Each January, we have an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to advancing equality, as we honor the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Education is one of the greatest levers to advance equality and empowerment. That’s because with great educators, high expectations, and an excellent, equitable education, all students, of all backgrounds, can do all things they set out to achieve.
Giving all students access to an education that helps them reach their potential is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time.
Each of our children has limitless potential and unique value. Every day, we must fight for them and their futures. And each of us involved in that work is part of the civil rights movement that Dr. King led.
I’m humbled to be in that movement with you.
And I’m proud that since the President’s first day in office, the Biden-Harris administration has been fighting to dismantle disparities in our public policies, institutions, and communities that take us further from what our country stands for: opportunity for all.
In our first two years, we’ve safely reopened our public schools and taken important steps to address what I call “the ABCs of the teaching profession”—agency, better working conditions, and competitive salaries for our educators.
We’re delivering vital improvements in infrastructure and school safety. We canceled $48 billion in student debt for 1.9 million borrowers, including public servants, Americans with disabilities, and students cheated by colleges that promised them a better life, but failed to deliver. We announced and continue to fight for historic student debt relief for 40 million low-and-middle-income people. In addition to providing funding and calling for reimagined mental health supports in our schools, we’ve launched ambitious new public-private initiatives for recruiting and training new tutors and mentors to help our students feel seen and supported, and for erasing inequities in access to afterschool and summer learning programs.
And we’re intentionally partnering with other federal agencies to reimagine high school, so students have more pathways to earn industry credentials and college credits, and graduate better prepared for careers and higher education.
Throughout this process, we have proudly and unapologetically stood up for students whose rights to an education free from discrimination have been under attack. Our schools are places of inclusion and respecting the differences that make all our students special. That is what makes us unique; that’s what makes us American.
With the President’s leadership and historic support from the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, we have more funding to do more in education than ever before. These investments and efforts are a down payment on transformational change.
We have a chance to be the generation that truly transforms our education system into one that makes Dr. King’s dream a reality … by working together and by recognizing that all of us are connected.
In a 1968 speech Dr. King said, “[W]e are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. … I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. …”
When we provide our children—regardless of background or circumstance—with a high-quality, rich education, we empower them to be what they can be.
So, especially today and in the days ahead, let’s follow Dr. King’s example of leadership and service, finding ways to give a hand up to others and make a difference in our communities.
Together, let’s work harder than ever to raise the bar for learners of all ages and backgrounds … to reimagine education … and to bring the transformative change that this moment requires and that our students and families deserve.