WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden urged graduates of a Los Angeles community college on Tuesday to “never forget where you came from,” saying they can learn from their past without being defined by it.
The first lady, a community college English professor, singled out a few Los Angeles City College graduates in her brief remarks, including a 46-year-old woman who realized a childhood dream of becoming a teacher after losing her 25-year career as a graphic designer during the pandemic.
She also told the stories of a woman from the Ivory Coast who went into labor with her third child during her final exam, but still completed her test, and of the U.S. Marine diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan but found treatment and enrolled at LACC.
In her first address of the 2022 commencement season, Biden told the more than 1,000 graduates that “you astonish me with your grit and your determination and that is why I love teaching community college.”
As first lady, she continues to teach at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught since 2009.
“My charge to you is this: Never forget your path, the people who brought you here, or the lessons you’ve realized along the way,” she said. “Never forget where you came from. It doesn’t have to define you, but it will always have something to teach you.”
“Never forget what made you who you are, and then you will be ready for wherever you choose to go next,” she said.
Biden visited Los Angeles City College in 2016 to announce the start of the Los Angeles College Promise Program, which offers free tuition for all new, full-time students at the Los Angeles Community College District, including LACC, according to the school’s website.
Biden and her husband, President Joe Biden, pushed last year for a nationwide program that would provide two years of free community college, but Congress rejected the idea.
The first lady was in Los Angeles to help host, with President Biden, the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of leaders of democracies in the Western Hemisphere.