Oct 27, 2022
Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks at an Event Highlighting the Investments in Clean School Buses Transcript
Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks at an Event Highlighting the Investments in Clean School Buses. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Good morning everyone. I’m Audrey Gmerek, a junior at South Whidbey High School on Whidbey Island.
Words cannot express my gratitude to have the opportunity to gather alongside Vice President Harris and U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Harrigan in my home state, Washington.
I’m ecstatic to hear the recent news that my district, South Whidbey School District, was granted our very own electric school bus through the bipartisan infrastructure law. And I hope this is the first of many.
Last spring, I worked with members of a student led non-profit organization, UNITE Student Leaders, to encourage our school to apply for the rebate through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As a non-profit organization, UNITE Student Leaders strives towards cultivating a sustainable future through youth advocated climate action, including organizing Fridays for future school walkouts and working with leaders to treat the climate crisis with the urgency it demands, and I believe the Clean School Bus Program runs parallel with this goal.
As a small rural island school district, we rely heavily on our yellow buses to commute us across our island to school. With bias, I have to say, we might have the most beautiful bus rides in the nation.
Students, however, have been directly impacted by the environmental deterioration and health concerns caused by the air pollution caused by these diesel guzzling buses. Transitioning from fossil fueled buses to clean energy is a step in the right direction, towards ensuring a prosperous future for younger generations, but it cannot be our last.
Sustainable practices such as the Clean School Bus Program in American schools set a standard of climate centered action to be mirrored throughout society. Education is at the root of systemic change. What we implement, demonstrate, and teach in our schools today will be reflected in the future of this country.
I am now honored to welcome a person who has paved the way for women like me, Vice President Harris.
Speaker 2 (02:30):
Good morning, everyone. And to all the young leaders who are here and the youngish leaders, good morning to all of you. Have a seat.
Speaker 3 (02:37):
Speaker 2 (02:39):
Good morning, my dear.
I’m here because of you, by the way. I’m here because of all of our young leaders who are here. It is you who as motivated the work that we are doing, that is demonstrated by these beautiful yellow school buses. And so, I’m just so happy to be with all of you.
And to the governor, the senator, our administrator, Regan, to all of you, thank you for your leadership. Mayor, thank you for the warm welcome.
So here’s the thing. Who doesn’t love a yellow school bus? Can you raise your hand if you love a yellow school bus? And many of us went to school on the yellow school bus. And it’s part of our experience growing up. It’s part of a nostalgia and a memory of the excitement and joy of going to school to be with your favorite teacher, to be with your best friends, and to learn. The school bus takes us there.
And in America today, 25 million children a day go to school on the yellow school bus, 25 million children a day. And today, 95% of our school buses are fueled with diesel fuel, which contributes to very serious conditions that are about health and about the ability to learn.
So when I think about what the experience should be for our children, of going to school on the school bus, I think about the fact that it should be about maximizing that experience for them. Understanding that this bus symbolizes so much about our collective investment in our future. Because of course, it is about our investment in our children, in their health, and in their education.
And in that way, our electric school bus program really does represent an intersection of all those points, on top of the importance of investing in domestic manufacturing. We all know, during the height of the pandemic we saw what it means when we don’t have domestic manufacturing around the things that we need every day. It slows us down. We know that domestic manufacturing means that we can create jobs right here in the United States. And that by creating these jobs, because we are creating a new industry, we must also then think about what the jobs require, which is highly skilled labor. And what then that means in terms of investing in apprenticeship programs, investing in training programs, to build the skills in America’s workforce, to do the work of growing this new industry, which is totally directed at benefiting our children. Those are the intersections.
So that’s why I’m so excited about these electric school buses. And when I think about what we have been able to do through the infrastructure law, what it means is that we have now invested, and that’s the announcement today, $5 billion over the next five years. What we are doing today is the first of those billion dollars, $1 billion. Through grant proposals from the 50 states, distributing to the 50 states an investment for their ability, starting the next school year to roll these buses out, to pick up our kids and take them to school. That’s our announcement today.
And these investments are going to go everywhere that our school buses go. It’s going to be in urban communities, it’s going to be in rural communities, tribal communities, it will be in all 50 states. And what it will also be is about understanding that when we think about our children right now, they have so much capacity.
How many of us, for example, have had to go to the emergency room because our child has asthma? How many of us have had to deal with the fact that when our children are exposed to pollutants, what that means in terms of their respiratory status, not to mention illness. These are some of the issues that we are going to address, which is not only about our children, but about our parents, and what you must do to take care of your children on a daily basis.
We are thinking about this in terms of yellow school buses being the largest form of mass transit in our country, think about that. And we are thinking about it in terms of creating healthy learning environments for our children. So all of that is at play with what we are doing today.
And I met with some of our young leaders this morning, on our way here, and one of them said to me… I said, “Well, what is today about?” And they said, “Saving our planet.” So the youngest of our children understand not only their power, but the importance to them of saving our planet.
And I guess, that’s what brings it home in terms of the concluding point. We owe it to our children to right now take these issues very seriously. The clock is ticking loudly. We are witnessing around our country and around the world the effects of extreme climate. There is a direct correlation that thankfully, as we progress as a nation, is not being debated, which is the correlation between all of that and human behaviors.
And so, what we are announcing today, and what we are as a community of friends and parents and leaders, what we are announcing today is a step forward in our nation’s commitment to be a leader on these issues, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to invest in our economy, to invest in job creation, to invest in building the skills of America’s workforce. All with, as that young leader this morning said to me, a goal, not only saving our children, but for them, saving our planet. I thank you all very much.