Office of Public Engagement

Increasing College Graduation Rates in the District of Columbia

This evening, I have the opportunity to speak at a celebration honoring the graduates of the D.C. College Access Program. Since its founding, in 1999, DC-CAP has worked with Washington’s public schools to ensure that underprivileged students have the chance to attend, and graduate from, college.

Back in 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke at event held by DC-CAP. He told them how important education has been to his own success, and to the success of our country. And he called for our nation’s leaders to support these kinds of remarkable programs, “So that we can uphold the promise for all that has always made America a place where you can achieve your dreams and get ahead.”

Senator Obama has since become President Obama, and his commitment to education hasn’t changed. He is optimistic that with programs such as DC-CAP, our country’s best days are still to come. He puts his total faith in young people like the ones to whom I’m speaking tonight. He believes that America will win the future, if we give ourselves and our children the tools to shape that future.

President Obama’s belief is only reinforced by the incredible stories of students who have participated in DC-CAP. Many of them are already becoming leaders, and helping others in their community succeed.

You may have seen that the Washington Post featured an article about the college access program just last month. One of the quotes really touched me. Rashida Wise, a 17 year-old senior at Anacostia, spoke of the expectations of participants in the program, and she said, “We have to apply to five colleges. Under five is selling yourself short.”That might be the most important lesson we can all learn from DC-CAP and its graduates: never sell yourself short.

When the First Lady visited South Africa last week, she gave a group of young people some very valuable advice. She said, “Success is not about where you come from, or how much money your family has. Success is about how passionately you believe in your own potential, and more importantly, how hard you’re willing to work to achieve it.”

As our country works to lead the world by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building, our success will largely depend upon whether we take these words to heart. The students at today’s celebration are great examples of people who have done just that.

For more on the Obama Administration’s commitment to America’s students, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education.

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