First lady Jill Biden Tuesday evening delivered the keynote address at Los Angeles City College's commencement -- touting the value of community colleges six years after she visited the campus when she was second lady.
After being introduced by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who called her "a source of renewable energy" and "a North Star," Biden, a professor of English at a community college in Virginia, told the graduates gathered at the Greek Theater: "In 2016, the mayor and I visited LACC. The energy was incredible that day. And it's because the city of Los Angeles was making a commitment to invest in community college students -- in all of you -- through the College Promise program."
Biden added, "As all of you know, when we make community college affordable, it opens up a world of possibilities. And it tells students the same thing I said that day: `We believe in you.'
"So, I'm excited to be back with you, Eric -- six years later -- to see that promise fulfilled in so many students here."
Biden, who received numerous rounds of applause during her 15-minute remarks, is a long-time advocate for higher education, particularly community colleges.
She is a professor in the English department at Northern Virginia Community College, making her the first presidential spouse to work full-time outside the White House.
In 2016, when her husband was vice president, she announced the launch of the Los Angeles College Promise Program offering free tuition for all new, full-time students in the Los Angeles Community College District.
"I teach English, and for my first lesson of the year, I use the poem, `Where I'm From,' by George Ella Lyon," Biden told the gathered graduates -- including members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who were shut out of in-person ceremonies because of the pandemic.
"Its verses tell the story of the author's hometown, not in locations, but in sensations and experiences and memories. Then I ask my students to think about their own lives: Where does their inner strength come from? What made them who they are?"
The first lady went on to say, "For the rest of your life, people will ask you to define yourself. You'll write a resume that lists the black and white details of your past -- including LACC -- in neat, bulleted lines. But your story is so much more than a place you grew up, or your degree.
"Those things don't define you -- and neither does your hometown. But it is a part of your story.
"My message to you today is this: Never forget where you come from."
Noting the many obstacles students had to overcome to get to this day - - many juggling school and jobs or parenting -- Biden said, "You astonish me with your grit and determination.
"My charge to you is this," Biden added. "Never forget your path, the people who brought you here, or the lessons you've realized along the way. 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.
"On behalf of my husband, the president, and me: Congratulations, graduates!"