The Renaissance Hotel Washington, D.C. September 10 2:27 P.M. EDT
Thank you. It's a great honor to be here with you. And Ja'Ron, you're a special person - a great friend of my daughter and my son-in-law. And he's done an incredible job.
And it's really wonderful to be with the unbelievable leaders of our nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It was a very important trip for me to be here with you today. A couple of people aren't happy because I had to cancel them out, but that's okay. We don't mind.
I'm truly honored to be here today to celebrate the vital and cherished role of the HBCUs in American life. Together, we will ensure that HBCUs continue to thrive and prosper and flourish for the countless generations to come. For more than - (applause) - it's true. We're doing it. And you know we're doing it. We've done a lot, and we're going to do a lot more.
For more than 180 years, HBCUs have strengthened our country and called America to greatness. Your institutions have been pillars of excellence in higher education and the engines of advancement for African American citizens. They've been incredible, the job they've done. (Applause.)
You have shaped American leaders, trained American legends, pioneered American innovations, empowered American workers, built American communities, and you've made all of America very proud of you and the job you've done, and all of those great students that have learned so much from your wisdom. Thank you very much.
This nation owes a profound and enduring debt of gratitude to its HBCUs. (Applause.) So true. And that is why we gather to pay tribute to this remarkable legacy and to renew our commitment to protecting, promoting and supporting HBCUs like never before. And I think you've seen that. You've seen this administration's commitment bigger and better and stronger than any previous administration, by far. So that's very important.
My administration is determined to fight for you and the noble institutions you represent each and every day.
We're grateful to be joined this afternoon by a tireless supporter of HBCUs, Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is in the audience some place. (Applause.) Betsy, thank you. Thank you, Betsy. Thank you.
I also want to recognize our terrific executive director of the White House HBCUs initiative, Johnathan Holifield. (Applause.) Where is Johnathan? (Applause.)
And I want to tell you, Evander Holyfield is a friend of mine and he could fight. (Laughter.) You always knew when went in the ring with Evander, he may be 50 pounds lighter, but you knew it was going to be a tough night out there for you. But he was something.
I just spoke with my Board of Advisors for HBCUs. And let me thank our amazing Chairman, Johnny Taylor. Johnny, thank you very much. (Applause.) Great job, Johnny.
And also, our Board member here today - and we have a few of them:
Aminta Breaux. (Applause.) Aminta, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Phyllis Dawkins. (Applause.) Phyllis, thank you. Great job, Phyllis.
Rodney Ellis. (Applause.) Rodney, thank you. Thank you very much, Rodney.
Marshall Grigsby. (Applause.) Thank you, Marshall. Thank you.
Nickolas Justice. (Applause.) Thanks, Nickolas.
Ronald Johnson. (Applause.) Thanks, Ronald. Thank you.
Harold Martin. (Applause.) Thank you, Harold, very much.
Bernard Milano. (Applause.) Connie Rath and Billy Hawkins. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you all.
And, Billy, I will always remember the Talladega Marching Band in my inaugural parade. That was something. You topped them all. That was a great - that's a great group. Thank you very much. They were fantastic.
This afternoon, we are also thrilled to be joined by more than 40 students who were selected as the 2019 White House HBCU Competitiveness Scholars. Would you please stand so that we can congratulate you and applaud? Where are you? (Applause.) See, that's what it's all about, when you get right down to it, isn't it?
The inspiring tradition of HBCUs dates back to the Civil War era, when pastors, abolitionists, and men and women who had escaped slavery founded many of the first colleges and universities for African Americans. That's a long time ago.
In 1861, a free African American woman, Mary Peake, taught 20 students under an oak tree near a Union base in Virginia. That tree still stands tall and mighty on the campus of Hampton University. (Applause.) Good school.
In the face of immense hardship and painful injustice, your schools rose to the very pinnacle of academia, becoming many of America's finest and most acclaimed institutions of higher learning. Tremendous respect everybody has for the work that many of you have done - almost everybody in this room has done. I can tell you.
HBCU graduates have improved and uplifted every feature of American society. From your halls came great Americans like Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Ida B. Wells, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, acclaimed inventor Lonnie Johnson, Air Force General Daniel James Jr., NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, and legendary Coach Eddie Robinson. Eddie Robinson was a good coach. (Applause.) I think Eddie Robinson won more games than anybody, didn't he? (Laughter.) Is that true? Is that true? I think so.
And we are - by the way, have Scott Turner, speaking about good football players. Where is Scott? He's leading such a great charge with the Opportunity Zones. (Applause.) Thank you, Scott. He's a great, great gentleman. He works so hard. He goes - he's all over the place. I say, "Where's Scott today?" He's in about six cities at one time. (Laughter.) And the Opportunity Zones have really caught on. Been incredible. Thank you, Scott.
During World War II, Tuskegee University trained the young Americans who would become the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. That was great group of people.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College. (Applause.) That's great.
And African American students helped plan the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the basement of another HBCU, Alabama State University. (Applause.)
Our Historically Black Colleges and Universities have always challenged our nation to be better and braver, to do what is right, to dream bigger, aim higher, and always be bolder in pursuit of what is just, decent, and true.
HBCUs represent only 3 percent of America's higher education institutions. You get graduates - 80 percent - think of that: 80 percent of African American judges, 40 percent African American engineers, and more than 50 percent of African American doctors. That's an incredible statement. From 3 percent overall to 50 percent and more for doctors. (Applause.) That's an incredible statistic. It's an incredible achievement.
My administration is deeply devoted to advancing this amazing legacy of success, commitment, and contribution to our nation. You have never stopped working to improve this country, and you deserve a government - you have to just keep going. You really do deserve a government that never stops working for you. And you never stop working for it. You're amazing people in this room. Incredible people. And I congratulate you for it. (Applause.)
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