Full-Text Politicasl Transcripts May 2, 2018: Remarks by President Donald Trump at the National Teacher of the Year Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Source: WH, 5-2-18

East Room

4:38 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: What beautiful singing I just heard from the glee club. Thank you very much. That was so beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.) Good afternoon. I’m thrilled to be here with so many friends and colleagues and distinguished educators for our annual National Teacher of the Year celebration.

I’d like to thank Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for joining us, along with Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta. Thank you very much, Betsy and Alex. Thank you. (Applause.)

And a very special thanks, again, to the Glee Club of the Walter B. Patterson Elementary School. Brilliant talent, and great voices. Big future. Big future. (Applause.)

Finally, congratulations to all of the Teachers of the Year representing their respective states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Very, very special people. Very important.

We’re joined by three amazing finalists for National Teacher of the Year: Amy Anderson, Jonathan Juravich, and Kara Ball. Where’s Kara Ball? Where is Kara? Please stand up. Jonathan, stand up. All three, please stand up. (Applause.) That’s a great job. Thank you, Kara. Thank you. Thank you, Jonathan. Beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.) I just met — we took pictures backstage, and it was my great honor. It’s a tremendous achievement.

And it’s also my honor to host all of you — your families, your amazing friends — all right here at the White House. A very, very special place. We all agree. You were saying before just how special it was, and it’s special. Every time I walk into it or go to sleep upstairs — (laughter) — I say, “This is a very, very great place.”

Each of you has dedicated your lives to our nation’s single most important resource: our children. Every President since Harry Truman has honored the National Teacher of the Year, and I’m proud to continue this tradition with this year’s recipient: Mandy Manning, of the state of Washington. Great state. Thank you. Fantastic, Mandy. (Applause.) Outstanding job by Mandy — by everybody. But outstanding job by Mandy. Thank you.

Having begun her teaching career in the Peace Corps almost two decades ago, I know that Mandy will be pleased to see Dr. Jody Olsen, Director of the Peace Corps, joining us in her honor. Thank you very much, Doctor. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

Mandy took her passion for education from the Peace Corps to Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, where she has been teaching English and math for the past six years.

Her incredible devotion has earned her the adoration — total adoration, actually — and respect of students and colleagues throughout her school district, community, and the entire state.

Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the well-being of our children, the strength of our communities, and the success of our nation.

The job of a teacher is not only to instruct the next generation of workers, but the next generation of citizens to teach our children to care for others, to think for themselves, to love their country, to be proud of our history, and to be true pillars of their families and their communities. Such an important job. There is no more important job.

We have teachers to thank for identifying and nurturing the boundless potential of America’s youth. Sometimes, all it takes to begin the next great American success story is a teacher who really, really cares.

The legacy of a good teacher extends through many lifetimes. As the great author Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity.” So true.

To Mandy and all of the amazing educators here today: Your tireless dedication doesn’t just inspire your students, it inspires all of us. And I can tell you, it very much inspires me. We honor you and every citizen called to the noble vocation of teaching.

Now, it is my privilege to present Mandy with the National Teacher of the Year Award. This is a truly special award. And, Mandy, congratulations. (Applause.)

(The award is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just want to thank everybody again for being here. I want to really wish you the best, for Mandy and for all of this incredible talent. And that’s what it is. This is talent.

I just want to say God bless you. And God bless America. Congratulations. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

END

4:44 P.M. EDT

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Education April 17, 2018: McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

EDUCATION

McGill professors sign an open letter supporting students over complaints of sexual misconduct

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

McGill University students are getting some support from their professors in their fight with the administration over sexual misconduct by professors in the Faculty of Arts. About 150 professors signed an open letter and sent it to administration officials on Monday, April 16, 2018, supporting the students’ grievances against the administration. The letter comes after the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter demanding an external investigation, and staged a walkout protesting the administrations’ inaction over the misconduct of five professors in the Faculty of Arts. Tomorrow, Tuesday April 17, McGill students will be hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the issue.

The 148 professors made it clear that they support the SSMU’s call for an external investigation, their timeline to have it completed by June and the establishment of a single sexual violence policy covering both misconducts by students and faculty. The professors, who signed came from all the university’s faculties, not just Arts. They declared, “We stand in support of the students who have come forward with their experiences and with the student representatives and advocates who have supported these students.”

The professors wrote in the letter, “As teachers, we have a commitment to upholding a learning environment where students feel safe, supported and able to challenge themselves. It would be in violation of this duty for us not to add our voices to those of the students.” The professors also acknowledged that professor-student relationships should be prohibited. They wrote, “We believe that sexual relationships between students and faculty who are in a position to influence their academic and professional progress should be banned.”

The professors also reminded the administration that the issue affects the entire McGill community and the universities reputation. The professors pointed out to the administration, they have to “publicly acknowledge the fact that this issue affects the entire McGill community and the university’s reputation.”

The professors claim that the university has to keep in check professors that abuse their power because it also affects other faculty members. They indicated, “The lack of transparency concerning how complaints are handled against faculty members, who abuse their positions of power in this way, creates a toxic work and learning environment, and often places an invisible burden on other faculty members.”

History professor Shannon Fitzpatrick spoke to CBC News about the faculty’s open letter. Fitzpatrick finds it troubling that the administration is ignoring students complaints. Fitzpatrick told CBC, the administration is “actively shutting down a line of communication. That to me goes against the university’s mission of critical inquiry into social problems.”

Last Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a week after publishing an open letter to the university administration, students staged a walkout over the administration ignoring repeated calls over professors’ inappropriate and sexually violating behavior in the Faculty of Arts. McGill students were joined by neighboring Concordia University students, who have been dealing with complaints against professors in their Creating Writing program, which go back nearly 20 years. Around 1,000 students walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. and protested in front of the James Administration Building at McGill’s downtown campus in community square. The joint protest was organized by both schools students societies; Concordia Student Union and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, the SSMU published an open letter addressed to the administration calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have been dealing sexual violence and harassment complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by over 2000 students and over 85 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts.

McGill students want an investigation conducted by a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June. They are also demanding McGill to have an inclusive sexual violence policy that addresses professor-student relationships and misconduct complaints against professors. Now the SSMU has added a threat to motivate the administration; they act by Monday, April 23, or the SSMU will file a complaint at the Quebec Ministry of Education that McGill is in violation of Bill 151, the law requiring a single sexual assault policy for Quebec universities.

For the past few years, there have been rumblings about five professors that have misused their positions among both the students and faculty. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok. The McGill Daily in their article, “We have always known about McGill’s predatory professors” wrote that the survey they conducted confirmed decades of sexual misconduct and that students have used a word-of-mouth system. The Daily sent out this survey April 9, receiving “dozens” of testimonies from the word-of-mouth system going back to 2008 according to the article. Unfortunately, professors have been blurring the lines for many years before at McGill, and there have been more than the five at the heart of students’ protests now.

Students have been writing anonymous accounts of the misconduct for years in the Daily. This past year, however, the protests are louder because one of the accused professors are up for tenure, which led to student letters to his department and a grassroots protest movement this past fall semester.

Despite the knowledge of the misconduct, students, however, are and have been discouraged from filing complaints by the Faculty of Arts. The complaints process at McGill has not and still does not deal with complaints against professors, especially those who engage in relationships with students, despite a revised sexual violence policy passed in 2016.

McGill students have been looking to Concordia for inspiration and to show McGill, an investigation is needed and a policy enforced to address professor-student relationships. Seeing the quick action at Concordia, made McGill’s students take an active and official stand against the administration’s lax treatment of professors who abuse their power.

Tomorrow students are going to continue their protest with a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting will allow students “to share stories, concerns, thoughts and questions” and to discuss what else the SSMU can do to convince the administration to act. The event is closed to the public and the media, and can only be attended by current McGill undergraduate and graduate students.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 8, 2018: McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors 

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

EDUCATION

McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Montreal universities are now being drawn into the #MeToo movement forced to confront years of sexual harassment and assault that was pushed under the table. First, it was Concordia University, now McGill University is getting barraged for their handling of complaints. On Thursday, April 4, 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have dealing sexual violence complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,500 students and over 50 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation. The letter and calls are a long time in the making as students and professors have been writing and commenting about the actions of these professors in the Faculty of Arts, who engaged in so called consensual and unwanted inappropriate behavior against students for years.

The president of SSMU and its societies and five vice presidents addressed the letter to Principal Suzanne Fortier, Provost Christopher Manfredi, and Dean of Students Chris Buddle. The letter recounted the situation at the university, but did not name any professors, although students have been naming the professors in unofficial capacities for years. Neither does the letter describe the professors’ actions, although the chatter is quite loud on online forums, personal blogs and the student press, everyone on campus knows who these offenders are.

The letter claims, “These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviours of certain professors. It has also been the case that student representatives over this past year have brought up these concerns multiple times to many different members of administration. It was clear that the majority of the administration who were met with knew which professors students are concerned about. And despite our expressing anxiety over the safety and well being of a particular student in one case – no action was taken.”

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University had a press conference on Thursday, April 5, clarifying the allegations. According to Spencer there are five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. Spencer told CBC News, “Everyone’s aware of where the problems are, and no one’s doing anything to address it, year after year.” Spencer explained to the Globe and Mail, “Everyone knows the names of the professors and it’s shared among students.” The problem has been happening for at least five years with these specific professors. Spencer recounted that female students have been warning incoming students with a list of professors “whose classes I was not to take.” Female students were warned to never be alone with these professors. Spencer told the Globe and Mail, “If she did take their courses, she was told never to go to their offices ‘if I wanted to keep myself safe.’”

Despite everyone in the university, from the students to the administration know about the problems, the administration refuses to take any actions, because of the lack of formal complaints. Spencer recounted to the Globe and Mail, “We’ve spoken about specific cases with administrators in meetings and still nothing has been done, even though they know that these are reoccurring issues.” Spencer told the Montreal Gazette the SSMU wants the university to take the problem seriously, “We are hoping with this open letter to change the culture of understanding and show (the administration) they need to investigate when there are serious problems that compromise the safety and well being of students … whether or not there are official complaints.”

The SSMU’s letter is a means to force the administration to launch an investigation. The SSMU letter also asked for a remedy to the ongoing problem, their solution a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June.

The SSMU made the request in their letter, “We understand that the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty that has a problem with professors who abuse their power, and we hope that an external investigation into Arts will set a precedent so that in the future McGill will act when they become aware of departmental issues and that above all they will begin to prioritize the safety of their students before the legal liability or reputation of the institution.”

When asked to respond by the press Vice-Principal Louis Arseneault (Communications and External Relations) declined to comment. Arseneault only gave a generic politically correct response in a statement, saying, “McGill University has put in place staff, resources, policies and opportunities for individuals and groups to come forward with their concerns and complaints. These are matters we take very seriously. Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or ‘predatory behaviour’ that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.” Arseneault cited privacy laws in the investigation, stating, “Because of Quebec law concerning privacy, the University cannot disclose when it is conducting investigations, nor reveal any results. Thus, the fact that results are not disclosed is not evidence that investigations did not occur or that they were faulty.”

Provost and Vice-Principal Manfredi also sent a personal responseto Spencer, insisting, “Every report and complaint of misconduct that contains sufficient details is investigated.” Manfredi told Spencer, “As you know from your own work on the Sexual Violence Policy Implementation Committee and from McGill administrators’ ongoing, direct engagement with SSMU executives – yourself included – McGill has in place extensive resources, skilled staff, and robust policies to address matters of sexual violence and to support survivors.”

Despite the university being on defensive as to investigating sexual misconduct complaints, the process deters students from filing a complaint or if they start they usually stop. As Spencer pointed out, “it’s so labour-intensive and retraumatizing.” As with women who file complaints against men in positions of power many are worried they would not be believed. The university has also in past situations attempted to discredit claims that are filed as a deterrent for students filing complaints. The complaints process is also steeped in confidentiality, it is meant to help the students, but does more to protect a an accused faculty member.

Student Geneviève Mercier-Dalphond writing in a March 2016, McGill Daily article entitled, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships A follow-up investigation of McGill’s policies on sexual harassment” discussed the problems confidentiality in the process causes. Mercier-Dalphond explained, “On a broader level, it sends a message that normalizes student-professor relations, and sets an example for other professors that they can get away with this kind of inappropriate behaviour.”

In December 2016, McGill revised their sexual violence policy, Policy against Sexual Violence, to comply with Quebec’s new Bill 151, requiring schools to have a consolidated sexual violence policy (SVP) including addressing professor-student relationships by 2019. The new SVP deals with violence by the whole McGill community, especially students and operates under the Student Code of Conduct. The policy can “reprimand, expel or suspend a student.” The new policy was three years in the making, and was supposed to have a “survivor-centred approach.” Additionally, the policy “establishes measures that McGill will adopt with respect to prevention, education, support, and response to sexual violence.” The university also created a new sexual assault centre, “dedicated to sexual violence education and response.”

At the time the new policy was passed by the university senate; the students still had misgivings about how complaints would be handled under the new rules. Erin Sobat, the vice-president of university affairs for the SSMU during the 2016-17 academic year commented at the time to CBC News, “What it doesn’t do is address the disciplinary process past the process of filing a report.” Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.”

The new policy also failed to address professor-student relationships, and complaints against professors; a central problem at the heart of the complaints against one of the professors the open letter is directed. The new SVP says very little about these relationships, writing, “an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student,” and agreeing they cannot be consensual. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.” The complaints are then processed through the Regulations Relating to Employment of Tenure Track and Tenured Academic Staff. Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The process is so complicated that it dissuades students from filing. Connor explained to the Montreal Gazette, “You have to consult at least six documents full of policy jargon after you’ve just experienced a trauma, and you are not really sure about wanting to do this, anyway. That would discourage anyone from coming forward.”

In December 2017, the McGill Tribune editorial board wrote an opinion piece opposing the lack of policy for such complaints entitled, “McGill’s sexual violence policy lacking on professor-student relationships.” They emphasized what an important gap this is in policy since these relationships cannot be consensual. The board pointed to the conflict of interest with such relationships, and indicated why. The board expressed, “Of more dire ethical concern is the question of consent in these relationships. The power differential between students and professors is enormous—whether acting as an intro-course lecturer or a master’s research supervisor, a professor has substantial control over their students’ success at McGill, and, by extension, their career prospects upon graduation. Given this compromised capacity to object to unwanted sexual advances, it is unethical for a professor to initiate any relationship with a student directly beneath them.”

The #MeToo movement is altering the definition of consent, especially there is a difference power between the two parties in evolved, such as professors getting involved in relationships, and sexually with their students. Students who believe they are getting involved consensually with professors seem to forget, with such a power difference, these relationships can never truly be consensual, because there is no equality. Mercier-Dolphand in the McGill Daily explained, “The student’s power in this dynamic is not comparable, and talking of equality between consenting adults in this case ignores the power differential on which the relationship is built.”

Recently, even former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

A former Associate Dean of Arts at York University, Shirley Katz wrote a policy paper on the very issue published in University Affairs in 2000, entitled “Sexual Relations Between Students and Faculty.” To Katz there cannot be consent because of professors’ “power over students” as the nature of role. Katz concludes the power difference is always there making consent in the traditional way impossible for students. Katz wrote, “because the professor’s powers affect the student’s life in a significant way, […] the student cannot say no to the relationship, so her consent is actually coerced compliance.”

Jason M. Opal, associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill commented in the 2015 McGill Daily article, “Let’s talk about teacher,” a student’s anonymous recount of her sexual relationship with one of the professors accused of inappropriate behavior. Opal concurred, the power dynamic affects consent. Opal wrote there are “profound inadequacies of ‘consent’ as a moral and social category.” Continuing, he said, “consent is better than coercion: that is the best thing we can say about it. Opal concluded that the professor student relationship is “inherently problematic, usually exploitative, and often predatory.” The unequal predatory nature is the reason professors involved have to face sanctions and punishments from the university, because they have an obligation to protect their students.

Some of the accounts coming from McGill describe sexual relationships, but they are not the only inappropriate ones. Others blur the line, friendships and emotional relationships that can tether on sexual harassment or impropriety, but avoid the messy sexual dynamic that is easier to prove crossed a line. Even if broken boundaries are easily proved, the university has not been kind to students filing complaints against professors after such relationships. They are not given the same weight as unwanted and forced sexual harassment and assault committed by other students. Universities have been enacting policies that prohibit any personal relationships between students and professors, especially if they are in as position to grade them for some timer already. McGill has yet to address the issue even after revising their sexual assault policy..

Students had a right to be concerned about the revised SVP seeing what is transpiring with the five Arts professors and the way complaints have been brushed aside. The SSMU has been working on an additional policycovering misconduct from students in McGill’s clubs and societies. Closing the “loophole” would make students more comfortable making complaints against fellow students. It would allow the SSMU clubs and societies to remove or sanction someone that has a complaint filed against them, even banning them from the SSMU building. Additionally, it would provide mandatory training in defining and preventing sexual assault for all SSMU associated university clubs and societies.

For over two years there has been rumblings of complaints of transgressions by professors in the Faculty of Arts, particularly, the Department of Political Science, incidentally Provost Manfredi’s old department and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Apparently, there are claims that there is a serial sexual harasser in the department of political science and a serial lothario in the Institute of Islamic Studies. This professor in the Islamic Studies is a central reason for the students and SSMU’s uproar over the university’s mishandlings of professors’ inappropriate behavior.

Former McGill political science professor Stephen Saideman, who taught at the department from 2002 to 2012 wrote about the actions of a professor in his department. Saideman repeatedly wrote about this particular professor in a number of blog posts. In his blog post entitled, “McGill’s Shame Continues” from March 2016, he specifically revealed that this professor was teaching Middle East and peace building studies in the department. Saideman explained in his post why he did not expose the name of the professor. The former McGill professor commented, “I have repeatedly referred to a particular serial sexual harasser […] but obliquely so. Why obliquely so? Because I am not sure what the consequences are for me of violating the confidentiality agreements of a place I used to work and because I didn’t want people to speculate about who received this guy’s unwanted attention.”

A student did successfully file a complaint this particular professor; however, the so-called punishment was hardly enough to deter him from continuing harassing students. Saideman recounted, “[the University] did find in favour of the student, and the provost found that something inappropriate happened at the time, but that it did not fit the definition at the time of sexual harassment. I do believe this is a failure on the part of that provost.” All the university did was change the professor’s office to one where he can be monitored and prevented him from taking on graduate students. In barely no time, the department lapsed, he was back in his old office, and supervising graduate students, even female ones.

In 2016, Saidemen claimed the major problem with the complaints process was confidentiality and the university refusing to name guilty professors. During his time at McGill Saideman used to discourage students from studying that area, as the only means of deterrence he could do. Saideman told the McGill Daily, “The core problem is how McGill has handled it. It was all treated confidentially, which has the effect of protecting the perpetrator…. the job of the University is to protect students.” Saideman was surprised that he was still teaching, saying, “I simply don’t understand why McGill has not fired him yet.”

Another story that brought out the problem of the professor accused of sleeping with his students was an anonymous article in the McGill Daily of a student recounting her nearly two-year affair with this professor, the one supposedly from the Institute of Islamic Studies The article published in September 2015 was entitled, “Let’s talk about teacher I slept with my professor and here’s why it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The explicit article described how this professor-student relationship developed from office-hour meetings to a working and sexual relationship that tore this student apart with the conflicting roles they played. In her recount, the working relationship played a prominent role in their developing relationship. The work relationship was the legitimate way for them to spend time in his office behind closed doors; a common excuse professors use to justify publicly their inappropriate involvement with a student. After the second year, the student discovered he had been sleeping with other students as well she was not the only one, but one of many.

The student described this professor as she saw him after everything ended, “He was a predator. He was a manipulator. He was a liar. He was using young women as vessels for self-validation. He was abusing his power, and he had no intention of stopping.” She also discovered this professor, “slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable” other female students. The complaints process was daunting and these students feared retribution and reprisals that are so common so they did file. The article published nearly three-years-ago indicated that at that time there where problems also with five professors in different departments, “who had reputations of either serially harassing or sleeping with their students.” The student recounted, “Where some professors were concerned, students spoke of the incidents like they were common knowledge.”

At that point, there were no formal complaints filed against that professor. This fall the students were fed up with this Islamic Studies’ professor at the heart of this scandal as he was up for tenure this academic year, so they initiated their own grassroots protest. At the start of this academic year, stickers were posted in the women’s bathrooms with the Islamic Studies professor’s name, warning other female students. According to the McGill Daily, “Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.” The professor in question responded with a denial, saying, “Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that are categorically untrue and constitute defamation. I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

The university administration seemed to have backed up the professor with Angela Campbell, the Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) writing a defending statement that admonished the students who revealed the professor publicly. Campbell stated, “The University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” Continuing Campbell expressed, “Survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Additionally, in the Winter 2017 semester the 2016-2017 executive leaders of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) Sent an open letter objecting to the professor to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. The letter read, “We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.” WIMESSA asked the department not to grant the professor tenure, writing, “It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded. As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

The program director never publicly responded, and this year’s WIMESSA executives issued a statement. The statement backtracked and avoided mentioning the particular professor. The executives wrote, “In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute, we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

It is too easy for the lines to be blurred in academia. For professors they are presented with wide-eyed naive students in awe, many enamored with the professors’ charm, sophistication and brilliance, and they easily take advantage of the situation. Many of the young faculty members are often less than then ten years older than the students they teach, for others they never want to see themselves as older than the students. They behave as friends, buddies cross the line into sexual harassment, sexual relationships, but the power dynamic is always there. Professors and students are never equals and it is inappropriate for them to think it is even possible.

Research has proven that power alters the minds of men, making them believe they have the right to behave in the controlling manner that leads to sexual harassment and assault. They believe they have a privilege to behave the way they do and many fail to see how wrong they are. The #MeToo movement in a short six months has swept through the entertainment industry, politics, business and journalism. The movement gave a voice and credibility to women who for years had experienced harassment, abuse and assault in the hands of men in positions of power and then suffered in silence fearing reprisals.

Now it is sweeping academia, but there are set backs. Tenure has always given professors an extra boost in their power, giving them an air of invincibility. Tenure has and is still protecting professors preventing universities from firing professors who behave inappropriately with students. Professors, however, believe universities owe their students to deal with the accused professors, not just fire them, which would allow them to continue their behavior elsewhere. The SSMU’s open letter wants an investigator to examine tenure and tenure-track professors as well, to see if complaints against professors are presented to the tenure committee and to see whether tenure status “can be reassessed following formal complaints against a faculty member.”

The students realize tenure cannot be overturned and the system changed overnight, but they do believe there should be consequences for tenured professors. Spencer commented to the Montreal Gazette, “Right now, if a prof has tenure, they are untouchable. Some of the profs (who are the subjects of repeated complaints) have tenure and some don’t. For the ones who do have tenure, why would anyone bring a complaint forward? … It’s not about, one complaint, therefore fire them, but we need to explore what a procedure for processing complaints against a tenured prof looks like.”

In Montreal, there have already been cracks in that invincibility. This past January at neighboring Concordia University, former students and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.”

The events at Concordia inspired SSMU to take action now, and force the university to confront the way they have been dealing or not dealing with complaints against these five repeat offending professors. Spencer commented the press, “We were told that it couldn’t happen, and then we looked over at our neighbour and they were doing it, so we didn’t accept that anymore…I thought, ’If not now, then when,’ If something doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education April 8, 2018: McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors 

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

EDUCATION

McGill University now has their #MeToo movement moment as students protest lothario professors

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Montreal universities are now being drawn into the #MeToo movement forced to confront years of sexual harassment and assault that was pushed under the table. First, it was Concordia University, now McGill University is getting barraged for their handling of complaints. On Thursday, April 4, 2018, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) published an open letter calling for an investigation into the way the university and Faculty of Arts have dealing sexual violence complaints against professors. The letter has been signed by nearly 1,500 students and over 50 clubs and other student societies. The letter accuses administration officials of ignoring complaints against professors in the Faculty of Arts and they are demanding a third-party investigation. The letter and calls are a long time in the making as students and professors have been writing and commenting about the actions of these professors in the Faculty of Arts, who engaged in so called consensual and unwanted inappropriate behavior against students for years.

The president of SSMU and its societies and five vice presidents addressed the letter to Principal Suzanne Fortier, Provost Christopher Manfredi, and Dean of Students Chris Buddle. The letter recounted the situation at the university, but did not name any professors, although students have been naming the professors in unofficial capacities for years. Neither does the letter describe the professors’ actions, although the chatter is quite loud on online forums, personal blogs and the student press, everyone on campus knows who these offenders are.

The letter claims, “These professors continue to teach and to supervise, in some cases teaching mandatory first year courses, leaving vulnerable the students who have not yet been warned about the predatory behaviours of certain professors. It has also been the case that student representatives over this past year have brought up these concerns multiple times to many different members of administration. It was clear that the majority of the administration who were met with knew which professors students are concerned about. And despite our expressing anxiety over the safety and well being of a particular student in one case – no action was taken.”

Connor Spencer, vice-president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University had a press conference on Thursday, April 5, clarifying the allegations. According to Spencer there are five professors that have misused their positions. The professors are in five different departments in the Faculty of Arts; history, philosophy, political science, psychology and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Among the offenses are “holding office hours in bars with underage students, to routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, to being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising.” Additionally, the professors would “make sexually suggestive comments in person and in e-mails.”

Apparently, the situation with these professors is an “open secret” everyone knows what is happening, but nothing is being done to stop these professors from running amok, while students are being discouraged from filing complaints. Spencer told CBC News, “Everyone’s aware of where the problems are, and no one’s doing anything to address it, year after year.” Spencer explained to the Globe and Mail, “Everyone knows the names of the professors and it’s shared among students.” The problem has been happening for at least five years with these specific professors. Spencer recounted that female students have been warning incoming students with a list of professors “whose classes I was not to take.” Female students were warned to never be alone with these professors. Spencer told the Globe and Mail, “If she did take their courses, she was told never to go to their offices ‘if I wanted to keep myself safe.’”

Despite everyone in the university, from the students to the administration know about the problems, the administration refuses to take any actions, because of the lack of formal complaints. Spencer recounted to the Globe and Mail, “We’ve spoken about specific cases with administrators in meetings and still nothing has been done, even though they know that these are reoccurring issues.” Spencer told the Montreal Gazette the SSMU wants the university to take the problem seriously, “We are hoping with this open letter to change the culture of understanding and show (the administration) they need to investigate when there are serious problems that compromise the safety and well being of students … whether or not there are official complaints.”

The SSMU’s letter is a means to force the administration to launch an investigation. The SSMU letter also asked for a remedy to the ongoing problem, their solution a third-party investigation into the method McGill deals with complaints. They want the third-party to review and interview students who made informal and formal complaints to the Dean of Arts against professors for the last five years and review if tenure committees are aware of any complaints. The SSMU wants the findings by this June.

The SSMU made the request in their letter, “We understand that the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty that has a problem with professors who abuse their power, and we hope that an external investigation into Arts will set a precedent so that in the future McGill will act when they become aware of departmental issues and that above all they will begin to prioritize the safety of their students before the legal liability or reputation of the institution.”

When asked to respond by the press Vice-Principal Louis Arseneault (Communications and External Relations) declined to comment. Arseneault only gave a generic politically correct response in a statement, saying, “McGill University has put in place staff, resources, policies and opportunities for individuals and groups to come forward with their concerns and complaints. These are matters we take very seriously. Every report or complaint of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority through sexual misconduct or ‘predatory behaviour’ that contains sufficiently detailed facts is investigated. If there are findings of sexual misconduct of any kind, appropriate measures are taken, following due process.” Arseneault cited privacy laws in the investigation, stating, “Because of Quebec law concerning privacy, the University cannot disclose when it is conducting investigations, nor reveal any results. Thus, the fact that results are not disclosed is not evidence that investigations did not occur or that they were faulty.”

Provost and Vice-Principal Manfredi also sent a personal responseto Spencer, insisting, “Every report and complaint of misconduct that contains sufficient details is investigated.” Manfredi told Spencer, “As you know from your own work on the Sexual Violence Policy Implementation Committee and from McGill administrators’ ongoing, direct engagement with SSMU executives – yourself included – McGill has in place extensive resources, skilled staff, and robust policies to address matters of sexual violence and to support survivors.”

Despite the university being on defensive as to investigating sexual misconduct complaints, the process deters students from filing a complaint or if they start they usually stop. As Spencer pointed out, “it’s so labour-intensive and retraumatizing.” As with women who file complaints against men in positions of power many are worried they would not be believed. The university has also in past situations attempted to discredit claims that are filed as a deterrent for students filing complaints. The complaints process is also steeped in confidentiality, it is meant to help the students, but does more to protect a an accused faculty member.

Student Geneviève Mercier-Dalphond writing in a March 2016, McGill Daily article entitled, “The vicious circle of professor-student relationships A follow-up investigation of McGill’s policies on sexual harassment” discussed the problems confidentiality in the process causes. Mercier-Dalphond explained, “On a broader level, it sends a message that normalizes student-professor relations, and sets an example for other professors that they can get away with this kind of inappropriate behaviour.”

In December 2016, McGill revised their sexual violence policy, Policy against Sexual Violence, to comply with Quebec’s new Bill 151, requiring schools to have a consolidated sexual violence policy (SVP) including addressing professor-student relationships by 2019. The new SVP deals with violence by the whole McGill community, especially students and operates under the Student Code of Conduct. The policy can “reprimand, expel or suspend a student.” The new policy was three years in the making, and was supposed to have a “survivor-centred approach.” Additionally, the policy “establishes measures that McGill will adopt with respect to prevention, education, support, and response to sexual violence.” The university also created a new sexual assault centre, “dedicated to sexual violence education and response.”

At the time the new policy was passed by the university senate; the students still had misgivings about how complaints would be handled under the new rules. Erin Sobat, the vice-president of university affairs for the SSMU during the 2016-17 academic year commented at the time to CBC News, “What it doesn’t do is address the disciplinary process past the process of filing a report.” Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.”

The new policy also failed to address professor-student relationships, and complaints against professors; a central problem at the heart of the complaints against one of the professors the open letter is directed. The new SVP says very little about these relationships, writing, “an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student,” and agreeing they cannot be consensual. The only way to file a complaint against a professor is by filing a complaint for” harassment, violence of coercion.” The complaints are then processed through the Regulations Relating to Employment of Tenure Track and Tenured Academic Staff. Labour laws in Quebec, prohibit the publication of the procedures. The process is so complicated that it dissuades students from filing. Connor explained to the Montreal Gazette, “You have to consult at least six documents full of policy jargon after you’ve just experienced a trauma, and you are not really sure about wanting to do this, anyway. That would discourage anyone from coming forward.”

In December 2017, the McGill Tribune editorial board wrote an opinion piece opposing the lack of policy for such complaints entitled, “McGill’s sexual violence policy lacking on professor-student relationships.” They emphasized what an important gap this is in policy since these relationships cannot be consensual. The board pointed to the conflict of interest with such relationships, and indicated why. The board expressed, “Of more dire ethical concern is the question of consent in these relationships. The power differential between students and professors is enormous—whether acting as an intro-course lecturer or a master’s research supervisor, a professor has substantial control over their students’ success at McGill, and, by extension, their career prospects upon graduation. Given this compromised capacity to object to unwanted sexual advances, it is unethical for a professor to initiate any relationship with a student directly beneath them.”

The #MeToo movement is altering the definition of consent, especially there is a difference power between the two parties in evolved, such as professors getting involved in relationships, and sexually with their students. Students who believe they are getting involved consensually with professors seem to forget, with such a power difference, these relationships can never truly be consensual, because there is no equality. Mercier-Dolphand in the McGill Daily explained, “The student’s power in this dynamic is not comparable, and talking of equality between consenting adults in this case ignores the power differential on which the relationship is built.”

Recently, even former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)”

A former Associate Dean of Arts at York University, Shirley Katz wrote a policy paper on the very issue published in University Affairs in 2000, entitled “Sexual Relations Between Students and Faculty.” To Katz there cannot be consent because of professors’ “power over students” as the nature of role. Katz concludes the power difference is always there making consent in the traditional way impossible for students. Katz wrote, “because the professor’s powers affect the student’s life in a significant way, […] the student cannot say no to the relationship, so her consent is actually coerced compliance.”

Jason M. Opal, associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill commented in the 2015 McGill Daily article, “Let’s talk about teacher,” a student’s anonymous recount of her sexual relationship with one of the professors accused of inappropriate behavior. Opal concurred, the power dynamic affects consent. Opal wrote there are “profound inadequacies of ‘consent’ as a moral and social category.” Continuing, he said, “consent is better than coercion: that is the best thing we can say about it. Opal concluded that the professor student relationship is “inherently problematic, usually exploitative, and often predatory.” The unequal predatory nature is the reason professors involved have to face sanctions and punishments from the university, because they have an obligation to protect their students.

Some of the accounts coming from McGill describe sexual relationships, but they are not the only inappropriate ones. Others blur the line, friendships and emotional relationships that can tether on sexual harassment or impropriety, but avoid the messy sexual dynamic that is easier to prove crossed a line. Even if broken boundaries are easily proved, the university has not been kind to students filing complaints against professors after such relationships. They are not given the same weight as unwanted and forced sexual harassment and assault committed by other students. Universities have been enacting policies that prohibit any personal relationships between students and professors, especially if they are in as position to grade them for some timer already. McGill has yet to address the issue even after revising their sexual assault policy..

Students had a right to be concerned about the revised SVP seeing what is transpiring with the five Arts professors and the way complaints have been brushed aside. The SSMU has been working on an additional policycovering misconduct from students in McGill’s clubs and societies. Closing the “loophole” would make students more comfortable making complaints against fellow students. It would allow the SSMU clubs and societies to remove or sanction someone that has a complaint filed against them, even banning them from the SSMU building. Additionally, it would provide mandatory training in defining and preventing sexual assault for all SSMU associated university clubs and societies.

For over two years there has been rumblings of complaints of transgressions by professors in the Faculty of Arts, particularly, the Department of Political Science, incidentally Provost Manfredi’s old department and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Apparently, there are claims that there is a serial sexual harasser in the department of political science and a serial lothario in the Institute of Islamic Studies. This professor in the Islamic Studies is a central reason for the students and SSMU’s uproar over the university’s mishandlings of professors’ inappropriate behavior.

Former McGill political science professor Stephen Saideman, who taught at the department from 2002 to 2012 wrote about the actions of a professor in his department. Saideman repeatedly wrote about this particular professor in a number of blog posts. In his blog post entitled, “McGill’s Shame Continues” from March 2016, he specifically revealed that this professor was teaching Middle East and peace building studies in the department. Saideman explained in his post why he did not expose the name of the professor. The former McGill professor commented, “I have repeatedly referred to a particular serial sexual harasser […] but obliquely so. Why obliquely so? Because I am not sure what the consequences are for me of violating the confidentiality agreements of a place I used to work and because I didn’t want people to speculate about who received this guy’s unwanted attention.”

A student did successfully file a complaint this particular professor; however, the so-called punishment was hardly enough to deter him from continuing harassing students. Saideman recounted, “[the University] did find in favour of the student, and the provost found that something inappropriate happened at the time, but that it did not fit the definition at the time of sexual harassment. I do believe this is a failure on the part of that provost.” All the university did was change the professor’s office to one where he can be monitored and prevented him from taking on graduate students. In barely no time, the department lapsed, he was back in his old office, and supervising graduate students, even female ones.

In 2016, Saidemen claimed the major problem with the complaints process was confidentiality and the university refusing to name guilty professors. During his time at McGill Saideman used to discourage students from studying that area, as the only means of deterrence he could do. Saideman told the McGill Daily, “The core problem is how McGill has handled it. It was all treated confidentially, which has the effect of protecting the perpetrator…. the job of the University is to protect students.” Saideman was surprised that he was still teaching, saying, “I simply don’t understand why McGill has not fired him yet.”

Another story that brought out the problem of the professor accused of sleeping with his students was an anonymous article in the McGill Daily of a student recounting her nearly two-year affair with this professor, the one supposedly from the Institute of Islamic Studies The article published in September 2015 was entitled, “Let’s talk about teacher I slept with my professor and here’s why it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The explicit article described how this professor-student relationship developed from office-hour meetings to a working and sexual relationship that tore this student apart with the conflicting roles they played. In her recount, the working relationship played a prominent role in their developing relationship. The work relationship was the legitimate way for them to spend time in his office behind closed doors; a common excuse professors use to justify publicly their inappropriate involvement with a student. After the second year, the student discovered he had been sleeping with other students as well she was not the only one, but one of many.

The student described this professor as she saw him after everything ended, “He was a predator. He was a manipulator. He was a liar. He was using young women as vessels for self-validation. He was abusing his power, and he had no intention of stopping.” She also discovered this professor, “slept with, propositioned, sent inappropriate emails to, or generally made uncomfortable” other female students. The complaints process was daunting and these students feared retribution and reprisals that are so common so they did file. The article published nearly three-years-ago indicated that at that time there where problems also with five professors in different departments, “who had reputations of either serially harassing or sleeping with their students.” The student recounted, “Where some professors were concerned, students spoke of the incidents like they were common knowledge.”

At that point, there were no formal complaints filed against that professor. This fall the students were fed up with this Islamic Studies’ professor at the heart of this scandal as he was up for tenure this academic year, so they initiated their own grassroots protest. At the start of this academic year, stickers were posted in the women’s bathrooms with the Islamic Studies professor’s name, warning other female students. According to the McGill Daily, “Noting that the professor is up for tenure this semester, the stickers urged students to send testimonies of abusive behaviour from faculty and staff to zerotolerance@riseup.net.” The professor in question responded with a denial, saying, “Anonymous accusations have been posted around campus about me that are categorically untrue and constitute defamation. I am deeply committed to doing my part to make every student feel safe in my classroom and on McGill’s campus.”

The university administration seemed to have backed up the professor with Angela Campbell, the Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) writing a defending statement that admonished the students who revealed the professor publicly. Campbell stated, “The University takes all complaints of misconduct seriously.” Continuing Campbell expressed, “Survivors can and should report through the appropriate channels,” and “McGill’s administration disapproves of attempts to address such matters through anonymous posters such as [the stickers] found on campus and is taking measures to remove these.”

Additionally, in the Winter 2017 semester the 2016-2017 executive leaders of the World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association (WIMESSA) Sent an open letter objecting to the professor to Robert Wisnovsky, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. The letter read, “We (WIMESSA execs) believe that the department is partially not taking this seriously, because they don’t think many undergrads personally care,” read the preamble to the open letter. “There is also no ‘paper trail’ of student concern which makes the department less accountable to the university.” WIMESSA asked the department not to grant the professor tenure, writing, “It is disconcerting that such an abuse of power appears to be going unreprimanded. As it stands, women are at a disadvantage within the Islamic Studies department, and this inequality needs to be corrected. For these reasons, WIMESSA vehemently encourages the impending tenure committee to deny [the professor] tenure.”

The program director never publicly responded, and this year’s WIMESSA executives issued a statement. The statement backtracked and avoided mentioning the particular professor. The executives wrote, “In light of recent events regarding the Islamic Studies Institute, we want to extend our services to the community and support our students in any way we can. […] Sexual violence is a serious issue that we do not tolerate and we recognize the institutional violence that this inherently causes. […] This is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we are working as much as we can within our power to ensure transparency and accountability.”

It is too easy for the lines to be blurred in academia. For professors they are presented with wide-eyed naive students in awe, many enamored with the professors’ charm, sophistication and brilliance, and they easily take advantage of the situation. Many of the young faculty members are often less than then ten years older than the students they teach, for others they never want to see themselves as older than the students. They behave as friends, buddies cross the line into sexual harassment, sexual relationships, but the power dynamic is always there. Professors and students are never equals and it is inappropriate for them to think it is even possible.

Research has proven that power alters the minds of men, making them believe they have the right to behave in the controlling manner that leads to sexual harassment and assault. They believe they have a privilege to behave the way they do and many fail to see how wrong they are. The #MeToo movement in a short six months has swept through the entertainment industry, politics, business and journalism. The movement gave a voice and credibility to women who for years had experienced harassment, abuse and assault in the hands of men in positions of power and then suffered in silence fearing reprisals.

Now it is sweeping academia, but there are set backs. Tenure has always given professors an extra boost in their power, giving them an air of invincibility. Tenure has and is still protecting professors preventing universities from firing professors who behave inappropriately with students. Professors, however, believe universities owe their students to deal with the accused professors, not just fire them, which would allow them to continue their behavior elsewhere. The SSMU’s open letter wants an investigator to examine tenure and tenure-track professors as well, to see if complaints against professors are presented to the tenure committee and to see whether tenure status “can be reassessed following formal complaints against a faculty member.”

The students realize tenure cannot be overturned and the system changed overnight, but they do believe there should be consequences for tenured professors. Spencer commented to the Montreal Gazette, “Right now, if a prof has tenure, they are untouchable. Some of the profs (who are the subjects of repeated complaints) have tenure and some don’t. For the ones who do have tenure, why would anyone bring a complaint forward? … It’s not about, one complaint, therefore fire them, but we need to explore what a procedure for processing complaints against a tenured prof looks like.”

In Montreal, there have already been cracks in that invincibility. This past January at neighboring Concordia University, former students and graduates of the school’s creative writing program came forward against four professors without tenure with allegations going back two decades. The university acted swiftly and dismissed three of the living professors, then launched an investigation. Within two weeks the university issued guidelines on how to deal with professor-student relationships acknowledging there is a “conflict of interest” and an “imbalance of power.”

The events at Concordia inspired SSMU to take action now, and force the university to confront the way they have been dealing or not dealing with complaints against these five repeat offending professors. Spencer commented the press, “We were told that it couldn’t happen, and then we looked over at our neighbour and they were doing it, so we didn’t accept that anymore…I thought, ’If not now, then when,’ If something doesn’t happen now, I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 6, 2017: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Michelle Obama’s Final Remarks as First Lady

Source: Time, 1-6-17

OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) What’s going on? (Applause.) Thank you all so much. You guys, that’s a command — rest yourselves. (Laughter.) We’re almost at the end. (Laughter.) Hello, everyone. And, may I say for the last time officially, welcome to the White House. Yes! (Applause.) Well, we are beyond thrilled to have you all here to celebrate the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year, as well as all of our State Counselors of the Year. These are the fine women, and a few good men — (laughter) — one good man — who are on this stage, and they represent schools from across this country.

And I want to start by thanking Terri for that wonderful introduction and her right-on-the-spot remarks. I’m going to say a lot more about Terri in a few minutes, but first I want to take a moment to acknowledge a few people who are here.

First, our outstanding Secretary of Education, John King. (Applause.) As well as our former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. (Applause.) I want to take this time to thank you both publicly for your dedication and leadership and friendship. We couldn’t do this without the support of the Department of Education under both of your leadership. So I’m grateful to you personally, and very proud of all that you’ve done for this country.

I also want to acknowledge a few other special guests we have in the audience. We’ve got a pretty awesome crew. As one of my staff said, “You roll pretty deep.” (Laughter.) I’m like, well, yeah, we have a few good friends. We have with us today Ted Allen, La La Anthony, Connie Britton, Andy Cohen — yeah, Andy Cohen is here — (laughter) — Carla Hall, Coach Jim Harbaugh and his beautiful wife, who’s a lot better looking than him — (laughter) — Lana Parrilla, my buddy Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Usher —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woo!

MRS. OBAMA: Keep it down. (Laughter.) Keep it together, ladies. Wale is here. And of course, Allison Williams and her mom are here.

And all these folks are here because they’re using their star power to inspire our young people. And I’m so grateful to all of you for stepping up in so many ways on so many occasions. I feel like I’ve pestered you over these years, asking time and time again, “Well, where are you going to be?” “I’m going to be in New York.” “Can you come? Can you come here? Can you do this? Can you take that? Can you ask for that? Can you come? Can we rap? Can we sing?” (Laughter.) So thank you all so much. It really means the world to this initiative to have such powerful, respected and admired individuals speaking on behalf of this issue. So congratulations on the work that you’ve done, and we’re going to keep working.

And today, I especially want to recognize all these — extraordinary leadership team that was behind Reach Higher from day one. And this isn’t on the script so they don’t know this. I want to take time to personally acknowledge a couple of people. Executive Director Eric Waldo. (Applause.) Where is Eric? He’s in the — you’ve got to step out. (Applause.) Eric is acting like he’s a ham, but he likes the spotlight. (Laughter.) He’s acting a little shy. I want to recognize our Deputy Director, Stephanie Sprow. Stephanie. (Applause.) And he’s really not going to like this because he tries to pretend like he doesn’t exist at all, but our Senior Advisor, Greg Darnieder. (Applause.) There you go. Greg has been a leader in education his entire life. I’ve known him since I was a little organizer person. And it’s just been just a joy to work with you all. These individuals, they are brilliant. They are creative. They have worked miracles with hardly any staff or budget to speak of — which is how we roll in the First Lady’s Office. (Laughter.) And I am so proud and so, so grateful to you all for everything that you’ve done. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to recognize all of you who are here in this audience. We have our educators, our leaders, our young people who have been with us since we launched Reach Higher back in 2014. Now, when we first came up with this idea, we had one clear goal in mind: We wanted to make higher education cool. We wanted to change the conversation around what it means and what it takes to be a success in this country. Because let’s be honest, if we’re always shining the spotlight on professional athletes or recording artists or Hollywood celebrities, if those are the only achievements we celebrate, then why would we ever think kids would see college as a priority?

So we decided to flip the script and shine a big, bright spotlight on all things educational. For example, we made College Signing Day a national event. We wanted to mimic all the drama and excitement traditionally reserved for those few amazing football and basketball players choosing their college and university teams. We wanted to focus that same level of energy and attention on kids going to college because of their academic achievements. Because as a nation, that’s where the spotlight should also be — on kids who work hard in school and do the right thing when no one is watching, many beating daunting odds.

Next, we launched Better Make Room. It’s a social media campaign to give young people the support and inspiration they need to actually complete higher education. And to really drive that message home, you may recall that I debuted my music career — (laughter) — rapping with Jay about getting some knowledge by going to college. (Laughter and applause.)

We are also very proud of all that this administration has done to make higher education more affordable. We doubled investments in Pell grants and college tax credits. We expanded income-based loan repayment options for tens of millions of students. We made it easier to apply for financial aid. We created a College Scorecard to help students make good decisions about higher education. And we provided new funding and support for school counselors. (Applause.) Altogether, we made in this administration the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. (Applause.) And today, the high school graduation rate is at a record high, and more young people than ever before are going to college.

And we know that school counselors like all of the folks standing with me on this stage have played a critical role in helping us get there. In fact, a recent study showed that students who met with a school counselor to talk about financial aid or college were three times more likely to attend college, and they were nearly seven times more likely to apply for financial aid.

So our school counselors are truly among the heroes of the Reach Higher story. And that’s why we created this event two years ago, because we thought that they should finally get some recognition. (Applause.) We wanted everyone to know about the difference that these phenomenal men and women have been making in the lives of our young people every day. And our 2017 School Counselor of the Year, Terri Tchorzynski, is a perfect example.

As you heard, Terri works at the Calhoun Area Career Center, a career and technical education school in Michigan. And here’s what Terri’s principal said about her in his letter of recommendation. He said, “Once she identifies a systemic need, she works tirelessly to address it.”

So when students at Terri’s school reported feeling unprepared to apply for higher education, Terri sprang into action to create a school-wide, top-to-bottom college-readiness effort. Under Terri’s leadership, more students than ever before attended workshops on resume writing, FAFSA completion — yes, I can now say FAFSA — (laughter) — and interview preparation. I can barely say it. (Laughter.) They did career and personal — personality assessments. They helped plan a special college week. And they organized a Military Day, hosting recruiters from all branches of our armed forces. And because of these efforts, today, 75 percent of Calhoun’s seniors now complete key college application steps, and Terri’s school has won state and national recognition.

And all of this is just one small part of what Terri does for her students each day. I can go on and on about all the time she spends one-on-one with students, helping them figure out their life path. Terri told us — as you heard, she told us about one of those students, so we reached out to Kyra. And here’s what Kyra had to say in her own words. Kyra wrote that “Mrs. Tchorzynski has helped me grow to love myself. She helped me with my doubts and insecurities.” She said, my life has changed “for the better in all aspects.” Kyra said, “She held my hand through my hardest times.” She said, “Mrs. Tchorzynski is my lifesaver.” That’s what Kyra said. (Laughter.)

And this is what each of you do every single day. You see the promise in each of your students. You believe in them even when they can’t believe in themselves, and you work tirelessly to help them be who they were truly meant to be. And you do it all in the face of some overwhelming challenges — tight budgets, impossible student- counselor ratios — yeah, amen — (laughter) — endless demands on your time.

You all come in early, you stay late. You reach into your own pockets — and see, we’ve got the amen corner. (Laughter.) You stick with students in their darkest moments, when they’re most anxious and afraid. And if anyone is dealing with a college [high school] senior or junior, you know what this feels like. These men and women show them that those kids matter; that they have something to offer; that no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents have, no matter what they look like or who they love or how they worship or what language they speak at home, they have a place in this country.

And as I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people in my last official remarks as First Lady. So for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.

If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)

If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. (Applause.) So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

That is the hope of students like Kyra who fight to discover their gifts and share them with the world. It’s the hope of school counselors like Terri and all these folks up here who guide those students every step of the way, refusing to give up on even a single young person. Shoot, it’s the hope of my — folks like my dad who got up every day to do his job at the city water plant; the hope that one day, his kids would go to college and have opportunities he never dreamed of.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people. Because that is what moves this country forward every single day — our hope for the future and the hard work that hope inspires.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. (Applause.) I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.

And that is true I know for every person who are here — is here today, and for educators and advocates all across this nation who get up every day and work their hearts out to lift up our young people. And I am so grateful to all of you for your passion and your dedication and all the hard work on behalf of our next generation. And I can think of no better way to end my time as First Lady than celebrating with all of you.

So I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.

Education December 14, 2016: Harvard College’s most selective early action admissions year for Class of 2021

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

EDUCATION

By Bonnie K. Goodman

harvard_shield_wreathDecember is the first time of the academic year high school senior’s heart’s get broken as they discover of they are offered early action or decision admission to the university of their choice. No colleges are more selective in the process than the Ivy League. Harvard University released their Class of 2021 data on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, announcing they admitted just 938 students or 14.5 percent of their early applicant pool.

As has been the trend, Ivy League, and elite universities are becoming more selective, and their early action admission rates are falling even though some might be accepting more students after receiving, even more, applications. This year is no different if Harvard’s numbers are an indication the Ivy League and elite universities are on track for their most selective year as they choose the Class of 2021. So much so they last year’s most selective school Stanford University refused to even release their early admissions data for the Class of 2021.

On Tuesday, Harvard announced they admitted just 938students out of 6,473 applications to their early admissions program for the Class of 2021. Their admissions represented just 14.5 percent of the applicant pool down only 0.3 percent from last year. Harvard admitted a smaller percentage of students than last year to the Class of 2021 when they admitted 914 students out of 6,167 applicants representing 14.8 percent. In total, Harvard only accepted 5.2 percent of applicants in the regular admission cycle to the Class of 2020 out of 39,000 applicants.

William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, commented on the record number of early admissions’ applicants and the process. Fitzsimmons expressed, “Early admission appears to be the ‘new normal’ now, as more students are applying early to Harvard and peer institutions than ever before.” The Admissions Dean explained the perfect recipe for a Harvard acceptance, “At the same time, we have continued to stress to applicants, their families, and their guidance counselors that there is no advantage in applying early to Harvard. The reason students are admitted – early or during the regular action process – is that their academic, extracurricular, and personal strengths are extraordinary.”

Harvard’s Class of 2021 is even more diverse than last year. More women were accepted representing 48 percent up from last year’s 47.4 percent for the Class of 2020. More minorities were admitted as well, 12.6 percent of African-American applicants were admitted this year up last year’s 9.4 percent. Fitzsimmons commented, “It does appear, say relative to the time when we gave up early admission, that there is greater ethnic and greater economic diversity in early pools these days, and therefore, in the admitted pool.”

There were, however, a decrease in diversity among other minority groups. Only 8.8 percent of Hispanics were admitted this year while last year 9.5 percent were admitted. Only 1.1 percent of Native American and Native Hawaiian were admitted down from last year’s 1.8 percent. The largest minority group accepted last year; Asian-Americans also saw a decrease in admissions with only 24.1 percent accepted down from 24.2 percent admitted last year through early action.

Early decision is binding, meaning a student who applies and then is accepted is required to attend the university or college, while early action is non-binding, a student can be accepted and then decide against going to that particular school and can turn down their admission offer. Applying for early admission is not without its risks either, some schools have policies where if a student is rejected in the early admission cycle, cannot reapply for regular admission, however, some universities who do not accept students that applied for early admission, automatically consider them for regular admission.

Full Text Political Transcripts October 17, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education and Record High School Graduation Rates

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

 

Remarks by the President on Education

Source: WH, 10-17-16

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School
Washington, D.C.

11:21 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Bulldogs!  (Applause.)  Good to see you guys.  How’s everybody doing?  You all look good.  You look good.  (Applause.)  Hey!  How’s everybody?

Well, it is so nice to see you guys.  Everybody have a seat, though.  Have a seat.  I know you’ve been waiting here a while.  Good thing you all had your phones with you.  (Applause.)  As the father of two teenage daughters, I know the whole time you were just like, “And then he said — girl, I couldn’t believe it.”  (Laughter.)

Anyway, it’s so good to see you.  (Applause.)  A couple of people I want to acknowledge.  First of all, I want to thank our Secretary of Education, who has done outstanding work, John King is in the house.  (Applause.)  And then, my great friend and former Education Secretary and multiple winner of the three-on-three contest, as well as at the NBA All-Star Game — he can ball — Arne Duncan.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your mayor, Muriel Bowser is here.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Your representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton.  (Applause.)  And we are so grateful not only for their service to the country, but the amazing work they’re doing with their philanthropic work and America’s Promise, Colin and Alma Powell.  (Applause.)

So, by now you’ve settled into the new year.  Right?  Adjusted to classes.  You’re preparing for Spirit Week.  (Applause.)  Learning how to ballroom dance.  (Laughter.)  I remember having to do that.  Getting the nerve to text that cute girl or boy in your English class.  (Laughter.)  I don’t remember that; we did not have texts.  We had to send little notes.  And then we used to actually have to go up to somebody if we liked them and talk to them.  So that may happen to you someday.  (Laughter.)  Seniors are looking at colleges, taking tests, filling out all the forms.  (Applause.)  Malia just went through this, so I know how tough this is for you and for the parents.

But as I’m winding down my presidency — I was so impressed with Banneker the last time I was here in 2011 that I wanted to come back — (applause) — because you’re an example of a school that’s doing things the right way.  And I believe that if you’re going to be able to do whatever you want to do in your lives –- if you want to become a teacher, or a doctor, or start a business, or develop the next great app, or be President — then you’ve got to have great education.

We live in a global economy.  And when you graduate, you’re no longer going to be competing just with somebody here in D.C. for a great job.  You’re competing with somebody on the other side of the world, in China or in India, because jobs can go wherever they want because of the Internet and because of technology.  And the best jobs are going to go to the people who are the best educated — whether in India or China, or anywhere in the world.

So when I took office almost eight years ago, we knew that our education system was falling short when it came to preparing young people like you for that reality.  Our public schools had been the envy of the world, but the world caught up.  And we started getting outpaced when it came to math and science education.  And African American and Latino students, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, too often lagged behind our white classmates — something called the achievement gap that, by one estimate, costs us hundreds of billions of dollars a year.  And we were behind other developed countries when it came to the number of young people who were getting a higher education.  So I said, when I first came into office, by 2020 I want us to be number one again.  I want us to be number one across the board.

So we got to work, making real changes to improve the chances for all of our young people, from the time they’re born all the way through until they got a career.  And the good news is that we’ve made real progress.  So I just wanted to talk to you about the progress we’ve made, because you are the reason we’ve made progress — some outstanding young people all across the country.

We recently learned that America’s high school graduation rate went up to 83 percent, which is the highest on record.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)  More African American and Latino students are graduating than ever before.  (Applause.)  Right here in D.C., in just five years, the graduation rate in the District of Columbia public schools went from just 53 percent to 69 percent.  (Applause.)  So D.C.’s graduation rates grew faster than any other place in the country this year — this past year.  That’s something to be really proud of.  (Applause.)

Now, of course, here at Banneker, you graduated 100 percent of your seniors last year.  (Applause.)  One hundred percent.  It’s been a while since I did math, but 100 percent is good.  (Laughter.)  You can’t do better than that.  So what all these numbers mean is that more schools across D.C. and across the country are starting to catch up to what you guys are doing here, at this school.

Now, some of the changes we made were hard, and some of them were controversial.  We expected more from our teachers and our students.  But the hard work that people have put in across the country has started to pay off.

And I just want to talk to you a little bit about some of the things that we did.  It starts with our youngest learners.  High-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make, which is why we’ve added over 60,000 children to Head Start.  We called for high-quality preschool for every four-year-old in America.  And when I took office, only 38 states offered access to state-funded preschool.  Today, it’s up to 46. We’re trying to get those last holdouts to do the right thing.   And, by the way, the District of Columbia leads the nation with the highest share of children — nearly 9 out of 10 — in high-quality preschool.  And that’s a big achievement.  (Applause.)

We launched then a competition called Race to the Top, which inspired states to set higher, better standards so that we could out-teach and out-compete other nations, and make sure that we’ve got high expectations for our students.  D.C. was one of the winners of this competition.  It upgraded standards, upgraded curriculum, worked to help teachers build their skills.  And that, in part, is why D.C. has done so well.

We realized that in today’s world, when you all have a computer in your pocket in those phones, then you need to learn not just how to use a phone, you need to learn computer science.  So we’re working with private and philanthropic partners to bring high schools into the 21st century and give you a more personalized and real-world experience.  We’re bringing in high-speed internet into schools and libraries, reaching 20 million more students and helping teachers with digital learning.  And coding isn’t, by the way, just for boys in Silicon Valley, so we’re investing more in getting girls and young women and young people of color and low-income students into science and engineering and technology and math.  (Applause.)

And because we know that nothing is more important than a great teacher — and you’ve got some great teachers here, as well as a great principal at Banneker — (applause) — we have focused on preparing and developing and supporting and rewarding excellent educators.  You all know how hard they work.  They stay up late grading your assignments.  That’s why you got all those marks all over your papers.  They pull sometimes money out of their own pockets to make that lesson extra special.  And I promise you, the teachers here and the teachers around the country, they’re not doing it for the pay — because teachers, unfortunately, still aren’t paid as much as they should be.  They’re not doing it for the glory.  They’re doing it because they love you, and they believe in you, and they want to help you succeed.

So teachers deserve more than just our gratitude — they deserve our full support.  And we’ve got to make their lives easier, which is why we enacted a law to fix No Child Left Behind, which gives teachers more flexibility to spend more time teaching creatively than just spending all their time teaching to a test.  Give your teachers a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  They deserve it.

So we’ve made real progress, but here’s the thing — and I think all of you know this because you go to this great school

— a high school education these days is not enough.  By 2020, two out of three job openings require some form of higher education.  Now, that doesn’t always mean a four-year college degree, but it does mean — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or some sort of training program — you’ve got to get a little bit more than just what you’re getting in high school.

It used to be that a high school job might be enough because you could go into a factory or even go into an office and just do some repetitive work, and if you were willing to work hard you could make a decent living.  But the problem is repetitive work now is done by machines.  And that’s just going to be more and more true.  So in order for you to succeed in the marketplace, you’ve got to be able to think creatively; you’ve got to be able to work with a team; you’ve got to be able to work with a machine and figure out how to make it tailored for the specific requirements of your business and your job.  All those things require some more sophisticated thinking than just sitting there and just doing the same thing over and over again.  And that’s why you’ve got to have more than just a high school education.

And if you doubt that, I just want to give you some statistics.  Compared to a high school diploma, just getting a degree from a two-year school, going to a community college and getting an associate’s degree could earn you more than $300,000 over the course of your lifetime.  And a four-year degree earns you a million dollars more than if you just had a high school degree.  Think about that.  A million dollars — that’s real money.

So one of the things that we’re trying to do is to make it easier for you to access free money for college — to figure out how you can pay for your college without having a mountain of debt.  And the key thing, as you know here at Banneker, but I want all the students around the country to do this — and Michelle and I and others have been really emphasizing this — is to fill out your FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

How many people — how many seniors here have already filled out their FAFSA forms?  (Applause.)  All right.  How many seniors here have not filled out their FAFSA forms?  Fess up now.  (Laughter.)  You sure?  All right, I just want to make sure now.  And, juniors, you can start getting ready now.

Because what the FAFSA does is it puts you in the running for scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs, all to help you pay for college.  And we’ve made it simpler than ever.  And it’s available right now at FAFSA.gov — FAFSA.gov. And since this is one of the most important investments of your life, next year’s FAFSA is also going to direct you to something we created, called our College Scorecard.

Now, here’s what this is.  It gives you comprehensive information on every college in America.  Now, some of you who have started applying for colleges, you know about these college rankings, right?  It’s like, oh, this is the best school.  And some of that information is useful; some of it not so much.  But unlike traditional rankings that focus on which school has the fanciest dorm or the nicest football stadiums, or is the most expensive or the most exclusive, what our College Scorecard does is it focuses on some of the things that really matter for your future.  Things like how many students actually graduate from the school — because it’s not enough just to enroll in college; you’ve got to graduate from college.  How much money do their alumni earn?  What percentage of their students can pay back their loans?  And what we’ve done is we’ve worked with companies like Google to put this information right at your fingertips.

So for a decision this important, we want you to be able to comparison shop to figure out how do you get the best value for your money, just like if you were buying something on Amazon.  If you were buying a car or you’re buying a phone or you’re buying anything, especially if it’s a pretty big purchase, you want to know ahead of time, is this legit.  And what this does is makes you think about what your options are.

Now, you’ve got some great counselors here.  Obviously, you should work with them.  But not every student may be going to a school like Banneker that has as many good counselors to think about their college education.  And using this College Scorecard is going to be helpful for them to do a little comparison shopping.  Because you don’t want to go to the school just because it’s the closest one, and it turns out it’s more expensive and doesn’t do as good of a job as if you were willing to maybe travel someplace else, and it turns out that you could get the financial aid you need to go to a school that’s more suited toward your needs.

So we also reformed, by the way, the student loan system.  When I came into office, you had tens of billions of dollars that were going to big banks, serving as middlemen for your student loans.  We said, well, let’s cut out the banks.  Let’s give the money directly to the students so they can afford college and we can make the loans cheaper, and we can expand Pell grants.

And now, what we’re trying to do is to push to make two years of community college free for every responsible student all across the country.  All across the country.  (Applause.)  And we’re starting to work with colleges and universities around the country to bring down the cost of college so that at the end of four years of college you’re not saddled with a whole bunch of debt — because nobody should be priced out of a higher education.  (Applause.)

So bottom line is:  higher graduation rates, higher college attendance rates, more money for Pell grants and work to make sure that the interest rate on student loans haven’t gone up; working to expand early childhood education and preschool; continuing to watch and work with states as they try to implement reforms to make K-12 better; holding colleges more accountable for giving information so that students can make good decisions.  We’ve made a lot of progress.  We have made a lot of progress in terms of making sure that young people across the country get the kind of great education that you’re getting here at Banneker.  And I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished.  I’m proud of what the District of Columbia has accomplished.

But I just want to be honest with you:  We’ve still got more work to do.  So as I go, I’m giving you kind of a final report card, transcript on what more we’ve got to get done.

There are still too many states that are cutting back on public education.  And part of the reason tuition is going up is because states aren’t putting as much money into state education, universities, community colleges as they used to.  That’s why, if you’re 18, by the way, you’ve got to vote to make sure that the folks who represent you actually deliver.  (Applause.)

We’ve still got too many states that have not really worked in a serious way to raise standards and improve performance.  In too many school districts, we still have schools that, despite the heroic efforts of a lot of great teachers, are not fully preparing our kids for success because they just don’t have the resources to do it or the structure to do it.  We’ve still got too many high schools where a third of their students do not earn their diplomas on time.

For too many students in America, zip code still determines how far they’ll go.  And that’s not acceptable.  Some of you probably have friends or family who are just as smart or talented or as capable as you, but they didn’t have the same support or the right opportunities or didn’t get in the right school, and so now don’t have the same shot at success.  Am I right?  Because I know that’s true in our family.  Michelle and I, we’ve got cousins and friends who we’ve known since they were shorties, little kids — (laughter) — and they — we know how smart they are because they were just as smart as we were, but just the luck of the draw was they didn’t get the same chance as we did.  And that’s not right.

So that’s why I started something called My Brother’s Keeper initiative, because what we want to do is help more young people, especially kids of color, get mentorships and the resources and the guidance they need to succeed.  And I’m going to stay involved with that even after I’m done being President.  (Applause.)  Because we all have a part to play in making sure every single child has every single opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.

That’s what Banneker is all about.  That’s what you can see in somebody like Ifunaya.  I mean, that’s an incredible young lady who’s going to succeed because she has an incredible school in addition to an incredible family.  (Applause.)  And so we’re so proud of her.

There’s another person I want to just call out — Amari McDuffie.  Where’s Amari?  Where’s Amari?  There she is right there, right in front.  (Applause.)  So, hey, Amari.  I’m going to talk about you for a second.  (Laughter.)

So Amari was born with a heart and a lung condition.  And sometimes she had to miss a lot of school because of her illness.  And you know, Banneker is a pretty rigorous school, so she was worried about staying on top of her work.  But everybody in this family rallied around her and made sure she was keeping up.  Her history teacher, Mr. Goldfarb — where’s Mr. Goldfarb?  (Applause.)  Is he here or did he cut assembly?  (Laughter.)  So Mr. Goldfarb came to visit her when Amari was in the hospital for weeks, brought a card from the whole class.  And so Amari, she was talking about the support everybody here gave her, and she said, “I believed in myself because my teachers believed in me.”

And that’s the kind of community that we want in every school — where you’re looking out for each other and you’re taking care of one another.  And so now Amari plans to be a doctor so she can help kids who had illnesses like hers.  And that’s what’s possible — (applause) — that’s what’s possible when we’re all committed to each other’s success; when we understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you’re a boy or a girl — that you should have great opportunities to succeed.  And that requires you to put effort into it.

Michelle and I talk a lot because we travel around the world and sometimes we forget that there are places around the world where people have so little but the kids are so hungry for an education.  And they don’t even have an actual roof over their head in some of their schools.  And so even if you’re really poor in this country, you can succeed if you want to invest in the teachers and the community, and everybody raises standards and believes in each other.  And that’s what we want all of America to believe, in every kid — because there’s magic in each and every one of you.  And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and realize it.

And, by the way, it’s because of young people like you that I leave the presidency never more optimistic than I am right now, because I’ve met so many young people around the country whose energy, and excitement, and how you treat each other, with respect.  That gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of faith for our country.

So I know you guys are going to keep on working hard.  You’re going to keep making our communities proud.  If us adults do our part and we stay focused on making sure every school is as great as this one, and that every young person has those same opportunities, and everybody has a teacher like Mr. Goldfarb looking out for them, I’ve got no doubt that we’re going to continue to build a country where everybody has the chance to make of their lives what they will.  And that’s what America is all about.

All right.  Proud of you, Bulldogs.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Fill out those FAFSA forms!  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:46 A.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

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