Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos to Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit

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Prepared Remarks from Secretary DeVos to Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit

July 25, 2018

Thank you, Kyle Kashuv, for that introduction. I was so pleased to meet and visit with you some months ago. The adage of good things coming from bad situations was proven once again. I hope you know just how impressed we are by your courage and your determination to stay engaged.

Many of you know Kyle, and you know what he and his classmates went through in Parkland, Florida. No student, no parent, no teacher should ever have to worry about their safety at school.

We've suffered too many heartbreaking reminders that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence.

Enough is enough. America demands action. I don't say this to score political points. School safety is not a partisan issue. It is about protecting students' lives. Your lives.

President Trump took swift action. He also asked me to chair the Federal Commission on School Safety. We are seeking input from students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, school counselors... anyone and everyone who is focused on identifying and elevating solutions. That's right, solutions. Plural. Our aim is not to impose a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, everywhere. The primary responsibility for the physical security of schools – and their students -- naturally rests with states and local communities. It's not up to the Commission. It's not up to me. Actually, it's not up to anyone in Washington.

And that's not just for school safety. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for any issue in public life. For eight long years, many in Washington seemed to think that because they had power here, they should make decisions on behalf of people there, and everywhere.

And that is why Donald Trump is president.

President Trump was elected to return power and control to people and their communities. There's nowhere that's needed more than in education.

My work in education over thirty years has revolved around time invested on the "outside." Outside the Department of Education. Outside "the system." Outside Washington.

I think that's a good thing, don't you?

Way too many in the education world believe they need more involvement, more intrusion, more mandates, more money, more government.

But what do we believe? We believe in more freedom!

We are committed to expanding education freedom for all families across America. You've probably heard me described as "pro-school choice." Well, I am, but choice in education is not defined by picking this building or that school, using this voucher or that scholarship. And it's not public versus private. Parochial versus charter. Homeschool versus virtual.

It shouldn't be "versus" anything, because choice in education is bigger than that.

Choice is really about freedom! Freedom to learn, and to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from falling and to get back up and try again. It's freedom to find the best way for you to learn and find the engaging combination that unleashes your curiosity and unlocks your individual potential.

You and your families already exercise freedom when you make choices about next steps for education after high school. I suspect many of you are going through this process right now.

You compare options, and make an informed decision.

If you choose to go to Georgetown, are you somehow against the Wolverines or the Fighting Irish? Well, you're not -- except when they're on the basketball court.

If you decide to go to George Washington University, are you somehow against public universities? Of course not!

No one criticizes those choices. No one thinks choice in higher education is wrong. So why is it wrong in elementary school, middle school, or high school?

Truth is: there is nothing wrong with that! There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue the education that's right for you!

Let me ask you this: how many of you have been bored in one or more of your classes?

I was too!

How many of you wish you could study a subject but your school doesn't offer it?

How many of you feel like you need more or less time than your classmates in some subjects?

And how many of you are told that there's nothing you can do about it?

That's not right! You deserve better. Parents deserve better. Our country deserves better. And we must do better!

It's time to reorient our approach to education. We need a paradigm shift. A rethink.

"Rethink" means we question everything to ensure nothing limits you from pursuing your passion, and achieving your potential.

You – and all students – deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. You should be able to pursue customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

I recently visited a SkillsUSA conference where students competed with each other in a wide range of activities they had learned about: developing computer games, building homes, welding, baking, graphic design – to name just a few. They were all clearly excited about what they were doing!

And last week, I met a 70-year-old man who was in his fourth career. His first was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He went on to work in the defense contracting industry, followed by another career in banking. He found retirement to be quite boring, so he learned the necessary skills to drive big rigs across the country. And he said his fourth career is his best one yet!

So be open to possibilities that aren't pre-planned. I suspect some – or maybe many -- of you feel like your life thus far has been ordered for you. Class to class, grade to grade, graduation to graduation. But you will find that nothing – not your families, your careers, your faith journeys -- is as predictable as it seems.

So what you learn is about much more than just acquiring "skills" or diplomas. You are your most important resource. Your education is about you. It's about your aspirations and abilities. Your passions and pursuits. Your ingenuity and what you do with it is what gives life to your education.

There's one thing for sure: you'll enter an economy that's the strongest it's been in years! After the historic Tax Cut and Jobs Act, confidence is at a new high and unemployment – in nearly every sector – is at a new low. Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since President Trump took office, and Americans are more hopeful about their futures!

Today, you are at a "turning point." You have more opportunities at your fingertips than any other generation in the history of the world. You are making choices today that will lay the foundation for your future.

But, keep in mind, when it comes to your education, it's not only about making a good salary or getting that big promotion.

Getting a great education is also about becoming a great citizen. It's learning about ideas – and not just the ones you agree with! It's way more than putting a face or a phrase on a tee shirt. It's discerning what's behind that phrase and knowing what the person pictured stood for and accomplished.

So, let's conclude by returning to the idea that made this country great: freedom! You're blessed to live in the most free and most prosperous country in the history of human civilization.

Most free and most prosperous. That's no accident. You cannot have one without the other.

So study freedom. Learn it. And – importantly -- protect it. Because freedom is fragile.

And freedom is not a fad. Freedom is for everyone, everywhere. It's not just an American "thing." Freedom is a human thing.

Each of us has been created with unique talents. We each need the freedom to develop them through learning – and then the freedom to choose what to do with them.

Because as it's been said: freedom is not about doing what we want, it's about having the right to do what we ought.

Thank you and God bless America's future, all of you!