At George Mason University today, the President explained why the Post-9/11 GI Bill is so critical to our country. "We do this not just to meet our moral obligation to those who have sacrificed greatly on behalf of our country. We do it because these men and women must now be prepared to lead our nation in the peaceful pursuit of economic leadership in the 21st century."
This is a particularly important issue for the President, who was a co-sponsor of the Post-9/11 GI Bill while in the Senate. Now, he is dedicated to seeing the bill successfully implemented as President. Today’s event marked the launch of the bill; the Department of Veterans Affairs began distributing tuition payments to schools participating in the program on August 1. The bill provides comprehensive education benefits to our veterans, and assures people like Staff Sergeant Jim Miller
, who introduced the President, are able to go to school after their service. In his remarks
, the President praised our veterans for their great sacrifices:
And we do this not just to meet our moral obligation to those who've sacrificed greatly on our behalf and on behalf of the country. We do it because these men and women must now be prepared to lead our nation in the peaceful pursuit of economic leadership in the 21st century.
This generation of servicemen and women has already earned a place of honor in American history. Each of them signed up to serve, many after they knew that they would be sent into harm's way. Over the last eight years, they have endured tour after tour of duty in dangerous and distant places. They've experienced grueling combat – from the streets of Fallujah to the harsh terrain of Helmand Province. They've adapted to complex insurgencies, protected local populations, and trained foreign security forces. So by any measure, they are the authors of one of the most extraordinary chapters of military service in the history of our nation.
And I don't make that statement lightly. For we know that anyone who puts on the uniform joins an unbroken line of selfless patriots that stretches back to Lexington and Concord. The freedom and prosperity that we enjoy would not exist without the service of generations of Americans who were willing to bear the heaviest and most dangerous burden.
But we also know this: The contributions that our servicemen and women can make to this nation do not end when they take off that uniform. We owe a debt to all who serve. And when we repay that debt to those bravest Americans among us, then we are investing in our future – not just their future, but also the future of our own country.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is modeled after the GI Bill that President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law in 1944. It turned out to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history, and not only provided an education to millions of veterans, but helped define a generation. The President explained that today, it is even more important that we give our veterans the tools to succeed:
The GI Bill was approved just weeks after D-Day, and carried with it a simple promise to all who had served: You pick the school, we'll help pick up the bill. And what followed was not simply an opportunity for our veterans – it was a transformation for our country. By 1947, half of all Americans enrolled in college were veterans. Ultimately, this would lead to three Presidents, three Supreme Court justices, 14 Nobel Prize winners, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners. But more importantly, it produced hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers, doctors and nurses – the backbone of the largest middle class in history. All told, nearly 8 million Americans were educated under the original GI Bill, including my grandfather.
No number can sum up this sea change in our society. Reginald Wilson, a fighter pilot from Detroit, said, "I didn't know anyone who went to college. I never would have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill." H.G. Jones, a Navy man from North Carolina, said, "What happened in my rural Caswell County community happened all over the country ¼ going to college was no longer a novelty." Indeed, one of the men who went to college on the GI Bill, as I mentioned, was my grandfather, and I would not be standing here today if that opportunity had not led him West in search of opportunity.
So we owe the same obligations to this generation of servicemen and women, as was afforded that previous generation. That is the promise of the post-1911 [sic] GI Bill. It's driven by the same simple logic that drove the first GI Bill – you pick the school, we'll help pick up the bill. And looking out at the audience today, I'm proud to see so many veterans who will be able to pursue their education with this new support from the American people.
And this is even more important than it was in 1944. The first GI Bill helped build a post-war economy that has been transformed by revolutions in communications and technology. And that's why the post-1911 – 9/11 GI Bill must give today's veterans the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of tomorrow. Education is the currency that can purchase success in the 21st century, and this is the opportunity that our troops have earned.