Indian Treaty Room
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
11:41 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Miguel Cardona, our Secretary of Education! (Applause.)
Please have a seat. Good afternoon. Or good — I think it’s almost good afternoon. Good morning, everyone.
I was listening to your comments back there in the room. And, first of all, we are so fortunate in our country to have as the leader of probably one of the most important functions of government, which is education — to have as the leader of all that we are doing in that regard: Miguel Cardona.
As he said, he and I have been traveling the country together. We’ve been spending some time together, including talking about KRS-One. That’s a whole other — some people know what I’m talking about, some people don’t. (Laughs.)
But you truly — he puts so much heart into this work and commitment. And — and you see the beauty of our children.
You know, I think there’s so much about the mission of this commission and the work that we all do that requires us to see that, to see those bright eyes, to see those beautiful smiles, because they believe that we believe in them. And it is because of that that they aspire, they have ambition, and they achieve all of their God-given potential.
Having leaders who I think so many of us have had as mentors — as the people who raised us, as the communities that raised us, that looked at us — I’ll speak for myself — and they convinced us we were special. We weren’t particularly special. (Laughter.) But we believed them when they told us that we were.
And so we thought then about what we could achieve and to our responsibility, and we had a sense of optimism about what we could do and, for so many of us, doing something that someone like us had never done before.
It’s about a perspective, it’s about a state of mind, and then fueling that with the resources that are necessary to help all of our young people understand how special they are and how deserving they are of all the support we can give them. (Applause.)
And so that’s what these leaders — you have all stepped up in the midst of your role of leadership and so many other ways, in the midst of the busy schedules and all of the priorities that you have, to come together and volunteer your time, your expertise, your perspective, and a dedication to hard work — because, yes, this is a working committee — to do what we know we must do and, in particular, on behalf of our young people — in elementary school, in middle school, at our HSIs — and reminding them of how much we care and how much we expect of them, and our sense of responsibility, in particular to our Latino students, in every phase of their life and education.
And on the issue of equity, you know, this is about — this commission is about speaking real, right? Motivated by hope and faith, but speaking truth about the obstacles to actually achieving all that hope and faith can drive.
When we talk about, like you said, Mr. Secretary, about equity, you know — so many of us have come from movements that were about the fight for equality — we also understand there’s a difference between equality and equity.
Equity is everyone deserves to have — right? — and be treated equal. But equity understands that not everybody starts out on the same base.
So, if you’re giving everybody an equal amount but they’re starting out on different bases, are they really going to have the opportunity to compete and achieve?
That’s why we purposefully, as an administration — the President, myself, the Secretary, and — and everyone in our administration — are so dedicated to a specific principle, which is that of equity.
Understanding we must speak truth. We must be clear-eyed. We must see who’s not in the room, who’s never been in the room, where are the resources going, who needs what kind of resources. — to do what? To be able to compete equally, to have equal opportunity to achieve, to have equal encouragement, to have aspirations and be ambitious.
So, it’s all of that.
And it’s not just simply about financial resources; that is a very big part of it. But it’s also about: What is the culture of the environment? How are we approaching this issue in a way that we also understand we cannot support and help our young people if we also — don’t also look at the context in which those young people live and are being raised? Which means necessarily, because our — our edict and our mission is not to come out and say, “Well, we could do this better.”
Part of the extension of the work you will do is, yes, focused on our young leaders and our young people, but understanding we also then have to be clear about the needs of their parents and their grandparents and their teachers and their communities, because none of us just live in a silo. Everything is in context.
My mother used to — she would give us a hard time sometimes, and she would say to us, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you young people. You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?” (Laughs.)
You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.
So all of this is part of the work of this group of extraordinary leaders who will help inform and advise how we think about our work and, like the Secretary said, give us feedback, give us counsel, give us direction in how we best achieve our mission, doing it in a way that we fully understand the challenges and the opportunities.
And so with that, it is my great honor to swear you in as members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics.
Please rise, and I’m going to administer the oath. And please raise your right hand and then repeat after me. Well, repeat after me as follows.
(The oath is administered.)
END 11:49 A.M. EDT