Oct 18, 2021
Jill Biden Speech Transcript: White House Teachers of the Year
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden hosted a White House event honoring teachers on October 18, 2021. Read the transcript of her speech remarks here.
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Jill Biden: (00:13)
Thanks. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And welcome to the White House. Secretary Cardona, as you know, my husband made a promise to educators across America, that his secretary of education would be a leader who taught in a public school classroom. And he found that in you, right Brandy? Right Becky? Was our promise. Thank you for all that you are doing to support teachers like those who are with us today. And thank you to our National Teachers of the Year for 2020 and 2021 [Juliana 00:01:08], I was so happy to surprise you last spring when you were announced, it was so much fun, even though it was 4:30 in the morning. And, Tabatha, congratulations on being our first ever early childhood education awardee.
Jill Biden: (01:33)
So why are you here? I don’t mean here on the south lawn. I mean, why are you here? You’re here because you are among the finest group of educators in our country. What I mean is, what started you on the path that led you here? Why did you choose to be a teacher? Why have you dedicated your life to teaching? Everyone here today is here for a reason, maybe it was a teacher who pushed you to dream that you could make a difference. A child who inspired you to make the world work a little better for her. A time that when you realized that no one was going to do the hard work of changing things if you didn’t answer the call. We all have our moment when our story began or a person who set us on this path.
Jill Biden: (02:39)
For me it was my grandmother, she taught in an old fashioned one room schoolhouse, crammed with three grades of students. And some days when I was a little girl she would take me with her. And if I was lucky, I got to ring the brass bell, literally, that called her students to class. And she was a great teacher, she loved it and her students could tell. She didn’t just teach letters and arithmetic. She, like you, opened up new worlds. When she read to us from Charlotte’s Web or my favorite, Mary Poppins, she was spellbinding. And every child who walked through the walls of her classroom became enchanted, including me. I wanted to do that. I wanted to help kids see their world in a different way. I wanted to help them find their own voice through writing. I thought if I could do what she did, if I could set just one student on a better path, that would be really special. Someone inspired you too. Someone helped you find your path. And I know that they would be proud to know just how far you’ve come. The National and State Teachers of the Year Program is the most prestigious teacher recognition program in our country. So many teachers were submitted for consideration. And in a crowd of some of the most innovated, talented, compassionate, and effective educators in our country. You, you all stood out. Yes.
Jill Biden: (04:52)
Just look at who is here today, Juliana and Tabatha you are the inspirations and the innovators. In fact, all of you, all of you, represent the best of our profession. And yet, you also represent the small miracles that teachers across this country perform in their classrooms every single day. Seeing the boy who feels like he’s fading away and helping him express himself through music or art, helping the girl who thinks she’s not smart enough to find that intelligence, that’s always been there. Holding that mom’s hand when you tell her, despite her fears and stress that she’s doing a great job. Understanding that the words I’m fine often means everything is wrong. Through uncertainty and unknowns, through a computer screen or at a distance in the classroom, teachers found new and innovative ways to connect. You met students where they were. You worked long hours. I see the heads, yes, you work long hours. You reworked those lesson plan, I swear, over night. And you re-imagined what a classroom could be. It was difficult, wasn’t it? And we’re still wrestling with the challenges of this pandemic. But you and teachers like you across this country have found the courage and the strength to keep going.
Jill Biden: (06:54)
With all of my heart, and on behalf of millions of American families, thank you for being the heroes we needed. I’m going to clap for you. We don’t do this job because it’s easy, we don’t do it because it brings us fame and fortune that’s for sure, we do it because it’s more than a job. It’s a calling, isn’t it? It’s part of who we are. And what I want to say to you is this, never, ever underestimate the power of what you do every day.
Jill Biden: (07:50)
When my grandmother died, she didn’t leave behind a giant estate. But what I inherited from her and what I still have to this day is that simple brass school bell that she used to let me ring. And when I think about that bell, I think about the way her legacy, her love of learning, her patience and compassion resonated into the world like waves of sound, changing those who heard its ring. I think of every student that she taught and wonder what amazing things they grew up to do. Perhaps they are public servants working to make our communities a little stronger or a little fairer. Perhaps they are doctors saving lives or architects building our cities or scientists working to solve global challenges. And of course, there’s at least one teacher.
Jill Biden: (09:00)
We’re all here today because someone, someone took the time who taught us, inspired us and showed us what we could be. And today you all ring your own bell pulling each person you teach into a harmony that never ends. Right now someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller because you helped her find the confidence she needed. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try. And someone is kinder because you showed her what that meant. Someone is braver because you helped him find his courage. Never stop ringing that bell. Never forget that the lives you change, go on to change the world. Student by student, teachers everywhere are performing miracles every day. So thank you for being here and thank you for coming to the White House, you don’t know how much I have looked forward to this day.