Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by First Lady Jill Biden at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus on the Road Event

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Thank you, Congresswoman Barragán for all that you do for Latino communities across the country. Your leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is creating change. We saw that at the White House last month when the President signed an Executive Order to keep families together and give Dreamers the opportunity to get jobs in the United States.

You, Congresswoman Velázquez, and the CHC know that when Latino communities are strong, our country is strong.

Congresswoman Wild—Susan—you always look past partisanship to represent those who have deep ties to this area and those who have just moved here. And over the years, I’ve seen how we share a love of education. I’m so grateful for this invitation to come to your district and talk about an issue we both care so much about.

Mayor Tuerk and Executive Armstrong, what a warm welcome to Allentown.

And thank you Representative Burgos and all of the elected officials for joining us today.

No matter how many places I go, it’s always special to come back home to Pennsylvania.

And it’s even better to be able to come to a community college. Dr. Bieber, thank you for hosting us today.

I’m also glad to be here with Neera Tanden, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council.  

Today, we’re here to talk about education and pathways to good-paying jobs. Because that’s how we grow the middle class. And as Congresswoman Velázquez just said, it’s how we grow Latino economic power too, so everyone has a place at the table. 

Last year, I met a young woman named Lilly. When she graduated high school, she didn’t have an answer to the question, “what’s next?”

It’s a question every high school student knows all too well.

On birthdays, in school hallways, at the dinner table—it can seem like the only thing anyone wants to talk about.

All of you probably know a Lilly in your life.

And for many students like Lilly, the answer isn’t only “I don’t know”—it’s “I don’t know where to start.”

Nearly 60 percent of graduating high school students don’t go directly to a four-year college.

Six out of 10 students. Lilly was one of those six.

And, a few weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking at her commencement.

She’s graduating into a career that pays well and is in high demand.

But Lilly almost missed this path. And a growing industry almost missed out on her talent.

It took a Vice Principal to help her apply to a free community college program. And it took a little exploring there to find a career in construction management, a growing industry thanks to President Biden’s investments in infrastructure.

There are countless young people like her across the country and right here in the Lehigh Valley—who are smart, ambitious, and hardworking, but who just need a good education that starts early in life, and a pathway to a career. That’s Joe’s vision for the Biden Education Pathway, a vision so many of the leaders here today share.

It starts with free, high-quality, universal preschool—because if we want our children to succeed in school and in their careers, we need to invest in them from the very beginning. So, Joe helped child care providers stay open during the pandemic. He also capped costs for tens of thousands of families, and is working to raise pay for early childhood educators.

President Biden has put forward an ambitious new proposal called Classroom to Career. It would give every student in America the opportunity to take career-related community college courses while they’re still in high school—something Lehigh Carbon Community College knows a lot about!

And Joe’s invested in career and technical education, apprenticeships, and workforce training programs, like the one run by St. Luke’s.

These kinds of career pathways help answer the question, “what’s next?”

This isn’t a red idea or a blue idea. It’s an American one.

I grew up in a middle-class family not too far from here—in a Philly suburb called Willow Grove. And when I dreamed of what my life would become, I knew I wanted two things: a marriage like my parents—strong and loving and full of laughter—and a career.

But I didn’t know what I wanted to do—or what I needed to do to find out.

Lilly and I had that in common.

In college, I felt called to the profound optimism of education—the hope in looking at students and seeing all their potential.

That’s why I continue to teach at a community college not far from the White House.

Teaching isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am.

Joe understands this.

He knows that the key to our tomorrows rests in our classrooms—in making sure our students are ready for the jobs of the future,  jobs that are available in the communities where they grew up, communities like this one.

In many ways, the Lehigh Valley has always been a place of transformation—where iron ore turns to steel, and steel to prosperity.

And you’re still transforming today.

Industries like manufacturing and distribution are thriving. And you’re creating pathways to great careers in those fields like the ones we’ll hear about in a minute.

For Joe, the answer to “what’s next?” is continuing to make sure education starts early and leads to a good career, to help people like Lilly reach for the futures they want for themselves, and to make sure every family can find a secure place in the middle class.

I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences.


Official news published at