Remarks by the First Lady at an Event to Celebrate Educators and Highlight the Importance of Educator Wellness in West Valley City, Utah

January 16, 2024

[As prepared for delivery.]

First Lady Cox – from the day we met, we've had a connection – the kind that you can only have with another teacher. Thank you for your tireless work – Abby, you "show up" and make sure that students and educators have what they need to thrive. And how wonderful to be able to spend time with you and Emma Kate. Joe and I are excited to continue working with you and Governor Cox at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting.

Dr. Murthy, I'm grateful for your leadership and commitment to making sure everyone has the mental health support they need. Joe knew you would have both the expertise and the heart for the job of Surgeon General, and it's amazing to see what you've done.

Thank you, Principal Oaks and Mrs. Jordan for your dedication to the students here at Hunter High.

As First Lady, I get to speak with many groups across the country, but visiting schools and talking to students, and the teachers, nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, and administrators – all who make schools run – are some of my favorite visits.

Thank you for your warm welcome.

Do you remember that moment? When you first decided to become an educator?

For me, it was almost 40 years ago. I thought about just how much books had shaped me – how I loved escaping into them or learning something new. And it broke my heart that there were people who didn't know that joy – who couldn't read.

I realized that it was a gift I could give to someone. That I could teach someone else to read.

And I bet that you have a similar story – a moment when you realized that you wanted to be the person to open up the world for someone else, to give the smile that helps that student find the confidence she didn't know was inside her, to be the one who says, "It's OK, we'll figure it out together."

There is something profoundly optimistic about education.

To answer this call of service is, in itself, an act of hope.

But I know that, sometimes, it feels like the weight that teachers like you across the country have to carry is too much for one person to take on alone. Pay that doesn't match your value. Work that doesn't end when the afternoon bell rings.

Students who seem to be struggling with more than a teacher can solve.

Today, First Lady Cox and I are here to tell you that you aren't alone. We understand, and we are working to honor this profession and give you the support you deserve – because there is no greater calling than educating the future.

President Biden has delivered on his promises to you: from addressing the mental health and academic needs of our students, to passing a bipartisan gun safety law, to loan forgiveness for public servants, including educators.

But he can't do it alone. And here in Utah, he doesn't have to. Thanks to the work of your Governor and First Lady, Utah has taken a big step toward paying teachers what they deserve.

Joe and I are grateful for partners like your Governor and First Lady. Because supporting educators doesn't have to be a red or a blue issue, it's an American one.

We're all here because we heard the same calling – and we answered it.

We answered it because we're learners – collecting all the wisdom, and art, and insight humanity has to offer.

We're sculptors – able to see the beauty hidden beneath the surface and help bring it out.

We're optimists – believing that the students we teach can help make our world a better place.

Teaching isn't just what we do; it's who we are.

President Biden and I are grateful for the incredible work you do.

Never underestimate your power – or your worth.

Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try. Someone is braver because you helped her find her courage.

Thank you.

Now, we're excited to come meet all of you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at an Event to Celebrate Educators and Highlight the Importance of Educator Wellness in West Valley City, Utah Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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