Remarks by First Lady Jill Biden at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference

Marriott Marquis | Washington, D.C.

THE FIRST LADY:  Oh, my goodness. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE FIRST LADY:  Well, I love you back.  Thank you so much.

You know, I — I hate to say what I’m going to say next because, you know, you’re so enthusiastic and with so much energy and hope, and I feel it.  But while you’ve been in this room, I don’t know whether you’ve been on your phones, but we just learned about another shooting in Tennessee — a school shooting.


THE FIRST LADY:  And I am truly without words.  And our children deserve better.  (Applause.) 

And we stand — all of us — we stand with Nashville in prayer.  (Applause.) 

So, thank you, Mayor Woodards.  And I recently saw firsthand how you are building a stronger Tacoma by supporting students — (applause) — that must be the Tacoma group — (applause) — by working with families.

And as a college professor, it means so much to me that one of the ways you are doing that is by investing in education.  (Applause.)  

And Mr. Anthony and the entire NLC team, thank you for your work and for this opportunity to join you all today.

My husband always — often says that local leaders get things done.  (Applause.)  When people need safe roads to drive to work, when businesses need more support to stay open, when parents need to know that their children are safe, there’s no time for political posturing or division.  You — all of you — you reach across the aisle and you look for common ground.

You find the solutions that people need.  You’re not just serving your constituents; you’re serving your neighbors and your kids’ teachers and the people that you see at church or temple each weekend.

Joe’s admiration for mayors is clear.  It’s why he’s recruited mayors like Mayor Pete, Mayor Walsh — (applause) — Mayor Landrieu, and Mayor Lance Bottoms for his Cabinet and White House staff.

So, it is a special honor to be here with all of you.

In the last two years, you’ve helped your communities recover and rebuild after the pandemic.

And, today, no surprise, I want to talk to you about education and jobs — (applause) — and specifically — yes, jobs.  That’s what we all want, right?  (Applause.)  And specifically, how we can work together to help our students get the education and training they need for the careers that they want. 

I’ve spent a lot of time visiting community colleges across the country.  I mean, a lot.  In fact, many of you know that because many of you joined me.  

One of my first trips as First Lady was to Sauk Valley Community College in Illinois to hear — (applause) — where is Illinois?; it must be over there — (applause) — to hear how they are helping rural students go to college tuition free.  (Applause.)   

Mayor Woodards and I visited Bates Technical College in Tacoma.  (Applause.)  Your (inaudible).  Where the high school — the high school and the community [college] share a campus.  It was so great to see that.  And students are enabled to enroll in a range of college programs while still in high school.  I love seeing that.   

In Rolling Meadows, Illinois, again — (applause) — Joe –Mayor Joe Gallo and I visited a high school where 95 percent of the students are on a career path with the opportunity to earn college credit and intern with local employers. 

In Valparaiso, Indiana, Mayor Matt — nobody is here from Indiana, I guess — (laughter) — Mayor Matt Murphy and I heard from students at Ivy Tech Community College who were preparing for jobs leading our clean energy future in Northwest Indiana.

And in Mayor Michelle Wu’s Boston — anybody here from Boston? — (applause) — I saw a partnership between Bunker Hill Community College, unions, and a local energy company where 9 out of 10 students are hired when they complete the program.  (Applause.) 

I’m not done yet. 

Last month, Mayor John Giles invited me to Mesa Community College, where students are getting great jobs in their area, with companies like Intel.  (Applause.) 

(Laugh.)  They’re enthusiastic for a Monday, I’ll tell you.  (Laughter.)

So, for most people, a high school education alone isn’t enough to find a great career.  But they often don’t need a four-year degree to pursue their passions either.  (Applause.)   

Community colleges have always been about jobs.  And you know that because many of you work with them.  So, maybe you’re wondering, like, “Hey, Jill, so what’s new here?” 

Well, now we’ve added something else to the equation: President Biden — my husband — and his administration are creating millions of jobs in infrastructure, clean energy, and manufacturing.  (Applause.) 

And these positions pay well.  Most of the kids I saw that were getting jobs were making more than I’m making.  (Laughter.)

And many of them require associate degrees, certificates, or other hands-on instruction, not four years of college. 

Still, a lot of high school students don’t necessarily know how to get from earning their diplomas to earning a living.  They may not even know, you know, even what roles are out there.  And that’s why career — connected learning to careers is the heart of the Biden Education Pathway.

It starts with free, high-quality universal preschool –(applause) — yes, thank you for that — and goes through to high school.

It provides access to two years of affordable community colleges, and then it connects to great jobs. 

And it’s the future of our workforce, how we grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

And these aren’t red ideas or blue ideas; they’re American ideas.  (Applause.) 

In a time when we sometimes struggle to find common ground, these learning pathways bring us together. 

President Biden understands that.  It’s why he’s making community college — colleges and career-connected learning top priorities in his 2024 budget.

And for the next few weeks, our administration will be on an “Investing in America” tour, and I’ll be highlighting workforce training programs.  (Applause.) 

So, today, I want to ask all of you to reimagine what’s possible in your communities.  You know your local economies — which industries are growing or maybe need employees.  You know your schools and community colleges.  Bring them all to the same table.

Start college promise programs so that students can learn without going into debt.  En- — (applause) — yes, I’m all for that.  

Encourage high schools to work with colleges so that every young person in your city can take advantage of dual-enrollment options and get a jumpstart on their degrees.  (Applause.) 

Work with local businesses and unions to create hands-on learning experiences like registered apprenticeships.  (Applause.) 

You know how to get this done, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Joe and his administration are with you.  And through the Biden Education Pathway, we can fundamentally transform what it means to make a living and make a life here in America.

Thank you.


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