President Obama at Reception for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

President Obama at Reception for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

August 21, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


The President:
Hello, everybody! Audience:
Hello! The President:
Welcome. Welcome to
the White House. It is good to see some old
friends and familiar faces. And I want to especially welcome
three of our newest board members of the President’s Board
of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I am so grateful that they’ve
agreed to join, and I’m looking forward to working
with all of you. Now, last February, I saw some
of you here when I signed the executive order to
strengthen the White House initiative on HBCUs. And this is allowing the
government to collaborate with educational associations, with
philanthropic organizations, and with the private sector to
increase your capacity to offer a college degree to as
many students as possible. We’ve also declared this week
to be National HBCU Week. And we do this for
two reasons: first of all, to remember our history. We remember all the men and
women who took great risks and made extraordinary sacrifices to
ensure that these institutions that you lead could exist. We remember that at a critical
time in our nation’s history, HBCUs waged war against
illiteracy and ignorance
— and won. You’ve made it possible for
millions of people to achieve their dreams and gave so many
young people a chance they never thought they’d have —
a chance that nobody else would give them. And that’s something
to celebrate. And that’s something to
be very, very proud of. (applause) But we also use this week as
an opportunity to look forward towards the future and to
take stock of the work that we’ve got left to do. As many of you know, I set a
goal that by 2020, the United States would once again lead in the number of college graduates, have the highest proportion of
college graduates in the world. I set that goal because our
success in a 21st century economy is going to depend
almost entirely on having a skilled workforce, how well
trained our young people are. We cannot reach that
goal without HBCUs. We can’t get there — (applause)
— we can’t get there unless all of you are improving
your graduation rates. We can’t get there unless all of
you are continuing to make the dream of a college education
a reality for more students. We want to help you do that
in every way that we can. Already, we’ve eliminated
billions of dollars of unnecessary subsidies to banks
and financial institutions so that that money could go
directly to your students. And that is
incredibly important. (applause) And as a consequence
of that, we’re making it possible for millions of more
students to attend colleges and universities and community
colleges all across the country. We also want to keep
strengthening HBCUs, which is why we’re investing $850 million
in these institutions over the next 10 years. (applause) And as I said in
February, strengthening your institutions isn’t just a task
for our advisory board or for the Department of Education;
it’s a job for the entire federal government. And I expect all agencies
to support this mission. Now, none of this
is going to be easy. I know — I’m sure
you know that. As leaders of these
institutions, you are up against enormous challenges, especially
during an economic crisis like the one that we
are going through. But we all have to try.
We have to try. We have to remain determined.
We have to persevere. That’s what the first
founders of HBCUs did. They knew that even if they
succeeded, that inequality would persist for a very,
very long time. They knew that the barriers in
our laws, the barriers in our hearts would not
vanish overnight. But they also recognized a
larger and distinctly American truth, and that is that the
right education might one day allow us to overcome barriers,
to let every child fulfill their
God-given potential. They recognized, as Frederick
Douglass once put it, that education means emancipation. And they recognized that
education is how America and its people might
fulfill our promise. That’s what helped them
get through some very difficult times. It’s what kept them fighting and
trying and reaching for that better day, even though they
might not be able to live to see that better day. That’s the kind of commitment
that we’re going to need today from everybody here at the White
House, from all of you at your respective institutions. We are extraordinarily
proud of what you’ve done. But we’ve got a lot
more work to do. And I just want everybody here
to understand that you’ve got a partner in me, and you’ve got
a partner in the Department of Education — and you’ve got a
department with everybody here at the White House who’s
absolutely committed to making sure that you can
succeed in your mission. So thank you very
much, everybody. God bless you. (applause) Thank you.