Remarks on Safely Reopening America's Schools
The President. Well, thank you very much. It's an honor to be with everybody, and very importantly, we're at the White House, and there's no place like the White House. And for those of you that this is the first time, I know how—I know exactly what you're thinking, because I was here a first time, and it was still something I'll never forget.
So it's great to have you. And our First Lady and I are pleased to welcome everybody to this wonderful place and discuss the vital importance of safety and reopening America's schools. We want to reopen the schools. Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It's time to do it.
You know, our mortality rate is right now at a level that people don't talk about, but it's down tenfold. Tenfold. So you look at—deaths are way down from this horrible China virus, and it's a disgrace that it happened. It shouldn't have happened, but it did.
And the economy is coming back, and it's coming back strongly. Jobs are setting records for—2 months ago, they set the record. And then again, almost 5 million new jobs last month, which is a record, and it broke our last record of a month before. So the numbers are happening much faster than anybody anticipated.
The stock market: NASDAQ just hit another record today, and the markets generally are just, really, a very small amount below where they were at the height of the market when we first had to do this about 4½, 5 months ago.
And it's incredible what's happened. When you look at education, my administration has approved $13 billion for State and local education. We've approved over $6 billion to support colleges and another $6 billion in emergency grants to students, very importantly. We waived standardized testing requirements, deferred Federal student loan and interest payments. So you take a look at the student loan program, we've waived student loan and interest payments, and that is something that people haven't been hearing about, and nobody talks about it, but it's a big deal.
We've pioneered new treatments that are dramatically improving the health outcomes. Vaccines are doing very well. Therapeutics are doing very well. The therapeutic research has been incredible. And I think you're going to have a lot of big things happening long before the end of the year, on both vaccines and therapeutics. Therapeutics is, I guess, a little bit of a word we can use for "on the way to a cure." But they make you better. I mean, to me, the therapeutic is even more important than the vaccine at this point, because people will get better.
But the numbers are—the testing numbers are the highest they've ever been. We're almost up to 40 million in testing and—40 million people, which is unheard of. Far more than any other country. Many times what any other country is, and therefore we have more cases. Because we're doing more testing, we have more cases. If we did half the testing, we would have far fewer cases. But people don't view it that way. What they have to view, though, is: If you look at the chart—and maybe Mike has it, but we looked at it before—if you look at the chart of deaths, deaths are way down.
So what we want to do is, we want to get our schools open. We want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall. And the—as you know, this is a disease that's a horrible disease, but young people do extraordinarily well. I was with the Governor of New Jersey. We were talking, and he said, out of—and he mentioned a number which is a very high number, but it's a number nevertheless—thousands of people, there was only one person that died that was under 18 years old in the State of New Jersey, and that was somebody, I guess, had a problem with perhaps diabetes or something else. But one person out of thousands of people—one person died, who was under 18 years old. So that's a pretty amazing stat, when you think of it.
But I'd like to now just give the mike to our First Lady. She's going to say a few words, and then we are going to go with Mike and Karen Pence. And then, we'll go around the room a little bit, say a few words. Kellyanne, you did a great job this morning. Thank you. Really great.
So, if I might, First Lady, please.
The First Lady. Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. The first pillar of my BE BEST initiative is children well-being. And taking care of children's social, emotional, and physical health has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration has worked around the clock to protect Americans from the coronavirus, but many challenges for children and families can be just as invisible as the virus and just as dangerous.
When children are out of school, they are missing more than just time in the classroom. They're missing the laughter of their friends, learning from their teachers, and the joy of recess and play. For children with disabilities, without access to technology, or whose homes are not a safe place, the situation can be even worse.
As the start of the school year gets closer, I encourage parents, teachers, and school to teach children about the importance of CDC guidelines and to implement them when appropriate. Children's mental health and social development must be as much of a priority as physical health. The same is true for parents. Many will be forced to make stressful choices between caring for their children and going back to work. And we must address those needs as well as their own mental health and well-being.
As we continue to come together as Americans to tackle these challenges, I'm honored that you could all be here today to offer your thoughts. I look forward to working with you to make sure that America's children and families can be healthy and thriving.
Thank you very much.
The President. Thank you very much. And, Governor, thank you. I see you sitting over there. What a job you're doing.
Governor Michael L. Parson of Missouri. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you very much for being here, Governor. Appreciate it.
Gov. Parson. Thank you. Proud to be here.
The President. And thank you, Melania, very much.
The First Lady. Thank you.
The President. We just heard—Mike was telling me that Governor Santis—DeSantis of Florida is doing a terrific job. He just announced that the schools will be open in the fall, and we hope that most schools are going to be open. We don't want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed. No way.
So we're very much going to put pressure on Governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open. And it's very important. It's very important for our country. It's very important for the well-being of the student and the parents. So we're going to be putting a lot of pressure on: Open your schools in the fall. Mike, please.
Vice President Michael R. Pence. Well, thank you, Mr. President. It's—and thank you for your leadership; I have seen it day in and day out since you asked me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
[At this point, Vice President continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Mr. President, we're continuing to move out on that, on the belief that to open up America again, we've got to open up America's schools. And the American people are taking important steps every day, including this summit today, to do just that. And I'm truly grateful for all of those represented here for being a part of this important work.
With that, I'd be happy to recognize Mrs. Pence for a few comments.
The President. Good. Please.
Second Lady Karen Pence. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mike and Melania. I had the privilege of addressing this group earlier today in, kind of, opening up your summit, but I do want to say thank you to all the teachers. I know, at my school, everybody quickly learned how to do online teaching. It wasn't something that our teachers across America were familiar with, and I just applaud them. They have worked so hard. And the parents really are the unsung heroes. They really had to quickly get up to speed, and it was not easy to do.
But you know, our kids are struggling, and they need their friends, and they need their teachers, and they need their routines. This decision to open up the schools greatly impacts our children. It impacts them academically, it impacts them socially, and it impacts them emotionally. So I applaud what you are doing here today, Mr. President, because our kids, for their mental health and their academic health, they need to be back in school. So thank you.
The President. Well, thank you very much, Karen. I appreciate it. And I see Dr. Redfield over in the audience, and I appreciate it. And I know you'd like to see everybody coming back and getting back to school in the fall. And I've read everything you've written, and I appreciate that very much, Doctor. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
I thought we'd maybe—we'll go around the room real quickly. We'll go quickly, and we'll get everybody to say a few words, and we'll start with our Governor.
Gov. Parson. Thank you, Mr. President. As you said, when you come here, I'm just honored and humbled to be here sitting with you, the Vice President, the First Lady, and the Second Lady.
The President. It's our honor.
Gov. Parson. Those dreams you think about someday, I never imagined them being reality, but here we are.
The President. That's great.
Gov. Parson. And so it's an honor to be here today.
Let me first start off by just saying thanks to the President, the Vice President for what they've done over the last—well, since they've been in office, to say the least—but over the last 17, 18 weeks, they've been on the phone every week. The President himself has been. And I don't mean for 5 minutes to say, "Hello, Governors" and "See you later." In-depth conversation with Governors across this State. The Vice President has been there for almost 17 to 18 weeks. I know that I've been following with them. And the one thing they've stressed every day on those phone calls, every week, they're trying to do the best thing for this country and for the everyday people out there, and they were trying to make their full support to the Governors across this State.
And I just want to thank you for doing that——
The President. Thank you.
Gov. Parson. ——for leading, as what good leaders do at times of crisis. And I just want to thank you for that.
[Gov. Parson continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
But again, I just want to thank the President for his support for our State. People appreciate it, Mr. President—I want you to know that—for the First Lady, and for where we're headed in this country, because we've went through hard times before, and we'll continue to get through hard times. And we'll be better off for it will be stronger than ever.
So thank you.
The President. And you won't be changing the name "St. Louis," will you? Huh?
Gov. Parson. No, we will not be doing that. [Laughter]
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. That's very important. Thank you very much. Please.
American Academy of Pediatrics President Sara H. "Sally" Goza. Good afternoon, Mr. President. I'm delighted to join you, the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Second Lady here today to talk about why it's important for children to be in school.
[Dr. Goza continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
Reopening schools in a way that maximizes safety, learning, and the well-being of children will clearly require new investments in our schools. We urge you to ensure that schools receive the resources necessary so that funding does not stand in the way of keeping our children safe or present at school.
Thank you, Mr. President. We look forward to working with you and all the people around this room.
The President. Thank you very much. Please.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Thank you, Mr. President. Penny Schwinn from the great State of Tennessee. I appreciate the invitation on behalf of our superintendents, our districts, our families, our teachers, and our public officials.
[Commissioner Schwinn continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And I'll just end by saying, as the proud daughter of a police officer and a teacher, I was raised with safety and high-quality education being two fundamentals in my home. And it's a great honor to be able to reinforce that with the schools in Tennessee today.
The President. Thank you very much.
Commissioner Schwinn. Thank you, sir.
The President. Great job. Thank you.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II. Well, thank you, Mr. President. Really, thanks to the historic response that the President has led to this unprecedented pandemic, we have the tools where we can reopen our workplace, we can reopen our schools, and we can reopen health care. We've got the tools.
[Secretary Azar continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
And we can reopen our schools safely with what we know. And it's really simple practices of common sense. It's social distancing. It's wearing face coverings when you're in a setting that you can't social distance. And it's practicing good personal hygiene. The tools are there to bring our kids back safely, to protect our teachers and our staff, and it's time to do it now.
The President. Thank you, Alex. And good luck with all of the therapeutics. I know you're getting very close. Very close. That would be incredible. What are your chances early, like in September?
Secretary Azar. So Regeneron, which is the one that we funded at almost half a billion dollars this morning, they are one of the most advanced. We have several very advanced monoclonal antibody products. This basically takes that convalescent plasma that recovered patients would donate, and bio-engineers that in, effectively, unlimited supply that we can do. And so it's a cocktail of multiple antibodies to give your immune system an immediate defense. And we're studying it both for preventing disease, as well as stopping the progression of the disease. So it's really very exciting.
The President. And it seems to be just working. It's basically—it's sort of the ABCs of what we're doing.
Secretary Azar. It is.
The President. And it seems to be working. Do you have tests——
Secretary Azar. Well, we've got——
The President. Do you have tests right now that says—say, "It does work"?
Secretary Azar. Well, you've got the initial trial work that Regeneron did, and that's why we're investing in the late-stage development of it. But then, we have these other three therapies that, thanks to your leadership, we now—we have so many more tools than we had 3 months ago in terms of therapeutics.
So we don't want anyone to get sick, but we have much better ways to take care of individuals now than we did 3 months ago.
The President. Good. And that's exciting. Very exciting. All right, we'll hold you to it: September. [Laughter] You too, Doctor. You too, Doctor.
Please, thank you.
Principal Patrick W. Daly of St. Vincent De Paul High School in Petaluma, CA. Good afternoon, Mr. President, I'm Patrick Daly, the principal of St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, California. We're in Sonoma County. I just want to tell you what an honor this is to be here this afternoon. I want to thank you——
The President. Thank you for that.
Mr. Daly. ——thank the First Lady, Vice President Pence, and the Second Lady for your leadership of our country, really during a very difficult time, for the First Lady's love and protection of children, very, very important to me. And being a father of four kids—three daughters and a son—it is very important.
[Mr. Daly continued his remarks, concluding as follows.] And particularly, I really feel for the parents of elementary school children who are trying to work and provide for their families and, at the same time, having to stay at home and teach. It's very difficult. And I hear that a lot from our own elementary school.
But I can't thank you enough for your leadership of our country. And thank you for this honor.
The President. Well, good luck with your plan and getting them open. And hopefully, you can do 5 days, instead of the 2 and back and forth. I know you want to be able to do that, so you'll try.
Mr. Daly. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. Great job.
St. Vincent De Paul High School student Cameron Vaughn. Hello, Mr. President.
The President. Good-looking person this is. Huh? [Laughter]
Mr. Vaughn. Hello, Mr. President.
[Mr. Vaughn exchanged microphones with Mr. Daly.]
There we go. Hello, Mr. President, I'm a student at St. Vincent de Paul High School. My name is Cameron Vaughn. And I personally just want to thank you for both inviting me and helping to reopen schools.
Coming on behalf of the students, it really means a lot just to be able to get back out. And it means a lot to our emotional health and our mental health just to be out there with our friends, because a lot of us don't have that opportunity. And it helps reopen our schedules so we have something to look forward to. Me, I'm a person of schedules. I run by a schedule, make a schedule for myself. So I just want to thank you very much for getting us back to that.
The President. Great job. Really great. Thank you very much. We'll get you back. Okay? We'll get you back soon. Thank you.
Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne E. Conway. Mr. President, Mrs. Trump, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Pence, thank you very much. I listen to Cameron Vaughn, and I'm reminded why we're here, why we're here in this room today on this very important topic, but why we're here in this administration.
[Senior Counselor Conway continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
The President has said, if we as a nation can win two world wars, dig out the Panama Canal, put a man on the Moon, we certainly ought to be able to deliver a quality education to each child. And that begins with reopening our schools and making good on that promise to each and every one of them.
Thank you very much.
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much, Kellyanne.
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund Cofounder Jenny Beth Martin. Hi, Mr. President. I'm Jenny Beth Martin with Tea Party Patriots. Thank you. And thank you, Mrs. Trump and Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Pence, for having me here today. While I am with Tea Party Patriots, I'm also a mom, and my children are sitting right over there. So thank you for having us here today. [Ms. Martin continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And it's impossible. It's impossible to do what we need to do. So the schools must be reopened. It will stabilize our country. I cannot thank you enough for doing this today and sending this message. And the doctors who I've been working with, they want to do anything they can to help calm the fear that is permeating our country. They understand we have to have a healthy respect for the virus, and we have to be able to live our lives. And though—they and I will do anything we can to help you with that. Thank you very much.
The President. Thank you very much. Great job. Looks like you're doing a good job. Is your mother doing a good job? [Laughter] Is she good? Right? [Laughter] You said the right thing. Okay, great job. Thank you very much.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey. Mr. President, First Lady, Mr. Vice President, Second Lady, on behalf of the great State of Tennessee and Governor Bill Lee, I want to thank you for all of the help and resources and support that you and your administration have provided us. You guys have been accessible, you've been responsible, and that means the world to us in the States when we're trying to do our jobs.
I'm Dr. Lisa Piercey. I'm the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. I'm also a pediatrician and a mother of four. And I know very clearly that education and economic prosperity are key drivers of health.
We know in Tennessee that kids have to get back to school, and parents have to get back to work. It's paramount for our economy, and it's paramount for the health of our Nation. And we're doing our part in Tennessee for that effort. And thank you again.
The President. Thank you. And say hello to Bill, please.
Commissioner Piercey. I will.
The President. Thank you.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, First Lady, Vice President, Second Lady. I want to really—today was a really terrific day, because it took America's children, put them in the center and said: This is not going to be a unilateral and unifocal, one-dimensional discussion about COVID-19, but a discussion that transcended that single moment and brought in the other issues of mental health, academic health, emotional health, and really said that it's important to the whole child to have the availability of schooling.
And I think having that discussion that was multidimensional, having teachers here and students here and the health commissioners here was—and the Secretaries here was really very helpful because I think it not only put the child at the center, but also made it clear about how important these other issues are that are beyond COVID-19, and the health and welfare of our children.
And so the discussion was terrific, and I think we have a way forward.
The President. Thank you very much. Thanks, Deb.
Harrisonburg, VA, physician Cathy Slusher. Thank you, Mr. President, so much for including me in today's event.
[Dr. Slusher turned on her microphone.]
I think I'm on now. Thank you for including me so much in today's event. [Dr. Slusher continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And finally, I just want to, again, thank you for being here. Thank you for hearing me out. And thank you for putting education of our children in the utmost, and for putting our economy in that place too—because, as a business owner, when I have parents who have to come late or leave early in order to educate their children and yet run a business at the same time, as this lady stated, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. And we want to maintain their jobs. We want to maintain their work ethic, but we also want to maintain the intelligence of their children and of our future.
And so I thank you again——
The President. Thank you.
Dr. Slusher. ——for your interest in this and for letting us be here. Thank you.
The President. Thank you. I think it's very important to note that we've done it right. We closed up. We were amazing the way our great citizens adhered to what we wanted to do. And we saved, I think, millions of lives. Now we want to be open. We understand the disease much better. Nobody knew what this was; nobody had ever seen it before. There's been nothing like this since 1917; that's more than a hundred years ago.
But we saved tens of thousands of lives, hundreds of thousands of lives. And now we're open, and we want to stay open, and we will stay open. We're not closing. We'll put out the fires as they come out. I call them "embers" and "fires" and whatever you want to call them.
But I think it's very important to note what we've done: We've saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives. I was going over numbers before with the Vice President, and if you looked at a million, 2 million, 2½ million, those are all reasonable numbers to what we could have had. Right now we're at a number, as you know, far lower than that. And where would you say we are today, Mike?
Vice President Pence. A hundred and thirty thousand.
The President. About 130 [thousand]*. So we're at 130, and we could be at way over a million right now. And I think it could have been 2½ or 3 million people.
So—but now we're open. And now we understand the vulnerable; we understand who has the biggest problem with it. And we watch that group and that age group and also people that aren't feeling so well with respect to, in particular, Deborah, certain diseases. The diabetes is bad. The heart is bad. And we watch very closely, and we've done it right.
When you look at what happened with Sweden—I kept hearing about Sweden with the herd—you know, with the pure herd. The herd concept of opening up and keeping open, all of a sudden, it exploded. You look at what's going on in Brazil and a couple of other places.
So we've really done it right, but now it's time to be open, it's time to stay open. And we will put out the fires as they come up, but we have to open our schools. It's so important to open our schools. And when you said, from a psychological standpoint, with respect to staying home any longer, you can't do it. You can't do it. That has great dangers also.
So that's where we are. We're not closing. We'll never close. You'll have certain areas that will have difficulty, and they'll do what they have to do, and that will be up largely to the Governors. But it's also—they're in very strong consultation with us. We're supplying them with tremendous materials and gowns and masks and anything else they need. And they should be doing it themselves, but we've made a lot of Governors look very, very good. We've made a lot of Governors look very smart that weren't so smart. And some have just done a good job right from the beginning. I could give you a list; I could grade them. I could grade them out from 1 to 50, and—[laughter]—you'd be amazed. You might be surprised at some of them—both good and bad.
But I thank you very much for your remarks. I think it's very important. What you said I think is very important.
Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann. Mr. President, First Lady, Mr. Vice President, Karen: It's great to be here—an honor—and to represent the great State of Indiana, as president of Ivy Tech Community College. We are Indiana's community college, so 160,000 students across our great State. And I just maybe want to remind you, as we talk about higher education, the true workforce engine that community colleges are for our Nation and how important they are and the students that we serve. So let me just speak a little bit.
[Ms. Ellspermann continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So we know we have to change to meet the needs, but we appreciate the great support of this administration.
The President. Thank you.
Ms. Ellspermann. And we will continue to work on behalf of ensuring that this economy has the workforce and success that it needs going forward.
The President. Thank you very much. Thank you.
University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis E. St. John. Thank you, Mr. President. I'm Finis St. John. I'm the chancellor of the University of Alabama system, which includes the University of Alabama——
The President. Good.
Mr. St. John. ——UAB, UAH, and the academic medical center at UAB. It's an honor to be here. I appreciate your hosting this.
When this pandemic started and we had to send all of our students home from our universities, many of us were afraid that this would be the disruption of higher education for all time; that they would learn that they could learn as well on their computer from home as they would on their campuses.
One thing this has told us is: We're not worried about that anymore.
The President. Right.
Mr. St. John. Our students are yearning to come back to campus. They want to be there. They—it has reaffirmed the value of on-campus instruction at our institutions of higher learning.
So, last month, our Board of Trustees committed to returning this fall——
The President. Good.
Mr. St. John. ——on all three of our campuses to in-person instruction, realizing that we could not eliminate all risk, but that we can reduce risk and manage risk in a way that allows us to go forward.
So, early on, we looked to the medical experts at UAB—the researchers and scientists and doctors there—to try to come up with a plan to make our campuses as safe as possible and as safe as any in the country. And we've got a four-part, pillared program that allows us to do that. The first—and we believe this is important—is to try to have all of our students tested before they return to campus.
The President. Right.
Mr. St. John. Not after they return, but before they return, so that those who need isolation can do that at home, and we can begin the school year.
[Mr. St. John continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So we promise to do our best to provide this essential service to our students and our citizens. And we greatly appreciate the assistance that you've given us.
The President. Well, thank you very much.
Mr. St. John. Yes.
The President. It's a great place, a great State. And you're right about one thing: There's nothing like the campus. If we've learned anything, it's the computer will never replace the campus. They thought it would for a while, didn't they? But it didn't—after about 2 weeks——
Mr. St. John. We've earned it.
The President. ——we figured out that it's much better to have it the old-fashioned way, right?
Mr. St. John. Yes.
The President. That's great. Great statement, actually. Thank you.
Blessed Sacrament Catholic School teacher Susan Albertson. Thank you, Mrs.—thank you, Mr. President, Mrs. Trump, Mr. Vice President, and Mrs. Pence. I'm a third grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, right here in Washington.
I believe, Mr. Vice President, you mentioned some heroes, shortly ago. I certainly agree with you: the parents. I couldn't have done this for the past few months at home without the community of parents that we have at Blessed Sacrament School. And I guess the teachers are heroes in their own way.
I really believe that the real heroes here are the students. The students that plugged along, that rose to the occasion. In fact, one of my students is here today. Lilly, stand up. [Laughter] And that's why I'm here.
They showed incredible resilience and spirit, and all of the gifts that God has given them. I really believe that the children are our future, as I know that you do. And I think that they are what is truly going to make America great again. So I want them to be back in school in the fall.
The President. Thank you. Great. We agree. Thank you.
Indian Hill, OH, School Board President Nancy Aichholz. Mr. Trump—Mr. President and First Lady, Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence: First, I just would like you to know that I personally pray for you daily, all four of you. I cannot imagine the burdens on your shoulders. And I know that it's only through God that you can handle that. And I'm so——
The President. It's not easy—[laughter]—that I can tell you.
Ms. Aichholz. I so, so appreciate what—— The President. Thank you. That's very nice of you, Nancy.
Ms. Aichholz. ——all that you've done.
I am the president of our school board in the great State of Ohio, in Cincinnati, Indian Hill. And we are very actively working to get our children back in school full-time, all together, as safe as possible. We are fortunate that we have a lot of resources, and we're able to do that.
[Ms. Aichholz continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And really, I'm just honored to be here. Appreciate so much what all of you have done. And however we can help, please don't ever hesitate to reach out.
The President. Thank you very much.
And will Alabama be playing some great football? What's going on with Alabama?
Mr. St. John. Mr. President, that's not the first time we've heard that question, I can promise you. [Laughter] The—we are planning to play the season at the University of Alabama.
The President. Good.
Mr. St. John. Understand that creates great difficulties and complexities. And we're hoping for that. It's important to a lot of people, but we're doing our best on that one too.
The President. It's true. And say hello to the coach. Great coach. Thank you.
Mr. St. John. Yes, sir. Thank you.
President's Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Chairman Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. Mr. President, well, I don't know about Alabama, but the University of Miami is going to be playing. [Laughter] The "U" is in the house. Yes, it's a hurricane in the building.
[Chairman Taylor continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So on behalf of the country's 101 HBCUs, as an American, as a father of a 10-year-old little girl, thank you for the commitment to get our schools back and our children back safely so that they can learn and, as I said, experience the American Dream.
The President. Thank you, Johnny, and you're doing a great job. The only thing is I don't think people know how much we've done for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Nobody knows that we've done more than any administration in history, and nobody knows that. But maybe they'll find out eventually, yes. They'll find out.
But thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Shippensburg, PA, Area School District teacher Bradly Weller. I'm Brad Weller from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Seventh-grade science teacher. Thank you very much, President, for being here and doing all this. First Lady, Mr. Pence—and I really, really want to thank Karen Pence for stealing all of my information I had written down this morning, and then she did it again after I wrote the new stuff down just here this afternoon. [Laughter] So, appreciate it.
No, I'm going to keep this short and sweet: We're ready to go back. We literally are ready to go back. I know our students, I know—I have three kids at home—they want to go back. It's time. It's time. Just like your economy, which is the greatest economy ever in the history of the world, I appreciate that you had to slow it down. The momentum was gone. We did the same thing to our students last year. Their momentum was—I mean, they were rolling. They were a well-oiled machine. And then, all of a sudden, just—you had to throw it in park. If we just have to change gears a little bit this year, you know, that's one thing we can do. But to throw it in park again, I don't like that option.
The President. Thank you.
Vice President Pence. Well said.
The President. You're right. Thank you very much.
Acting Director of the Domestic Policy Council Brooke L. Rollins. Thank you, Mr. President. I'm Brooke Rollins, the President's Domestic Policy Chief. And while I sit here and listen to everyone, I'm struck—I don't know that the world understands, but I think it's so important:
[Acting Director Rollins continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And having this dream team—along with Kellyanne, and Secretary DeVos, Secretary Azar, and our teams here—this country needs to know that we are fighting every single day for every American—and to ensure that we can reopen safely and make sure that it's done in the proper way.
So thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you, Brooke. Thank you very much. Please.
Forsyth County, GA, Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden. Mr. President, Mrs. Trump, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Pence: It's an honor to be here representing Forsyth County Schools in Forsyth County, Georgia.
We're about 30 miles north of Atlanta, serve 52,000 students in our school system. We're ready to go. We're going to open our doors——
The President. Good.
Mr. Bearden. ——on August 6. We've been planning and preparing all summer. We will have guidelines in place. I'm really proud of our teachers and our students, how well they performed last spring. But as everyone has said this morning, this afternoon, our students need to be back in school, and we will be prepared on August 6; I will assure you of that.
The President. Good, that's great. That's great. Thank you very much.
Secretary of Education Elisabeth Prince DeVos. Thank you, Mr. President, Mrs. Trump, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Pence. Mr. President, thank you for your bold leadership and for convening us here today for this vital conversation.
[Secretary DeVos continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
With grit, determination, and grace, we can do what's right for all students and ensure they are back in school. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much, Betsy. Appreciate it. Very nice. Please.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Board of Trustees member Nicole Washington. Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. President, First Lady Trump, Vice President Pence, and Second Lady Pence.
[Ms. Washington continued her remarks, concluding as follows.] What I would like to close on is, the pandemic dispelled the myth that higher education can change on a dime. Our institutions are printing PPE. We've expanded student services virtually online that we didn't think we could do. Our students are creating apps. And I hope that we encourage those innovations to continue after we return to the new normal and provide high quality just-in-time services to accommodate our students' preferences and their schedules.
So thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Middle Tennessee State University Student Trustee Delanie McDonald. Thank you, Mr. President, First Lady, Mr. Vice President, and Mrs. Pence for the honor of being here today. My name is Delanie McDonald, and I'm the student trustee at Middle Tennessee State University. I was actually homeschooled all my life by choice, not because of a pandemic. [Laughter] So I really understand what people have been going through.
And I was honored to receive the Buchanan Fellowship at MTSU, which is the highest academic scholarship given to incoming freshmen. I was heavily involved on campus. I actually served as the student body president as well, so I know the extreme importance that the campus environment has on student success.
My fellow students across the Nation have lost a lot this year, and it is important to all of us to safely return to campus this fall. My university has done an exceptional job of updating the students, of reassuring them that they are tirelessly working for our safe return to campus. And I'm honored to be here today, included in this discussion, and I'm really excited to take back what I learned to my fellow student body. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much.
Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee. Good afternoon, Mr. President, First Lady, Mr. Vice President, Second Lady. I will brag on her. She is an MTSU student. I'm the president of Middle Tennessee State University. [Laughter] We attract the best and the brightest, not only in the State of Tennessee, but from around the United States.
[Mr. McPhee continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So my executive team that made these decisions, including the doctor of our health center—we decided that we were going to put together a plan that would make our parents and our students confident. We can't guarantee anything with regard to virus, but we found that if we communicate with them and put a mitigation plan together—and I have two of my colleagues here from the State of Tennessee you've met already. And my university had a meeting—was it last week, Commissioner?
Commissioner Schwinn. Yes.
Mr. McPhee. She brought her staff down. We put together a very strong mitigation plan that deals with testing, contact tracing, and isolation, and quarantine, if needed, for our students.
[Mr. McPhee continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Thank you so much for having us, and we look forward to this conversation. I learned quite a bit today. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Well, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Great job, too.
So I want to thank everybody, and I want to just say: Get open in the fall. We want your schools open. It's going to be a much better climate than it is right now. We're on the right side of things. Deborah, I think we can say that. A lot of work has been done, and we understand what we're doing very, very well. Again, mortality rate: the lowest anywhere in the world. And we want to get this done, and we want to get our country going again.
Economically, we're doing well. We want to do well with the education. I see where Harvard announced that they're closing for the season or for the year. I think it's ridiculous. I think it's an easy way out. And I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, you want to know the truth. But I noticed that today, and probably, others are doing that. That's called the easy way out.
I don't know if people are helping them. I guess their endowment is plenty big; they don't have a problem with that. But that's not what we want to do.
Because it's very important—as so many of the parents and instructors said today, it's so important that the children—at this age, especially—that they're together, they're together on campus. And that's what we're striving for, and we're going to be very strong on that. We're going to be very, very powerful on that view. We want our schools open in the fall.
Tomorrow I'm meeting with the President of Mexico. I say that to the media because it's going to be quite a meeting. He's a good man. He's a friend of mine. And we have a great relationship with Mexico. So we'll be meeting tomorrow.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Congratulations, everybody. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:12 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey; Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert R. Redfield, Jr.; Nick L. Saban, head coach, University of Alabama football team; and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. Mr. Taylor referred to his daughter Taylor Dee.<p>* White House correction.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Safely Reopening America's Schools Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343037