Part II, Michelle Obama & Arne Duncan Speak to the Department of Education

Uploaded by usedgov on 04.02.2009

Well, this is a good thing to see this department fired up and ready to go, right? I am honored
to be here this afternoon. You know, first, let me tell you that you couldn't be luckier
than to have as your leader, this guy, by the name of Arne Duncan. Barack and I, my
brother, my family, we've known Arne for a very long time. And we've seen his growth,
his leadership developed over the years, and he is someone who is committed, hardworking,
passionate, but he's someone who is fair, who's honest, who's decent, and who knows
that getting to any goal means you have to build the team from within, from the bottom
up. And I know he's already beginning to do this, this kind of turn out and enthusiasm.
He is sort of for me, but, you know, you're behind…but I know you're all so excited
about your new secretary. So I'm honored to be here to share the stage with Arne as well
as all of these public servants who have dedicated lifetime to education and to public service.
Arne wanted me to talk a little bit about my self. But I always sort of feel like after
two years of campaign, you--you know, you know everything. But I think the most important
thing to tell you or to remind you is that I am a product of your work. I am a product
of people who were investing everyday in the education of regular kids who have grown up
on the Southside of Chicago, kids on the Northside, folks in the South and the West. Young people
who oftentimes come into these systems not knowing their own power and their own potential,
believing that there are some magic out there to great things. But because of the work that
you've put in, you've taught us and helped many of us understand that it is our own hard
work and our own belief in self, our commitment to pushing ourselves along, building great
communities and families and reinvesting that energy once we have some successes. I am a
product of your work. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the public schools that nurtured
me and helped me along. And I am committed as well as my husband to ensuring that more
kids like us and kids around this country, regardless of their race, their income, their
status, the property values in their neighborhoods get an access to an outstanding education.
So as Arne said, this is the first stop in many. I am going to be visiting agencies throughout
this administration. To do just something simple and that's to say thank you. Thank
you before we even begin the work, because so many of you have been here struggling and
pushing for decades. And Barack and I want to say thank you for what you've done and
thank you for what you will continue to do. But we also know that there are new faces
coming into this work and we want to welcome you and thank you for the hard work that you're
going to put in. And I'm going to spend the next several weeks or months, however long
it takes going from agency to agency just to say "Hello," to learn, to listen, to take
information back were possible. But truthfully, my task here is to say "Thank you and roll
up your sleeves because we have a lot of work to do." But the issues that we're collectively working
on affect all of us. All of these communities, they affect you and your children and your
grandchildren and those of your friends and your family. We're all in this together. So
we have a stake in educating every single child regardless, as I've said, of background
and income. So the Department of Education is going to be at the forefront of many of
the things that we have to do in this administration and we're going to need that energy in these
times of economic challenge. We're going to be making investments. And I shouldn't say
we but the administration "We." With these investments we're going to create good jobs
as we renovate and modernize more than 10,000 schools and improve the learning environment
for about five million children across this country. We'll be able to increase Pell Grants
and make college more affordable for seven million students and give nearly four million
students tax credits for tuition. Imagine that. And with these investments that we hope
to make through the Stimulus Package, we'll be able to prevent teacher lay-offs and education
cuts in hard-hit states. You know, we need to keep teachers in the classrooms throughout
this time. We'll be able to preserve early childhood education programs. And I know all
of you all know here the importance of investing in early childhood education. And imagine
what we can do with millions of dollars of more investment in this area. And we can expand
opportunities in low income districts for all students and particularly for students
with disabilities. And then as we look over the longer term, these investments will accelerate
education reform, one of Arne's specialties. By funding and rewarding innovation, innovative
approaches to teaching and learning such as teacher quality initiative, school turnaround
programs, and of course, charter schools. There's a lot of work to do and we're going
to need you. I've said that for two years. Sometimes I don't ask for much other than
prayer and hardwork and then a little more prayer and then a little more hardwork. But
we've got a great leader in Arne and wonderful leader in our President Obama. And more importantly,
we have to remember that the children of this country are counting on all of us. They're
looking to us for direction. They're looking to us for that ray of hope. They're looking
to us to help them figure out how to make it through. And we have everything we need
right here and now to make that happen. So we're counting on you every step of the way.
So thank you for taking the time to come. Thank you for your service and let's get to