Full Text Political Transcripts September 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Reception in Honor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Reception in Honor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Source: WH, 9-23-16

Grand Foyer

4:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, welcome, everybody. (Applause.) This is an exceptionally good-looking group. (Laughter.) And there are just so many friends here that it feels like one of our house parties. (Laughter.) But there’s no dancing this afternoon. We’re here just to acknowledge what an extraordinary achievement has been accomplished by Mr. Lonnie Bunch — (applause) — and everybody who helped make this day possible.

Now, I want to just talk about Lonnie for a second. When Lonnie first came here from Chicago to start work on this museum a decade ago, he could not even find somebody to give him a key to his office. (Laughter.) Nobody had heard of this museum. And now you cannot miss it — a breathtaking new building right in the heart of the National Mall. And that is what we call progress. It could not have been done without the persistence, the wisdom, the dedication, the savvy, the ability to make people feel guilty — (laughter) — the begging, the deal-making, and just the general street smarts of Lonnie and his entire team. So please give him a big round of applause for all the work that he has done. (Applause.)

But, of course, this is also about more than Lonnie. This is about people who, for more than a century, advocated and organized, and raised funds, and donated artifacts so that the story of the African American experience could take its rightful place in our national memory. It’s a story that is full of tragedy and setbacks, but also great joy and great victories. And it is a story that is not just part of the past, but it is alive and well today in every corner of America. And that’s certainly true today in this house — a house that was built by slaves.

Now, I can’t name everybody that is here, but I’m going to have to give you a little bit of a taste. This room is like a living museum of its own. Right now, Madame Tussauds would be very jealous. (Laughter.)

We’ve got icons of the entertainment industry like Quincy Jones — (applause) — and Dick Gregory and Phylicia Rashad. (Applause.) We’ve got the first black woman in space, Mae Jemison. (Applause.) And we have the woman who owns the universe, Oprah Winfrey. (Laughter and applause.) We’ve got those drum majors for justice, like John Lewis and Andrew Young and C.T. Vivian, and Jesse Jackson. (Applause.) And we’ve got the next generation of warriors for justice like Brittany Packnett and DeRay Mckesson. We’ve got personal heroes of mine like Harry Belafonte — (applause) — who still is the best-looking man in the room at 90-something years old. (Laughter.) I’m just telling the truth. (Laughter.)

So this is an extraordinary group. But the thing about this museum is that it’s more about — it’s more than just telling stories about the famous. It’s not just about the icons. There’s plenty of space for Harriet Tubman and Dr. King and Muhammed Ali. But what makes the museum so powerful and so visceral is that it’s the story of all of us — the folks whose names you never heard of, but whose contributions, day after day, decade after decade, combined to push us forward and the entire nation forward.

It’s the maids who decided, you know what, I’m tired of segregation and I’m going to walk for my freedom. It’s the porters who not only worked tirelessly to support their families, but ultimately helped bring about the organization that led to better working conditions for all Americans here in the United States. It’s about our moms and grandparents and uncles and aunts who just did the right thing and raised great families, despite assaults on their dignity on every single day.

You see it in the dignity of the artifacts that are in the museum — the dignity of an enslaved family, what it must have been like to try to live in that tiny cabin. Those slaves who dared to marry, even though it was illegal for them to do so. Folks who were forced to sit in the back of a train, but went about their business anyway, and tried to instill in their children as sense that this isn’t who we are, and there’s going to be more someday.

You see it in the men and the women who rushed to the warfronts to secure all of our freedom, understanding that when they came home they might not yet be free. The students who walked passed angry crowds the integrate our schools. The families huddling around the Bible to steel their faith for the challenges ahead. That quite, determined dignity and hope.

Everybody here has somebody in mind when we think of those kinds of folks — who couldn’t make it to this room, but whose stories are our stories, and whose stories are represented at this museum. It might be an ancestor who ran to freedom, or an aunt or uncle who pushed back against Jim Crow, or a friend who marched or sat in. Or it might be young people who were organizing against cynicism today.

But the point is that all of us cannot forget that the only reason that we’re standing here is because somebody, somewhere stood up for us. Stood up when it was risky. Stood up when it was not popular. And somehow, standing up together, managed to change the world.

You know, the timing of this is fascinating. (Applause.) Because in so many ways, it is the best of times, but in many ways these are also troubled times. History doesn’t always move in a straight line. And without vigilance, we can go backwards as well as forwards.

And so part of the reason that I am so happy the museum is opening this weekend is because it allows all of us as Americans to put our current circumstances in a historical context. My hope is that, as people are seeing what’s happened in Tulsa or Charlotte on television, and perhaps are less familiar with not only the history of the African American experience but also how recent some of these challenges have been, upon visiting the museum, may step back and say, I understand. I sympathize. I empathize. I can see why folks might feel angry and I want to be part of the solution as opposed to resisting change.

My hope is that black folks watching the same images on television, and then seeing the history represented at this museum, can say to themselves, the struggles we’re going through today are connected to the past, and yet, all that progress we’ve made tells me that I cannot and will not sink into despair, because if we join hands, and we do things right, if we maintain our dignity, and we continue to appeal to the better angels of this nation, progress will be made. (Applause.)

I was telling Michelle — many of you know I get 10 letters a day from constituents, and it’s a great way for me to keep a pulse on how folks other than the pundits on cable TV are thinking. (Laughter.) And I know it’s a representative group because sometimes people say, Mr. President, we just love you and we especially love Michelle. (Laughter.) And you’re doing such a great job and thank you. And then there are others who write and say, Mr. President, you’re an idiot. (Laughter.) And you’ve ruined this country. And so I know I’m getting a real sampling of American public opinion.

Last night, as I was reading through my letters, I’d say about half of them said, Mr. President, why are you always against police, and why aren’t you doing enough to deal with these rioters and the violence? And then the other half were some black folks saying, Mr. President, why aren’t you doing something about the police? And when are we actually going to get justice?

And I understand the nature of that argument because this is a dialogue we’ve been having for 400 years. And the fact of the matter is, is that one of the challenges we have in generating a constructive discussion about how to solve these problems is because what people see on television and what they hear on the radio is bereft of context and ignores history, and so people are just responding as if none of what’s represented in this museum ever happened. And that’s true for all of us, not just some of us.

And so when I imagine children — white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American — wandering through that museum, and sitting at that lunch counter, and imagining what it would be like to stand on that auction block, and then also looking at Shaq’s shoes — (laughter) — and Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac, my hope is, is that this complicated, difficult, sometimes harrowing, but I believe ultimately triumphant story will help us talk to each other, and, more important, listen to each other, and even more important, see each other, and recognize the common humanity that makes America what it is. (Applause.)

So that’s a lot of weight to put on one institution.

MRS. OBAMA: We can do it. (Laughter

THE PRESIDENT: But Michelle and I, having taken Michelle’s mom and our daughters to see it, we feel confident that it will not just meet expectations, but far exceed them. And it would not have happened without all of you. So you should be very, very proud.

Congratulations. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

END
5:07 P.M. EDT

Education July 1, 2016: STEM and business top college majors with the best starting salaries

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

EDUCATION

By Bonnie K. Goodman

When choosing a college major if one wants to make the most money upon graduating it is best to choose a STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or business major. Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) released their annual report according to a Forbes article published on June 30, 2016. The report documents the top majors that lead to the “highest starting salaries” after graduation. Engineering degrees seem the best certain path to the highest starting salaries with chemical, computer, and electrical engineering dominating the top three spots.

Phil Gardner, a “college labor market expert,” operates Michigan’s CERI. The annual report looked at the majors yielding the highest starting salaries. To determine the top degrees they researched data from 4,730 employers and “200 career service centers.” The report compiled “respondents recruiting… for full-time positions, internships, and co-ops.”

The top bachelor degree is in chemical engineering where graduates earn between $34,850 and $100,600, with an average $63,389 each year. Computer engineering is in second place with an
average starting salary of $63,313, while electrical engineering is third with a mean salary of  $61,173. The rest of the list predominantly includes degrees relating to science mostly engineering, math and computer science, and business majors.

In CERI’s list from last year, electrical engineering was the top-paying major; with a $57,000 starting annual salary, computer engineering, and mechanical engineering occupied the second and third place respectively. This year’s top earning major chemical engineering was in sixth place.

The top majors yielded starting salaries with $23,000 at the low end and just over 100,000 at the high end, with an average of just over 43,000 to over 63,000. CERI also lists the lowest-earning majors, which consist of Psychology with a mean salary of $36,327, “Public Relations ($36,235) and Advertising ($35,733).”

CERI also includes top earning Masters Degrees, which almost mirrors the top earning undergraduate degrees. The top Masters Degrees are Engineering with an average starting salary of $68,000, “Computer Science & IT ($67,735), and Masters in Business Administration, MBAs ($62,345).”

The report also included the best paying Doctoral degrees. The top earning Ph.D. is Engineering & Computer Science with an average starting salary of $76,702, in second place is the “Physical & Biological Sciences ($63,809) and Business ($62,454).”

Here are the top 20 bachelor degrees and their average starting salaries:

Chemical Engineering, $63,389
Computer Engineering, $63, 313
Electrical Engineering, $61,173
Software Design, $60,104
Mechanical Engineering, $59, 681
Computer Programming, $58,995
Computer Science, $56,974
Civil Engineering, $55,879
Management Information Systems, $51,690
Construction, $49,672
Finance, $48,785
Accounting, $47,834
Supply Chain, $47,147
Economics, $46,270
Human Resources, $45,737
Chemistry, $45,209
Mathematics includes applied, $44,609
Marketing, $43,481
Biology, $43,404
Agricultural Business, $43,214

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Supreme Court Upholding Affirmative Action in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on U.S. Versus Texas

Source: WH,  6-23-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:53 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I wanted to say a few words on two of the cases the Supreme Court spoke on today.

First, in the affirmative action case, I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society, and that this country should provide a high-quality education to all our young people, regardless of their background.  We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.  And that’s what was upheld today.

Second, one of the reasons why America is such a diverse and inclusive nation is because we’re a nation of immigrants.  Our Founders conceived of this country as a refuge for the world.  And for more than two centuries, welcoming wave after wave of immigrants has kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character, and it has made us stronger.

But for more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken.  And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.

Just to lay out some basic facts that sometimes get lost in what can be an emotional debate.  Since I took office, we’ve deployed more border agents and technology to our southern border than ever before.  That has helped cut illegal border crossings to their lowest levels since the 1970s.  It should have paved the way for comprehensive immigration reform.  And, in fact, as many of you know, it almost did.  Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart, common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol, and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and played by the rules.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes or no vote on that bill.  So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer, and more just.

Four years ago, we announced that those who are our lowest priorities for enforcement — diligent, patriotic young DREAMers who grew up pledging allegiance to our flag — should be able to apply to work here and study here and pay their taxes here.  More than 730,000 lives have been changed as a result.  These are students, they’re teachers, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers.  They’re Americans in every way but on paper.  And fortunately, today’s decision does not affect this policy.  It does not affect the existing DREAMers.

Two years ago, we announced a similar, expanded approach for others who are also low priorities for enforcement.  We said that if you’ve been in America for more than five years, with children who are American citizens or legal residents, then you, too, can come forward, get right with the law, and work in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.

Both were the kinds of actions taken by Republican and Democratic Presidents over the past half-century.  Neither granted anybody a free pass.  All they did was focus our enforcement resources — which are necessarily limited — on the highest priorities:  convicted criminals, recent border crossers, and threats to our national security.

Now, as disappointing as it was to be challenged for taking the kind of actions that other administrations have taken, the country was looking to the Supreme Court to resolve the important legal questions raised in this case.  Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision.  This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court.  It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.

I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed today, but it is important to understand what today means.  The deferred action policy that has been in place for the last four years is not affected by this ruling.  Enforcement priorities developed by my administration are not affected by this ruling.  This means that the people who might have benefitted from the expanded deferred action policies — long-term residents raising children who are Americans or legal residents — they will remain low priorities for enforcement.  As long as you have not committed a crime, our limited immigration enforcement resources are not focused on you.

But today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them.  I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here, who’ve raised families here, who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.

So where do we go from here?

Most Americans — including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and independents
— still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform.

That is obviously not going to happen during the remainder of this Congress.  We don’t have is a Congress that agrees with us on this.  Nor do we have a Congress that’s willing to do even its most basic of jobs under the Constitution, which is to consider nominations.  Republicans in Congress currently are willfully preventing the Supreme Court from being fully staffed and functioning as our Founders intended.  And today’s situation underscores the degree to which the Court is not able to function the way it’s supposed to.

The Court’s inability to reach a decision in this case is a very clear reminder of why it’s so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench.  For more than 40 years, there’s been an average of just over two months between a nomination and a hearing.  I nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than three months ago.  But most Republicans so far refuse to even meet with him.  They are allowing partisan politics to jeopardize something as fundamental as the impartiality and integrity of our justice system.  And America should not let it stand.

This is an election year.  And during election years, politicians tend to use the immigration issue to scare people with words like “amnesty” in hopes that it will whip up votes.  Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens.  And we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. But here’s the thing.  Millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they’ve  been living here for years, too — in some cases, even decades.  So leaving the broken system the way it is, that’s not a solution.  In fact, that’s the real amnesty.  Pretending we can deport 11 million people, or build a wall without spending tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is abetting what is really just factually incorrect.  It’s not going to work.  It’s not good for this country.  It’s a fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class, and demeans our tradition of being both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear.  We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now, or pray like we do, or have a different last name.  Because being an American is about something more than that.  What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will.  And every study shows that whether it was the Irish or the Poles, or the Germans, or the Italians, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Mexicans, or the Kenyans — whoever showed up, over time, by a second generation, third generation, those kids are Americans.  They do look like us — because we don’t look one way.  We don’t all have the same last names, but we all share a creed and we all share a commitment to the values that founded this nation.  That’s who we are.  And that is what I believe most Americans recognize.

So here’s the bottom line.  We’ve got a very real choice that America faces right now.  We will continue to implement the existing programs that are already in place.  We’re not going to be able to move forward with the expanded programs that we wanted to move forward on because the Supreme Court was not able to issue a ruling at this stage.  And now we’ve got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we want to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House.

We’re going to have to make a decision about whether we are a people who tolerate the hypocrisy of a system where the workers who pick our fruit or make our beds never have the chance to get right with the law — or whether we’re going to give them a chance, just like our forebears had a chance, to take responsibility and give their kids a better future.

We’re going to have to decide whether we’re a people who accept the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms
— or whether we actually value families, and keep them together for the sake of all of our communities.

We’re going to have to decide whether we’re a people who continue to educate the world’s brightest students in our high schools and universities, only to then send them away to compete against us — or whether we encourage them to stay and create new jobs and new businesses right here in the United States.

These are all the questions that voters now are going to have to ask themselves, and are going to have to answer in November.  These are the issues that are going to be debated by candidates across the country — both congressional candidates as well as the presidential candidates.  And in November, Americans are going to have to make a decision about what we care about and who we are.

I promise you this, though — sooner or later, immigration reform will get done.  Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And I can say that with confidence because we’ve seen our history.  We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in.  That’s how we all ended up here.  Because I guarantee you, at some point, every one of us has somebody in our background who people didn’t want coming here, and yet here we are.

And that’s what’s going to happen this time.  The question is, do we do it in a smart, rational, sensible way — or we just keep on kicking the can down the road.  I believe that this country deserves an immigration policy that reflects the goodness of the American people.  And I think we’re going to get that.  Hopefully, we’re going to get that in November.

All right.  I’ll take two questions.  Two questions.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll take two questions.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Realistically, what do you see is the risk of deportation for these more than 4 million people?  I mean, you say we can’t deport 11 million.  This is 4 million, and there’s a chunk of time here before something else —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me just be very clear.  What was unaffected by today’s ruling — or lack of a ruling — is the enforcement priorities that we’ve put in place.  And our enforcement priorities that have been laid out by Secretary Jeh Johnson at the Department of Homeland Security are pretty clear: We prioritize criminals.  We prioritize gangbangers.  We prioritize folks who have just come in.  What we don’t do is to prioritize people who’ve been here a long time, who are otherwise law-abiding, who have roots and connections in their communities.
And so those enforcement priorities will continue.

The work that we’ve done with the DREAM Act kids, those policies remain in place.  So what this has prevented us from doing is expanding the scope of what we’ve done with the DREAM Act kids.  Keep in mind, though, that even that was just a temporary measure.  All it was doing was basically saying to these kids, you can have confidence that you are not going to be deported, but it does not resolve your ultimate status.  That is going to require congressional action.

So, although I’m disappointed by the lack of a decision today by the Supreme Court, a deadlock, this does not substantially change the status quo, and it doesn’t negate what has always been the case, which is if we’re really going to solve this problem effectively, we’ve got to have Congress pass a law.

I have pushed to the limits of my executive authority.  We now have to have Congress act.  And hopefully, we’re going to have a vigorous debate during this election — this is how democracy is supposed to work — and there will be a determination as to which direction we go in.

As I said, over the long term, I’m very confident about the direction this country will go in because we’ve seen this in the past.  If we hadn’t seen it in the past, America would look very different than it looks today.  But whether we’re going to get this done now, soon, so that this does not continue to be this divisive force in our politics, and we can get down to the business of all pulling together to create jobs, and educate our kids, and protect ourselves from external threats, and do the things that we need to do to ensure a better future for the next generation, that’s going to be determined in part by how voters turn out and who they vote for in November.

All right.  One more question.  Go ahead.

Q    Two practical, going-forward questions.  Number one, is this going to — are you going to be able to do anything more at all for immigrants going forward in terms of executive action before the election of the next president?  And number two, do you in any way take this as some Republicans have presented this, as a slap at your use of executive authority, this tie vote?  And will this in any way circumscribe how aggressively or forcefully you use executive authority for the remainder of your time in office?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  On the specifics of immigration, I don’t anticipate that there are additional executive actions that we can take.  We can implement what we’ve already put in place that is not affected by this decision.  But we have to follow, now, what has been ruled on in the Fifth Circuit because the Supreme Court could not resolve the issue.

And we’re going to have to abide by that ruling until an election and a confirmation of a ninth justice of the Supreme Court so that they can break this tie.  Because we’ve always said that we are going to do what we can lawfully through executive action, but we can’t go beyond that.  And we’ve butted up about as far as we can on this particular topic.

It does not have any impact on, from our perspective, on the host of other issues that we’re working on, because each one of these issues has a different analysis and is based on different statutes or different interpretations of our authority.

So, for example, on climate change, that’s based on the Clean Air Act and the EPA and previous Supreme Court rulings, as opposed to a theory of prosecutorial discretion that, in the past, has — every other President has exercised.  And the Supreme Court wasn’t definitive one way or the other on this.  I mean, the problem is they don’t have a ninth justice.  So that will continue to be a problem.

With respect to the Republicans, I think what it tells you is, is that if you keep on blocking judges from getting on the bench, then courts can’t issue decisions.  And what that means is then you’re going to have the status quo frozen, and we’re not going to be able to make progress on some very important issues.

Now, that may have been their strategy from the start.  But it’s not a sustainable strategy.  And it’s certainly a strategy that will be broken by this election — unless their basic theory is, is that we will never confirm judges again.  Hopefully, that’s not their theory, because that’s not how a democracy is designed.

Q    You reject their portrayal of this as a chastisement of you for your use of executive authority?

THE PRESIDENT:  It was a one-word opinion that said, we can’t come up with a decision.  I think that would be a little bit of a stretch, yes.  Maybe the next time they can — if we have a full Court issuing a full opinion on anything, then we take it seriously.  This we have to abide by, but it wasn’t any kind of value statement or a decision on the merits of these issues.

All right?  Thank you, guys.

END
12:02 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: Supreme Court Upholds Affirmation Action in College Admissions in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin Opinion

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin

14-981. Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin 12/09/15

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Syllabus
FISHER v. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 14–981. Argued December 9, 2015—Decided June 23, 2016
The University of Texas at Austin (University) uses an undergraduate
admissions system containing two components. First, as required by
the State’s Top Ten Percent Law, it offers admission to any students
who graduate from a Texas high school in the top 10% of their class.
It then fills the remainder of its incoming freshman class, some 25%,
by combining an applicant’s “Academic Index”—the student’s SAT
score and high school academic performance—with the applicant’s
“Personal Achievement Index,” a holistic review containing numerous
factors, including race. The University adopted its current admissions
process in 2004, after a year-long-study of its admissions process—undertaken
in the wake of Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306,
and Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 244—led it to conclude that its prior
race-neutral system did not reach its goal of providing the educational
benefits of diversity to its undergraduate students.
Petitioner Abigail Fisher, who was not in the top 10% of her high
school class, was denied admission to the University’s 2008 freshman
class. She filed suit, alleging that the University’s consideration of
race as part of its holistic-review process disadvantaged her and other
Caucasian applicants, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
The District Court entered summary judgment in the University’s favor,
and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. This Court vacated the judgment,
Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin, 570 U. S. ___ (Fisher I),
and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals, so the University’s
program could be evaluated under the proper strict scrutiny standard.
On remand, the Fifth Circuit again affirmed the entry of summary
judgment for the University.
Held: The race-conscious admissions program in use at the time of petitioner’s
application is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.
2 FISHER v. UNIVERSITY OF TEX. AT AUSTIN
Syllabus
Pp. 6–20.
(a) Fisher I sets out three controlling principles relevant to assessing
the constitutionality of a public university’s affirmative action
program. First, a university may not consider race “unless the
admissions process can withstand strict scrutiny,” i.e., it must show
that its “purpose or interest is both constitutionally permissible and
substantial, and that its use of the classification is necessary” to accomplish
that purpose. 570 U. S., at ___. Second, “the decision to
pursue the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity
is, in substantial measure, an academic judgment to which some, but
not complete, judicial deference is proper.” Id., at ___. Third, when
determining whether the use of race is narrowly tailored to achieve
the university’s permissible goals, the school bears the burden of
demonstrating that “available” and “workable” “race-neutral alternatives”
do not suffice. Id., at ___. Pp. 6–8.
(b) The University’s approach to admissions gives rise to an unusual
consequence here. The component with the largest impact on petitioner’s
chances of admission was not the school’s consideration of
race under its holistic-review process but the Top Ten Percent Plan.
Because petitioner did not challenge the percentage part of the plan,
the record is devoid of evidence of its impact on diversity. Remand
for further factfinding would serve little purpose, however, because at
the time of petitioner’s application, the current plan had been in effect
only three years and, in any event, the University lacked authority
to alter the percentage plan, which was mandated by the Texas
Legislature. These circumstances refute any criticism that the University
did not make good faith efforts to comply with the law. The
University, however, does have a continuing obligation to satisfy the
strict scrutiny burden: by periodically reassessing the admission program’s
constitutionality, and efficacy, in light of the school’s experience
and the data it has gathered since adopting its admissions plan,
and by tailoring its approach to ensure that race plays no greater role
than is necessary to meet its compelling interests. Pp. 8–11.
(c) Drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, petitioner has
not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that she was denied
equal treatment at the time her application was rejected. Pp. 11–19.
(1) Petitioner claims that the University has not articulated its
compelling interest with sufficient clarity because it has failed to
state more precisely what level of minority enrollment would constitute
a “critical mass.” However, the compelling interest that justifies
consideration of race in college admissions is not an interest in enrolling
a certain number of minority students, but an interest in obtaining
“the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity.”
Fisher I, 570 U. S., at ___. Since the University is prohibited from

Cite as: 579 U. S. ____ (2016) 3
Syllabus
seeking a particular number or quota of minority students, it cannot
be faulted for failing to specify the particular level of minority enrollment
at which it believes the educational benefits of diversity will
be obtained.
On the other hand, asserting an interest in the educational benefits
of diversity writ large is insufficient. A university’s goals cannot be
elusory or amorphous—they must be sufficiently measurable to permit
judicial scrutiny of the policies adopted to reach them. The record
here reveals that the University articulated concrete and precise
goals—e.g., ending stereotypes, promoting “cross-racial understanding,”
preparing students for “an increasingly diverse workforce and
society,” and cultivating leaders with “legitimacy in the eyes of the
citizenry”—that mirror the compelling interest this Court has approved
in prior cases. It also gave a “reasoned, principled explanation”
for its decision, id., at ___, in a 39-page proposal written after a
year-long study revealed that its race-neutral policies and programs
did not meet its goals. Pp. 11–13.
(2) Petitioner also claims that the University need not consider
race because it had already “achieved critical mass” by 2003 under
the Top Ten Percent Plan and race-neutral holistic review. The record,
however, reveals that the University studied and deliberated for
months, concluding that race-neutral programs had not achieved the
University’s diversity goals, a conclusion supported by significant
statistical and anecdotal evidence. Pp. 13–15.
(3) Petitioner argues further that it was unnecessary to consider
race because such consideration had only a minor impact on the
number of minority students the school admitted. But the record
shows that the consideration of race has had a meaningful, if still
limited, effect on freshman class diversity. That race consciousness
played a role in only a small portion of admissions decisions should
be a hallmark of narrow tailoring, not evidence of unconstitutionality.
P. 15.
(4) Finally, petitioner argues that there were numerous other
race-neutral means to achieve the University’s goals. However, as
the record reveals, none of those alternatives was a workable means
of attaining the University’s educational goals, as of the time of her
application. Pp. 15–19.
758 F. 3d 633, affirmed.

 

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 3, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama’s address at City College of New York Commencement

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at City College of New York Commencement

Source: WH, 6-3-16

City College of New York
New York, New York

12:19 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Wow!  (Applause.)  Let me just take it in.  First of all, it is beyond a pleasure and an honor to be here to celebrate the City College of New York Class of 2016!  You all, I mean, this has been the most fun I think I’ve had at a commencement ever.  (Applause.)

Let me just say a few thank yous.  Let me start, of course, by thanking President Coico for that wonderful introduction, for her leadership here at City College, for this honorary degree.

I also want to recognize Senator Schumer, Chancellor Milliken, Trustee Shorter, Edward Plotkin, as well as your amazing valedictorian, Antonios Mourdoukoutas — did I get it right?  (Applause.)  And your amazing salutatorian, Orubba Almansouri.  (Applause.)  I really don’t want to follow those two.  (Laughter.)  If anybody is wondering about the quality of education, just listening to those two speakers lets you know what’s happening here.  And I’m so proud of you both — and to your families, congratulations.  Well done.  Well done.  (Applause.)

And of course, let us not forget Elizabeth Aklilu for her amazing performance of the National Anthem earlier today.  She blew it out of the water.  (Applause.)

But most of all, I want to acknowledge all of you -– the brilliant, talented, ambitious, accomplished, and all-around outstanding members of the class of 2016!  Woo!  (Applause.)  You give me chills.  You all have worked so hard and come so far to reach this milestone, so I know this is a big day for all of you and your families, and for everyone at this school who supported you on this journey.

And in many ways, this is a big day for me too.  See, this is my very last commencement address as First Lady of the United States.  This is it.  (Applause.)  So I just want to take it all in.  And I think this was the perfect place to be, because this is my last chance to share my love and admiration, and hopefully a little bit of wisdom with a graduating class.

And, graduates, I really want you all to know that there is a reason why, of all of the colleges and universities in this country, I chose this particular school in this particular city for this special moment.  (Applause.)  And I’m here because of all of you.  I mean, we’ve talked about it — Antonios, I’m going to talk a little bit about diversity, thank you.  (Laughter.)

Just look around.  Look at who you are.  Look at where we’re gathered today.  As the President eloquently said, at this school, you represent more than 150 nationalities.  You speak more than 100 different languages — whoa, just stop there.  You represent just about every possible background -– every color and culture, every faith and walk of life.  And you’ve taken so many different paths to this moment.

Maybe your family has been in this city for generations, or maybe, like my family, they came to this country centuries ago in chains.  Maybe they just arrived here recently, determined to give you a better life.

But, graduates, no matter where your journey started, you have all made it here today through the same combination of unyielding determination, sacrifice, and a whole lot of hard work -– commuting hours each day to class, some of you.  (Applause.)  Yes, amen.  (Laughter.)  Juggling multiple jobs to support your families and pay your tuition.  (Applause.)  Studying late into the night, early in the morning; on subways and buses, and in those few precious minutes during breaks at work.

And somehow, you still found time to give back to your communities –- tutoring young people, reading to kids, volunteering at hospitals.  Somehow, you still managed to do prestigious internships and research fellowships, and join all kinds of clubs and activities.  And here at this nationally-ranked university, with a rigorous curriculum and renowned faculty, you rose to the challenge, distinguishing yourselves in your classes, winning countless honors and awards, and getting into top graduate schools across this country.  Whoa.  (Laughter.)

So, graduates, with your glorious diversity, with your remarkable accomplishments and your deep commitment to your communities, you all embody the very purpose of this school’s founding.  And, more importantly, you embody the very hopes and dreams carved into the base of that iconic statue not so far from where we sit — on that island where so many of your predecessors at this school first set foot on our shores.

And that is why I wanted to be here today at City College.  I wanted to be here to celebrate all of you, this school, this city.  (Applause.)  Because I know that there is no better way to celebrate this great country than being here with you.

See, all of you know, for centuries, this city has been the gateway to America for so many striving, hope-filled immigrants — folks who left behind everything they knew to seek out this land of opportunity that they dreamed of.  And so many of those folks, for them, this school was the gateway to actually realizing that opportunity in their lives, founded on the fundamental truth that talent and ambition know no distinctions of race, nationality, wealth, or fame, and dedicated to the ideals that our Founding Fathers put forth more than two centuries ago:  That we are all created equal, all entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  City College became a haven for brilliant, motivated students of every background, a place where they didn’t have to hide their last names or their accents, or put on any kind of airs because the students at this school were selected based not on pedigree, but on merit, and merit alone.  (Applause.)

So really, it is no accident that this institution has produced 10 Nobel Prize winners — (applause) — along with countless captains of industry, cultural icons, leaders at the highest levels of government.  Because talent and effort combined with our various backgrounds and life experiences has always been the lifeblood of our singular American genius.

Just take the example of the great American lyricist, Ira Gershwin, who attended City College a century ago.  The son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant, his songs still light up Broadway today.  Or consider the story of the former CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove, class of 1960.  (Applause.)  He was a Hungarian immigrant whose harrowing escape from Nazism and communism shaped both his talent for business and his commitment to philanthropy.

And just think about the students in this very graduating class –- students like the economics and pre-law major from Albania, who also completed the requirements for a philosophy major and dreams of being a public intellectual.  The educational theater student from right here in Harlem who’s already an award-winning playwright and recently spoke at the White House.  The biomedical science major who was born in Afghanistan and plans to be a doctor, a policy maker and an educator.  (Applause.)  And your salutatorian, whose Yemeni roots inspired her to study Yemini women’s writing and to advocate for girls in her community, urging them to find their own voices, to tell their own stories.  I could go on.

These are just four of the nearly 4,000 unique and amazing stories in this graduating class –- stories that have converged here at City College, this dynamic, inclusive place where you all have had the chance to really get to know each other, to listen to each other’s languages, to enjoy each other’s food — lasagna, obviously — (laughter) — music, and holidays.  Debating each other’s ideas, pushing each other to question old assumptions and consider new perspectives.

And those interactions have been such a critical part of your education at this school. Those moments when your classmates showed you that your stubborn opinion wasn’t all that well-informed — mmm hmm.  (Laughter.)  Or when they opened your eyes to an injustice you never knew existed.  Or when they helped you with a question that you couldn’t have possibly answered on your own.

I think your valedictorian put it best — and this is a quote — he said, “The sole irreplaceable component of my CCNY experience came from learning alongside people with life experiences strikingly different from my own.”  He said, “I have learned that diversity in human experience gives rise to diversity in thought, which creates distinct ideas and methods of problem solving.”  That was an okay quote.  (Laughter and applause.)  Okay, you’re bright.  (Laughter.)  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

That is the power of our differences to make us smarter and more creative.  And that is how all those infusions of new cultures and ideas, generation after generation, created the matchless alchemy of our melting pot and helped us build the strongest, most vibrant, most prosperous nation on the planet, right here.  (Applause.)

But unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective.  They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped.  They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree.  They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.

But, graduates, I can tell you, as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world and visiting dozens of different countries, and I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold.  I have seen how leaders who rule by intimidation –- leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people –- often do so because they have nothing else to offer.  And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished; how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.

Graduates, that is not who we are.  That is not what this country stands for.  (Applause.)  No, here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart.  Not here.  Because we know that our greatness comes when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other.  Because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves.  No, we’re all in this together.  We always have been.

And here in America, we don’t give in to our fears.  We don’t build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere but sought out this country and made it their home -– from innovations like Google and eBay to inventions like the artificial heart, the telephone, even the blue jeans; to beloved patriotic songs like “God Bless America,” like national landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and, yes, the White House -– both of which were designed by architects who were immigrants.  (Applause.)

Finally, graduates, our greatness has never, ever come from sitting back and feeling entitled to what we have.  It’s never come from folks who climb the ladder of success, or who happen to be born near the top and then pull that ladder up after themselves.  No, our greatness has always come from people who expect nothing and take nothing for granted — folks who work hard for what they have then reach back and help others after them.

That is your story, graduates, and that is the story of your families.  (Applause.)  And it’s the story of my family, too.  As many of you know, I grew up in a working class family in Chicago.  And while neither of my parents went past high school, let me tell you, they saved up every penny that my dad earned at his city job because they were determined to send me to college.

And even after my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and he struggled to walk, relying on crutches just to get himself out of bed each morning, my father hardly ever missed a day of work.  See, that blue-collar job helped to pay the small portion of my college tuition that wasn’t covered by loans or grants or my work-study or my summer jobs.  And my dad was so proud to pay that tuition bill on time each month, even taking out loans when he fell short.  See, he never wanted me to miss a registration deadline because his check was late.  That’s my story.

And, graduates, you all have faced challenges far greater than anything I or my family have ever experienced, challenges that most college students could never even imagine.  Some of you have been homeless.  Some of you have risked the rejection of your families to pursue your education.  Many of you have lain awake at night wondering how on Earth you were going to support your parents and your kids and still pay tuition.  And many of you know what it’s like to live not just month to month or day to day, but meal to meal.

But, graduates, let me tell you, you should never, ever be embarrassed by those struggles.  You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage.  Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.  And I know that because I’ve seen it myself, not just as a student working my way through school, but years later when I became — before I came to the White House and I worked as a dean at a college.

In that role, I encountered students who had every advantage –- their parents paid their full tuition, they lived in beautiful campus dorms.  They had every material possession a college kid could want –- cars, computers, spending money. But when some of them got their first bad grade, they just fell apart.  They lost it, because they were ill-equipped to handle their first encounter with disappointment or falling short.

But, graduates, as you all know, life will put many obstacles in your path that are far worse than a bad grade.  You’ll have unreasonable bosses and difficult clients and patients.  You’ll experience illnesses and losses, crises and setbacks that will come out of nowhere and knock you off your feet.  But unlike so many other young people, you have already developed the resilience and the maturity that you need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep moving through the pain, keep moving forward.  You have developed that muscle.  (Applause.)

And with the education you’ve gotten at this fine school, and the experiences you’ve had in your lives, let me tell you, nothing -– and I mean nothing -– is going to stop you from fulfilling your dreams.  And you deserve every last one of the successes that I know you will have.

But I also want to be very clear that with those successes comes a set of obligations –- to share the lessons you’ve learned here at this school.  The obligation to use the opportunities you’ve had to help others.  That means raising your hand when you get a seat in that board meeting and asking the question, well, whose voices aren’t being heard here?  What ideas are we missing?  It means adding your voice to our national conversation, speaking out for our most cherished values of liberty, opportunity, inclusion, and respect –- the values that you’ve been living here at this school.

It means reaching back to help young people who’ve been left out and left behind, helping them prepare for college, helping them pay for college, making sure that great public universities like this one have the funding and support that they need.  (Applause.)  Because we all know that public universities have always been one of the greatest drivers of our prosperity, lifting countless people into the middle class, creating jobs and wealth all across this nation.

Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America.  So we need to invest in and strengthen our public universities today, and for generations to come. (Applause.)   That is how you will do your part to live up to the oath that you all will take here today –- the oath taken by generations of graduates before you to make your city and your world “greater, better, and more beautiful.”

More than anything else, graduates, that is the American story.  It’s your story and the story of those who came before you at this school.  It’s the story of the son of Polish immigrants named Jonas Salk who toiled for years in a lab until he discovered a vaccine that saved countless lives.  It’s the story of the son of immigrant — Jamaican immigrants named Colin Powell who became a four star general, Secretary of State, and a role model for young people across the country.

And, graduates, it’s the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, black young women -– head off to school — (applause) — waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to American — to America for the same reasons as many of you:  To get an education and improve his prospects in life.

So, graduates, while I think it’s fair to say that our Founding Fathers never could have imagined this day, all of you are very much the fruits of their vision.  Their legacy is very much your legacy and your inheritance.  And don’t let anybody tell you differently.  You are the living, breathing proof that the American Dream endures in our time.  It’s you.

So I want you all to go out there.  Be great.  Build great lives for yourselves.  Enjoy the liberties that you have in this great country.  Pursue your own version of happiness.  And please, please, always, always do your part to help others do the same.

I love you all.  I am so proud of you.  (Applause.)  Thank you for allowing me to share this final commencement with you.  I have so much faith in who you will be.  Just keep working hard and keep the faith.  I can’t wait to see what you all achieve in the years ahead.

Thank you all.  God bless.  Good luck on the road ahead.  (Applause.)

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 7, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-7-16

Howard University
Washington, D.C.

11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Hello, Howard!  (Applause.)  H-U!

AUDIENCE:  You know!

THE PRESIDENT:  H-U!

AUDIENCE:  You know!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  Thank you so much, everybody.  Please, please, have a seat.  Oh, I feel important now.  Got a degree from Howard.  Cicely Tyson said something nice about me.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.

To President Frederick, the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, fellow recipients of honorary degrees, thank you for the honor of spending this day with you.  And congratulations to the Class of 2016!  (Applause.)  Four years ago, back when you were just freshmen, I understand many of you came by my house the night I was reelected.  (Laughter.)  So I decided to return the favor and come by yours.

To the parents, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, all the family and friends who stood by this class, cheered them on, helped them get here today — this is your day, as well.  Let’s give them a big round of applause, as well.  (Applause.)

I’m not trying to stir up any rivalries here; I just want to see who’s in the house.  We got Quad?  (Applause.)  Annex.  (Applause.)  Drew.  Carver.  Slow.  Towers.  And Meridian.  (Applause.)  Rest in peace, Meridian.  (Laughter.)  Rest in peace.

I know you’re all excited today.  You might be a little tired, as well.  Some of you were up all night making sure your credits were in order.  (Laughter.)  Some of you stayed up too late, ended up at HoChi at 2:00 a.m.  (Laughter.)  Got some mambo sauce on your fingers.  (Laughter.)

But you got here.  And you’ve all worked hard to reach this day.  You’ve shuttled between challenging classes and Greek life.  You’ve led clubs, played an instrument or a sport.  You volunteered, you interned.  You held down one, two, maybe three jobs.  You’ve made lifelong friends and discovered exactly what you’re made of.  The “Howard Hustle” has strengthened your sense of purpose and ambition.

Which means you’re part of a long line of Howard graduates.  Some are on this stage today.  Some are in the audience.  That spirit of achievement and special responsibility has defined this campus ever since the Freedman’s Bureau established Howard just four years after the Emancipation Proclamation; just two years after the Civil War came to an end.  They created this university with a vision — a vision of uplift; a vision for an America where our fates would be determined not by our race, gender, religion or creed, but where we would be free — in every sense — to pursue our individual and collective dreams.

It is that spirit that’s made Howard a centerpiece of African-American intellectual life and a central part of our larger American story.  This institution has been the home of many firsts:  The first black Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The first black Supreme Court justice.  But its mission has been to ensure those firsts were not the last.  Countless scholars, professionals, artists, and leaders from every field received their training here.  The generations of men and women who walked through this yard helped reform our government, cure disease, grow a black middle class, advance civil rights, shape our culture.  The seeds of change — for all Americans — were sown here.  And that’s what I want to talk about today.

As I was preparing these remarks, I realized that when I was first elected President, most of you — the Class of 2016 — were just starting high school.  Today, you’re graduating college.  I used to joke about being old.  Now I realize I’m old.  (Laughter.)  It’s not a joke anymore.  (Laughter.)

But seeing all of you here gives me some perspective.  It makes me reflect on the changes that I’ve seen over my own lifetime.  So let me begin with what may sound like a controversial statement — a hot take.

Given the current state of our political rhetoric and debate, let me say something that may be controversial, and that is this:  America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college.  (Applause.)  Let me repeat:  America is by almost every measure better than it was when I graduated from college.  It also happens to be better off than when I took office — (laughter) — but that’s a longer story.  (Applause.)  That’s a different discussion for another speech.

But think about it.  I graduated in 1983.  New York City, America’s largest city, where I lived at the time, had endured a decade marked by crime and deterioration and near bankruptcy.  And many cities were in similar shape.  Our nation had gone through years of economic stagnation, the stranglehold of foreign oil, a recession where unemployment nearly scraped 11 percent.  The auto industry was getting its clock cleaned by foreign competition.  And don’t even get me started on the clothes and the hairstyles.  I’ve tried to eliminate all photos of me from this period.  I thought I looked good.  (Laughter.)  I was wrong.

Since that year — since the year I graduated — the poverty rate is down.  Americans with college degrees, that rate is up.  Crime rates are down.  America’s cities have undergone a renaissance.  There are more women in the workforce.  They’re earning more money.  We’ve cut teen pregnancy in half.  We’ve slashed the African American dropout rate by almost 60 percent, and all of you have a computer in your pocket that gives you the world at the touch of a button.  In 1983, I was part of fewer than 10 percent of African Americans who graduated with a bachelor’s degree.  Today, you’re part of the more than 20 percent who will.  And more than half of blacks say we’re better off than our parents were at our age — and that our kids will be better off, too.

So America is better.  And the world is better, too.  A wall came down in Berlin.  An Iron Curtain was torn asunder.  The obscenity of apartheid came to an end.  A young generation in Belfast and London have grown up without ever having to think about IRA bombings.  In just the past 16 years, we’ve come from a world without marriage equality to one where it’s a reality in nearly two dozen countries.  Around the world, more people live in democracies.  We’ve lifted more than 1 billion people from extreme poverty.  We’ve cut the child mortality rate worldwide by more than half.

America is better.  The world is better.  And stay with me now — race relations are better since I graduated.  That’s the truth.  No, my election did not create a post-racial society.  I don’t know who was propagating that notion.  That was not mine.    But the election itself — and the subsequent one — because the first one, folks might have made a mistake.  (Laughter.)  The second one, they knew what they were getting.  The election itself was just one indicator of how attitudes had changed.

In my inaugural address, I remarked that just 60 years earlier, my father might not have been served in a D.C. restaurant — at least not certain of them.  There were no black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.  Very few black judges.  Shoot, as Larry Wilmore pointed out last week, a lot of folks didn’t even think blacks had the tools to be a quarterback.  Today, former Bull Michael Jordan isn’t just the greatest basketball player of all time — he owns the team.  (Laughter.)  When I was graduating, the main black hero on TV was Mr. T.  (Laughter.)  Rap and hip hop were counterculture, underground.  Now, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night, and Beyoncé runs the world.  (Laughter.)  We’re no longer only entertainers, we’re producers, studio executives.  No longer small business owners — we’re CEOs, we’re mayors, representatives, Presidents of the United States.  (Applause.)

I am not saying gaps do not persist.  Obviously, they do.  Racism persists.  Inequality persists.  Don’t worry — I’m going to get to that.  But I wanted to start, Class of 2016, by opening your eyes to the moment that you are in.  If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be — what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into — you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago.  You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies.  You’d choose right now.  If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, “young, gifted, and black” in America, you would choose right now.  (Applause.)

I tell you all this because it’s important to note progress.  Because to deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice, to the legions of foot soldiers; to not only the incredibly accomplished individuals who have already been mentioned, but your mothers and your dads, and grandparents and great grandparents, who marched and toiled and suffered and overcame to make this day possible.  I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to spur you into action — because there’s still so much more work to do, so many more miles to travel.  And America needs you to gladly, happily take up that work.  You all have some work to do.  So enjoy the party, because you’re going to be busy.  (Laughter.)

Yes, our economy has recovered from crisis stronger than almost any other in the world.  But there are folks of all races who are still hurting — who still can’t find work that pays enough to keep the lights on, who still can’t save for retirement.  We’ve still got a big racial gap in economic opportunity.  The overall unemployment rate is 5 percent, but the black unemployment rate is almost nine.  We’ve still got an achievement gap when black boys and girls graduate high school and college at lower rates than white boys and white girls.  Harriet Tubman may be going on the twenty, but we’ve still got a gender gap when a black woman working full-time still earns just 66 percent of what a white man gets paid.  (Applause.)

We’ve got a justice gap when too many black boys and girls pass through a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails.  This is one area where things have gotten worse.  When I was in college, about half a million people in America were behind bars.  Today, there are about 2.2 million.  Black men are about six times likelier to be in prison right now than white men.

Around the world, we’ve still got challenges to solve that threaten everybody in the 21st century — old scourges like disease and conflict, but also new challenges, from terrorism and climate change.

So make no mistake, Class of 2016 — you’ve got plenty of work to do.  But as complicated and sometimes intractable as these challenges may seem, the truth is that your generation is better positioned than any before you to meet those challenges, to flip the script.

Now, how you do that, how you meet these challenges, how you bring about change will ultimately be up to you.  My generation, like all generations, is too confined by our own experience, too invested in our own biases, too stuck in our ways to provide much of the new thinking that will be required.  But us old-heads have learned a few things that might be useful in your journey.  So with the rest of my time, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how young leaders like you can fulfill your destiny and shape our collective future — bend it in the direction of justice and equality and freedom.

First of all — and this should not be a problem for this group — be confident in your heritage.  (Applause.)  Be confident in your blackness.  One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there’s no one way to be black.  Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I’m black enough.  (Laughter.)  In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office.  There’s no straitjacket, there’s no constraints, there’s no litmus test for authenticity.

Look at Howard.  One thing most folks don’t know about Howard is how diverse it is.  When you arrived here, some of you were like, oh, they’ve got black people in Iowa?  (Laughter.)  But it’s true — this class comes from big cities and rural communities, and some of you crossed oceans to study here.  You shatter stereotypes.  Some of you come from a long line of Bison.  Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from college.  (Applause.)  You all talk different, you all dress different.  You’re Lakers fans, Celtics fans, maybe even some hockey fans.  (Laughter.)

And because of those who’ve come before you, you have models to follow.  You can work for a company, or start your own.  You can go into politics, or run an organization that holds politicians accountable.  You can write a book that wins the National Book Award, or you can write the new run of “Black Panther.”  Or, like one of your alumni, Ta-Nehisi Coates, you can go ahead and just do both.  You can create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality.  Think about an icon we just lost — Prince.  He blew up categories.  People didn’t know what Prince was doing.  (Laughter.)  And folks loved him for it.

You need to have the same confidence.  Or as my daughters tell me all the time, “You be you, Daddy.”  (Laughter.)  Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it — “You do you, Daddy.”  (Laughter.)  And because you’re a black person doing whatever it is that you’re doing, that makes it a black thing.  Feel confident.

Second, even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans — and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle.  That means we cannot sleepwalk through life.  We cannot be ignorant of history.  (Applause.)  We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement.  We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur.   We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options.  We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.

And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky.  That’s a pet peeve of mine:  People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky.  That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.  So don’t have an attitude.  But we must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling — the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it.  You got to get in his head, too.

Number three:  You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy.  I’ll repeat that.  I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy.  Not just awareness, but action.  Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger.  It requires a program, and it requires organizing.  At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer — all five-feet-four-inches tall — gave a fiery speech on the national stage.  But then she went back home to Mississippi and organized cotton pickers.  And she didn’t have the tools and technology where you can whip up a movement in minutes.  She had to go door to door.  And I’m so proud of the new guard of black civil rights leaders who understand this.  It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened — white, black, Democrat, Republican — to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system.

But to bring about structural change, lasting change, awareness is not enough.  It requires changes in law, changes in custom.  If you care about mass incarceration, let me ask you:  How are you pressuring members of Congress to pass the criminal justice reform bill now pending before them?  (Applause.)  If you care about better policing, do you know who your district attorney is?  Do you know who your state’s attorney general is?  Do you know the difference?  Do you know who appoints the police chief and who writes the police training manual?  Find out who they are, what their responsibilities are.  Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver.  Passion is vital, but you’ve got to have a strategy.

And your plan better include voting — not just some of the time, but all the time.  (Applause.)  It is absolutely true that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, there are still too many barriers in this country to vote.  There are too many people trying to erect new barriers to voting.  This is the only advanced democracy on Earth that goes out of its way to make it difficult for people to vote.  And there’s a reason for that.  There’s a legacy to that.

But let me say this:  Even if we dismantled every barrier to voting, that alone would not change the fact that America has some of the lowest voting rates in the free world.  In 2014, only 36 percent of Americans turned out to vote in the midterms — the secondlowest participation rate on record.  Youth turnout — that would be you — was less than 20 percent.  Less than 20 percent.  Four out of five did not vote.  In 2012, nearly two in three African Americans turned out.  And then, in 2014, only two in five turned out.  You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with?  And then people are wondering, well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done?  How come he didn’t get that done?  You don’t think that made a difference?  What would have happened if you had turned out at 50, 60, 70 percent, all across this country?  People try to make this political thing really complicated.  Like, what kind of reforms do we need?  And how do we need to do that?  You know what, just vote.  It’s math.  If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want.  (Laughter.)  It’s not that complicated.

And you don’t have excuses.   You don’t have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap to register to vote.  You don’t have to risk your life to cast a ballot.  Other people already did that for you.  (Applause.) Your grandparents, your great grandparents might be here today if they were working on it.  What’s your excuse?  When we don’t vote, we give away our power, disenfranchise ourselves — right when we need to use the power that we have; right when we need your power to stop others from taking away the vote and rights of those more vulnerable than you are — the elderly and the poor, the formerly incarcerated trying to earn their second chance.

So you got to vote all the time, not just when it’s cool, not just when it’s time to elect a President, not just when you’re inspired.  It’s your duty.  When it’s time to elect a member of Congress or a city councilman, or a school board member, or a sheriff.  That’s how we change our politics — by electing people at every level who are representative of and accountable to us.  It is not that complicated.  Don’t make it complicated.

And finally, change requires more than just speaking out — it requires listening, as well.  In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.  When I was a state senator, I helped pass Illinois’s first racial profiling law, and one of the first laws in the nation requiring the videotaping of confessions in capital cases.  And we were successful because, early on, I engaged law enforcement.  I didn’t say to them, oh, you guys are so racist, you need to do something.  I understood, as many of you do, that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good, and honest, and courageous, and fair, and love the communities they serve.

And we knew there were some bad apples, and that even the good cops with the best of intentions — including, by the way, African American police officers — might have unconscious biases, as we all do.  So we engaged and we listened, and we kept working until we built consensus.  And because we took the time to listen, we crafted legislation that was good for the police — because it improved the trust and cooperation of the community — and it was good for the communities, who were less likely to be treated unfairly.  And I can say this unequivocally:  Without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those bills passed.  Very simple.  They would have blocked them.

The point is, you need allies in a democracy.  That’s just the way it is.  It can be frustrating and it can be slow.  But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse.  That’s not just true in this country.  It’s not a black or white thing.  Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right.  This is hard to explain sometimes.  You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you.  If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.  And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged.  And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair.  And that’s never been the source of our progress.  That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress.

We remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory, the power of his letter from a Birmingham jail, the marches he led.  But he also sat down with President Johnson in the Oval Office to try and get a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act passed.  And those two seminal bills were not perfect — just like the Emancipation Proclamation was a war document as much as it was some clarion call for freedom.  Those mileposts of our progress were not perfect.  They did not make up for centuries of slavery or Jim Crow or eliminate racism or provide for 40 acres and a mule.  But they made things better.  And you know what, I will take better every time.  I always tell my staff — better is good, because you consolidate your gains and then you move on to the next fight from a stronger position.

Brittany Packnett, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement and Campaign Zero, one of the Ferguson protest organizers, she joined our Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  Some of her fellow activists questioned whether she should participate.  She rolled up her sleeves and sat at the same table with big city police chiefs and prosecutors.  And because she did, she ended up shaping many of the recommendations of that task force.  And those recommendations are now being adopted across the country — changes that many of the protesters called for.  If young activists like Brittany had refused to participate out of some sense of ideological purity, then those great ideas would have just remained ideas.  But she did participate.  And that’s how change happens.

America is big and it is boisterous and it is more diverse than ever.  The president told me that we’ve got a significant Nepalese contingent here at Howard.  I would not have guessed that.  Right on.  But it just tells you how interconnected we’re becoming.  And with so many folks from so many places, converging, we are not always going to agree with each other.

Another Howard alum, Zora Neale Hurston, once said — this is a good quote here:  “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.”  Think about that.  That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.

So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.  There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally.  Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.  Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance.  Let them talk.  Let them talk.  If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them.  Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position.  There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice.  But listen.  Engage.  If the other side has a point, learn from them.  If they’re wrong, rebut them.  Teach them.  Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.  And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks.  (Laughter.)  I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life.  That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair.  Nobody promised you a crystal stair.  And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.

So that’s my advice.  That’s how you change things.  Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go.  Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.

That’s what Thurgood Marshall understood — a man who once walked this year, graduated from Howard Law; went home to Baltimore, started his own law practice.  He and his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, rolled up their sleeves and they set out to overturn segregation.  They worked through the NAACP.  Filed dozens of lawsuits, fought dozens of cases.  And after nearly 20 years of effort — 20 years — Thurgood Marshall ultimately succeeded in bringing his righteous cause before the Supreme Court, and securing the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that separate could never be equal.  (Applause.)  Twenty years.

Marshall, Houston — they knew it would not be easy.  They knew it would not be quick.  They knew all sorts of obstacles would stand in their way.  They knew that even if they won, that would just be the beginning of a longer march to equality.  But they had discipline.  They had persistence.  They had faith — and a sense of humor.  And they made life better for all Americans.

And I know you graduates share those qualities.  I know it because I’ve learned about some of the young people graduating here today.  There’s a young woman named Ciearra Jefferson, who’s graduating with you.  And I’m just going to use her as an example.  I hope you don’t mind, Ciearra.  Ciearra grew up in Detroit and was raised by a poor single mom who worked seven days a week in an auto plant.  And for a time, her family found themselves without a place to call home.  They bounced around between friends and family who might take them in.  By her senior year, Ciearra was up at 5:00 am every day, juggling homework, extracurricular activities, volunteering, all while taking care of her little sister.  But she knew that education was her ticket to a better life.  So she never gave up.  Pushed herself to excel.  This daughter of a single mom who works on the assembly line turned down a full scholarship to Harvard to come to Howard.  (Applause.)

And today, like many of you, Ciearra is the first in her family to graduate from college.  And then, she says, she’s going to go back to her hometown, just like Thurgood Marshall did, to make sure all the working folks she grew up with have access to the health care they need and deserve.  As she puts it, she’s going to be a “change agent.”  She’s going to reach back and help folks like her succeed.

And people like Ciearra are why I remain optimistic about America.  (Applause.)  Young people like you are why I never give in to despair.

James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Graduates, each of us is only here because someone else faced down challenges for us.  We are only who we are because someone else struggled and sacrificed for us.  That’s not just Thurgood Marshall’s story, or Ciearra’s story, or my story, or your story — that is the story of America.  A story whispered by slaves in the cotton fields, the song of marchers in Selma, the dream of a King in the shadow of Lincoln.  The prayer of immigrants who set out for a new world.  The roar of women demanding the vote.  The rallying cry of workers who built America.  And the GIs who bled overseas for our freedom.

Now it’s your turn.  And the good news is, you’re ready.  And when your journey seems too hard, and when you run into a chorus of cynics who tell you that you’re being foolish to keep believing or that you can’t do something, or that you should just give up, or you should just settle — you might say to yourself a little phrase that I’ve found handy these last eight years:  Yes, we can.

Congratulations, Class of 2016!  (Applause.)  Good luck!  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  I’m proud of you.

END
12:33 P.M. EDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency September 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability

Source: WH, 9-14-15

North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

4:06 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody give it up for Russhaun!  (Applause.)  Hello, Iowa! (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Iowa.  (Applause.)  I was missing you guys.  (Applause.) Go, Polar Bears!  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Des Moines.  You know, I landed at the airport and saw the Hampton Inn there that I — I must have stayed there like a hundred days. (Laughter.)  I’m sure I’ve got some points or something.  I could get a couple free nights at the Hampton Inn.  (Laughter.)

Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Relax.  And I know it’s September, so I know you guys are all about to be flooded with ads and calls from a bunch of folks who want this job.  (Laughter.)  I just can’t imagine what kind of person would put themselves through something like this.  (Laughter.)  Although I noticed — I didn’t know Russhaun was on the ballot.  During the introduction, he was all like, “the next President of the United States.”

We could not be prouder of Russhaun, not just for the introduction, but for the inspiring story that he’s told.  I think it’s an example of what our young people can do when they put their minds to it.

I want to thank your principal, Mike Vukovich.  Where’s Mike?  (Applause.)  There he is.  Your Superintendent is here — Tom Ahart is here.  Where’s Tom?  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Frank Cownie is here, who is a great friend.  Where’s Frank?  He was here.  He had to go to a City Council meeting.  He’s missing out on the fun.  Iowa Attorney General and great friend of mine, Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, great supporter. (Applause.)  And, of course, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for letting me crash his bus tour.  (Applause.)

So I’m not going to give a long speech, because we want to spend most of the time taking questions from all of you.  But I just want to explain that we came to North High School because you guys have done some great things over the past few years — making sure more students have laptops and iPads, more AP classes, improving test scores.  And so you’ve become a great example for the whole country of what’s possible.  (Applause.)

So we thought we’d come to pay you a visit, talk with some of the students here in Des Moines and your parents.  Because I know that there’s nothing that high schoolers love more than being in public with their moms and dads.  (Laughter.)  I know that — that’s what Malia and Sasha tell me all the time.  (Laughter.)

It was seven years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street ended up ushering in some really hard years on Main Street.  But thanks to the incredible resilience and grit and hard work of the American people, we’ve bounced back.  We’ve created 13.1 million new private sector jobs over the past five and a half years.  We’ve helped more than 16 million people have the security of health insurance, many of them for the first time.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it has ever been.  (Applause.)  And I should point out, by the way, if you want to see the best graduation rate in America, it’s right here in Iowa.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been investing in things that help to grow the middle class and help provide opportunity for every young person. But no 21st century economy — nobody in a 21st century economy is going to be able to do what they want to do with their lives unless they’ve got a great education.  That’s just the truth.  By 2020, two in three job openings are going to require some form of post-high school education — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or a tech school.  And it’s an investment that pays off.

Now, partly it pays off — and Russhaun mentioned this — because it empowers you.  It gives you a sense of who you are, and your hopes and your dreams.  It helps to sharpen how you see the world, and empowers you in all sorts of ways.  But it also has some pretty practical ramifications.  Compared to a high school diploma, a degree from a two-year school could earn you an extra $10,000 a year -– a four-year degree could earn you a million dollars more over the course of your lifetime.  That’s how important education is in today’s economy.

And here’s the thing — just as higher education has never been more important, let’s face it, it’s never been more expensive.  And that’s why Arne and I have been working to try to make college and post-high school education more affordable.  We’ve increased scholarships.  We reformed our student loan system that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into big banks — we said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s put that money directly to students.  We created a new tax credit of up to $2,500 to help working families pay for tuition and books and fees.  We’re helping people cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So if you want to be a teacher, or you want to be a social worker, or some other profession that may not make a huge amount of money, you can still do that, knowing that you’re not going to go — you’re still going to be able to afford to support yourself and your family while doing it.  And we’re fighting for two years of free community college for any student that’s willing to work for it. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, is that no young person in America should be priced out of college.  They should not be priced out of an education.

And I know that finding the right school for you, the best school for you is a tough process.  Malia is going through it right now.  You guys are juggling deadlines and applications and personal statements.  And some of you, in the back of your mind, are asking yourselves what you plan for a career and what you want to do with your life.

I think we should make that process easier.  So a couple of things that we’ve done that we’re announcing over the course of this week during Arne’s bus tour — we’ve introduced something called College Scorecard.  Right now, a lot of families don’t have all the information they need to choose the right school.  And a lot of the college ranking systems that you see, they reward schools just for spending more money, or for rejecting more students.  And I think that’s the wrong focus.  I think that our colleges should be focusing on affordability and on serving students and providing them good value.

So we’ve pulled together all sorts of data on college costs and value; we created this College Scorecard.  And you can scroll through it to see which schools are more likely to graduate their students, are more likely to result in good jobs for the students, more likely to make sure that those students can pay off their student loans — and you can then use that information to make choices that are right for your future and right for your budget.

And you guys can go to CollegeScorecard.ED.gov.  CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — and we’ve already got half a million visits since we launched this thing on Saturday.  So it’s a valuable tool for students and parents as you’re trying to make a decision about which school to go to.

We’re also simplifying the financial aid process to give you more time as you make a decision.  Right now, about two million students don’t claim the financial aid that they’re eligible for. And part of it is it’s just complicated and time-consuming.  And so those young people are leaving money on the table.  And there may be some young people here who are not aware of all the financial help you can get.  So what we’ve done is we’ve shortened the federal student aid form — it’s called FAFSA — down to about 20 minutes.  It used to be about two, three times as long.

And because only Congress has the power to eliminate certain requirements, we’re asking them to simplify it even further.  The good news is it’s got some good bipartisan support.  In fact, we’ve got a Congressman here from Virginia who traveled with us

— Congressman Bobby Scott — where’s Bobby?  There he is way in the back there.  (Applause.)  And he’s working — he’s a Democrat — he’s working with Republicans to see if we can further shorten and make this form simpler.

Today, I’m also announcing that beginning next year, families will be able to fill out FAFSA even earlier — starting on October 1st, right around the time that college applications ramp up.  That means you won’t have to wait for months for your W-2s to arrive before you can get started, so you can get a jump on the college application process.  You’ll know sooner how much aid you qualify for; you’ll have more time to evaluate your options.  And we’re also working with colleges and universities and scholarship programs to align their application and their financial aid processes with this new FAFSA start date.

So all these steps taken together should help hundreds of thousands more students pay for college.  And I know that’s important to you.

I’m going to end my opening remarks with a story from somebody who couldn’t be here today, but graduated from here last year, and his name is Neico Greene.  (Applause.)  You might remember Neico from the Polar Bear basketball team.  (Applause.) And the reason that I want to tell his story is for the past few years, Neico was homeless.  As a junior and senior, he was grateful to mostly stay with his coach or his counselor.  But before that, he spent nights in shelters and in church basements, or in hotels with his mom — sometimes sleeping next to drug addicts or worse.  And this is something Neico wrote.  He said, “I’ve seen some terrible things… but I’m thankful for what I’ve been through because it’s taught me to be strong.”

And being strong meant studying.  It meant keeping his eye on college.  Applying for — and winning — some scholarships.  Last year, he filled out his FAFSA, found out he qualified for thousands of dollars of federal and state aid.  Today, Neico is a freshman at Graceland University.  He’s studying accounting.  He’s still playing ball, hoping to make enough money one day to build a career and give back to the mom that he loves.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  That’s what this is about — the students like Neico and Russhaun.  Students like many of you who want to take that next step and have big dreams.  We want you to know that we’re there to help you achieve those dreams.  We want to make sure that we’re giving every student who’s willing to put in the effort all the tools that they need in order to succeed.

That’s not just good for the students, by the way.  That’s also good for America.  Because this country was built on the notion that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is — if you’re willing to work hard, you can make it.  And education is the key to making that future possible.  That’s how we grow this country.  That’s how we make it successful.  And that’s the incredible project, the great experiment in democracy that all of you are part of.

So, with that, Arne and I are looking forward to taking your questions.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

All right.  So here’s how this is going to work.  You raise your hand and I’ll call on you.  We’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy — to make it fair.  (Laughter.)  There should be people in the audience with microphones, so wait until they get there.  And introduce yourself.  Try to keep your question short enough that we can get as many questions in as possible.

And contrary to what Arne said, he’s going to get all the tough questions and I just want the easy ones.  (Laughter.)  All right.  So let’s see who wants to go first?  All right, well, this young lady, she shot her hand up quick.  Right here.  We need a microphone up here.  All right.

Q    Hi, my name is Angelica (ph).  And my question is for your — it’s what do you believe the role of a teacher should be?

THE PRESIDENT:  What do I believe the role of teacher should be?  That’s a great question.  When I think about my own life — some of you may know, my dad left when I was very young, so I really didn’t know him.  So I was raised by a single mom.  And we didn’t have a lot when we were coming up, although my mom had this great love of learning.  But she was a teenager when she had me; she was 18.  And she was still going to school and working at the same time as she was raising me and then my sister.

She was my first great teacher.  And what she taught me was compassion, caring about other people, but she also taught me to be curious.  And when I think back to all the great teachers that I’ve had, it’s not so much the facts that they’ve taught me — because I can get those from books — but it has been teachers who are able to spark in me a sense of curiosity, like, well, how does that work?  Why is that the way it is?  Somebody who has helped me want to learn more.  That, to me, is the role of a great teacher.  Somebody who can teach you to be so interested in the subject that you then start over time teaching yourself.

And I’ll bet there are a lot of great teachers here.  Part of the challenge I think for being a teacher is, is that sometimes students don’t always appreciate good teachers, let’s face it.  Because I think sometimes we think education is something that you just receive from somebody else.  It’s passive.  They just kind of pour knowledge in here.  But in fact, good teaching is a conversation that you’re having with somebody where they’re giving you not just answers but also asking you questions, and helping your brain get a workout and try to learn how to figure things out yourself.

And also, I think great teachers are somebody who’s got — who have — are people who have confidence in you and have high expectations for you, and they see something in you where they get a sense of, you know what, you’re important, and you can do amazing things.  And when you feel that from a teacher, that a teacher really thinks you’ve got something in you that’s worth saying or writing or — those are the teachers that you remember. Those are the teachers that inspire you.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll be quick.  I think it’s a really, really good answer.  The only thing I would add is I think great teachers see things in students that they don’t even see in themselves, and pull things out of you.  And someone like Russhaun, who talked publicly, mom was locked up — lots of folks could look at you and say, well, that’s where he’s going to go.  Other teachers see him as a student body president, as a future teacher, as a future leader in the community.

So those amazing teachers see things in us as kids.  Those are the teachers I remember from my childhood, who saw things in me that I didn’t even recognize myself and helped to bring that to life.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Great question.  All right.  I think it’s a guy’s turn now.  Let’s see.  That gentleman right back there, around the corner there.

Q    Hi, my name is Dennis.  I have a senior here at North High School.  (Laughter.)  What’s so funny?

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you the dad that’s embarrassing —

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Your daughter is just like, oh, dad, god.

Q    Well, it’s a give-and-take; they embarrass me, I’m going to embarrass them.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, I’m right there with you.  (Laughter.)

Q    Okay.  In your opinion, of all the next presidential candidates that are in line, which ones have the best ideas for education reform to make it more affordable and accessible?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I — (laughter and applause) — I’m going to beg off this question a little bit.  I promise you I’m generally going to give you straight answers.  On this one, I’m going to wiggle around a little bit.  (Laughter.)  Right now, I’m going to try to stay out of the campaign season until it — partly because I can’t keep track of all the candidates.  (Laughter.)  So I’ll wait until it’s winnowed down a little bit before I have an opinion.

But here’s what I can say — that a society’s values are reflected in where we put our time, our effort, our money.  It is not sufficient for us to say we care about education if we aren’t actually putting resources into education.  (Applause.)

Now, both Arne and I have gotten some guff sometimes from even within our own party because we’ve said that money alone is not enough; that it’s important for us, if a school isn’t teaching consistently kids so that they can achieve, then we’ve got to change how we do things, in collaboration with teachers and principals and parents and students.  We’ve got to figure out how do we make it work better.

So a lot of the initiatives we’ve had in terms of increased accountability and encouraging more creativity and empowering teachers more, those don’t cost money.  But what we also know is that if science labs don’t have the right equipment, then it’s harder to teach science.  If kids don’t have access to broadband and laptops in their classrooms, then they’re at a disadvantage to those kids who do.  If you’ve got a school that doesn’t have enough counselors, and so, come time to apply for college, there aren’t enough counselors to go around and kids aren’t getting the best advice that they need, then they may end up selling themselves short in terms of their ability to go to college.

So resources do matter.  And part of the reason I’m making this point — so that when you’re evaluating candidates, you pay attention to this — is we’re going to be having a major debate in Congress coming up, because the budget is supposed to be done by the end of this month.  And so far, Congress has not come up with a budget.  And there are some in the other party who are comfortable with keeping in place something called sequester, which is going to be — is going to result in significant cuts over the next several years in the amount of federal support for education.  And that’s going to force then either layoffs, or kids not getting the kinds of support that they need.  It will have an effect on the education of students.

So I just want everybody to be clear, without endorsing any particular candidate’s ideas, that if somebody is running for President and they say they want to be the “education president,” it means two things.  One is that you care about every student doing well, not just some — because whoever is President is the President for all people, not just some people.  That’s point number one.  (Applause.)  And point number two is, is that you’ve got to be willing to provide the resources, particularly for communities that may not have as much of a property tax base so they can’t always raise money on their own in order to help their students achieve.

All right?  Anything you want to add on that?  (Applause.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, without getting into this candidate or that — you’ve got about two dozen to choose from, and they all want your vote.  Four questions I’d like you to ask every candidate, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal — it doesn’t matter.

One:  What are you willing to do to have more children have access to high-quality early childhood education?  That’s the best investment we can make.  (Applause.)  Two:  What are you going to do to continue to increase our nation’s high school graduation rate?  And we’re very proud, it’s at an all-time high, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.

Three:  What are you going to do to make sure high school graduates are truly college and career ready, and not having to take remedial classes in college,; that they’ve been taught to high standards?  And fourth, we need to lead the world in college graduation rates again.  We were first a generation ago; today, we’re 12th.  Other countries have passed us by.

So if every candidate you ask, what are your concrete goals for those four things, and then what resources — to the President’s point — are you willing to put behind that, our country would be a much stronger place.

THE PRESIDENT:  And not to be a tag team here, here’s one last thing.  Because — I’m sorry, what was your name?  Angelica asked a terrific question about what does it mean to be a great teacher.  If you hear a candidate say that the big problem with education is teachers, you should not vote for that person.  (Applause.)  Because it is a hard job.  And it is the most important job we’ve got.  And folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money.  (Laughter.)  They go into it because they are passionate about kids.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad teachers, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold teachers to high standards as well, and continue to work in terms of professional development and recruitment and retention of great teachers.  And there have been times where Arne and I have had some disagreements with the teachers’ unions on certain issues because we want to encourage experimentation.  But the bottom line, though, is, is that you can measure how good a school is by whether or not it is respecting and engaging teachers in the classroom so that they are professionals and they feel good about what they’re doing, and they’re given freedom and they’re not just being forced to teach to a test.

And it is very important for us, then, to make sure that — if what we hear is just a bunch of teacher-bashing, I can’t tell you who to vote for, but — at least not right now.  Later I will.  (Laughter.)  But I can tell you who to vote against, and that is somebody who decides that somehow teachers don’t deserve the kind of respect and decent pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

All right.  Let’s see.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  Yes, you right there in the brown sweater right there.  Go ahead.  That’s fine.

Q    I’m Elena Hicks (ph), and I’m a senior at Roosevelt and an intern at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, okay.  I guess I know who you’re voting for.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  And this was a standards question, but I’ll make it more general.  Do you think it’s possible or realistic for there to be free tuition for college in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that it is absolutely realistic for us to, first of all, have the first two years of community college free, because it’s in my budget and I know how to pay for it.  (Applause.)  And it would — and essentially if you close up some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t growing the economy and are just kind of a boondoggle, you take that money, you can then help every state do what Tennessee is already doing — because Tennessee is already making community colleges free for the first two years.

And what that does, then, is, first of all, it helps young people who may not right now want to go get a four-year college education but know that they still need some sort of technical training, or they want to get an associate’s degree.  Right away, that whole group, they now know they can get their education for free as long as they’re working hard.  But for those who are thinking about a four-year college education, they can also get their first two-years at the community college, then transfer those credits to a four-year college, and they’ve just cut their overall college costs in half.  So it would be good for everybody, whether you’re going two years or four years.

Now, if we can get that done, then I think we can start building from there.  In the meantime, I do want to make sure, though, that everybody understands what we were talking about in terms of FAFSA.  You have to fill out this form.  And we are making it easier for you to do.  You have no excuse.  Parents who are here, even if you didn’t go to college, you need to nag your kids to make sure that this FAFSA form gets filled out so that people — so that you know the student aid that you may be entitled to.

My grandma, she didn’t go to college, even though she was probably the smartest person I knew, but she did know that you had to go to college and that you had to fill out this form.  So I want everybody here to make sure that you stay focused on that, because there’s more help already than a lot of people are aware of.  And this College Scorecard that we talked about — CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — what that does is it allows you to take a look at the schools to find out, do they graduate their students; how much debt do they have; are they generally getting a job after they graduate.

So we’re not, like, just ranking, here’s the most prestigious school; we’re giving you some news you can use here in evaluating whether the schools that you’re applying to actually deliver on their commitment.  Because a lot of times, the students who get big student loans debt after they graduate, it’s because they didn’t think through where they should go, what should they be studying, what resources are available.  And we want you to on the front end to have as much information as possible in order to make a good choice.

Arne, anything to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Very, very quickly, quick test.  That FAFSA form the President talked about — how much in grants and loans do we give out each year?  Any guesses at the federal level?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  A lot.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much is a lot?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, I didn’t test you.  (Laughter.)  You notice this.  That’s the head of the Education Department.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much?  30,000?  Any other thoughts?  Yes, sir.  What’s that?  Total — How much?  $30 billion?  Any other guesses?  All right, so very quickly, we give out $150 billion in grants and loans each year.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s real money.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  And the President said we’ve got a long way to go, we want to do more, trying to make community colleges free.  But we don’t care whether your family has money or don’t have money, or whether your family has gone to college or not, or where you live.  If you work hard — $150 billion.  It’s the only form — 20 minutes, half an hour — the only form you’re ever going to fill out in your life that’s going to give you access to $150 billion.  So I just want to emphasize this point.  You have to fill that out.

THE PRESIDENT:  Got to fill it out.  (Laughter.)  All right? A’ight.  (Laughter.)  This gentleman back here.  I don’t want to neglect the folks in the back here.

Q    How are you doing, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  How are you, sir?

Q    Good, good.  My name is Rudolph Dawson and I’m a graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia.  My concern is that the Historically Black schools like Fort Valley State, a lot of the pressure is being put on them in terms of they’re not getting the budget they need to continue to educate people like myself.  They are not getting the programs that they need to attract students that want the higher pay.  And it’s to me — what can you do, or what can your administration do, or the next administration do to right the wrong that’s been done in the past?  And it’s continued to be done to these universities.  Fort Valley State is also a land-grant college and they haven’t been getting all the money they needed for agriculture like the University of Georgia.  I’d like to see some changes there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, first of all, for those of you — because some of you — we’ve got a lot of young people here so just to give you a little bit of history, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities arose at a time when obviously a lot of schools were segregated.  And so African American students couldn’t attend a lot of the traditional state colleges and universities that had been set up.

And many of them went on to become incredible educational institutions that produced some of our greatest thinkers.  So Morehouse College, Howard, Spelman — all across the country, particularly in the South, a lot of these Historically Black Colleges and Universities were really the nurturer of an African American middle class — many of whom then went on to become the civil rights pioneers that helped to lead to Dr. King and to the Civil Rights Movement and to all the history that I think you’re aware of.

A lot of those schools are still doing well.  Some of them have gotten smaller and are struggling, partly because of — good news — University of Georgia isn’t segregated anymore, for example, so it’s good that African American students or Latino students have more diverse options.  But they still serve an important role.  And so working with people like Congressman Bobby Scott and others, we’ve continued to provide some support to those schools.

But one thing that Arne and I have been doing is saying to these Historically Black Colleges and Universities, you’ve also got to step up your game in terms of graduation rates, because there are some of those schools, just like non-historically black colleges and universities, who take in a lot of students but don’t always graduate those students.  And those students end up being stuck with debt and it’s not a good deal for them.

So we’re working together.  We’ve got a whole task force and commission that’s just devoted to working with these schools to make sure that they’ve got the resources they need to continue to perform a really important function, but that they’re also stepping up their game so that kids who attend these universities and colleges, they’re graduating on time and are able to then pursue the kind of careers that they need.

I think it’s a young lady’s turn now.  Oh, you know what, I need to go up top.  That young lady in the striped shirt right there.  I can barely see, but that’s what happens when you get older, young people.  (Laughter.)  First time I came to Iowa, I had no gray hair.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t.  Look at me now.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hi, my name is Abba.  I’m currently a junior at Lincoln High School here on the South Side of Des Moines.  My question to you is — I know you don’t want to get involved with the presidential race at the moment, but a candidate has said that they want to cut government spending to politically biased colleges, and I was wondering if, say, that would hurt the education system for those who depend on that, or would it better the education as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I didn’t hear this candidate say that.  I have no idea what that means.  (Laughter.)  I suspect he doesn’t either.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, the purpose of college is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills.  It’s also to widen your horizons; to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information; to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative.  The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, people learn from each other, because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.

Arne, I’m sure, has the same experience that I did, which is when I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.  And then they’d describe how they saw the world.  And they might have had a different sense of politics, or they might have a different view about poverty, or they might have a different perspective on race, and sometimes their views would be infuriating to me.  But it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds that I then started testing my own assumptions.  And sometimes I changed my mind.  Sometimes I realized, you know what, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded.  Maybe I didn’t take this into account.  Maybe I should see this person’s perspective.

So that’s what college, in part, is all about.  The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought or idea or perspective or philosophy, that that person would be — that they wouldn’t get funding runs contrary to everything we believe about education.  (Applause.)  I mean, I guess that might work in the Soviet Union, but it doesn’t work here.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Now, one thing I do want to point out is it’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem.  Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side.  And that’s a problem, too.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this.  I’ve heard I’ve of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative.  Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.  And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either.  I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.  (Applause.)

I think that you should be able to — anybody should — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them.  But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.  That’s not the way we learn, either.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Amen.

THE PRESIDENT:  He said, amen.  (Laughter.)

Let’s see.  I think it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman here in the tie, you had your hand up a couple times.  Yes, I didn’t want you to feel neglected.  You almost gave up and I wanted to make sure to call on you.  Hold on a second.  Wait for the mic.

Q    My name is James Quinn.  This is my wife, Tatiana, and our daughter, Victoria.  We’ve been saving for her college education for 10 years, and over that time, the federal deductibility of 529 contributions has gone away, even though we can still get that deduction from Iowa income taxes.  It would be nice to see a little reward for saving, rather than just making borrowing money get easier.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to let Arne hit this one because he’s an expert on our various savings programs.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Yes.  I’ll just say, as a parent with two kids not quite this age, my wife and I are putting money actively into 529s to try to save.  And getting the federal government to support that more or encourage that would be fantastic.  And again, this is something we have to work with Congress to do the right thing.

But for families who are saving — we have some families now starting kindergarten, first grade, saving every year, just a little bit, to help their kids to go to college.  We need to incentivize that and reward that.  It’s a great point.

THE PRESIDENT:  There was a time when the deductibility with student loans was more significant than it is today.  Whenever you make something tax-deductible, that means that there’s less money going into the Treasury.  That, then, means that either somebody has got to pay for it with other taxes, or the deficit grows, or we spend less on something else.

And this is part of why this argument, this debate that’s going on right now in Congress about lifting the sequester is so important.  It’s a Washington term — I hate the term — but essentially what Congress did was it said, all right, we’re just going to lop off spending at this level for the next decade.  The problem is, of course, the population is going up, the economy is growing, and so even though the deficit right now has been cut by two-thirds since I came into office — which is — (applause) — you wouldn’t know that listening to some of the candidates around here, but it has.

If, in fact, sequester stays in place, not only our ability to spend for education or to help families with student loans, but also things like early childhood education, Head Start programs, Pell grants — all those things can end up being adversely affected.

And this is one thing that I would just ask everybody to consider.  When you hear budget debates, I know your eyes kind of glaze over, but the federal budget, that’s really where we express our values.  And a lot of times people say, well, we should just cut government spending because there’s all this waste.  But, in fact, the vast majority of government spending is for Social Security, it’s for Medicare, it’s for Medicaid, it’s for helping vulnerable populations, and it’s for defense.  And not a lot is left over for helping middle-class families, for example, send their kids to college, or to save.

And if you have this ceiling, this artificial cap, without take into account a growing population and more young people going to college, then you end up with a situation in which fewer people are getting help.  And that’s why it’s important for us to lift this artificial cap.  And it’s also why it’s important for us to close some of these tax loopholes that are going to either the very wealthy or to corporations that really don’t need them, because they’re doing just fine and they’re not having a problem financing their college education — their kids’ college educations.  (Applause.)

All right.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  All right.  I will go — I’m going to go to this young lady because originally I called on her first and then — but we got mixed up.  Go ahead.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Rosalie (ph) and I go to Roosevelt High School.  Hopefully, my question is not too difficult.  And it’s what is your best advice for Malia as she goes off to college?

THE PRESIDENT:  My best advice to Malia.  Now, this is assuming that Malia would listen to my advice.  (Laughter.)  She’s very much like her mother at this point.  (Laughter.)  She’s got her own mind.

One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college.  There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it’s important I think for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education, and just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.  So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school.  I think that’s important.

The second piece of advice I have is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s important that you kind of run through the tape in your senior year and not start feeling a little slack.  I don’t worry about that with her; she’s a hard worker.

And then the third thing is really the advice that I already mentioned, which is be open to new experiences when you go to college.  Don’t go to college just to duplicate the same experience you had in high school.  Don’t make your decision based on, well, where are all my friends going so that I can do the exact same things with the exact same friends that I did in high school.  The whole point is for you to push yourself out of your comfort level, meet people you haven’t met before, take classes that you hadn’t thought of before.  Stretch yourself. Because this is the time to do it, when you’re young.  Seek out new experiences.

Because I think when you do that, you may discover you may think that you wanted to do one thing; it may turn out you wanted to do — that you wanted to do something completely different, and you have an amazing talent for something completely different, but you just haven’t been exposed to it yet.  You’ve got to know what it is that’s out there, and that requires you to do some things differently than you’ve been doing in high school.

So, Arne, anything you wanted to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just quickly, particularly for the seniors, please don’t apply to one school — sort of what the President said — apply to four, five, six, seven schools.  It’s amazing to me how many young people just apply to one school.  And it might be the best fit for you, but keep your options open. So look at what’s out there — close to home, less close to home, whatever it might be — apply to a bunch of places.

And a final thing, just to emphasize, the goal is not to go to college; the goal is to graduate.  And so, figure out where you’re going to go and graduate.  It might take you three years, it might take you four, it might take you five.  But the big thing we need all of you — not to just go, not to attend, but to walk across those stages four or five years from now with that diploma in hand.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Gentleman right here.  Here, you can use my mic.

Q    All right.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Mr. President.  I’m an elementary school principal here in Des Moines public schools, and one of the things that we really value is the diversity that we have within our community.  And I’m really curious to hear from you and Secretary Duncan the value that you see that diversity brings to a young person’s education.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great question.  How long have you been a principal?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Five years?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s outstanding.  We’re getting old, though, man, because I thought he was a student.  (Laughter.)  He’s the principal.  He’s not even just a teacher, he’s a principal.  (Laughter.)  Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing.

To some degree, I’ve already answered this question.  The value of diversity is getting to know and understand people who are different from you, because that’s the world you will be living in and working in.  And it’s actually really interesting  — they’ve been showing through a variety of studies that people who can understand and connect with a wide range of people, that that ends up being as important a skill, if not more important a skill, than just about anything else in terms of your career success, whatever the field.

It also, by the way, is part of what makes our democracy work.  I was having a discussion about this earlier today.  Our democracy is premised on an assumption that even if somebody is not just like me, that they’re a good person and a generous person, and that we have things in common, and that we can work things out, and if we have a disagreement then we can have an argument based on facts and evidence.  And I might sometimes lose the argument, I don’t persuade as many people, and then — that’s how voting works, and majorities are formed, and they change. That’s how our democracy is supposed to work.

And I think that starts early.  Because when you’ve got diversity in schools, then you’re less likely as an adult to start thinking, well, that person, they’re not like me, or those persons, they don’t have the same values, or they don’t care as much about their kids, or — and then democracy starts breaking down, because then everything is a fight to the death because there’s no sense that we can actually bridge our differences and disagree without being disagreeable, and find common ground.

So it’s not only good for your career, but it’s also good for our country.  The same goes — the same holds true, by the way, as part of diversity — studies show that organizations that have women in decision-making positions function better than those who don’t.  (Applause.)  Seriously.  That if you look at corporate boards, actually you can correlate their performance with the number of women that they’ve got on those boards.  So it also is valuable for us to make sure that not only is there diversity, but that in leadership positions, different voices are heard.

So, Arne, anything you want to add to that?

Good.  So keep it up.  (Applause.)

Young lady right there.  Yes, you.  Right there.  Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll call on you first and then I’ll get back to you.  I’m sorry.  The mic is already there.  I promise you’ll be the next.

Q    Hi.  My name is Heidi.  I’m a junior here at North High School.  And actually, I have, like, two questions.  One is one for my friend — he’s very shy, he can’t speak up.  We are part of a group called Upward Bound, and we work through Simpson College.  There’s been stories of our budget being cut, and we want to know what the government can — help us and work with us for that.

And my other question is, in your professional opinion, how much is visual arts an importance to our school, and how are you going to save it?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Why don’t I — I’ll take the first — I’ll take the question on visual arts, you talk about Upward Bound.  Arne, go ahead.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, it really goes back to what the President talked about.  It’s not just Upward Bound that’s at risk; it’s Pell grants that are at risk, early childhood education.  Folks in Congress want to zero that out of the budget.  I think it’s so important that all of us as students and as educators to not pit this program against the other, but to hold folks in Washington accountable for investing in education.

As the President said, we want to make sure we’re getting results.  It’s not blindly investing.  But there are lots of things in our budget — Upward Bound being a piece of it — that honestly are in pretty significant danger right now.  And the President is fighting very hard.  We have some folks backing us, but the others that just sort of see these things as somehow extras.  And I think it’s so important that as young people, as voters, as family, your voices be heard.

He cannot by himself prevent these cuts.  That’s not how our democracy works.  And so we’ll hold us accountable.  We’ll continue to push very, very hard.  That’s why we’re out traveling the country all the time.  But we need voters’ voices being heard, saying, we need Upward Bound programs, we need TRIO, we need early childhood, we need after-school programs, we need the arts.  And you can talk about the arts, as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, I mean, the arts are what make life worthwhile, right?  (Applause.)  You need food and shelter and all that good stuff, but the things that make you laugh, cry, connect, love — so much of that is communicated through the arts.

And I don’t want our young people to think that the arts are just something that you sit there passively and watch on a TV screen.  I want everybody, even if you’re not a great artist, to have the experience of making art, and have the experience of making music.  Because that’s part of what makes for a well-rounded education.

We also know that young people learn better if they’re not just looking at a textbook and multiple text quizzes all day long, and that it breaks up the monotony and it gives expression to different sides of themselves — that that’s good for the overall educational experience.

So I think visual arts, music, it’s all important.  And we should not be depriving young people of those experiences.  And they’re not extras.  They’re central to who we are.  Part of what makes us human is our ability to make art, to represent what’s inside of us in ways that surprise and delight people.  And I don’t want us to start thinking that that’s somehow something we can just push aside.

Now, I want you to be able to read and be able to do your algebra, too.  But I don’t know where we got this idea we’ve got to choose between those two things.  We’ve got to be able to do them all.  And it used to be standard practice.  There was no debate, even in the smallest town in a poor community or a rural community.  There was always the art teacher and the math teacher — or the art teacher and the music teacher, and nobody assumed somehow that that was an extra.  That was part of it, just like having a sports program was part of it.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of what a well-rounded education is all about.

But it does cost some money.  And that’s something that I want to emphasize — that you can’t do all this stuff on the cheap all the time.

How many more questions — how much more time we got?  Only one?  I’m going to take two.  (Laughter.)  All right.  I’m going to get to you because I promised I was going to — I’ll tell you, it’s a guy’s turn.  This guy right there.  (Applause.)  All right.

Q    All right.  I’ve got two short questions.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Marcus Carter.  And I’m a senior.  And out of all the schools in Iowa, why did you come here?  And after this, can I get a picture with you?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, Marcus, I’m going to answer your first question.  Second question, though, if I start taking a picture with you — look at this crowd right here.  (Laughter.)  We’d be taking a lot of selfies.  So I’m imposing the no-selfie rule, although I’ll definitely try to shake as many hands as possible.

We came here because some really good work is being done here.  And I think that your teachers, your principal, the superintendent deserve credit for the improvements that have been made.  (Applause.)  I want Arne to address this, because Arne travels to schools all across the country.  And sometimes we get so focused on what’s not working that we forget to lift up what is working.  And when a school is doing a good job, I’m sure the principal and superintendent, the teachers here feel like they want to do even more and do even better.  But when we’ve made progress, we’ve got to acknowledge that, because that makes us feel encouraged and hopeful that we can continue to make even more strides.

Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll just say a couple quick things.  It’s not a coincidence that we’re here, but this is a school that historically struggled, had some hard times.  And new leadership, new expectations — the President talked about technology here, talked a much better sense of culture, different ways to discipline.  But the thing I always go back to — I don’t know if my numbers are exact — I think a couple years ago you had two AP classes, and now you have 15.  (Applause.)  And to go from two to 15 is a really big deal.

But what I always say is the students here aren’t seven times as smart as four years ago; it’s just higher expectations, a different sense of belief among adults about what’s possible.  And so we try and highlight places that haven’t always been successful but are trying to do the right thing and move in the right direction.

As the President said, no one is satisfied.  You guys are still hungry, you’re still trying to get better.  But that’s real progress.  That’s adults saying, kids, students, young people deserve the opportunity to take college classes in high school, deserve to go to a safe school, deserve the technology.  I think there are lots of lessons other schools could learn from the progress you’re making here at North High School.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I promised I was going to call on this young lady last.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Tanya from North High School.  And my question is, if you legalize college — or free two-year college, is everyone, including illegal students with a good GPA able to get this benefit?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, right now, the way — no, this is an important question, and I know this is a debate that’s been taking place among some of the presidential candidates.  Right now, the way that the federal student loan programs work is that undocumented students are not eligible for these loan programs.  That’s how the law is currently.  And it is my view that — well, two things I want to say.

First, if you fall in that category, you should still fill out the FAFSA, because it may be that states or universities or colleges may have private scholarships or other mechanisms.  So it doesn’t automatically mean that you may not qualify for some benefits.  So it’s still important for you to kind of — because that’s a standard form that’s used by everybody.

But this raises the broader question that I’ve been talking about now for a couple of years, and that is that for young people who came here, their parents may have brought them here and they now are Americans, kids by every other criteria except for a piece of paper — they may be your classmates, they may be your friends, they may be your neighbors — the notion that somehow we would not welcome their desire to be full-fledged parts of this community and this country, and to contribute and to serve makes absolutely no sense.  (Applause.)

And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are.  (Applause.)  Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else.  (Applause.)  And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working — and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes — don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and — that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all — and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way.  That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed — no.  That’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are.

We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful.  And I think the people who came here illegally should have the consequences of paying a fine and getting registered, and all kinds of steps that they should have to take in order to get right with the law.  But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care — I think that’s un-American.  I do not believe that.  I think it is wrong.  (Applause.)  And I think we should do better.  Because that’s how America was made — by us caring about all our kids.

Thank you, everybody.  I love you guys.  (Applause.)

END

5:16 P.M. CDT

 

 

University Musings July 12, 2015: The end of tenure? Scott Walker wins war against professors and why he is right

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

The end of tenure? Scott Walker wins war against professors and why he is right

July 12, 2015
On the eve of declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the state’s $73 billion budget on Sunday, July 12, 2015 and won his fight against tenured professors at state and public…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 25, 2015: ConnectED: Two Years of Delivering Opportunity to K-12 Schools & Libraries

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

FACT SHEET: ConnectED: Two Years of Delivering Opportunity to K-12 Schools & Libraries

Source: WH, 6-25-15

Two years ago, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, setting an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. Since that time, the public and private sectors have committed more than $10 billion of total funding and in-kind commitments as part of this five-year effort to transform American education. To leverage this technology, thousands of school and community leaders have pledged to help realize the President’s vision to move America’s schools into the digital age.

ConnectED is on track to achieve its goal of connecting students to tools they need for 21st century learning — and on its two year anniversary, we are announcing additional progress….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School Commencement Address

Source: WH, 6-9-15

Chicago State University Convocation Hall

Chicago, Illinois

7:44 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Wow!  (Applause.)  Yes!

STUDENT:  We love you so much, Michelle!

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I love you guys!  (Applause.)  Look, I am beyond excited to be here with the winners of our first-ever FAFSA Video Challenge, the King College Prep Class of 2015!  (Applause.)

So let me just explain, because you all know some of the best schools in the country submitted videos for this challenge.  But when I saw your Scandal video, let me tell you, I was blown away.  I was just blown away with — amazing.  I was blown away by your creativity, but I was even more blown away by how hard you all worked to achieve your outstanding FAFSA completion rate here at KCP.  In fact, as you saw, I was so impressed that I decided to send your video to the cast of the real Scandal.  And they were so impressed that Shonda* Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the whole staff, they wanted to be a part of this graduation.  And I want to thank Libby, because she was the only one who knew.  She kept the secret.  So let’s give the cast of Scandal another round of applause.  Wasn’t that wonderful?  (Applause.)  That’s how special you all are.  That is just how special you all are.

And I want to thank Libby for that wonderful introduction.  I want to thank Jostens for their generosity.  And, of course, I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love.  I love these folks.  (Applause.)  Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world.  And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight.  Love you all.  Love you so much.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge President Watson, Provost Henderson, Jesse Ruiz, as well as the fabulous singers — way to go, guys!  (Applause.)  And our musicians, the best band in the land.  (Applause.)  And all of the amazing student speakers — you guys did such a phenomenal job.  You’re amazing.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to give a big shoutout to Principal Narain for his outstanding leadership.  Yes.  (Applause.)  He made sure my speech was up here, so I thank him for that.  (Laughter.)  But also, to the phenomenal teachers, the administrators, the school counselors, the staff who pushed you, who inspired you, who hunted you down in the hallway to fill out your FAFSA forms — well done.  (Laughter and applause.)

And, graduates, I think we’ve got to give another show of love to the parents, the guardians, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the siblings — (applause) — everyone else who has been there for you throughout your lives — the folks who shook you out of bed in the morning, and didn’t let you go to sleep until your homework was done; the folks who believed in you; the folks who sacrificed for you and loved you even when you drove them crazy.  Today is their day too.  Let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Yes!  That’s it, blow kisses.  That’s right, mom.  Take your bow.

And of course, most of all, to the class of 2015 — you all, congratulations.  You did it!  You did it!  You are here!  You are here!   (Applause.)  And you all look so good, so glamorous, so handsome.  But just think about how hard you worked to make it to this day — stayed up late studying, working on those college essays, preparing for those ACTs.  I understand that you threw yourselves into your activities as well — the Jaguars won the Division 3A basketball regional championship.  (Applause.)  Pretty nice.  The best band in the land performed with Jennifer Hudson — really?  Jennifer Hudson?  J-Hud? — and at the NFL Draft.  (Applause.)  I hear you all lit up the stage with Shrek the Musical — (applause) — Spring Concert I heard was pretty nice.  But you all truly honored Dr. King’s legacy with your commitment to service-learning.

So, graduates, tonight, I am feeling so proud of you.  I am feeling so excited for you.  I am feeling so inspired by you.  But there is one thing that I’m not feeling right now, and that is surprised.  I am not at all surprised by how accomplished you all are.  (Applause.)  I’m not at all surprised by the dedication your teachers have shown, or by the sacrifices your families have made to carry you to this day.  I’m not surprised because I know this community.

I was born and raised here on the South Side, in South Shore, and I am who I am today because of this community.  (Applause.)  I know the struggles many of you face — how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs.  How you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home.  How you keep it together when your families are having hard times making ends meet.

But more importantly, I also know the strengths of this community.  I know the families on the South Side.  And while they may come in all different shapes and sizes, most families here are tight, bound together by the kind of love that gets stronger when it’s tested.

I know that folks on the South Side work hard — the kind of hard where you forget about yourself and you just worry about your kids, doing everything it takes — juggling two and three jobs, taking long bus rides to the night shift, scraping pennies together to sign those kids up for every activity you can afford — Park District program, the Praise Dance Ministries — whatever it takes to keep them safe and on the right track.  And I know that in this community, folks have a deep faith, a powerful faith, and folks are there for each other when times get hard, because we understand that “there but for the grace of God go I.”  (Applause.)

And over the past six years as First Lady, I’ve visited communities just like this one all across this country — communities that face plenty of challenges and crises, but where folks have that same strong work ethic, those same good values, those same big dreams for their kids.

But unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news.  Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.

So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.

Look, I can’t tell you how many times people have met my mother and asked her, “Well, how on Earth did you ever raise kids like Michelle and Craig in a place like South Shore?”  And my mom looks at these folks like they’re crazy, and she says, “Michelle and Craig are nothing special.  There are millions of Craigs and Michelles out there.  And I did the same thing that all those other parents did.”  She says, “I loved them.  I believed in them.  And I didn’t take any nonsense from them.”  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side.  The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day.  (Applause.)  I’m here tonight because I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed.  (Applause.)

And I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day.

Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.  And I cannot stress that enough.  During your four years here at King College Prep, you all were surrounded by folks who were determined to help you, as Jade said — teachers who stayed after class to explain an assignment, counselors who pushed you to apply to college, coaches who saw something special in you that no one had seen before.

And as you head to college or the military, or whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles.  There will be times when you find yourself struggling.  And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help.  Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask.  And trust me, I know how that feels.

See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place.  I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus.  I had never been away from home for an extended period of time.  I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture.  And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident.  They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton.

So at first, I didn’t tell a soul how anxious and lonely and insecure I was feeling.  But as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important.  I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out.  They asked for help.  If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions.  And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit.  Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life.

See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals.  So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had.

So I decided to follow their lead.  I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes.  I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor.  And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out.  And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you.  You have to take responsibility to find them.  (Applause.)

So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session.  If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center.  And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else.  You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking.  (Applause.)  And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.

And that brings me to the other big lesson that I want to share with you today.  It’s a lesson about how to get through those struggles, and that is, instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you.  Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.

Now, I know that many of you have already dealt with some serious losses in your lives.  Maybe someone in your family lost a job or struggled with drugs or alcohol or an illness.  Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight.  And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.

So, yes, maybe you’ve been tested a lot more and a lot earlier in life than many other young people.  Maybe you have more scars than they do.  Maybe you have days when you feel more tired than someone your age should ever really feel.  But, graduates, tonight, I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived.  (Applause.)  And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other.  They are the spaces we can make for other people’s sorrow and pain, as well as their joy and their love so that eventually, instead of feeling empty, our hearts feel even bigger and fuller.

So it’s okay to feel the sadness and the grief that comes with those losses.  But instead of letting those feelings defeat you, let them motivate you.  Let them serve as fuel for your journey.  See, that’s what folks in this community have always done.  Just look at our history.

Take the story of Lorraine Hansberry, who grew up right here on the South Side.  Lorraine was determined to be a playwright, but she struggled to raise the money to produce her first play.  But Lorraine stayed hungry.  And eventually, that play — “A Raisin in the Sun” — became the first play by an African American woman to make it to Broadway.  (Applause.)

And how about Richard Wright, who spent his young adult years on the South Side.  Richard’s father was a sharecropper who abandoned his family.  And while Richard loved to read, the local library wouldn’t let him check out books because he was black.  So Richard went ahead and wrote books of his own — books like “Native Son,” and “Black Boy,” that made him one of the greatest writers in American history.  (Applause.)

And finally, tonight, I’m thinking about my own parents — yes, Marian and Frazier Robinson.  See, neither of them went to college.  They never had much money.  But they were determined to see me and my brother get the best education possible.  So my mom served on the PTA, and she volunteered at school so she could keep an eye on us.

As for my Dad, he worked as a pump operator at the city water plant.  And even after he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, and it became harder for him to walk and get dressed, he still managed to pull himself out of bed every morning, no matter how sick he felt.  Every day, without fail, I watched my father struggle on crutches to slowly make his way across our apartment, out the door to work, without complaint or self-pity or regret.  (Applause.)

Now, my Dad didn’t live to see me in the White House.  He passed away from complications from his illness when I was in my twenties.  And, graduates, let me tell you, he is the hole in my heart.  His loss is my scar.  But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life.  (Applause.)  Every day, I work to make him proud.  Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me.

And, graduates, today, I want to urge you all to do the same thing.  There are so many folks in your school and in your families who believe in you, who have sacrificed for you, who have poured all of their love and hope and ambition into you.  And you need to stay hungry for them.  (Applause.)

There are so many young people who can only dream of the opportunities you’ve had at King College Prep — young people in troubled parts of the world who never set foot in a classroom.  Young people in this community who don’t have anyone to support them.  Young people like Hadiya, who were taken from us too soon and can never become who they were meant to be.  You need to stay hungry for them.

And, graduates, look, I know you can do this.  See, because if Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright could stay hungry through their hardships and humiliations; if Dr. Martin Luther King, the namesake of your school, could sacrifice his life for our country, then I know you can show up for a tutoring session.  I know you can go to some office hours.  (Applause.)

If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life.  I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.

Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities.  (Applause.)  Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia.  They don’t believe you are real.

And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities.  And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House.  (Applause.)  Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths.  (Applause.)

So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities — about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations.  You need to help us tell our story — the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.

Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from.  (Applause.)  And you know how I know you can do this?  Because you all — graduates of the King College Prep High School.  You all are from so many proud communities — North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on.  You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.

And I am so proud of you all.  And I stay inspired because of you.  And I cannot wait to see everything you all continue achieve in the years ahead.

So thank you.  God bless you.  I love you all.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END                  8:08 P.M. CDT

Political Musings May 17, 2015: Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Bush delivers free speech to SMU graduates jabs Clintons’ $25 million speech fee

May 17, 2015

Former President George W. Bush used his commencement address to Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) class of 2015 in Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas on Saturday afternoon, May 16, 2015 to encourage the C students that they too could…

Full Text Obama Presidency May 17, 2015: Vice President Joe Biden’s Yale University Class Day Speech Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the Vice President at Yale University Class Day

Source: WH,  5-17-15

Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

2:55 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:   Hello, Yale!  (Applause.)  Great to see you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you very, very much.

Jeremy and Kiki, the entire Class of 2015, congratulations and thank you for inviting me to be part of this special day.  You’re talented.  You’ve worked hard, and you’ve earned this day.

Mr. President, faculty, staff, it’s an honor to be here with all of you.

My wife teaches full-time.  I want you to know that — at a community college, and has attended 8,640 commencements and/or the similar versions of Class Day, and I know they can hardly wait for the speaker to finish.  (Laughter.)  But I’ll do my best as quickly as I can.

To the parents, grandparents, siblings, family members, the Class of 2015 —- congratulations.  I know how proud you must be. But, the Class of 2015, before I speak to you —- please stand and applaud the ones who loved you no matter what you’re wearing on your head and who really made this day happen.  (Laughter and applause.)   I promise you all this is a bigger day for them than it is for you.  (Laughter.)

When President Obama asked me to be his Vice President, I said I only had two conditions:  One, I wouldn’t wear any funny hats, even on Class Day.  (Laughter.)  And two, I wouldn’t change my brand.  (Applause.)

Now, look, I realize no one ever doubts I mean what I say, the problem occasionally is I say all that I mean.  (Laughter.)  I have a bad reputation for being straight.  Sometimes an inappropriate times.  (Laughter.)  So here it goes.  Let’s get a couple things straight right off the bat:  Corvettes are better than Porsches; they’re quicker and they corner as well.  (Laughter and applause.)  And sorry, guys, a cappella is not better than rock and roll.  (Laughter and applause.)  And your pundits are better than Washington pundits, although I’ve noticed neither has any shame at all.  (Laughter and applause.)  And all roads lead to Toads?  Give me a break.  (Laughter and applause.)  You ever tried it on Monday night?  (Laughter.)  Look, it’s tough to end a great men’s basketball and football season.  One touchdown away from beating Harvard this year for the first time since 2006 -— so close to something you’ve wanted for eight years.  I can only imagine how you feel.  (Laughter.)  I can only imagine.  (Applause.)  So close.  So close.

But I got to be honest with you, when the invitation came, I was flattered, but it caused a little bit of a problem in my extended family.  It forced me to face some hard truths.  My son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, my daughter, Ashley Biden, runs a nonprofit for criminal justice in the state, they both went to Penn.  My two nieces graduated from Harvard, one an all-American.  All of them think my being here was a very bad idea.  (Laughter.)

On the other hand, my other son, Hunter, who heads the World Food Program USA, graduated from Yale Law School.  (Applause.)  Now, he thought it’s a great idea.  But then again, law graduates always think all of their ideas are great ideas.  (Laughter.)

By the way, I’ve had a lot of law graduates from Yale work for me.  That’s not too far from the truth.  But anyway, look, the truth of the matter is that I have a lot of staff that are Yale graduates, several are with me today.  They thought it was a great idea that I speak here.

As a matter of fact, my former national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, who is teaching here at Yale Law School, trained in international relations at Yale College, edited the Yale Daily News, and graduated from Harvard — excuse me, Freudian slip — Yale Law School.  (Laughter.)   You’re lucky to have him.  He’s a brilliant and decent and honorable man.  And I miss him.  And we miss him as my national security advisor.

But he’s not the only one.  My deputy national security advisor, Jeff Prescott, started and ran the China Law Center at Yale Law School.  My Middle East policy advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, Dan Benaim, who is with me, took Daily Themes -— got a B.  (Laughter.)  Now you know why I go off script so much.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, at a Gridiron Dinner not long ago, the President said, I — the President — “I am learning to speak without a teleprompter, Joe is learning to speak with one.”  (Laughter.)  But if you looked at my speechwriters, you know why.

And the granddaughter of one of my dearest friends in life -— a former Holocaust survivor, a former foreign policy advisor, a former Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Tom Lantos -— is graduating today.  Mercina, congratulations, kiddo.  (Applause.)  Where are you?  You are the sixth — she’s the sixth sibling in her immediate family to graduate from Yale.  Six out of 11, that’s not a bad batting average.  (Laughter.)  I believe it’s a modern day record for the number of kids who went to Yale from a single family.

And, Mercina, I know that your mom, Little Annette is here.  I don’t know where you are, Annette.  But Annette was part of the first class of freshman women admitted to Yale University.  (Applause.)

And her grandmother, Annette, is also a Holocaust survivor, an amazing woman; and both I’m sure wherever they are, beaming today.  And I know one more thing, Mercina, your father and grandfather are looking down, cheering you on.

I’m so happy to be here on your day and all of your day.  It’s good to know there’s one Yalie who is happy I’m being here — be here, at least one.  (Laughter.)  On “Overheard at Yale,” on the Facebook page, one student reported another student saying:  I had a dream that I was Vice President and was with the President, and we did the disco funk dance to convince the Congress to restart the government.  (Laughter.)

Another student commented, Y’all know Biden would be hilarious, get funky.  (Laughter.)

Well, my granddaughter, Finnegan Biden, whose dad went here, is with me today.  When she saw that on the speech, I was on the plane, Air Force Two coming up, she said, Pop, it would take a lot more than you and the President doing the disco funk dance. The Tea Party doesn’t even know what it is.  (Laughter.)

Look, I don’t know about that.  But I’m just glad there’s someone — just someone — who dreams of being Vice President.  (Laughter and applause.)  Just somebody.  I never had that dream.  (Laughter.)  For the press out there, that’s a joke.

Actually, being Vice President to Barack Obama has been truly a great honor.  We both enjoy getting out of the White House to talk to folks in the real America -— the kind who know what it means to struggle, to work hard, to shop at Kiko Milano.  (Laughter and applause.)  Great choice.  (Laughter.)

I just hope to hell the same people responsible for Kiko’s aren’t in charge of naming the two new residential colleges.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, look, folks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should day to you today, but the more I thought about it, I thought that any Class Day speech is likely to be redundant.  You already heard from Jessie J at Spring Fling.  (Laughter.)  So what in the hell could I possibly say.  (Laughter.)

Look, I’m deeply honored that Jeremy and Kiki selected me.  I don’t know how the hell you trusted them to do that.  (Laughter.)  I hope you agree with their choice.  Actually I hope by the end of this speech, they agree with their choice.  (Laughter.)

In their flattering invitation letter, they asked me to bring along a sense of humor, speak about my commitment to public service and family, talk about resiliency, compassion, and leadership in a changing world.  Petty tall order.  (Laughter.)  I probably already flunked the first part of the test.

But with the rest let me say upfront, and I mean this sincerely, there’s nothing particularly unique about me.  With regard to resilience and compassion, there are countless thousands of people, maybe some in the audience, who’ve suffered through personal losses similar to mine or much worse with much less support to help them get through it and much less reason to want to get through it.

It’s not that all that difficult, folks, to be compassionate when you’ve been the beneficiary of compassion in your lowest moments not only from your family, but from your friends and total strangers.  Because when you know how much it meant to you, you know how much it mattered.  It’s not hard to be compassionate.

I was raised by a tough, compassionate Irish lady named Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden.  And she taught all of her children that, but for the grace of God, there go you — but for the grace of God, there go you.

And a father who lived his motto that, family was the beginning, the middle, and the end.  And like many of you and your parents, I was fortunate.  I learned early on what I wanted to do, what fulfilled me the most, what made me happy -— my family, my faith, and being engaged in the public affairs that gripped my generation and being inspired by a young President named Kennedy  — civil rights, the environment, trying to end an incredibly useless and divisive war, Vietnam.

The truth is, though, that neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what will make you happy, help you find success.

You each have different comfort levels.  Everyone has different goals and aspirations.  But one thing I’ve observed, one thing I know, an expression my dad would use often, is real.  He used to say, it’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning — and I mean this sincerely.  It was one of his expressions.  It’s a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do, and thinks it still matters.

I’ve been lucky.  And my wish for all of you is that not only tomorrow, but 20 and 40 and 50 years from now, you’ve found that sweet spot, that thing that allows you to get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, go out and pursue what you love, and think it still matters.

Some of you will go to Silicon Valley and make great contributions to empower individuals and societies and maybe even design a life-changing app, like how to unsubscribe to Obama for America email list — (laughter) — the biggest “pan-list” of all times.

Some of you will go to Wall Street and big Wall Street law firms, government and activism, Peace Corps, Teach for America.  You’ll become doctors, researchers, journalists, artists, actors, musicians.  Two of you -— one of whom was one of my former interns in the White House, Sam Cohen, and Andrew Heymann —- will be commissioned in the United States Navy.  Congratulations, gentlemen.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)

But all of you have one thing in common you will all seek to find that sweet spot that satisfies your ambition and success and happiness.

I’ve met an awful lot of people in my career.  And I’ve noticed one thing, those who are the most successful and the happiest — whether they’re working on Wall Street or Main Street, as a doctor or nurse, or as a lawyer, or a social worker, I’ve made certain basic observation about the ones who from my observation wherever they were in the world were able to find that sweet spot between success and happiness.  Those who balance life and career, who find purpose and fulfillment, and where ambition leads them.

There’s no silver bullet, no single formula, no reductive list.  But they all seem to understand that happiness and success result from an accumulation of thousands of little things built on character, all of which have certain common features in my observation.

First, the most successful and happiest people I’ve known understand that a good life at its core is about being personal.  It’s about being engaged.  It’s about being there for a friend or a colleague when they’re injured or in an accident, remembering the birthdays, congratulating them on their marriage, celebrating the birth of their child.  It’s about being available to them when they’re going through personal loss.  It’s about loving someone more than yourself, as one of your speakers have already mentioned.  It all seems to get down to being personal.

That’s the stuff that fosters relationships.  It’s the only way to breed trust in everything you do in your life.

Let me give you an example.  After only four months in the United States Senate, as a 30-year-old kid, I was walking through the Senate floor to go to a meeting with Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.  And I witnessed another newly elected senator, the extremely conservative Jesse Helms, excoriating Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole for promoting the precursor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But I had to see the Leader, so I kept walking.

When I walked into Mansfield’s office, I must have looked as angry as I was.  He was in his late ‘70s, lived to be 100.  And he looked at me, he said, what’s bothering you, Joe?

I said, that guy, Helms, he has no social redeeming value.  He doesn’t care — I really mean it — I was angry.  He doesn’t care about people in need.  He has a disregard for the disabled.

Majority Leader Mansfield then proceeded to tell me that three years earlier, Jesse and Dot Helms, sitting in their living room in early December before Christmas, reading an ad in the Raleigh Observer, the picture of a young man, 14-years-old with braces on his legs up to both hips, saying, all I want is someone to love me and adopt me.  He looked at me and he said, and they adopted him, Joe.

I felt like a fool.  He then went on to say, Joe, it’s always appropriate to question another man’s judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives because you simply don’t know his motives.

It happened early in my career fortunately.  From that moment on, I tried to look past the caricatures of my colleagues and try to see the whole person.  Never once have I questioned another man’s or woman’s motive.  And something started to change.  If you notice, every time there’s a crisis in the Congress the last eight years, I get sent to the Hill to deal with it.  It’s because every one of those men and women up there — whether they like me or not — know that I don’t judge them for what I think they’re thinking.

Because when you question a man’s motive, when you say they’re acting out of greed, they’re in the pocket of an interest group, et cetera, it’s awful hard to reach consensus.  It’s awful hard having to reach across the table and shake hands.  No matter how bitterly you disagree, though, it is always possible if you question judgment and not motive.

Senator Helms and I continued to have profound political differences, but early on we both became the most powerful members of the Senate running the Foreign Relations Committee, as Chairmen and Ranking Members.  But something happened, the mutual defensiveness began to dissipate.  And as a result, we began to be able to work together in the interests of the country.  And as Chairman and Ranking Member, we passed some of the most significant legislation passed in the last 40 years.

All of which he opposed — from paying tens of millions of dollars in arrearages to an institution, he despised, the United Nations — he was part of the so-called “black helicopter” crowd; to passing the chemical weapons treaty, constantly referring to, “we’ve never lost a war, and we’ve never won a treaty,” which he vehemently opposed.  But we were able to do these things not because he changed his mind, but because in this new relationship to maintain it is required to play fair, to be straight.  The cheap shots ended.  And the chicanery to keep from having to being able to vote ended — even though he knew I had the votes.

After that, we went on as he began to look at the other side of things and do some great things together that he supported like PEPFAR -— which by the way, George W. Bush deserves an overwhelming amount of credit for, by the way, which provided treatment and prevention HIV/AIDS in Africa and around the world, literally saving millions of lives.

So one piece of advice is try to look beyond the caricature of the person with whom you have to work.  Resist the temptation to ascribe motive, because you really don’t know -— and it gets in the way of being able to reach a consensus on things that matter to you and to many other people.

Resist the temptation of your generation to let “network” become a verb that saps the personal away, that blinds you to the person right in front of you, blinds you to their hopes, their fears, and their burdens.

Build real relationships -— even with people with whom you vehemently disagree.  You’ll not only be happier.  You will be more successful.

The second thing I’ve noticed is that although you know no one is better than you, every other persons is equal to you and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

I’ve worked with eight Presidents, hundreds of Senators.  I’ve met every major world leader literally in the last 40 years.  And I’ve had scores of talented people work for me.  And here’s what I’ve observed:  Regardless of their academic or social backgrounds, those who had the most success and who were most respected and therefore able to get the most done were the ones who never confused academic credentials and societal sophistication with gravitas and judgment.

Don’t forget about what doesn’t come from this prestigious diploma — the heart to know what’s meaningful and what’s ephemeral; and   the head to know the difference between knowledge and judgment.

But even if you get these things right, I’ve observed that most people who are successful and happy remembered a third thing:  Reality has a way of intruding.

I got elected in a very improbable year.  Richard Nixon won my state overwhelmingly.  George McGovern was at the top of the ticket.  I got elected as the second-youngest man in the history of the United States to be elected, the stuff that provides and fuels raw ambition.  And if you’re not careful, it fuels a sense of inevitability that seeps in.  But be careful.  Things can change in a heartbeat.  I know.  And so do many of your parents.

Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever.  While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call.  My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter.  And they weren’t sure that my sons would live.

Many people have gone through things like that.  But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help.  But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption.

I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it.  She was right.

The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through.  Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was.

So I began to commute — never intending to stay in Washington.  And that’s the God’s truth.  I was supposed to be sworn in with everyone else that year in ’73, but I wouldn’t go down.  So Mansfield thought I’d change my mind and not come, and he sent up the secretary of the Senate to swear me in, in the hospital room with my children.

And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I’ve done for over 37 years.  I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day.  No, “Ozzie and Harriet” breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them.  Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it’s gone.  And when it’s gone, it’s gone.  And it all adds up.

But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me.  Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can’t be a serious national figure.  If he was, he’d stay in Washington more, attend to more important events.  It’s obvious he’s not serious.  He goes home after the last vote.

But I realized I didn’t miss a thing.  Ambition is really important.  You need it.  And I certainly have never lacked in having ambition.  But ambition without perspective can be a killer.  I know a lot of you already understand this.  Some of you really had to struggle to get here.  And some of you have had to struggle to stay here.  And some of your families made enormous sacrifices for this great privilege.  And many of you faced your own crises, some unimaginable.

But the truth is all of you will go through something like this.  You’ll wrestle with these kinds of choices every day.  But I’m here to tell you, you can find the balance between ambition and happiness, what will make you really feel fulfilled.  And along the way, it helps a great deal if you can resist the temptation to rationalize.

My chief of staff for over 25 years, one of the finest men I’ve ever known, even though he graduated from Penn, and subsequently became a senator from the state of Delaware, Senator Ted Kaufman, every new hire, that we’d hire, the last thing he’d tell them was, and remember never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize.  Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to rationalize — her birthday really doesn’t matter that much to her, and this business trip is just a great opportunity; this won’t be his last game, and besides, I’d have to take the redeye to get back.  We can always take this family vacation another time.  There’s plenty of time.

For your generation, there’s an incredible amount of pressure on all of you to succeed, particularly now that you have accomplished so much.  You’re whole generation faces this pressure.  I see it in my grandchildren who are honors students at other Ivy universities right now.  You race to do what others think is right in high school.  You raced through the bloodsport of college admissions.  You raced through Yale for the next big thing.  And all along, some of you compare yourself to the success of your peers on Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter.

Today, some of you may have found that you slipped into the self-referential bubble that validates certain choices.  And the bubble expands once you leave this campus, the pressures and anxiousness, as well — take this job, make that much money, live in this place, hang out with people like you, take no real risks and have no real impact, while getting paid for the false sense of both.

But resist that temptation to rationalize what others view is the right choice for you -— instead of what you feel in your gut is the right choice —- that’s your North Star.  Trust it.  Follow it.  You’re an incredible group of young women and men.  And that’s not hyperbole.  You’re an incredible group.

Let me conclude with this.  I’m not going to moralize about to whom much is given, much is expected, because most of you have made of yourself much more than what you’ve been given.  But now you are in a privileged position.  You’re part of an exceptional generation and doors will open to you that will not open to others.  My Yale Law School grad son graduated very well from Yale Law School.  My other son out of loyalty to his deceased mother decided to go to Syracuse Law School from Penn.  They’re a year and a day apart in their age.  The one who graduated from Yale had doors open to him, the lowest salary offered back in the early ‘90s was $50,000 more than a federal judge made.  My other son, it was a struggle — equally as bright, went on to be elected one of the youngest attorney generals in the history of the state of Delaware, the most popular public official in my state.  Big headline after the 2012 election, “Biden Most Popular Man in Delaware — Beau.”  (Laughter.)

And as your parents will understand, my dad’s definition of success is when you look at your son and daughter and realize they turned out better than you, and they did.  But you’ll have opportunities.  Make the most of them and follow your heart.  You have the intellectual horsepower to make things better in the world around you.

You’re also part of the most tolerant generation in history.  I got roundly criticized because I could not remain quiet anymore about gay marriage.  The one thing I was certain of is all of your generation was way beyond that point.  (Applause.)

Here’s something else I observed — intellectual horsepower and tolerance alone does not make a generation great: unless you can break out of the bubble of your own making -— technologically, geographically, racially, and socioeconomically -— to truly connect with the world around you.  Because it matters.

No matter what your material success or personal circumstance, it matters.  You can’t breathe fresh air or protect your children from a changing climate no matter what you make.  If your sister is the victim of domestic violence, you are violated.  If your brother can’t marry the man he loves, you are lessened.  And if your best friend has to worry about being racially profiled, you live in a circumstance not worthy of us.  (Applause.)  It matters.

So be successful.  I sincerely hope some of you become millionaires and billionaires.  I mean that.  But engage the world around you because you will be more successful and happier.  And you can absolutely succeed in life without sacrificing your ideals or your commitments to others and family.  I’m confident that you can do that, and I’m confident that this generation will do it more than any other.

Look to your left, as they say, and look to your right.  And remember how foolish the people next to you look — (laughter) — in those ridiculous hats.  (Laughter.)  That’s what I want you to remember.  I mean this.  Because it means you’ve learned something from a great tradition.

It means you’re willing to look foolish, you’re willing to run the risk of looking foolish in the service of what matters to you.  And if you remember that, because some of the things your heart will tell you to do, will make you among your peers look foolish, or not smart, or not sophisticated.  But we’ll all be better for people of your consequence to do it.

That’s what I want you to most remember.  Not who spoke at the day you all assembled on this mall.  You’re a remarkable class.  I sure don’t remember who the hell was my commencement speaker.  (Laughter.)  I know this is not officially commencement.  But ask your parents when you leave here, who spoke at your commencement?  It’s a commencement speaker aversion of a commencement speaker’s fate to be forgotten.  The question is only how quickly.  But you’re the best in your generation.  And that is not hyperbole.  And you’re part of a remarkable generation.

And, you — you’re on the cusp of some of the most astonishing breakthroughs in the history of mankind -— scientific, technological, socially —- that’s going to change the way you live and the whole world works.  But it will be up to you in this changing world to translate those unprecedented capabilities into a greater measure of happiness and meaning -—  not just for yourself, but for the world around you.

And I feel more confident for my children and grandchildren knowing that the men and women who graduate here today, here and across the country, will be in their midst.  That’s the honest truth.  That’s the God’s truth.  That’s my word as a Biden.

Congratulations, Class of 2015.  And may God bless you and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.

END
3:37 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2015: President George W. Bush’s Remarks by at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President George W. Bush at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

Source: Bush Center,  Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, MOODY COLISEUM, DALLAS, TEXAS (May 16, 2015) —
Thank you. Thank you very much. President Turner, thanks. Members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Ludden, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, parents, and—most importantly—the Class of 2015. (Applause.) Thank you for your warm welcome, and I appreciate the invitation to be with you.

You know, when I mentioned this speech to some pals, they were surprised I was going to give it. (Laughter.) I haven’t given a commencement address since leaving office. You know, my decision is quite practical. So I got a call from my landlord – (laughter) – Gerald Turner. (Laughter.) Rather than raising the rent or threatening to withhold our security deposit – (laughter) – I was relieved to hear President Turner ask if I believed in free speech. (Applause.) I said yeah. He said, “Perfect. Here’s your chance to give one.” (Laughter and applause.)

As a proud member of the SMU community, I am honored to be here – truly honored – to deliver the 100th Spring Commencement address. I admire President Turner’s persuasiveness – (laughter) – and leadership. He runs a fantastic university. (Applause.) It is dynamic, diverse, and destined for continued excellence. He has assembled a strong administrative team. He is supported by engaged alumni, and he has an outstanding Board of Trustees.

I’m fortunate to know many of the trustees. (Laughter.) Well, for example I’m good friends with the Chairman, Mike Boone. And there’s one trustee I know really well – (laughter) -a proud graduate of the SMU Class of 1968 who went on to become our nation’s greatest First Lady. (Applause.) Do me a favor and don’t tell Mother. (Laughter.) I know how much the trustees love and care for this great university. I see it firsthand when I attend the Bring-Your-Spouse-Night Dinners. (Laughter.)

I also get to drop by classes on occasion. I am really impressed by the intelligence and energy of the SMU faculty. I want to thank you for your dedication and thank you for sharing your knowledge with your students.

To reach this day, the graduates have had the support of loving families. Some of them love you so much they are watching from overflow sites across campus. (Laughter.) I congratulate the parents who have sacrificed to make this moment possible. It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account. (Laughter and applause.) I know the members of the Class of 2015 will join me in thanking you for your love and your support. (Applause.)

Most of all, I congratulate the members of the Class of 2015. You worked hard to reach this milestone. You leave with lifelong friends and fond memories. You will always remember how much you enjoyed the right to buy a required campus meal plan. (Laughter.) You’ll remember your frequent battles with the Park ‘N’ Pony Office. (Laughter.) And you may or may not remember those productive nights at the Barley House. (Laughter and applause.)

You were founding members of the mighty SMU Mob, bouncing like mad and watching in wonder as your then-Student Body President, Señor Lobster – (laughter) – danced with joy after all those Pony victories right here in Moody. (Applause.) And you’ll think back to those carefree fall game days on the Boulevard – though I don’t recall seeing too many of you in the football stadium. (Laughter.)

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President. (Laughter and applause.)

After four years of sitting through lectures, I have a feeling you’re not in the mood for another one. (Laughter.) What I have learned about graduation speeches is that they’re too long and rarely remembered. So I’ll keep this short. I just can’t attest to how memorable it will be.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to refer to someone associated with the University. So I picked one, an SMU trustee (who by the way is not here), Reverend Mark Craig. Now, I asked Mark to deliver the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Austin before my second inauguration as Governor of Texas. I still remember his Fort Worth twang as he talked about Moses. God called Moses to action, and Moses repeatedly found excuses not to act. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I pray, send some other person. I have sheep to tend. And the people won’t believe me — I’m not a very good speaker.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who could mangle his language. (Laughter.) [Inaudible.]

Fortunately, Moses recognized the call to serve something greater than himself. He answered the call, led his people, and history was made.

You, too, will be called at some point. The question, as Mark aptly and artfully laid out, is: Will you be optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and cynical? Here are three reasons why you should be optimistic and hopeful.

One, you are graduating from a great university. Your SMU degree will open the door to a wide variety of career options. Millions will never have had this opportunity. SMU has laid a foundation so you can reason, and continue to learn throughout your life. It has given you the tools to be productive citizens.

One of the great strengths of America is our active public square. Issues are influenced by the will of the people. That is why an educated citizenry is so important to the success of our country. As SMU graduates, you are well-equipped to participate in these vital debates. My hope is that you speak out on the issues that matter to you. Participate in your Nation’s civic life as citizens, not spectators. You’ll come to learn that who you are is more important than what you have—and that you have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, and your family. By taking part in American democracy, you will make our country stronger.

Secondly, you are blessed to live in the greatest Nation – ever. (Applause.) Here you can strive and succeed as far as you dare to dream. It says something about our country that millions around the world are willing to leave their homes and families and risk everything to come here and realize the American dream. Their pursuit of that dream invigorates our national soul. It renews our country’s character. And it adds vitality to our culture.

You live in a land that is compassionate and decent. Because we believe in the rights and dignity of our own citizenry, we are committed to defending the rights and dignity of people everywhere. America has liberated millions around the world from tyranny and terror. We’ve helped turn the tide against deadly disease in places like Africa. In our hearts we believe all are created equal under God. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift to humanity.

At home, there are thousands of platoons in the Army of compassion working to honor those beliefs. No matter what your career path, enlist. When you help another, you enrich your heart, and you strengthen the fabric of our collective goodness.

Many of you have already made service a priority in your lives by volunteering during winter, spring, and summer breaks; and completing more than one-hundred community projects through Engaged Learning. I thank you for recognizing the timeless truth: of those to whom much is given, much is required.

As you serve others, you can inspire others. I’ve been inspired by the examples of many selfless servants. Winston Churchill, a leader of courage and resolve, inspired me during my Presidency—and, for that matter, in the post-presidency. Like Churchill, I now paint. (Laughter.) Unlike Churchill, the painting isn’t worth much without the signature. (Laughter.)

In 1941, he gave a speech to the students of his old school during Britain’s most trying times in World War II. It wasn’t too long, and it is well-remembered. Prime Minister Churchill urged, “Never give in … in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope you’ll remember this advice. But there’s a lesser-known passage from that speech that I also want to share with you:

“These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

When Churchill uttered these words, many had lost hope in Great Britain’s chance for survival against the Nazis. Many doubted the future of freedom. Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice. It is essential – (applause). It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want—or not worship at all—is a core belief of our founding.

I have made my choice. I believe that the Almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you. I believe it will bring you joy amidst the trials of life. It will enable you to better see the beauty around you. It will provide a solid foundation amidst a rapidly changing, somewhat impersonal, technologically-driven world. It will show you how to love your neighbor, forgive more easily, and approach success with humility—and failure without fear.

It will inspire you to honor your parents and eventually be a better spouse and parent yourself. It will help you fully grasp the value of life—all life. It will remind you that money, power, and fame are false idols. And I hope and believe that God’s love will inspire you to serve others.

I want to thank you for letting me share this special day with you. I wish you all the very best. Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence. May God bless you. (Applause.)

University Musings February 6, 2015: Harvard bans professor, student sexual relationships, the silent ignored problem

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

Harvard bans professor, student sexual relationships, the silent ignored problem

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Harvard University is officially banning sexual and romantic relationships between professors and undergraduate students making the policy official on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The university released a statement about their change in policy in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences…READ MORE

Political Musings January 8, 2015: State of the Union 2015 preview: Obama announces free community college tuition

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

State of the Union 2015 preview: Obama announces free community college tuition

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As part of his 2015 State of the Union Address preview tour, President Barack Obama announced on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 in a Facebook video that he plans to “make two years of community college free for responsible students…READ MORE

University Musings January 5, 2015: American Historical Association (AHA) rejects anti-Israel resolutions at meeting

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

American Historical Association (AHA) rejects anti-Israel resolutions at meeting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Historians gathering at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in New York City voted on Sunday evening, Jan. 4, 2015 against adding to their agenda a vote on two anti-Israel resolutions with an overwhelming vote of 144…READ MORE

 

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