves to restoring opportunity for everybody, then we can keep the American Dream alive for generations to come.

That’s our main project.  That’s our main obligation.  That’s why I ran for President.  That’s what I’m going to be working on for the next three years.  (Applause.)

Thank you for all the work that you’re doing here at this outstanding school.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:04 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 2, 2014: Obama recaps State of the Union in three-minute weekly address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama recaps State of the Union in three-minute weekly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For his weekly address released on Saturday morning, Feb. 1, 2014 President Barack Obama decided to revisit his State of the Union, and it the most important program he introduced promising to improve economic opportunity. The President also recapped his…READ MORE

Political Musings February 1, 2014: Obama follows through with economic opportunity tour after State of the Union

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama follows through with economic opportunity tour after State of the Union

By Bonnie K. Goodman

For two day after his State of Union on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 29 and 30, 2014 President Barack Obama embarked on a policy tour to sell his economic agenda. On Wednesday, Jan. 29 Obama spoke at the Costco store…

READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at College Opportunity Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Taking Action to Expand College Opportunity

Remarks by the President and First Lady at College Opportunity Summit

 Source: WH, 1-16-14

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity SummitPresident Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

South Court Auditorium

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:37 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.  Thank you, everyone.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  You guys rest yourselves.  Thank you so much.

It is really great to be here today with all of you.  We have with us today college and university presidents; we have experts and advocates, and civic and business leaders.  And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and for working every day to help young people pursue their education and build brighter futures for themselves and for our country.

And I’d also like us to give a really big hand to Troy for sharing that story.  (Applause.)  That’s pretty powerful stuff, and presented so eloquently.  I know yesterday I met Troy — he was nervous.  (Laughter.)  I don’t really know why you were nervous.  You’re pretty awesome.

MR. SIMON:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  Troy’s story reminds us all of the limitless capacity that lies within all of our young people no matter where they come from or how much money they have.  Troy is an example of why we all should care deeply about this issue.

And Troy, and millions of others like him, are why I care so much about this issue, and why in the coming years I’m going to be spending more and more of my time focusing on education.  Because as everyone here knows, education is the key to success for so many kids.  And my goal specifically is to reach out directly to young people and encourage them to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school.  And I’m doing this because so often when we talk about education, we talk about our young people and what we need to do for them.  We talk about the programs we need to create for them, about the resources we need to devote to them.

But we must remember that education is a two-way bargain.  And while there is so much more we must do for our kids, at the end of the day, as Troy described, the person who has the most say over whether or not a student succeeds is the student him or herself.  Ultimately, they are the ones sitting in that classroom.  They’re the ones who have to set goals for themselves and work hard to achieve those goals every single day.

So my hope is that with this new effort, that instead of talking about our kids, we talk with our kids.  I want to hear what’s going on in their lives.  I want to inspire them to step up and commit to their education so they can have opportunities they never even dreamed of.  I’m doing this because that story of opportunity through education is the story of my life, and I want them to know that it can be their story, too –- but only if they devote themselves to continuing their education past high school.

And for many students, that might mean attending a college or university like the ones many of you represent.  For others, it might mean choosing a community college.  It might mean pursuing short-term professional training.  But no matter what they do, I want to make sure that students believe that they have what it takes to succeed beyond high school.  That’s going to be my message to young people.

But here’s the thing:  I know that that message alone isn’t enough.  Like I said, this is a two-way street, and that means we all have to step up.  Because make no mistake about it, these kids are smart.  They will notice if we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.  They will notice if we tell them about applying for college or financial aid, but then no one is there to help them choose the right school or fill out the right forms.  They will notice if we tell them that they’re good enough to graduate from college, but then no college asks them to apply, no college invites them to visit their campus.

And so we’ve got to re-commit ourselves to helping these kids pursue their education.  And as you discussed in your first panel today, one of the first steps is getting more underserved young people onto college campuses.  The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people — young people like Troy who have the talent it takes to succeed — simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them.  Too many of them are falling through the cracks, and all of you know that all too well.

And that’s why so many of you are already finding new ways to reach out to the underserved students in your communities.  You’re helping them navigate the financial aid and college admissions process, and you’re helping them find schools that match their abilities and interests.  And I know from my own experience just how important all of that work is that you’re doing.

See, the truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never.  And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me — kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they’ve never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there.

And so that means it’s our job to find those kids.  It’s our job to help them understand their potential and then get them enrolled in a college that can help them meet their needs.  But then we all know that just getting into school is only half the story, because once students are there, they have got to graduate.  And that’s not always easy, especially given what many of these kids are dealing with when they get to campus.

Just think about it.  You just heard a snippet from Troy.  Just to make it to college, these kids have already overcome so much — neighborhoods riddled with crime and drugs, moms and dads who weren’t around, too many nights when they had to go to bed hungry.  But as I tell these kids when I talk to them, we can’t think about those experiences that they’ve had as weaknesses — just the opposite.  They’re actually strengths.

In facing and overcoming these challenges, these kids have developed skills like grit and resilience that many of their peers will never be able to compete with — never.  And when they get out in the world, those are the exact skills they will need to succeed.  And they will succeed.

But imagine how hard it is to realize that when you first get to college.  You’re in a whole new world.  You might have trouble making friends because you don’t see any peers who come from a background like yours.  You might be worried about paying for classes, and food, and room and board because you have never had to set your own budget before.  You might be feeling guilty when you call home because Mom and Dad are wondering why you didn’t get a job so you could help support their family.  Those are the kinds of obstacles these kids are facing right from day one.

But let’s be clear — all of that isn’t just a challenge for them.  It’s a challenge for folks like us, who are committed to helping them succeed.  And make no mistake about it, that is our mission — not simply giving speeches or raising money or hosting conferences, but to take real, meaningful action that will help our young people get into college, and more importantly, actually get their degree.

And here’s the good news:  Time and again you all have shown that you have the experience, the passion and the resources to help these young people thrive.  For example, in recent decades, you’ve realized that students from across the socioeconomic spectrum have been coming to campus with more and more issues like eating disorders and learning disabilities, emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, and so much more.  And luckily, you all have not shied away from these issues.  I’ve seen it.  I worked at a university.  And you haven’t said, these aren’t our problems; we’re a university, not a hospital or a counseling center.  No, you’ve stepped up.

And while there’s still work left to do on these issues, you’re working every day to support these kids through treatment programs and outreach initiatives and support groups, because you know that these issues have a huge impact on whether students can learn and succeed at your school.  So now, as you begin to see more and more underserved students on your campuses, we need you to direct that same energy and determination toward helping these kids face their unique challenges.

Now, fortunately, you’ve already got the expertise you need to address these issues.  And simply by building on what you’re already doing best, you can make real differences for these kids.  And that’s what so many of you are doing with commitments you’ve made here at this summit.

For example, every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing.  They’re committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college.  And every school has advisors who desperately want their students to succeed.  Oregon Tech is committing to set up a text message program so that these advisors can connect more easily with students who need some extra encouragement or academic support.

And every college has orientation programs or learning communities to help students transition to college.  And many of the schools here today are supplementing those programs by partnering with organizations like the Posse Foundation so that underserved students can connect and build a social network before they even step foot on campus.  And those were the types of resources that helped a kid like me not just survive but thrive at a school like Princeton.

When I first arrived at school as a first-generation college student, I didn’t know anyone on campus except my brother.  I didn’t know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings.  I didn’t even bring the right size sheets for my dorm room bed.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t realize those beds were so long.  (Laughter.)  So I was a little overwhelmed and a little isolated.

But then I had an opportunity to participate in a three-week, on-campus orientation program that helped me get a feel for the rhythm of college life.  And once school started, I discovered the campus cultural center, the Third World Center, where I found students and staff who came from families and communities that were similar to my own.  And they understood what I was going through.  They were there to listen when I was feeling frustrated.  They were there to answer the questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else.

And if it weren’t for those resources and the friends and the mentors, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through college.  But instead, I graduated at the top of my class, I went to law school — and you know the rest.  (Laughter.)  So whether it’s aligning with an organization like Posse or offering a new advising or mentoring program, or creating a central space where students can connect with one another, you all can take simple steps that can determine whether these kids give up and drop out, or step up and thrive.

And that’s not just good for these young people, it’s good for your schools — because if you embrace and empower these students, and if you make sure they have good campus experiences, then they’re going to stay engaged with your school for decades after they graduate.  They will be dressed up in school colors at homecoming games.  They’ll be asking to serve on your committees and advisory boards.  And they’ll be doing their part when fundraising season rolls around.  (Laughter.)

So believe me, these will be some of the best alumni you could possibly ask for, because after everything these kids will have overcome to get into college and get through college, believe me, they will have all the skills they need to run our businesses and our labs, and to teach in our classrooms, and to lead our communities.

Just look at me, and look at Troy and the countless success stories from the organizations and schools represented here in this room.  That’s how we will win, this country.  We will win by tapping the full potential of all of our young people so that we can grow our economy and move this country forward.  And let me tell you that is something that my husband understands deeply, because his life story, just like mine, is rooted in education as well.  And as President, that is was drives him every single day — his goal of expanding opportunity to millions of Americans who are striving to build better futures for themselves, for their families and for our country, as well.

So now it is my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And let me begin by thanking Troy and sharing his remarkable story.  I could not be more inspired by what he’s accomplished and can’t wait to see what he’s going to accomplish in the future.

My wife — it’s hard to speak after her.  (Laughter and applause.)  We were in the back, and Gene Sperling, who did extraordinary work putting this whole summit together, said, “Everybody is so excited that Michelle is here.”  (Laughter.)  And I said, well, what about me?  (Laughter.)  But you should be excited, her being here, because she brings a passion and a body of experience and a passion to this issue that is extraordinary.  And I couldn’t be prouder of the work she’s already done and the work I know that she’s going to keep on doing around these issues.

She did leave one thing out of her speech, and that is it’s her birthday tomorrow.  (Applause.)  So I want everybody to just keep that in mind.

Now, we are here for one purpose:  We want to make sure more young people have the chance to earn a higher education.  And in the 21st century economy, we all understand it’s never been more important.

The good news is, is that our economy is steadily growing and strengthening after the worst recession in a generation.  So we’ve created more than 8 million new jobs.  Manufacturing is growing, led by a booming auto industry.  Thanks to some key public investments in advances like affordable energy and research and development, what we’ve seen is not only an energy revolution in this country that bodes well for our future, but in areas like health care, for example, we’ve slowed the growth of health care costs in ways that a lot of people wouldn’t have anticipated as recently as five or ten years ago.

So there are a lot of good things going on in the economy.  And businesses are starting to invest.  In fact, what we’re seeing are businesses overseas starting to say, instead of outsourcing, let’s insource back into the U.S.

All that bodes well for our future.  Here’s the thing, though:  We don’t grow just for the sake of growth.  We grow so that it translates into a growing middle class, people getting jobs, people being able to support their families, and people being able to pass something on to the next generation.  We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America — the notion that if you work hard, you can get ahead, you can improve your situation in life, you can make something of yourself.  The same essential story that Troy so eloquently told about himself.

And the fact is it’s been getting harder to do that for a lot of people.  It is harder for folks to start in one place and move up that ladder — and that was true long before the recession hit.  And that’s why I’ve said that in 2014, we have to consider this a year of action, not just to grow the economy, not just to increase GDP, not just to make sure that corporations are profitable and the stock market is doing well and the financial system is stable.  We’ve also got to make sure that that growth is broad-based and that everybody has a chance to access that growth and take advantage of it.  We’ve got to make sure that we’re creating new jobs and that the wages and benefits that go along with those jobs can support a family.  We have to make sure that there are new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and that those ladders — the rungs on those ladders are solid and accessible for more people.

Now, I’m going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I’m also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked.  I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.

And today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of new legislation, we can advance this agenda.  We’ve got philanthropists and business leaders here; we’ve got leaders of innovative non-for-profits; we’ve got college presidents — from state universities and historically black colleges to Ivy League universities and community colleges.  And today, more than 100 colleges and 40 organizations are announcing new commitments to help more young people not only go to, but graduate from college.  And that’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and we didn’t pass a bill to do it.

Everybody here is participating, I believe, because you know that college graduation has never been more valuable than it is today.  Unemployment for Americans with a college degree is more than a third lower than the national average.  Incomes — twice as high as those without a high school diploma.  College is not the only path to success.  We’ve got to make sure that more Americans of all age are getting the skills that they need to access the jobs that are out there right now.  But more than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life.

And higher education speaks to something more than that.  The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story.  And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.  You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary.  And to a kid that goes to college, maybe like Michelle, the first in his or her family, that means everything.

And the fact is, is if we hadn’t made a commitment as a country to send more of our people to college, Michelle, me, maybe a few of you would not be here today.  My grandfather wasn’t rich, but when he came home from the war he got the chance to study on the GI Bill.  I grew up with a single mom.  She had me when she was 18 years old.  There are a lot of circumstances where that might have waylaid her education for good.  But there were structures in place that allowed her then to go on and get a PhD.  Michelle’s dad was a shift worker at the city water plant; mom worked as a secretary.  They didn’t go to college.  But there were structures in place that allowed Michelle to take advantage of those opportunities.

As Michelle mentioned, our parents and grandparents made sure we knew that we’d have to work for it, that nobody was going to hand us something, that education was not a passive enterprise — you just tip your head over and somebody pours education into your ear.  (Laughter.)  You’ve got to work for it.  And I’ve told the story of my mother — when I was living overseas, she’d wake me up before dawn to do correspondence courses in English before I went to the other school.  I wasn’t that happy about it.  (Laughter.)  But with that hard work — but also with scholarships, also with student loans, and with support programs in place — we were able to go to some of the best colleges in the country even though we didn’t have a lot of money.  Every child in America should have the same chance.

So over the last five years, we’ve worked hard in a variety of ways to improve these mechanisms to get young people where they need to be and to knock down barriers that are preventing them from getting better prepared for the economies that they’re going to face.  We’ve called for clearer, higher standards in our schools — and 45 states and the District of Columbia have answered that call so far.  We’ve set a goal of training 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years, and the private sector has already committed to help train 40,000.  We’ve taken new steps to help students stay in school, and today the high school dropout rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years — something that’s rarely advertised.  The dropout rate among Hispanic students, by the way, has been cut in half over the last decade.

But we still have to hire more good teachers and pay them better.  We still have to do more training and development, and ensure that the curriculums are ones that maximize the chances for student success.  When young people are properly prepared in high school, we’ve got to make sure that they can afford to go to college, so we took on a student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to big banks and we said, let’s give that money directly to students.  As a consequence, we were able to double the grant aid that goes to millions of students.  And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.

So we’ve made progress there, but as I’ve discussed with some of you, we’re still going to have to make sure that rising tuition doesn’t price the middle class out of a college education.  The government is not going to be able to continually subsidize a system in which higher education inflation is going up faster than health care inflation.  So I’ve laid out a plan to bring down costs and make sure that students are not saddled with debt before they even start out in life.

Even after all these steps that we’ve taken over the last five years, we still have a long way to go to unlock the doors of higher education to more Americans and especially lower-income Americans.  We’re going to have to make sure they’re ready to walk through those doors.  The added value of a college diploma has nearly doubled since Michelle and I were undergraduates.  Unfortunately, today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-twenties only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.

So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.  There is this huge cohort of talent that we’re not tapping.

Now, what this meeting today tells me is we’ve got dedicated citizens across the country who are ready to stand up and meet this challenge.  And what I want to really do is highlight some of the commitments that have been made here today.  So we know that not enough low-income students are taking the steps required to prepare for college.  That’s why I’m glad the University of Chicago, my neighbor, and the place where Michelle and I both worked in the past, is announcing a $10 million College Success Initiative that will reach 10,000 high schools over the next five years.  It’s why iMentor, a mentoring program that began 15 years ago with just 49 students in the South Bronx, has committed to matching 20,000 new students with mentoring in more than 20 states over the next five years.

We also know that too many students don’t apply to the schools that are right for them.  They may sometimes underestimate where they could succeed, where they could go.  There may be a mismatch in terms of what their aspirations are and the nature of what’s offered at the school that’s close by.  And they kind of assume, well, that’s my only option.  So UVA, for example, is going experiment with new ways to contact high-achieving, low-income students directly and encourage them to apply.  Organizations like the College Board are going to work with colleges to make it easier for students to apply to more schools for free.

I know sometimes for those of you in university administrations, the perception may be that $100 application fees is not a big deal.  But for a lot of these students, that’s enough of a barrier that they just don’t end up applying.

Number three, we know that when it comes to college advising, and preparing for tests like the ACT and the SAT, low-income kids are not on a level playing field.  We call these standardized tests — they’re not standardized.  Malia and Sasha, by the time they’re in seventh grade at Sidwell School here, are already getting all kinds of advice and this and that and the other.  The degree of preparation that many of our kids here are getting in advance of actually taking this test tilts the playing field.  It’s not fair.  And it’s gotten worse.

I was telling Michelle, when I was taking the SAT I just barely remembered to bring a pencil.  I mean, that’s how much preparation I did.  (Laughter.)  But the truth of the matter is, is that we don’t have a level playing field when it comes to so-called standardized tests.  So we’ve got a young man here today named Lawrence Harris who knows this better than most.  Lawrence went to the University of Georgia, and like a lot of first-generation college students it wasn’t easy for him.  He had to take remedial classes.  He had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet.  At one point, he had to leave school for a year while he helped support his mom and his baby brother.  Those are the kinds of just day-to-day challenges that a lot of these young people with enormous talent are having to overcome.  Now, he stuck with it.  He graduated.

But now he’s giving back.  He’s made it his mission to help other young people like him graduate, as a college advisor at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia.  And today the National College Advising Corps, the program that placed Lawrence in Clarke Central, is announcing plans to add 129 more advisors who will serve more than 80,000 students over the next three years.

Finally, we know that once low-income students arrive on campus — Michelle I think spoke eloquently to her own personal experience on this — they often learn that even if they were at the top of their high school class, they still have a lot of catching up to do with respect to some of their peers in the classroom.  Bunker Hill Community College is addressing this by giving more incoming students the chance to start catching up over the summer before their freshman year.  And we’ve got 22 states and the District of Columbia who have joined together in a commitment to dramatically increase the number of students who complete college-level math and English their first year.

So these are just a sampling of the more than 100 commitments that your organizations and colleges are making here today.  And that’s an extraordinary first step.  But we’ve got more colleges and universities than this around the country.  We’ve got more business leaders around the country and philanthropies around the country.  And so we have to think of this as just the beginning; we want to do something like this again, and we want even more colleges and universities and businesses and non-for-profits to take part.

For folks who are watching this who were not able be here today, we want you here next time.  Start thinking about your commitments now.  We want you to join us.  For those who were able to make commitments today, I want to thank you for doing your part to make better the life of our country — because what you’re doing here today means that there are a bunch of young people, like Troy and like Michelle and like me, who suddenly may be able to see a whole new world open up before — that they didn’t realize was there.

So I’ll end with a great story that I think speaks to this.  There’s a former teacher here today named Nick Ehrmann.  Where’s Nick?  So here’s Nick right here.  Five years ago, Nick founded a New York City nonprofit called Blue Engine, and they recruit recent college graduates to work as teaching assistants in public high schools that serve low-income communities, teaming up to help students build the skills they need to enter college ready for college.

The first group of students to work with those teaching assistants are seniors now.  One of them, Estiven Rodriguez, who also is here today — where is he?  There he is — good-looking, young guy right here.  (Laughter.)  Could not speak a word of English when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of nine.  Didn’t speak much more English by the time he entered sixth grade.

Today, with the support of a tightly knit school community, he’s one of the top students in his senior class at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, or WHEELS.  Last month, he and his classmates put on their WHEELS sweatshirts, unfurled a banner, waved flags and marched down the streets of Washington Heights in New York City through cheering crowds.  You would have thought it was the Macy’s parade.  (Laughter.)  But the crowds on the sidewalk were parents and teachers and neighbors.  The flags were college pennants.  The march was to the post office, where they mailed in their college applications.  (Applause.)  And Estiven just heard back — this son of a factory worker who didn’t speak much English just six years ago won a competitive scholarship to attend Dickinson College this fall.  (Applause.)

So everywhere you go you’ve got stories like Estiven’s and you’ve got stories like Troy’s.  But we don’t want these to be the exceptions.  We want these to be the rule.  That’s what we owe our young people and that’s what we owe this country.  We all have a stake in restoring that fundamental American idea that says:  It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is where you end up.  And as parents and as teachers, and as business and philanthropic and political leaders — and as citizens — we’ve all got a role to play.

So I’m going to spend the next three years as President playing mine.  And I look forward to working with you on the same team to make this happen.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END

12:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts a Discussion on Education 

Remarks by the First Lady at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders

Source: WH, 1-15-14

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks prior to a screening of the movie "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," and a discussion in the State Dining RoomFirst Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks prior to a screening of the movie “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” and a discussion in the State Dining Room of the White House Jan. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

State Dining Room

4:17 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much. (Applause.) The applause should go to all of you. Thank you. Welcome. (Applause.) You guys rest yourselves. You work hard enough. I don’t want you to wear yourselves out clapping for me here in the White House.
It is truly a pleasure to welcome you all here today to the White House. I want to start by thanking Jen for that wonderful introduction, but also for her work as one of the millions of teachers out there who are doing their part to keep our kids on track. And as she said, it’s not just her role as a teacher, but also as a mom, which is — I say that all the time. In the end, it’s the most important job we have, no matter — whether you’re teaching or serving in the White House, it’s the first part of contributing to this society. So thank you for your work. Thank you for being here.
And I have to recognize my dear friend Miss Alicia Keys for her eloquence, and her foresight in seeing the value of this movie and investing in it, along with many other very smart people. I was telling Alicia that I saw this movie this summer and I wept, like I know all of you all did, because you can’t help but weep and laugh and look in horror and cheer for these two young kids. Because they represent all of our kids.
And the minute I got through watching this movie, I said, I am going to screen this at the White House; I’m going to — this is the movie that should begin the conversation that is already happening about what we have to do to invest in kids in this community. Because there are millions of Mister and Petes out there who are just struggling to make it. So I am thrilled that you could be here today. Get it done. Took a little second. Had a few things in the way, but we got through it and we’re here. (Laughter.)
And I also want to thank the screenwriter, Michael. Michael — where is Michael? Michael is here. (Applause.) Well done, well done.
And most of all I want to thank all of you for taking the time to participate in this screening and this discussion, and for the work that you’re doing to move our kids forward and basically keep our country thriving and on top. And again, there’s a reason why I invited you all here. We did this because for many of you, this movie isn’t just a powerful story of — or a great piece of art. For so many of you, it’s the reality you see every day in your classrooms and in your communities.
This is not unfamiliar. Many of you work with kids just like Mister and Pete. You see them every day — kids struggling against heartbreaking odds in neighborhoods torn apart by poverty and hopelessness, surrounded by gangs and guns and drugs. You see this every day. But, see, this is the thing, the beauty of this movie — this movie isn’t just about the challenges that kids like Mister and Peter are facing. And that’s really why this movie was so powerful to me, because it’s also about their courage. It’s about their grit, their resilience. Those are three words you are going to hear me say a lot over the next three years — grit, resilience, courage — that these kids displayed even in the most hopeless circumstances.
Kids are living like this every day. And all of you see this firsthand every single day in your lives. And think of all the kids you know who somehow maintain that fierce commitment to their dreams just like Mister did. He was going to be an actor, right? (Laughter.) He was going to find a way to get to that audition.
Think of all the kids who show each other the kind of love and loyalty that Mister and Pete showed to each other even when they don’t see it in their own lives. Even when they don’t get it themselves, somehow intrinsically, they find a way to replicate it in their lives wherever they can find it. Think about all the talent, all the intelligence, all that drive that you see in every single one of these kids. You see it — all that untapped promise, that vast, unfulfilled human potential; the frustration that comes when you have something deep inside of you, and you got nowhere to go with it — nowhere to go.
And all of that is both the tragedy, and, more importantly, the opportunity that exists for millions of kids in this country. We all know that these kids could be the next generation of workers and innovators and leaders. You all know that. They could be building the businesses and making the discoveries and enriching the communities that will fuel our economies for decades to come. So when all of you are out there working to inspire and educate these kids, you’re not just building a better future for them and for their families, you’re actually building a better future for our country. That’s the work that you do. You may not get credit for it, but that’s what you’re doing.
And that’s really what drives me, and that is truly what drives my husband, your President. That’s why he’s set a goal that by the year 2020, our country would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. He wants to get us back on top. And as part of that effort, tomorrow we are going to be hosting a White House summit of university presidents from all across the country, and we’ll be challenging them to recruit and support even more underserved young students at their schools.
And for the rest of my time as First Lady, in addition to all my other initiatives — so nothing is going away, we’re just adding more on — (laughter) — I’m going to be doing my very best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people. That’s my focus. Everybody else is going to be talking about resources, but the one thing I can bring to this is the message that we can give directly to young people.
 I’m going to be conveying the simple truth — I’m going to tell them that they have everything they need to succeed already. It’s all in there, but they still have to be committed to getting their educations. I’m going to be making a special effort, obviously, to reach kids like Mister and Pete, who face such overwhelming obstacles in their lives. And as you all know, too often these kids view their difficult life experiences as weaknesses. They view what they go through as a source of embarrassment and shame sometimes. But as we all know, it’s really just the opposite, and it’s important for them to understand that.
I want these young people to understand that their struggles can actually be a source of strength and even a source of pride, because they’ve overcome obstacles and learned skills that many of us will never have, that many of us need to actually get the real work done. I tell my kids, you can’t always teach resilience. It’s the life you live that gets you there. And these kids have lived some lives.
So I remind these kids, look, if you could go through all that you’ve already gone through — and just think of what you’ve already made it through. You’ve lost people you love to violence and drugs. You have to have a strategy just to get to school safely. You’re smart enough to figure out how to stay out of gangs. You’ve seen your family fighting just to get by and you still keep moving. You’ve adjusted to living in another country and needing to learn another language. Maybe no one in your family speaks that language yet you’re still going to school and you’re still making it.
So what I want these kids to understand is that if you can do all of that, then certainly you can fill out a FAFSA form. (Laughter.) That is not the intimidating part of life. If you can do that, then surely you can get up in the morning and get to class, get to school on time and pay attention. That’s not the hard part. They’ve already gotten through the hard part. They can do all that they can do, surely they can seek out some adults in their lives because there is always one adult — I don’t care how bad the school is or how bad the neighborhood — there is always one adult who will move mountains for a kid who wants something.
You all are those people. You can seek that adult out. You can get the help you need. I want to give them the confidence to know that what they go through prepares them for all that they need to do in the future. I remind them, though, that all of that is their responsibility though. In the end, that’s up to them. But it is our responsibility to make sure that they have those caring adults in their lives. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have schools that will teach them. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have programs that support them, and universities that will seek them out and give them a chance, and then prepare them and help them finish their degrees once they get in.
And I go to the scene that you talked about, Alicia, in the movie — because that is the scene that just did me in. I still can’t think about that scene without breaking down. But when the police officer, after all that Mister went through, this boy just broke down and he says, “Keep fighting, because there ain’t no ceiling for a kid like you.” There’s no ceiling. But Mister says, “I can’t do it alone.” And as Alicia says, no one can do it alone. And we have to show these kids that they’re not doing this alone. That’s what we’re here for.
So I want to thank you all for being that hand that is there for these kids, and to keep finding ways to do this, because you’ve got an ally in the White House. You’ve got a President who believes in this, who’s going to work. You’ve got the Secretary of Education who believes in this. You have a First Lady who’s going to do whatever I can to support you and these kids. So we have to keep working together, we have to keep fighting, because these kids are worth it. They are worth it.
So with that, I thank you. I’m going to leave and let you guys finish your discussion. I’m going to introduce Roberto and Catherine who are education policy leaders for this administration, and they’re going to come up today and continue the conversation that this film has started, and hopefully it will be a conversation that we’ll continue to have throughout the country — how do we continue to help lift these kids up; what do we do to make sure that they’re not alone. And the first responsibility for young people is to own their education. We all know that. If they’re not owning it, then there’s very little that we can do. But I’m going to work on that, too.
So thank you again, Alicia, Michael. To all the producers, the people who made this movie possible, thank you all. This is truly one of my favorite films this year, and it obviously has moved me and it will be the guiding post for my work over the next three years. So congratulations on a job well done. And let’s get to work.
Roberto, Catherine, you guys can come on up. We’ll get it done. (Applause.)
               END        4:30 P.M. EST
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