East Room, The White House
Thank you, Mae. Your bravery has inspired a generation of young people to reach for the stars.
Director General Azoulay, thank you for your dedication to preserving and sharing the world’s treasures.
Senator Coons, tonight is only possible because of your leadership. You’ve been an incredible partner to Joe throughout your career.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Paris, and I watched as the United States’ flag was raised over the garden at UNESCO headquarters once again. As I looked out at our flag flying alongside the worlds’ once more, I thought of how much hard work and dedication led us to that moment – work that was done by the people in this room.
So, tonight, we celebrate you, and what you have done for our nation and the world.
I also want to recognize all the members of Congress and their staffs who worked to pave the way for our return to UNESCO.
You know that the children you represent benefit when they can learn from our past, and lead us to a brighter future. Because our young people are the protectors of democracy, the dreamers of a better world.
And, while I might be biased as a teacher, I think we can all agree that education is one of our greatest shared tools in shaping that future.
It changes us – so we can go on to change our world together.
I saw the power of education in Costa Rica, when I met two teenage girls studying science.
Years later, when I returned, I found them pursuing their dreams – one as a food scientist and the other as a microbiologist.
I saw the power of education last month in Missouri, as I watched high school students learn about our democracy and how to protect it.
And I’ve seen the power of education in my own classroom, where my students juggle school and jobs and family, all with the goal of learning and growing, so they can build good lives, and give back where they can.
Everyone deserves that opportunity.
It was in that spirit that UNESCO was created. To spread ideas and open minds.
To preserve our treasures, so we can remember the history that makes us who we are. To show us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite.
Those principles have helped weave our heritage through our present.
The beauty of art that transcends language to speak to our hearts.
The scientific discoveries that reveal the vast reaches of the universe or the microscopic systems of our own cells.
The hum of shared humanity as we step into an ancient temple and learn how our ancestors worshiped.
The challenges of our times – from authoritarianism, to food crises, to climate change – create an uncertain future.
But what is certain is the possibility still inside of us to innovate, to cooperate, to discover new solutions.
With Joe’s leadership, and all of your partnership, we will realize that future.
One of the newest UNESCO world heritage sites is actually right here in the United States.
Spread along the bends of the Ohio River are man-made hilltops and enormous, precise geometric shapes made of earth. These are the work of the Indigenous Hopewell culture. Their innovation, their hopes, their dreams are part of the American story – and our global heritage.
And now that it is forever protected, we can continue to learn from what they worked so hard to leave behind.
So, let us keep fighting to help young people grow and learn and use their voices.
Let’s inspire them with education, and science, and culture.
And when we do, we’ll empower the next generation of thinkers and dreamers and doers, helping them unleash their possibility, pushing our human story onward to a better future, together.