Remarks by the First Lady at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro

September 12, 2022

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Jayden. I can tell that you have a gift and I'm excited to one day call you a colleague.

And Congresswoman Manning, Chancellor Martin, thank you for welcoming us today.

Wow, I'm so excited to be here in AggieLand! It's wonderful to help kick off Secretary Cardona's Road to Success tour at our nation's largest HBCU.

Like many of you, I'm back in class at my community college in Virginia. And I've always loved the start of a new school year.

There's a moment right before my new class files in, when I smell the scent of freshly waxed floors drifting in the air. I feel the fading glow of summer still warm on my skin and I hear a hum of possibility in that fragile quiet—just waiting to be pierced by the chatter and laughter of new students bursting through the door.

In that moment, I know that I'm about to meet students whose lives I hope to change—and who will change me in their own way. And I feel as lucky as I did the day I signed my first teaching contract.

Some of you here today know that feeling. Some—our education students—will know it very soon.

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

And yet, for all of us who've answered this calling, there is someone who didn't. Or someone who felt they had to walk away. Perhaps one of you really wants to teach, but you have doubts.

Why? It's not because they don't want to teach. It's because so many obstacles have stood in their way: Student loans and low salaries. Class sizes and safety concerns.

If we want to add more bright, talented people into this field—if we want educators to be able to do what they do best—we have to give them the support they deserve.

We have to come to places like North Carolina A&T and say: We need you. Yes, you.

Because our students of color deserve to have educators who look like them and who can understand their paths. Because to better serve all of our students, our classrooms need diverse perspectives and the chance to learn from teachers of all backgrounds.

That's why we're here today: to recruit you!

We've all heard of the so-called three "R's" of learning—reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well, it's time for the three R's of teaching: Recruit, respect, and retain.

That's what your President, Joe Biden, is doing. He's working hard to lift up educators:

  • By opening schools and getting teachers vaccinated
  • Making sure districts could hire more counselors and school psychologists
  • Calling on states to boost teacher pay
  • And cancelling billions in student debt.

Joe was always going to be an Education President. I mean, he has to be because he comes home to me every night! But it's also because he cares so deeply about this.

He will never stop working to recruit more people into this profession, to support mentoring educators and restore the dignity and respect that we deserve, and to give us the resources we need to keep doing this incredible job for years and years to come.

And educators—we have a role to play, too. We are the best recruiters out there. We have to use that "teacher voice" we know makes people listen—and let the world know what this work means to us…how we change lives every day.

We have to say: To the student who knows deep inside you that you have a gift…To the artist or engineer who wants to spread the joy of creating something out of nothing…To that person who is ready for a change—longing for more purpose and light in your day to day:

You have a calling, too. Answer it. Become a teacher.

And when you do, you'll find a vocation that brings you joy and meaning.

You'll know that someone out there is a better thinker because of you.

That someone is sitting a little taller because you gave him confidence.

Someone is working a little harder because you pushed her to try.

Someone is braver because you helped him find his courage.

And you'll know this too: that your President and his Administration are working every day to make sure you have the support, respect, and pay you deserve. Join us, become a teacher and we will change the world together, one student at a time.

Thank you.

And now, it's my pleasure to introduce someone who leads with vision and heart as only a teacher can, our great Secretary of Education—Miguel Cardona.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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