South Court Auditorium

Hello and welcome to the White House!

I’m excited to celebrate the 2023 National Student Poets.

We’re doing things a little differently this year. We’ve invited the communities and schools and teachers of our student poets to join us, so they can be a part of honoring our poets and marking this special day.

So – St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Brooklyn, Norman, Oklahoma, and Lakeland, Florida – thank you for being here with us today!

In so many moments throughout my life, I’ve turned to poetry. In my darkest nights and brightest days, in times of unbridled joy and unbearable heartbreak, poetry has been a refuge, a soothing companion that gives voice to emotions I can’t always articulate on my own.

Poetry feeds our spirit when we’re hungry for something more. It traces the contours of our sorrows and joys. It shows us our shared humanity.

In a world that asks us to sprint from moment to moment, from meeting to meeting, poetry reminds us to slow down, take a breath, and appreciate the celestial beauty that surrounds us.

Gabby, Jacky, Kallan, Miles and Shangri-La – thank you for reminding us to stand and stare. You’ve added so much beauty and texture to our world with your words.

And we need your talents and gifts now more than ever. In a world full of too much busyness, too much tumult, too much pain, you show us a way through the darkness. You remind us that we are not alone, that our similarities are infinite and our differences precious.

Cleo Wade tells us that it’s the little things, every day, that add up to big things. Small daily habits that build long-term meaningful change. One step that can begin a heroic journey.

Each day you live out that advice. In smudges of ink and rushed lines on a screen you make a daily habit of bearing witness.

I know that habit isn’t easy to maintain.

I know that some days it’s hard to carve out the time, to protect that sacred space for your art. Life will always get in the way – there will always be drawers to organize, emails to check, friends to see.

But as the world continues to beckon at your doorstep, demanding more and more of your time and attention and energy, I hope you remember this room. I hope you wrap yourself in this moment and draw strength from its power.

And I hope you know that President Biden, the Vice President, the Second Gentleman and I see you, we hear you, and we’re counting on you to keep going. Keep sharing your gift with the world.

Thank you. And thank you to your families and teachers and communities for supporting your art. I know they’re proud.

And isn’t it wonderful to have Cleo as our emcee for today’s celebration?

Cleo, thank you for taking the time to be here today. I’ll let you take it away!


Thank you again, everyone, for joining us. And to our student poets, it was so wonderful to hear your poems. We’re all leaving here more reflective and more inspired because of your words.

Thank you.


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