Thank you, Chair Cooksey—Jim—and thank you to Dr. Richard Rhodes as well. It has been my privilege to work with ACCT and AACC as Second Lady and now First Lady.
But as a teacher, I want to say on behalf of my colleagues and students, just how grateful we are for your leadership.
With us today are some of the hardest working and determined advocates for community colleges.
But I want to especially acknowledge the students. I know that, with work and family obligations on top of your studies, it probably wasn’t easy to get here today. But you came because you know that showing up matters. Thank you for using your voice on behalf of your community.
Some of you may know that I’m an enormous sports fan. I’m a First Lady for all Americans—but when it comes to teams, my heart belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles, 76ers, Phillies, and Flyers alone.
The competition, the crowds, the rivalries—I love it all.
But too often, we treat what happens in our nation’s capital like a sports game too—wondering which team will score the most points with voters.
Legislation becomes a football to keep away from the other side, and Americans get lost in the playbook.
Governing isn’t a game. There are no teams to root for or against, just people—Americans from all walks of life—who need help and hope.
There’s no scoreboard—there’s no “us” versus “them.” If someone wins it doesn’t mean someone else has to lose. And most of all, there are no spectators. All of us must do our part because the decisions that are made in the halls of Congress and the rooms of the White House affect us all.
You know that. It’s why you’re here today. You know what’s at stake.
One year ago, I told this group that Joe was going to fight for community colleges. And since then, we’ve made some incredible progress.
The American Rescue Plan put billions into community colleges so they could support their students through financial aid, child care support, and other wraparound services.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed, creating millions of new jobs—along with potential opportunities to train for in-demand skills. But Joe has also had to make compromises. Congress hasn’t passed the Build Back Better agenda—yet. And free community college is no longer a part of that package.
We knew this wouldn’t be easy—Joe has always said that.
Still, like you, I was disappointed. Because—like you—these aren’t just bills or budgets to me. We know what they mean for real people. For our students.
We’ve seen how entire towns can be transformed when community colleges and private companies work together to train students for jobs that are desperately needed—with skills like manufacturing or modernizing our electrical grid.
We’ve seen how fragile that grasp on a middle-class life can be—how our students struggle to pay their bills and buy their books. We know that if we can make that path a little easier—with high speed internet, or affordable prescriptions, or more Pell grants—they can actually cross that finish line.
We’ve all had that bright, engaged student—someone who has so much passion and potential—fade from our classes because they can’t find a reliable baby sitter. They start missing lectures, they fall behind and just can’t catch up. Or the cost of child care just gets to be too much, and they have to choose between extra shifts at work and pursuing the degree that will help them earn more money.
But there is no choice when it comes to keeping your kids safe. And one day, that student is just gone. It breaks my heart.
So, we know that affordable child care and universal preschool would profoundly change people’s lives.
Build Back Better isn’t just a piece of legislation. And it’s certainly not a football to pass or pivot.
It’s about helping community colleges train our workforce for 21st-century skills.
It’s about supporting students with tutoring, child care, and transportation.
It’s about pioneering the new climate jobs that will lead us into the future.
And it’s an investment in our kids, with universal preschool that will lay a foundation to learn and succeed for the rest of their lives.
No one can tell that story better than you. No one can help us push past the playbook and see the human heart that drives our work better than you.
Governing does have one thing in common with sports. When you get knocked down, you have to get back up. When you lose, you work harder and you come back for more.
There are a lot of reasons that I wanted Joe to run for president—but one of the biggest was because I knew that no one would work harder for my students and yours.
I’ve never believed that more than I do today.
Joe doesn’t quit. He doesn’t give up.
He is keeping his promise to rebuild our middle class and he knows that community colleges do just that. He knows that you are our greatest resource and our best investment. He will keep fighting for us.
So, thank you for being here. This is how we move forward, step by step. We take the hard-won victories and we keep pushing for the change we need. With work and persistence, we will win the progress our students deserve.
Joe and I are with you. We will continue to work as hard for your community as you do. We are not giving up.