Most people now call me First Lady, but to one group of students at Northern Virginia Community College, I am—first, foremost, and forever—their writing professor, Dr. B.
In my class, my students don’t take anything for granted. Some are there for a head start on a four-year degree—others for a much-needed fresh start. So, I don’t get too many late papers or missed exams—though there are always exceptions.
A few semesters ago, I got a text that said, quote, “On my way to the hospital to have my baby; research paper will be late.”
To which I replied, “Excuses, excuses.”
Now, this woman served as an interpreter for our military in Afghanistan. She was starting a new life here in America for herself and her family. And in the midst of labor, she was worried about getting her paper in on time.
She’s a special example, but her commitment isn’t unique.
Veterans, single parents, first generation students, refugees—my students come from every walk of life. They show up. They don’t complain. And they only ask for one thing in return: the chance to work hard and build a good life for themselves and their families. And that’s exactly what community colleges give them.
Our schools accept everyone—regardless of age, race, income, or family legacy. They offer classes that are flexible, so students don’t have to choose between work and school. They train for real-world jobs, tailored to the communities they serve—or give students a strong foundation for a four-year degree. And they don’t just improve individuals’ lives—they strengthen our country as a whole.
Because without educated and trained workers, businesses can’t build. Innovation is held back, and our economy drags. We can’t afford to exclude so many from continuing their education just because they come from certain areas or income brackets.
That’s why we launched College Promise back in 2015—an effort to make two years of community college free for hard-working students.
I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this movement for six years now. And what I’ve seen has been incredible. In big states and small towns, from rural Tennessee to urban California, we saw communities come together to create programs that serve the needs of their areas. We partnered with hundreds of local businesses, nonprofits, and schools. And leaders from both sides of the aisle worked to create opportunities. In fact, my partner, Martha Kanter, is with us today, still working to keep our momentum going.
Republicans, Democrats, Independents—College Promise is a place where all Americans can come together and find common ground.
Sauk knows how powerful affordable, accessible college can be—that’s why you’ve invested in students like Abril.
She told my team that, in high school, she thought her college dream was out of reach. But with support from this school, she’s now on track to become a nurse in a time when we need more health care professionals, especially in rural areas like this one. Sauk changed her life.
And soon even more students will be able to take advantage of this incredible community, thanks to the launch of your own College Promise program.
All Americans deserve the same opportunity to pursue their passions, get a great education, and build a career they love. Because, I’ve seen the ripple effect of education.
Families with good-paying jobs can invest in local schools and shops. Businesses can grow their operations.
More jobs and higher salaries mean towns and cities have more resources to offer and become better places to live. That strengthens state economies.
What starts in one community college classroom can create a chain effect that is eventually felt by every single American.
My husband, our President, understands this. He understands that if we want our communities to thrive, if we want our businesses to have the skilled workers they need, if we want to prepare our economy for the future, there is no greater investment we can make than in education.
And now, six years after we launched College Promise, he’s ready for big ideas and bold action—so that all Americans can go to community college, have the support they need to finish, and get good jobs.
Together, we will get this done. Community colleges are our future.