Remarks prepared for delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at the 2022 American Federation of Teachers Convention

Boston, MA

Hello, it’s wonderful to be back in Boston and with you, my fellow educators, my family. Isn’t it nice to be back in person? !

Randi, one of the things I like the most about you is the way you introduce yourself to people. When there is a problem, you find a solution. When someone is in need, you ask: how can I help?

And that’s what makes you such a powerful leader here at AFT. So thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the care. Thank you for putting this organization front and center every day.

It’s always an honor to share a stage with Senator Warren and our great Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, and I was fortunate enough to travel here with Senator Markey and Congresswoman Presley.

Like some of you, I just received an email this week asking me to sign my contract for next semester. And it made me think of the first one I signed 38 years ago.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe anyone could be so excited about scribbling a name on a line, but I was. It was more than just a contract of employment, it felt like I was becoming the person I was meant to be.

Do you remember this moment? When did you first decide to take this path?

To be a teacher. It’s not an easy job. So why do we do it?

For me, I thought about how much books had shaped me – how much I loved falling in and escaping or learning something new. And it broke my heart that there were people who didn’t know this joy. I realized it was a gift I could give someone. That I could teach someone else to read.

And I bet you have a similar story – a time when you realized you wanted to be the person to open up the world to someone else, to give the smile that helps this student find the confidence she doesn’t. didn’t know how to be in it, to be the one who said, “It’s okay, we’ll find a solution together.”

We believe there is something deeply optimistic about education.

Responding to this call to service is, in itself, an act of hope. And we need that hope now more than ever.

As Randi said yesterday, teaching has become so much more difficult. But you don’t give up. You show up to work with a granola bar because you know someone might come to class hungry.

You keep your voice calm as you explain active fire drills and how to stay quiet when hiding under desks, even if a part of you shatters to pieces each time.

You tell your students that change is possible, even though you know that the young women who look at you with those hopeful eyes have lost rights they don’t even understand yet.

You refuse the news on television telling you about people who want to prevent you from doing your job, you straighten your shoulders and focus on your students.

There’s so much weight on all of you, but you’re carrying it. Our schools are where politicians become people. And educators are at the center of it all.

And we are not alone. Healing is also hopeful. As Joe always says, “If there are angels in heaven, they’re all nurses.” America is so grateful for the sacrifices you have made.

I am proud of what Joe has done over the past two years: from historic investments to reopening schools, to meeting the mental and academic needs of our students, to signing the bipartisan firearms bill into law. fire and advocacy for women’s reproductive health care, to delivering the promise of debt forgiveness for public servants.

In fact, nearly 150,000 public servants have already received debt forgiveness as a result of changes made by our administration.

The president you elected works every day to deliver on his promises, but we need partners who will join him. Because we believe AR-15s, the weapon that tore apart 19 children and two teachers in their classroom, have no place on our streets.

We believe that women should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their pregnancies.

Ending child poverty, providing affordable child care and free community colleges are not divisive issues, they should not be red or blue.

Our government represents the will of the people.

And that’s why people have to get involved. Teachers. Nurses. Higher education and health workers, civil servants. All of us.

Yes, we must vote in races at all levels. And we must remember that voting is the bare minimum.

We need to get involved with local governments who decide how cities plan their budgets and protect their students.

We must stand up for justice and fairness. We all have a “teacher’s voice” when things go off the rails, and now is the time to use it.

We must unite – as AFT has always done – and demand to be heard.

I will be there by your side, every step of the way.

Now it will be difficult. We know that. But we do this work because we believe a better world is possible and we know that we are the ones making that future a reality.

Underestimate the power of this coalition at your peril. We will fight for the communities we care about and we will never give up.

Because that’s what we are: Optimists. True believers. Fighters. And that’s what we do, every day, young and old: we change the world.

So, let’s get to work.


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