President Trump Remarks at the 2019 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference

President Trump Remarks at the 2019 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference

October 12, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


The President: Thank you. It’s a great honor
to be here with you. And Ja’Ron, you’re a
special person — a great friend of my daughter
and my son-in-law. And he’s done an
incredible job. And it’s really
wonderful to be with the unbelievable leaders of
our nation’s Historically Black Colleges
and Universities. It was a very important
trip for me to be here with you today. A couple of people aren’t
happy because I had to cancel them out,
but that’s okay. We don’t mind. I’m truly honored to be
here today to celebrate the vital and cherished
role of the HBCUs in American life. Together, we will ensure
that HBCUs continue to thrive and prosper and
flourish for the countless generations to come. For more than —
(applause) — it’s true. We’re doing it. And you know
we’re doing it. We’ve done a lot, and
we’re going to do a lot more. For more than 180 years,
HBCUs have strengthened our country and called
America to greatness. Your institutions have
been pillars of excellence in higher education and
the engines of advancement for African
American citizens. They’ve been incredible,
the job they’ve done. (applause) You have shaped
American leaders, trained American legends,
pioneered American innovations, empowered
American workers, built American communities, and
you’ve made all of America very proud of you and the
job you’ve done, and all of those great students
that have learned so much from your wisdom. Thank you very much. This nation owes a
profound and enduring debt of gratitude to its HBCUs. (applause) So true. And that is why we gather
to pay tribute to this remarkable legacy and to
renew our commitment to protecting, promoting and
supporting HBCUs like never before. And I think
you’ve seen that. You’ve seen this
administration’s commitment bigger and
better and stronger than any previous
administration, by far. So that’s very important. My administration is
determined to fight for you and the noble
institutions you represent each and every day. We’re grateful to be
joined this afternoon by a tireless supporter of
HBCUs, Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is in the
audience some place. (applause)
Betsy, thank you. Thank you, Betsy. Thank you. I also want to recognize
our terrific executive director of the White
House HBCUs initiative, Johnathan Holifield. (applause) Where
is Johnathan? (applause) And I want
to tell you, Evander Holyfield is a friend of
mine and he could fight. (laughter) You always
knew when went in the ring with Evander, he may be 50
pounds lighter, but you knew it was going to be a
tough night out there for you. But he was something. I just spoke with my Board
of Advisors for HBCUs. And let me thank our
amazing Chairman, Johnny Taylor. Johnny, thank
you very much. (applause) Great
job, Johnny. And also, our Board member
here today — and we have a few of them:
Aminta Breaux. (applause)
Aminta, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Phyllis Dawkins. (applause)
Phyllis, thank you. Great job, Phyllis. Rodney Ellis. (applause)
Rodney, thank you. Thank you very
much, Rodney. Marshall Grigsby. (applause) Thank
you, Marshall. Thank you. Nickolas Justice. (applause)
Thanks, Nickolas. Ronald Johnson. (applause) Thanks, Ronald. Thank you. Harold Martin. (applause) Thank you,
Harold, very much. Bernard Milano. (applause) Connie Rath
and Billy Hawkins. (applause) Thank you. Thank you all. And, Billy, I will always
remember the Talladega Marching Band in my
inaugural parade. That was something. You topped them all. That was a great —
that’s a great group. Thank you very much. They were fantastic. This afternoon, we are
also thrilled to be joined by more than 40 students
who were selected as the 2019 White House HBCU
Competitiveness Scholars. Would you please stand so
that we can congratulate you and applaud? Where are you? (applause) See, that’s
what it’s all about, when you get right down
to it, isn’t it? The inspiring tradition of
HBCUs dates back to the Civil War era, when
pastors, abolitionists, and men and women who had
escaped slavery founded many of the first colleges
and universities for African Americans. That’s a long time ago. In 1861, a free African
American woman, Mary Peake, taught 20 students
under an oak tree near a Union base in Virginia. That tree still stands
tall and mighty on the campus of Hampton
University. (applause) Good school. In the face of immense
hardship and painful injustice, your schools
rose to the very pinnacle of academia, becoming many
of America’s finest and most acclaimed
institutions of higher learning. Tremendous respect
everybody has for the work that many of you have done
— almost everybody in this room has done. I can tell you. HBCU graduates have
improved and uplifted every feature of
American society. From your halls came great
Americans like Booker T. Washington, Rosa
Parks, Ida B. Wells, Supreme Court
Justice Thurgood Marshall, NASA mathematician
Katherine Johnson, acclaimed inventor Lonnie
Johnson, Air Force General Daniel James Jr., NFL
Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, and legendary Coach
Eddie Robinson. Eddie Robinson
was a good coach. (applause) I think Eddie
Robinson won more games than anybody, didn’t he? (laughter) Is that true? Is that true? I think so. And we are — by the
way, have Scott Turner, speaking about good
football players. Where is Scott? He’s leading such a
great charge with the Opportunity Zones. (applause) Thank
you, Scott. He’s a great,
great gentleman. He works so hard. He goes — he’s
all over the place. I say, “Where’s
Scott today?” He’s in about six
cities at one time. (laughter) And the
Opportunity Zones have really caught on. Been incredible. Thank you, Scott. During World War II,
Tuskegee University trained the young
Americans who would become the legendary
Tuskegee Airmen. That was great
group of people. Reverend Martin Luther
King, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College. (applause) That’s great. And African American
students helped plan the Montgomery Bus Boycott in
the basement of another HBCU, Alabama
State University. (applause) Our
Historically Black Colleges and Universities
have always challenged our nation to be better and
braver, to do what is right, to dream bigger,
aim higher, and always be bolder in pursuit of what
is just, decent, and true. HBCUs represent only 3
percent of America’s higher education
institutions. You get graduates — 80
percent — think of that: 80 percent of African
American judges, 40 percent African American
engineers, and more than 50 percent of African
American doctors. That’s an incredible
statement. From 3 percent overall to
50 percent and more for doctors. (applause) That’s an
incredible statistic. It’s an incredible
achievement. My administration is
deeply devoted to advancing this amazing
legacy of success, commitment, and
contribution to our nation. You have never stopped
working to improve this country, and you deserve a
government — you have to just keep going. You really do deserve a
government that never stops working for you. And you never stop
working for it. You’re amazing
people in this room. Incredible people. And I congratulate
you for it. (applause) That is why, in
my first weeks in office, I took action to make
HBCUs a top priority once again. I signed an executive
order to move the federal HBCU initiative to the
White House, right where it belongs. (applause) Over the past
two and a half years, we have listened and learned
from you, and we have taken very, very
major action. I think you know that. I signed legislation to
increase federal funding for HBCUs by a
record 13 percent. That was the
highest ever done. (applause) When members
of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund asked us
to lift the ban on Pell Grants for summer classes,
I included that change in my budget, and we workednwith
Congress and we got it done. (applause) And, you know,
we had a little opposition to getting that done,
I must tell you. But we got it done. In the fall of 2017, we
met with leaders of HBCUs devastated by Hurricane
Katrina: Dillard University, Southern
University at New Orleans, Tougaloo College, Xavier
University of Louisiana. And less than a year
later, my administration took action to fully
forgive their disaster loans, so these colleges
could get out of debt and back to their critical
mission of educating our nation’s future leaders —
and truly great leaders they will be. So, congratulations. (applause) Last year, my
administration also worked with UNCF and key members
of Congress to provide capital finance loan
deferment to 13 HBCUs that presented rigorous
plans for growth. In total, over the last
two and a half years, through the Capital
Financing Program, we have provided more than $500
million in loans to HBCUs. (applause) At a very good
interest rate, I might add. (laughter) Right here in
our nation’s capital, we delivered an additional
grant of $15 million to the only federally
chartered HBCU — a great school, with a great
reputation, that was already mentioned once
today: Howard University. It really is; it’s
a great school. (applause) I signed a farm
bill that included more than $100 million for
scholarships, research, and centers of excellence
at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
that are land-grant institutions. One hundred
million dollars. (applause) And thanks to
Secretary DeVos leadership and her work with many
of you, we’ve also made unprecedented progress
to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens so that
your institutions are free to innovate and offer more
flexible ops — you know, options for the students. And you’re doing that. You’re doing a lot
of great options. I looked at some before. They’ve got a lot of
really great options, and that’s what you need. Today, I’m thrilled to
announce another major action we’re taking
to protect HBCUs. Previously, federal law
restricted more than 40 faith-based HBCUs and
seminaries from fully accessing federal support
for capital improvement projects. This meant that your
faith-based institutions, which have made
such extraordinary contributions to America,
were unfairly punished for their religious beliefs. Did we know that? Did everybody know that? Because it was — it was
hap- — that was not good. This week, our Department
of Justice has published an opinion declaring
such discriminatory restrictions as
unconstitutional. (applause) It
was a big step. And from now on,
faith-based HBCUs will enjoy equal access
to federal support. (applause) When I came
into office, I directed the entire federal
government to develop a strategy to support
Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Today, 32 federal
departments and agencies have released statements
of priority that are helping your institutions
receive resources and support that you deserve. To give just a few
examples, NASA is expanding outreach to
HBCU students who want to become scientists,
engineers, and even astronauts. I don’t know about
the astronaut. I don’t want to
be an astronaut. How about you? Does anybody want to be
an astronaut over there? (laughter) Huh? I don’t see too
many hands going up. (laughter) I see one. There’s one brave
person over there. That’s pretty
great though. But what we’ve done
there is terrific. And for those that do want
to be an astronaut and those other wonderful
things, it’s now possible. The Departments of Labor
and Education are working with HBCUs to increase
apprenticeship opportunities. Our federal budget also
prioritizes HBCUs in our plan to give more students
access to state-of-the-art training in high-demand
fields, such as science, technology,
engineering, and math. We want to help each
student have the experience they need to
get a tremendous job, enjoy a rewarding career,
and join our great national effort to rebuild
America, which is what we’re doing. (applause) The
fierce dedication to strengthening HBCUs
is a core part of my administration’s
unwavering focus on the project of
national renewal. We are working every day
to make decisive decisions so that we can really
avoid many of the failures of the past. There have been
so many failures. It just didn’t work. And a lot of that has been
our government’s fault; they didn’t
allow it to work. We are fixing decades
of mistakes made by politicians in both
parties who put the needs of other countries before
our own country, and who put special interests
before the interests of everyday,
hardworking people. Past leaders spent
trillions of dollars in the Middle East, but they
let our citizens suffer, our middle class languish,
and our neighborhoods fall into total disrepair. And they didn’t take care
of our — you know, our colleges. I mean, our colleges
at different levels. They didn’t take care
of a lot of things. The Washington
establishment enacted ruinous trade policies
that devastated millions of hardworking families
and inflicted deep economic pain on many
African American communities. Both leaders in both
parties let China and other nations loot our
jobs, raid our factories, and shatter the dreams
of our citizens. China would take out of
our country more than $500 billion a year for many
years and steal our intellectual property. Things are much
different today. More than half a million
African Americans lost good-paying manufacturing
jobs after a twin disasters of NAFTA and
China’s entrance into the WTO. That’s the World
Trade Organization. That was when it
all began to happen. These were not good deals. You’re going to all make
better deals than that. You have to promise me,
when you’re up here someday — one of you or
two of you or three of you, at different
times, of course. (laughter) You’ll
be up here. We don’t do any tries
over here, right? But you’ll be at different
times, but you’ll do much better than the past. But under this
administration, the era of economic
surrender is over. We are bringing back our
jobs, we’re bringing back our wealth, and we are
bringing back our dignity. The stock market is
getting ready, it seems, to hit the 118th day. We have had 118 records,
where we hit the highest point. And three weeks ago, they
were saying, “Recession, recession.” They were
hoping for a recession because maybe that would
hurt our chances of doing all of the things
that we’re doing. But we’re getting ready,
it looks like, to hit another great milestone,
another great all-time stock market record, which
to me means jobs, more than anything else. Forget about stock
prices; it means jobs. After years of building up
other countries, we are finally building up our
country, standing up for our workers, and fighting
for our forgotten communities. The first and highest duty
of government is to take care of its own citizens. African Americans built
this nation through generations of blood,
sweat, and tears. And you, like all of our
citizens, are entitled to a government that
puts your needs, your interests, and your
families first. (applause) The first
agenda and the America First agenda is about the
sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite
all Americans. That is why we’re joining
forces with HCBUs to invest in the workforce
of the future. Our Pledge to the American
Worker has already secured commitments for 13 million
employment and training opportunities for
American citizens. It’s been an
incredible success. We are getting people off
of the sidelines and back into the game. Last month alone, nearly
600,000 Americans entered the labor force. You read that just
the other day. To unleash small business
creation and produce millions of jobs, we
passed massive tax cuts and launched a historic
regulatory reduction campaign. We cut more regulations
than any President in history, even though
they’ve been there for, in many cases, a lot
longer than I have. Thanks to these
pro-American trade, tax, and regulatory policies,
the economy is booming and wages are rising, and
our country is very much respected again. Last month, the
unemployment rate for African Americans hit yet
another all-time, historic low. In the history of our
country, it’s the lowest number we’ve ever had. (applause) And this is
very exciting, especially for the folks in the room
and those young folks over there that are so great
and so smart: African American youth
unemployment has reached the lowest rate ever
recorded in the history of our country. (applause) So, in other
words, it’s a good time to be looking for
a job, right? You picked the right time. For the first time ever,
most new hires are minorities and
predominantly women. So, that’s a
big statement. Most are minorities
and women. The African American
poverty rate also reached a new record low in the
history of our country. The lowest poverty rate. We are — (applause)
— that’s something. I don’t know, when I’m on
that debate stage with whoever I’m on, these are
pretty good numbers to, you know. (laughter) Who is going
to beat these numbers? Please tell me. (laughter) We’re working
hard to ensure economic opportunity extends to all
Americans, including those who have been
released from prison. With employers and
educational centers like HBCUs, we are supporting
Second Chance hiring policies so that former
inmates get a new shot at life. (applause) And we’re
very proud of this. I have to say that it’s
never been like this before. There’s never been
anything where you get out of prison and they weren’t
able to find jobs. They had that stigma and
they weren’t able to find a job. Nobody would hire them. And today — and a lot of
it has to do with the fact that the employment
numbers are just about record low for country. And it’s been incredible. The success has been
incredible, and the quality has been
incredible. So many employers are
saying, “I wish I knew about this. I would have started it
years ago.” So it’s been an incredible time. And there’s never been a
time like it, as far as people getting out of
prison and getting a real shot at life. So we’re very
proud of that. This is just one more way
that we live by those two simple and really crucial
rules: Buy American and hire American. (applause) For this
reason, we’re also pursuing immigration
reforms to protect jobs and wages for American
workers, especially those who have been left behind. We’re fighting to give
every parent of every student access to school
choice, because no American child deserves to
be trapped in a failing school. (applause) To remedy
unfair sentencing laws that disproportionately
hurt African Americans, last year I proudly signed
groundbreaking criminal justice reform into law, a
bipartisan FIRST STEP Act. So we signed that
just recently. (applause) They were never
able to get it, and we got it. We’ve taken historic
action to confront the opioid crisis. And last year, our nation
saw the first decline in drug overdose deaths
in more than 30 years. My administration —
that’s a big thing. It’s such a problem for
our country and such a problem for countries
all over the world. It’s a tremendous problem,
the drug problem. My administration has also
launched an unprecedented campaign to spur
investment and revitalization in our
country’s most underserved communities. Under this vital
initiative, America’s governors have designated
nearly 9,000 communities as Opportunity Zones. And that’s where Scott
has been so incredible. About half of all of the
HBCUs are located in these Opportunity Zones. Scott, come up
here for a second. Will you just come up? This guy is so
unbelievable. (applause) He’s so unbelievable,
the job he’s doing. I only ask, do you sleep? But they ask me that
question too, “Do you sleep?” He sleeps, I think,
maybe less than I do. Come up, up Scott. He doesn’t need stairs. (applause) Mr. Turner:
Well, thank you, Mr. President. And very briefly,
Opportunity Zones — this initiative called
Opportunity Zone is really unprecedented in our
nation’s history. You take private capital
and you partner it with public investment to bring
about real revitalization and transformation
in our communities. And it’s unique because
it’s not just economic development; it’s
community development. See, poverty, it
has no favorite. Poverty is in the
black community. It’s in the
white community. It’s urban. It’s rural. It’s tribal. It’s suburban. We’ve been to 38 cities
in the last 15 weeks, and I’ve seen some of the
worst cities in our country, from coast to
coast, tip to tip, and even in the Heartland. And one thing I’ve learned
is that poverty does not care… what you look like. It doesn’t care
where you come from. But I’ve had the old
saying that I like to teach my son: We
fight fire with fire. The name of this council
is the White House Opportunity and
Revitalization Council. “Revitalize” means to
imbue with new life. It means to reinvigorate,
to reenergize. Revitalization
also has no color. Revitalization has
no party, ladies and gentlemen. Revitalization starts in
the heart of every man and every woman. And our goal here, our
mission — and thank President Trump and his
administration for the courage and the vision for
this — our mission is, yes, it’s job creation,
it’s new businesses, it’s housing, but it is the
eradication of poverty in our nation — a systemic
problem that has crippled this nation for
a long time. And we’re here, and
we need all of you. We spoke to the HBCU
Conference yesterday. We need everyone in this
room, one, to pray for our leadership, to pray for
what we’re doing, and number two, see how you
can get involved to bring about revitalization
where you live. Doesn’t matter black,
white, Democrat, Republican — it
doesn’t matter. Revitalization
starts in the heart. I’m grateful to steward
this council, and I’m going to try to reach as
many people as we can. Because at the end of the
day, long after all of us have gone to glory, this has to
have a generational impact. And history will tell the
story — (applause) — of revitalization. God bless you. (applause) The President:
Thank you, Scott. Is he great? He is something. What a job you’re
doing, Scott. Thank you very much. What a job. I know that each and every
one of you shares the same commitment to improving
our communities and building a future of
limitless opportunity. For nearly two centuries,
America’s Historically Black Colleges and
Universities have done exactly that. You have empowered
millions of students to thrive in their careers,
start a business, own a home, and raise proud,
strong, and loving families. That is your magnificent
legacy, and that is the mission we are determined
to help you carry on. We’re right by your side. So together with
Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
we will power this nation to new heights. Heights like nobody
would’ve imagined. We will reward hard work
and innovation in every field. We will champion freedom,
justice, equality, and opportunity for all. We will pursue greatness
together, as communities, as citizens, and as one
United States of America. Every day of my
presidency, we’ll strive to give every child, of
every background and every race, religion, color, and
creed, the best chance to reach that beautiful
American Dream. As we do, I pledge that we
will always support the institutions which help
make these goals possible: our nation’s
wonderful HBCUs. We will never let you down
and we will never stop fighting for you. And I just want to thank
everybody for being here today. It’s a great honor. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. (applause)