The White House
Good evening, educators!
On the first full day of our Administration, I kicked off my time as First Lady by inviting Becky and Randi to the White House—along with all of you, virtually. And this year, we are happy to also be joined by our UAW higher education colleagues.
With your help, we’ve gotten so much done already, so as we close out our second year, I wanted to bring us all together once again.
As you can guess, we’re in full holiday swing here at the White House—and every room is decorated with twinkling lights and beautiful ornaments.
In fact, in the State Dining Room, we were inspired by “We the Children”—and the trees are decorated with self-portraits created by the students of our most recent Teachers of the Year.
And when I walk through that room, I’m reminded of the dedication and determination of my colleagues across the country—and of the promise of the next generation, and the future that they will create.
Educators shape that future every day. So it’s my honor to be with all of you this evening—and to introduce the leaders of the NEA and AFT.
They’ve been incredible partners, tireless advocates for educators and their students, and of course, good friends. Please welcome, Becky Pringle and Randi Weingarten.
Thank you, Becky and Randi. Your commitment to your members and to our students is unparalleled.
Right now, we’re in the last stretch of the semester. And I know that, like me, many of you are working on final exams and tabulating grades.
This time of year is magical—but there’s always a bit of mayhem too, as you manage an overflowing schedule of winter assemblies and holiday concerts and class parties.
Meanwhile, nurses’ offices fill with sniffles, shoes covered in slush and ice run through the halls, and cafeteria kitchens make sure kids don’t go hungry during the holiday break.
I know it can be overwhelming, on top of doing a job that’s not easy in the simplest of times.
So, I wanted to personally let all of you know how grateful the President and I are for the incredible work you do, no matter the season.
This year, I’ve met inspiring educators across the nation—from bright-eyed teaching apprentices in Knoxville, getting paid to do their student teaching; to veteran teachers in Connecticut, helping kids catch up in the summer months and learn to swim; to educators in Milwaukee working with parents after school at a homework diner.
Their stories have reminded me of how much hope can be found in our classrooms.
And I have never been more proud to call myself an educator.
Teachers, counselors and custodians, bus drivers and nurses—our students depend on us.
So when budgets run thin, when schools need more support, when we see injustice and inequality, we fight for our classrooms and our communities.
Thank you for standing up for your students and for each other. Thank you for using your “teacher voice” to fight for justice and equity. Thank you for showing up when it matters most.
And I want you to know that you aren’t in this alone. You have a champion in the White House—two in fact: your President and me.
I always knew that Joe would be an education President. Because this means so much to him. He’s working every day to support what we call the three R’s of teaching: recruiting, respecting, and retaining our educators. And he’s delivered on his promises:
From historic investments to safely re-open schools, to addressing the mental health and academic needs of our students, to signing the bipartisan gun bill, to providing loan forgiveness for public servants.
And we’re not done yet. We’re going to keep fighting for you and your students. We’re going to keep standing with you as you change lives in little ways and big ones.
We still have a lot of work left to do, but I know that together, we will continue to transform our country and change our future for the better.
So I hope you can use your holiday break to rest and spend some time with your families and friends. And get your flu and updated COVID vaccines so that you can enjoy your time off with less stress, and refresh for the year ahead.
You know, a few weeks ago, I was in New Hampshire, and I ran into a student of mine from more than 30 years ago. In that moment, I could picture exactly where he sat in my classroom—and he told me that he remembered my lessons, too—they had left an impression that lasted all these decades later.
As you calculate your grades and mid-year evaluations, you can see the difference you’re making in your students’ lives.
But your influence goes beyond books read, or lectures given.
It’s how you see the boy who feels like he’s fading away, and help him express himself through music or art.
How you help the girl who thinks she’s not smart enough, find the intelligence that’s always been there.
How you tell a mom that, despite her fears, she’s doing a good job.
How you know that sometimes “I’m fine” means that everything is wrong—and how you light a path when someone feels lost.
Those are the tiny miracles that you perform every day—and that magic lasts beyond one class or semester. You help students become kinder and smarter and more optimistic—become the people they want to be.
You shape our world, one student at a time.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you and happy holidays.