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Remarks by First Lady Jill Biden at the National Parent Teacher Association’s 125th Anniversary Convention – The White House

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Fort Washington, Maryland

10:14 A.M. EDT

THE FIRST LADY:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Where are you, Delaware?  

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Right here!

THE FIRST LADY:  (Laughs.)  Please, thank you.  Thank you so much. 

I don’t know why she was so nervous.  She should just think of me like her English teacher.  (Laughter.)  

And thank you, President King.  Anna, you know, I’m so grateful for your leadership.  And President-elect Johnson, as a — (applause) — as a fellow Delawarean, I’m proud that you are representing our state.

So, good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

THE FIRST LADY:  Wow.  I love that.  I love that energy this early in the morning. 

I’m honored to be with all of you today.  For 125 years, the PTA has been an incredibly effective champion for our nation’s students. 

     You’ve worked to create child labor laws and kindergarten classes, and better public health services.  And I have been grateful for the chance to partner with you to better support military kids through Joining Forces.  (Applause.)    

I believe that your success can be traced back to your roots — the values of your three founding mothers: Alice, Phoebe, and Selena.  See, I read your website.  You didn’t know that, did you?  (Laughter.) 

They believed that children deserve better than the status quo.  And they understood that the best way to win that change was by harnessing the love, passion, and persistence of the people who care most about our kids — their parents and educators.  (Applause.) 

Like your founders and many of you here, I am both a mother and a teacher.  So, I know how personal your fight is, and I know how powerful this partnership can be. 

And that’s why I’ve been frustrated by those who have tried to divide us in these last few years.  (Applause.)  From reopening schools to class curriculum, we’ve been told that parents and teachers are at odds.  

But as I visit schools and meet with families, that’s not what I’ve seen.

I’ve seen parents and educators working more closely than ever, finding new ways to support students through the challenges of virtual learning.

I’ve seen teachers and counselors who check in on struggling parents, and families calling for better pay for our educators.  (Applause.) 

And as my husband worked to get the American Rescue Plan passed and as we got millions of Americans vaccinated and made sure that schools could reopen safely, parents and educators were our best advocates and closest partners. 

There is no divide between those who love our students and those who teach them, because we all do!  (Applause.) 

Parents, we know that we are our children’s first teachers.  And, educators, we choose this path because we love what we do and who we teach. 

Together, we can lead the change that our children need.  In fact, right now, we must. 

     Because even as our schools are reopened, we know that recovery isn’t always the same as healing.  Our students are still wrestling with the aftershocks of this pandemic — the isolation, anxiety, and sorrow. 

I hear it so much: Parents who are worried that their kids are having a hard time, you know, catching up after learning virtually.  Educators who tell me that they’re burned out.  Students who are dealing with the trauma of loss and grief.

Joe and his team are working hard to ensure that students have the mental health and academic support they need and to keep them safe.  (Applause.)  Because safety is always on our minds and especially right now. 

Three weeks ago, Joe and I stood before the 21 crosses at Uvalde.  I touched the pictures of the bright, beautiful faces that would never again laugh or open birthday presents or tell their parents that they loved them.  And I laid down white roses on a sea of colorful flowers, the offerings of a town broken by grief, just as I had done in Buffalo, New York, one week before. 

As a teacher, I’ve imagined that scene in my own classroom again and again.  You know, at the start of each semester — I’m sure all of you in here who are teachers do this — you explain to your students of the first day a path — a pathway to get out if a shooter comes into the school so that they’re prepared. 

You know, I explain it to my students because, you know, they need to know what they should do if the worst happens.  And though I now go to work with the Secret Service, I have often wondered over the years — and it’s true; you know, this is my thirty- — I think I’m going into my 38th year of teaching.  (Laughs.)  (Applause.)  

You know, I wondered over the years if my students would be the next heartbreaking headline.  All of you in here who are in the classroom know this.  

So, Congress did not act after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Parkland.  Nothing changed.  And nothing will change unless we change it.  (Applause.) 

    Joe has called on Congress to pass commonsense gun safety reform — (applause) — things that the majority of Americans want.  And a bipartisan group of senators have come up with a plan to address gun violence.  And it would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades, and with bipartisan support.

     There are no excuses.  It’s up to Congress to act.  (Applause.)  And they represent the will of the people.  And that’s why we need the people to speak up — parents and teachers, all of us.  We need to fight now for the lives of our children and for the safety of our schools.

So let me say again: This partnership of parents and educators is powerful.  You, together, are powerful.  Because you have to be.  Because when it comes to mental health or learning resources or safe schools, you see what’s at stake every day in the eyes of the people you love.

     Your children need you to act, and I know you would do anything for your kids.   

So thank you, all of you, for being here.  Thank you for showing up for your children and for students across this country.  Thank you for using your voice. 

Together, we can change our future.  We can.  And we have to protect our children and make our schools work for everyone. 

And, PTA, I am honored to stand with you.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

                             END                10:24 A.M. EDT

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