Remarks of Dr. Jill Biden at Los Angeles City College as Prepared for Delivery
Los Angeles, California
Good morning, Los Angeles! Thank you for welcoming me with such warmth and enthusiasm!
A few minutes ago you heard two incredible women speak. Two women with very different stories, but one unifying theme: the opportunity — paramount above all else — to receive an education. Education is the great equalizer. Education is something that no one can ever take away from you — it becomes your knowledge, your skills.
Alexa’s story may sound like many of yours. She didn’t immediately enter college after graduating high school but she was determined to get the education she needed to create a better life for herself and her family. And, Crystal knew from an early age that education was vital to anything she would try to achieve in the future. Crystal, like Alexa, will be the first in her family to graduate high school.
That’s why we are here today. It’s not just about policy, this is about people. This is about all the Alexas and Crystals here today. This is about all the students I have known for over 30 years. Students who are single parents, students who are returning to school, students who are attending college for the first time. For millions of people across our country, community college is the single best path to achieving their dreams — whether that means earning a four-year degree or finding a rewarding career.
It’s the kind of place where young people can save money before they start a four-year school. They can transfer their credits. It is a place where returning students, parents and workers can retool and retrain — taking their careers to the next level. It’s where you don’t have to choose between pursuing an education and supporting your family — you can do both because it’s flexible.
The more than 1,300 community colleges nationwide are not just the key to a brighter future for their students, they are the backbone of America’s postsecondary education and training system — and one of the keys to a more prosperous economic future.
As Second Lady, I have visited almost 50 community colleges campuses, while continuing to work at one myself. In fact, I was just in my classroom yesterday and will be back again tomorrow. So, I feel right at home with all of you here.
But, there is just something about today that feels different. Today, there is tremendous reason to celebrate. Today is about a promise that we as Americans must make to all of you. We are here to celebrate the LA College Promise.
But what does that mean? A promise is not just a thought or a nice idea. No, a promise is a declaration. A declaration that your Mayor, your schools and your teachers are making to you. It’s a declaration that says we believe in you — every single person here. We believe in your determination and resilience. We are making a declaration — an assurance that you can attend one year of college tuition free. An assurance that you can concentrate on your studies, and get ahead.
This is a promise that you can define your own future without having to worry about being burdened by decades of debt. That you can focus on school rather than having to juggle multiple jobs. And, ultimately, we use the word promise because that is what we see in all of you. The promise of a brighter future for our communities, our families, and for our country.
But promises aren’t a one way street. Did you really think we’d let you off that easy? By accepting this promise — this challenge — you, in turn, must seize the opportunity, work to your fullest potential, give it your all, and most importantly, give back to your community once you’ve graduated. And that’s why I want to thank your incredibly hardworking Mayor, Eric Garcetti, for inviting me here today.
Your Mayor gets it. Your Lieutenant Governor gets it. All of us believe that given the promise of a college education, more students will exceed their own limitations and reach their full potential.
To the students here today: you must continue the momentum for promise programs across the state. You must be a champion for the cause. Because there’s so much more work to be done. We need your help to make sure all Americans have the opportunity they deserve to go to college, grow into careers they love, and provide a brighter future for their families.
Since the President announced his proposal to make two years of community college free for all responsible students, more than 36 college promise programs have been launched in cities, states, and communities all across the country. Collectively, these new programs add over $150 million to serve over 180,000 students at community colleges.
In California alone, there are now 23 college promise programs. In places like Oakland and Richmond, Long Beach and Ventura, San Diego and Santa Barbara, and now here in Los Angeles we see the promise of an affordable, quality education being extended to California’s community college students. Because of your efforts — because of the efforts of all of the incredible leaders here on stage with me today — there’s real momentum for a statewide California promise.
Starting a free community college program may not seem easy, but Los Angeles is showing the country that one of the biggest and most diverse cities can make this possible when its leaders, government officials, and communities come together to make a more affordable college degree a reality for its students. What you’re doing here in L.A. is a model for the nation. You’re sending a powerful message to the next generation that they can go as far as their talents and determination will take them.
So, how many high school students do we have here today? Stand up. If any of you are unsure about going to college, I hope you will leave here today a little more optimistic and excited about your options. Never be complacent. Always persevere. Recognize and take advantage of this incredible opportunity. You’ve got a state-of-the-art education system right here in California — use it! Be confidence. Know that you can succeed. I believe in you. President Obama believes in you. This is our promise. We’ve got your back.