All posts in category First Lady Michelle Obama
Political Musings August 10, 2014: Obama facing criticism left and right for 12-day vacation as world crises rage
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 10, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Fourth of July Celebration
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President at Fourth of July Celebration
Source: WH, 7-4-14
Watch the Video
5:56 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Happy Fourth of July! Welcome to the White House!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
MRS. OBAMA: You’re welcome!
THE PRESIDENT: No, thank you. (Laughter.)
Now, this little party is something we’ve been doing every year, because there’s no group that we’d rather spend time with on this most American of holidays than with you — the extraordinary men and women of America’s military. And because of you, we’re safe, we’re free. We depend on you for our way of life, and the sacrifices you make are extraordinary.
Now, in the house we’ve got Army. (Applause.) We’ve got Navy. (Applause.) We’ve got Air Force. (Applause.) We’ve got Marines. (Applause.) We’ve got Coast Guard. (Applause.) And, most important, we’ve got the incredible spouses and children — give it up for our outstanding military families. (Applause.)
To help us celebrate, we’ve got our outstanding Marine Band. (Applause.) Later on, we’re going to bring out Pitbull and his band. (Applause.) So we want to see if you like to party. (Laughter.) And, of course, this is always a special day for us because this is Malia’s birthday. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: She can get her license!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, she’s going to get her license. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: She is. She’s getting her license, but she has to practice a little bit before that happens. (Laughter.)
Now, this is a gorgeous day. We want you to enjoy yourselves, so I’m going to keep my remarks brief. But it is important to remember why we’re here.
Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, our founders came together and declared a new nation and a revolutionary idea –the belief that we are all created equal; that we’re free to govern ourselves; that each of us is entitled to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And in the generations that have followed — through war and peace, through depression and prosperity — these truths have guided us as we have built the greatest democratic, economic, and military force the world has ever known.
So today, immigrants from around the world dream of coming to our shores. Young people aspire to study at our universities. Other nations look to us for support and leadership in times of disaster, and conflict, and uncertainty. And when the world looks to America, so often they look to all of you –- the men and women of our Armed Forces. Every day, at home and abroad, you’re working to uphold those ideals first declared in that Philadelphia hall more than two centuries ago. Every day, you give meaning to that basic notion that as Americans we take care of each other. And so today, we honor all of you.
And we salute some of the folks who are here with us on this balcony. We salute our soldiers — like Chief Warrant Officer Tom Oroho, who has served this nation in uniform for 27 years, including deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two summers ago, Tom was at the beach, saw a young girl and her father who had been swept out to sea, and jumped into dangerous riptide and pulled them back to safety. That’s the kind of service we expect from our outstanding soldiers. Please give it up for Tom. (Applause.) Thank you.
We salute our sailors — like Seaman Reverlie Thomas, who came to America 21 years ago from Trinidad. She served a tour in the Persian Gulf for the Navy. Just a few hours ago here at the White House, I was proud to welcome Seaman Thomas and 24 other servicemembers and military spouses as our newest American citizens. Thank you Reverlie, and congratulations. (Applause.)
We salute our airmen — like Technical Sergeant Cheryl Uylaki, who manages the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, ensuring the families of our fallen are always provided comfort and care worthy of their profound sacrifice. We’re so grateful to you, Cheryl, for your great work. (Applause.)
We salute our Marines — like Sergeant Isaac Gallegos, who was severely wounded after an IED explosion in Iraq eight years ago. He suffered burns on almost every inch of his face. He was pronounced dead three separate times. Undergone 161 surgeries. But he is here standing with us today, pursuing a Master’s degree, working full-time for the Navy. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about Marines. Give it up for Isaac. (Applause.)
We salute our Coasties — like Lieutenant Commander Sean Plankey, who helped lead a cyber team in Afghanistan that supported our troops during firefights and helped prevent the detonation of remote-controlled IEDs, saving countless lives. So thank you, Sean. (Applause.)
And we salute our military families — the spouses who put their careers on hold for their loved ones; the children who pick up extra chores while Mom or Dad is deployed; the siblings and parents and extended family members who serve the country every single day. You’re the reason Michelle and Jill Biden started the Joining Forces initiative — to make sure America is supporting you, too. And today we honor your service here today. (Applause.)
So as we pause on this Fourth of July to celebrate what makes us American, we salute all of you whose service and sacrifice renews that promise of America every single day. On behalf of the entire country, Michelle and I simply want to say thank you to all of you for your courage and your strength, and your unending service to this nation.
Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Have a great party. Have a hotdog. Have a hamburger. We want to see you dancing. God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you.
6:05 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on July 4, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency June 7, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Dr. Maya Angelou
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the First Lady at Memorial Service for Dr. Maya Angelou
Source: WH, 6-7-14
Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
11:42 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) My heart is so full. My heart is so full. Bebe — Oprah, why did you do that? Just why did you put me after this? (Laughter.)
To the family, Guy, to all of you; to the friends; President Clinton; Oprah; my mother, Cicely Tyson; Ambassador Young — let me just share something with you. My mother, Marian Robinson, never cares about anything I do. (Laughter.) But when Dr. Maya Angelou passed, she said, you’re going, aren’t you? I said, well, Mom, I’m not really sure, I have to check with my schedule. She said, you are going, right? (Laughter.) I said, well, I’m going to get back to you but I have to check with the people, figure it out. I came back up to her room when I found out that I was scheduled to go, and she said, that’s good, now I’m happy. (Laughter.)
It is such a profound honor, truly, a profound honor, to be here today on behalf of myself and my husband as we celebrate one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known, our dear friend, Dr. Maya Angelou.
In the Book of Psalms it reads: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the Earth.” What a perfect description of Maya Angelou, and the gift she gave to her family and to all who loved her.
She taught us that we are each wonderfully made, intricately woven, and put on this Earth for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine. And when I think about Maya Angelou, I think about the affirming power of her words.
The first time I read “Phenomenal Woman”, I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before. (Applause.) Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever and sassy; they were powerful and sexual and boastful. And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women, but she also graced us with an anthem for all women –- a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.
And, oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young woman, I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie. (Laughter.) That was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head.
Her message was very simple. She told us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead, she said, “Each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.” She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.
Dr. Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey –- through lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers; through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls; through long years on the campaign trail where, at times, my very womanhood was dissected and questioned. For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words –- words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House. (Applause.)
And today, as First Lady, whenever the term “authentic” is used to describe me, I take it as a tremendous compliment, because I know that I am following in the footsteps of great women like Maya Angelou. But really, I’m just a beginner — I am baby-authentic. (Laughter.) Maya Angelou, now she was the original, she was the master. For at a time when there were such stifling constraints on how black women could exist in the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely passionate, unapologetic self. She was comfortable in every last inch of her glorious brown skin.
But for Dr. Angelou, her own transition was never enough. You see, she didn’t just want to be phenomenal herself, she wanted all of us to be phenomenal right alongside her. (Applause.) So that’s what she did throughout her lifetime -– she gathered so many of us under her wing. I wish I was a daughter, but I was right under that wing sharing her wisdom, her genius, and her boundless love.
I first came into her presence in 2008, when she spoke at a campaign rally here in North Carolina. At that point, she was in a wheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. But let me tell you, she rolled up like she owned the place. (Laughter.) She took the stage, as she always did, like she’d been born there. And I was so completely awed and overwhelmed by her presence I could barely concentrate on what she was saying to me.
But while I don’t remember her exact words, I do remember exactly how she made me feel. (Applause.) She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am, and she’s rooting for me. So, now I’m good. I can do this. I can do this.” (Applause.)
And that’s really true for us all, because in so many ways, Maya Angelou knew us. She knew our hope, our pain, our ambition, our fear, our anger, our shame. And she assured us that despite it all –- in fact, because of it all -– we were good. And in doing so, she paved the way for me and Oprah and so many others just to be our good, old, black-woman selves. (Applause.)
She showed us that eventually, if we stayed true to who we are, then the world would embrace us. (Applause.) And she did this not just for black women, but for all women, for all human beings. She taught us all that it is okay to be your regular old self, whatever that is –- your poor self, your broken self, your brilliant, bold, phenomenal self.
That was Maya Angelou’s reach. She touched me. She touched all of you. She touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya, and raised her son to be the first black President of the United States. (Applause.)
So when I heard that Dr. Angelou had passed, while I felt a deep sense of loss, I also felt a profound sense of peace. Because there is no question that Maya Angelou will always be with us, because there was something truly divine about Maya. I know that now, as always, she is right where she belongs.
May her memory be a blessing to us all. Thank you. God bless. (Applause.)
11:53 A.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on June 7, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency May 11, 2014: Weekly Address: First Lady Michelle Obama Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Weekly Address: The First Lady Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria
Source: WH, 5-10-14
In this week’s address, First Lady Michelle Obama honored all mothers on this upcoming Mother’s Day and offered her thoughts, prayers and support in the wake of the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.
Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama
May 10, 2014
Hello everyone, I’m Michelle Obama, and on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to take a moment to honor all the mothers out there and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.
I also want to speak to you about an issue of great significance to me as a First Lady, and more importantly, as the mother of two young daughters.
Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.
This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.
And I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home.
In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.
Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way.
But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.
The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter.
Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats…but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams.
They were so determined to move to the next level of their education…so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud.
And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident…it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.
It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.
Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community…and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.
But fortunately Malala survived…and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.
As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, she said “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action.
Because right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school.
Yet, we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives, and have healthier families.
And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country’s entire economy.
So education is truly a girl’s best chance for a bright future, not just for herself, but for her family and her nation.
And that’s true right here in the U.S. as well…so I hope the story of these Nigerian girls will serve as an inspiration for every girl – and boy – in this country.
I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted – any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out – I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education.
These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world…and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul.
We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential.
So today, let us all pray for their safe return… let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright. Thank you.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on May 10, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency April 21, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President and the First Lady at the Easter Egg Roll
Source: WH, 4-21-14
Watch the Video
10:34 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello everybody. Is everybody having fun? (Applause.) Happy Easter. This is the biggest event that we have at the White House all year long and it is our most fun event, because we have a chance to see families from all across the country coming through here. My main and only job, other than officiating over the roll at some point, is to introduce, alongside the Easter Bunny, the person who makes this all possible — we love her dearly — my wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, honey. Hey, everybody. Happy Easter Egg Roll Day. Isn’t this exciting? It is so wonderful to have so many of you here today. We are celebrating the 136th Easter Egg Roll. The theme of this year’s roll is “Hop Into Health, Swing Into Shape.” Yes, I love it.
And it’s going to be a great day. We have beautiful weather, because the Easter Egg Roll is blessed. And we’re going to have fun stuff going on. We’ve got the Egg Roll. We’ve got some storytelling. We’ve got entertainment. We’ve got wonderful athletes and performers like Cam and so many others. We’ve got obstacle courses and yoga and face painting and egg hunts. It’s just going to be terrific. As Barack said, we love this event. This is the largest event that we do here on the South Lawn. We’re going to have more than 30,000 people on the lawn today.
And we’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on one issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy. So while you’re here, parents, look around. You’re going to learn how to make healthy snacks that the kids will actually eat. I’m going to be over there on the chef’s stage doing some demonstrations.
And I want to make sure that kids know that healthy eating and being active can be fun, because what today is about is having a whole lot of fun. And I hope you all do that, because we want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential. Isn’t that right, parents? That’s what we want for you all. (Applause.)
And we want to thank the Easter Bunny, as always, for being here. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the hundreds of volunteers who make today possible. (Applause.) Thank you to our volunteers who have been out here setting up the South Lawn, who are going to make sure you guys get through these activities and have a great time.
So you all just enjoy. That’s all you have to do from this point on, is have fun. And we’ll be down there to participate in the Egg Roll. The President is going to read. I’m going to read a little bit. So we’ll meet you down on the South Lawn, okay?
All right. Have a great time. Bye-bye. (Applause.)
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 22, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency April 3, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Team USA’s Visit – 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Athletes
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President and the First Lady at Visit of the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Athletes
Source: WH, 4-3-14
Watch the Video
2:55 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, everybody. (Laughter.) Welcome to the White House! (Applause.) I know you guys have been standing for a while, but you’re athletes, you can handle it. (Laughter.)
We are so excited to have Team USA here with us today. But before we begin, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the Fort Hood community that, as many of you know, has experienced yet another devastating tragedy. And we just want to make sure that folks there know that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who lost loved ones and friends, as well as those that were injured.
Because I know that many of the athletes here today are veterans themselves, and when something like this happens, it touches all of us. I know that the President and I are just torn apart when things like this happen. So today, as we celebrate the Olympic spirit, we remember that the same spirit — the spirit of hard work and team work — is shared by our military men and women, and we stand with them today and every day.
So, now, let’s get into the you-guys thing. (Laughter.) After watching you guys all over TV all these couple of months, I have to say that I am truly amazed. I shared some of this with you guys in the receiving line. You all are so talented. You’re dedicated, and honestly, sometimes I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t.
I’ve watched you guys do some of the craziest stuff. That’s the thing with the Winter Olympics. You guys do crazy things — careening down the face of mountains — craziness. (Laughter.) Throwing each other up in the air, it’s like — the mixed-pair skaters, the women, they’re teeny. The big guys take them and throw them, just throw them across the ice. I’m like, are you kidding me? (Laughter.) You threw her so hard and she lands on one foot on a blade. And those of you jumping on those cookie sheet things and just sliding down a mountain — (laughter) — 80 miles an hour — I mean, who thinks of that? (Laughter.)
So I am really in awe of everything you do, as so many people here in America and across the globe are. Again and again, you all showed us that being an Olympian is about heart; it’s about guts; and it’s about giving it your all no matter what stands in your way. And that’s a message that I try to convey to young people all the time — the idea that if you work hard and commit yourselves to a goal, and then pick yourself up when you fall, that there is nothing that you can’t achieve.
And as Olympic and Paralympic athletes, you also know that a big part of reaching your full potential is making sure that you’re putting the right fuel in your body. You all know that better than anyone in this country, that what you eat absolutely makes a difference in how you perform.
And that’s another message that I try to spread to our young people, the importance of healthy eating and staying active. So I want to thank all of you who taped a video for our Let’s Move campaign earlier today. Thank you so much for making that happen. And I want to give a special thank you to the USOC for their work to give over 2 million young people opportunities to get active in their communities. We are so grateful for that, work, and we’re grateful for the example you all set for our young people.
In so many different ways, you all are inspiring folks across the country not just every four years but every single day. And nowhere have I seen that more clearly than in the story of someone that I met here at the White House four years ago under far different circumstances.
Lt. Commander Dan Cnossen was seated next to me at a dinner with leaders of our military. And I just got to see Dan, and we were remarking — because we were in the Dip Room, the same room we had dinner in together, but just a few months earlier, Dan had been in Afghanistan. He was leading a platoon of Navy SEALs when he stepped on an IED. Dan lost both of his legs in the explosion, but he never lost that fighting spirit.
I will always remember Dan, because just four months after that explosion, he finished a half marathon in a wheelchair — four months after the explosion. On the one-year anniversary of his injury, he ran a mile on his prosthetics. Over the next few years, Dan stayed on active duty while in the Navy, earning medals in swimming and running events at the Warrior Games, and completing the New York City Marathon.
And today, four and a half years after his injury, Dan is proud to wear another one of our nation’s uniforms, and that is of Team USA. (Applause.) There’s Dan.
THE PRESIDENT: Dan is in the back there.
MRS. OBAMA: Dan is in the back.
THE PRESIDENT: Wave again, Dan. There’s Dan. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: And I also got to meet Dan’s sister, who stayed by his side every single minute of his recovery and she was an important part of that recovery. And she’s a terrific woman, a nurse herself. And I’m glad to hear she’s doing well.
In Sochi, Dan inspired us all again by competing in the 15K biathlon and the 1 kilometer sitting cross-country spring. So Dan has come a long way in the four years that we met, and I know that his story and the stories of all our Olympians and Paralympians are nowhere near finished.
So keep it up. This is only the beginning. Many of you were here four years ago, and you told us you’d be back — and you’re back. So I know you’re already getting ready for that next four years. But in the meantime, we look forward to all that you’re going to do in this country and around the world to keep inspiring particularly young people to just live a little more like you all live and to show them that spirit of persistence.
So thank you all, again, for everything that you do. And I can’t wait to hear about everything that you will do in the years to come.
And with that, I’m going to turn it over to this guy next to me — (laughter) — who happens to be my husband, but, more importantly, is the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s, first of all, be clear: It is more important that I’m Michelle’s husband than that I’m President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) I just want you to — I don’t want anybody to be confused. Many of you young people out there aren’t married yet, so I just want you to know — giving you some tips in terms of how to prioritize. (Laughter.)
Obviously, as Michelle mentioned, our thoughts right now in many ways are with the families at Fort Hood. These are folks who make such extraordinary sacrifices for us each and every day for our freedom. During the course of a decade of war, many of them have been on multiple tours of duty. To see unspeakable, senseless violence happen in a place where they’re supposed to feel safe, home base, is tragic. And obviously this is the second time that the Fort Hood community has been affected this way.
So we join that entire community in honoring those who lost their lives. Every single one of them was an American patriot. We stand with their families and their loved ones as they grieve. We are thinking about those who are wounded. We’re there to support them.
And as we learn more about what happened and why, we’re going to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to keep our troops safe and to keep our troops strong, not just on the battlefield but also when they come home. They’ve done their duty, and they’re an inspiration. They’ve made us proud. They put on the uniform and then they take care of us, and we’ve got to make sure that when they come home we take care of them.
And that spirit of unity is what brings us here today — because we could not be prouder of Team USA. (Applause.) Team USA. I hope all of you made yourself at home. We double-checked to make sure that all the bathroom locks were working in case Johnny Quinn — (laughter) — tried to bust down one of these antique doors. We didn’t want that to happen. (Laughter.)
I want to recognize the members of Congress we have here with us, as well as Scott Blackmun and Larry Probst from the USOC, our fantastic delegations that represent the diversity and the values of our country so well. But most of all, we’re here just to celebrate all of you — our Olympians and Paralympians who brought home a total of 46 medals for the Red, White and Blue. (Applause.)
I understand that freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy also brought home a few stray dogs that he adopted. (Laughter.) That doesn’t count in the medal standings, but it tells you something about the freestyle skiers. (Applause.)
Over the past couple of months, we saw some dominating performances by Team USA. American women won more medals in the Olympics than women of any other nation. (Applause.) Way to go, women! (Applause.) Good job. The men swept the podium in slopestyle skiing and Paralympic snowboarding. (Applause.) There you go. Our women’s hockey team brought home the silver. (Applause.) Our men’s hockey team played a game for the ages with an epic shootout victory over the Russians. (Applause.)
I would personally like to thank all of our snowboarders and freestyle skiers for making newscasters across America say things like “air to fakie,” and the “back-to-back double cork 1260.” (Laughter.) I don’t know what that means, really, but I just wanted to say it. (Laughter.) I’m pretty sure I’m the first President to ever say that. (Applause.) I’m pretty sure that’s true. The back-to-back double cork 1260. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It feels good.
THE PRESIDENT: Does it feel good? (Laughter.)
In Sochi, these athletes made plenty of history. You had 16-year-old Declan Farmer scoring three goals to help our sled hockey team become the first nation ever to win back-to-back gold medals. (Applause.) Hey! There he is. There he is. Hey! (Applause.)
Our men’s bobsled team became the first Americans in 62 years to medal in both the two-man and the four-man competition. (Applause.) Bobsledders — those are some tough guys, those bobsledders. Don’t mess with them. (Laughter.)
And then, Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympian ever to win gold in the slalom, at just 18 years old. (Applause.) Where’s Mikaela? She’s back here somewhere. Wave a little bit. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: She’s a little — she’s down low.
THE PRESIDENT: She’s down low. There she is. I knew she was here. I saw her. (Laughter.) Afterwards, she said she wants to win five gold in 2018. I do have to say, though, Mikaela, as somebody who was once told “you’re young but you should set your sights high,” I just got three words of advice: Go for it. (Applause.) We are confident you are going to be bringing back some more gold.
Thanks to years of lobbying from Team USA, women’s ski jumping was added as an Olympic sport, and they did outstanding. (Applause.) So women can fly just like men. Jessica Jerome said, “We have arrived. We are good at what we do. And we are a lot prettier than the boy jumpers.” (Laughter.) Which I can attest to — I’ve seen them. (Laughter.) She wasn’t lying.
So from our ski jumpers who fought for equality to the athletes and coaches who have served our country in uniform, like Dan, who we’re so proud of, these athletes all send a message that resonates far beyond the Olympic Village. And that’s always been the power of the Olympics — in going for the gold and pushing yourselves to be the best, you inspire the rest of us to try to, if not be the best, at least be a little better.
MRS. OBAMA: Get off the couch.
THE PRESIDENT: Just get off the couch. (Laughter.) That’s what Michelle said.
All of you remind us, just like the Olympic creed states, the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight. And I want to take the example of somebody who couldn’t be here today, but her story I think is typical of so many of yours. And this is Noelle Pikus-Pace. Noelle was hoping to be here, but she’s been on the road a lot, wanted to get back to her husband and her kids — and they may be watching us now.
But almost a decade ago, Noelle was on top of the world after winning the women’s skeleton World Cup. She was injured in a freak accident that cost her chances in 2006. In 2010, she missed the podium by one-tenth of a second. And after all of those Olympics, she retired to spend more time with her family. But then two years, ago her husband convinced her to go back on that sled, because raising a family and racing down the track don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
So since then, Noelle, her husband, her two young children traveled from competition to competition, living out of suitcases, seeing the world together. And in Sochi, it all paid off, and she took home the silver in the skeleton — jumping over the wall to celebrate with her family on the final run. And here’s what Noelle said afterwards: “Life is never going to go as planned. You have to decide, when you’re bumped off course, if it’s going to hold you back or move you forward.”
That’s the spirit we celebrate today. That’s something Dan understands. That’s something that all of you at some stages in your life have understood or will understand. Things aren’t always going to go perfect — and Michelle and I always remark, watching our Olympians, that you work hard for four years and then just a little something can happen. And you’re just that close, and the courage and the stick-to-itness, and the confidence, and the joy in competition that keeps you moving — that’s going to help you throughout life. It helps our country. It’s what America is all about. It’s why we are so proud to have you all here today.
And four years from now, I won’t be here to greet you but some President is going to. And I suspect that a lot of you may come back even four years after that. You guys have done a great job, and what an extraordinary achievement it is for all of you to have represented the United States of America at our Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Congratulations. Good job. (Applause.)
3:15 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on April 3, 2014
Political Musings March 10, 2014: Obamas promote education, college opportunity and financial aid initiatives
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 10, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, College Opportunity and Federal Student Aid
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
A World-Class Education for Every Student in America
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
Coral Reef Senior High School
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.)
3:25 P.M EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on March 7, 2014
Political Musings February 24, 2014: Bush highlights Military Service Initiative helping veterans reintegrate
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 24, 2014
Political Musings February 21, 2014: Michelle Obama celebrates Let’s Move’s fourth anniversary on Jimmy Fallon
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 21, 2014
University Musings February 6, 2014: Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges
EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 6, 2014
Political Musings February 3, 2014: Michelle Obama talks Scandal, Valentine’s Day, health care with Ryan Seacrest
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 3, 2014
Political Musings January 20, 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 and fabulous with star-studded dance party
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 20, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at College Opportunity Summit
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
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 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.)
12:15 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 16, 2014