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Public Statements

Stafford Student Loan Program

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Thank you very much, Representative Courtney. I want to not only thank you, but I want to commend you for the tremendous leadership that you've displayed on so many issues as I've watched you since you've become a Member of this House. I also want to thank you for taking on this issue--the issue of trying to ensure that young people especially in our country, a country that has been dubbed the greatest Nation on the face of the Earth--and it got to be that way because of its emphasis on education and providing opportunity for individuals to begin in life anywhere in

this country and move as a result of education to the highest ranks, to the highest levels, to the ability to make valuable contributions not only to the development of their own lives, but to the lives of others.

I often think of things that people have said about education and something that I'm told that Abraham Lincoln once said: Education makes a man easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.

College access and success are fundamental stepping stones towards economic security and global competitiveness. As policymakers, it is imperative that we support students in making college affordable so that our citizens can prosper. We face an immediate crisis in college costs. Without congressional action, interest rates will get out of the box.

I'm very fortunate to represent a congressional district that has what we call an education mecca in terms of the numbers of institutions that we have in what we call the South Loop area of Chicago, which is only a few blocks long and a few blocks wide. We have more than a hundred thousand students just in that area at colleges and universities like Loyola, DePaul, Spertus College, East-West University. As a matter of fact, I was at the board meeting of East-West last evening, where we were reviewing our accreditation standards and making sure that everything was in order so that the thousands of students who attend that university could get the very best.

But unless we make sure that students can acquire the money, I have organized a little scholarship fund in honor of my parents, because they believed so much in education--two of the smartest people I've ever known. My father finished fourth grade when he was 19 years old. We saw his report card. But he was a great reader and he read everything that he could get his hands on. My mother was a little more fortunate than that. She finished eighth grade and was considered to be one of the more educated people in our community. But they pushed for education. They knew that if their children were going to have opportunities that they did not have that they had to get as much education as they possibly could.

So, when interest rates bar and prevent people, I just know so many students and so many families who are wondering if they're going to be able to make it. Last year, I had one family who called to ask if we could help them find the money just to get to school. They had done all of the other things that their daughter needed to do, but they came up short with transportation resources, and they were trying to keep from borrowing any additional money. And then once they get out of school, if your debt is so high when you go to try and find a job that it staggers you and pushes you back and works against your will, then it becomes even more difficult. So we're trying to make education affordable, just trying to give people the chance, the opportunity.

Something I remember that the fellow named Wolfe said:

To every man his chance, his golden opportunity to become whatever his manhood, talent, ambitions, and hard work combine to make him, that is the promise of America.

Of course, if he were saying that today, he wouldn't have just said ``every man.'' He would have said, every person, every woman, everybody, every citizen, everybody who wants to should have that opportunity.

So, again, I commend you for your leadership, I commend you for your tenacity, and I just like the way you work. I like what you do. I like the issues that you raise. And you mentioned the Pell grants. Senator Pell, from the same area of the country that you come from, his daughter was in my office not very long ago, saying that she and a group of her friends were going to get very active on the whole issue of trying to make sure that individuals who were incarcerated had an opportunity to pursue the Pell grant in honor of her father and remembering the great work that he did. So I remember you for the great work that you're doing. I thank you, and I'm pleased to join with you this evening.

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Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. You are absolutely right, and I thank you again because I went to one of those land grant colleges--I, along with seven of my brothers and sisters--and I can tell you that, had they not existed, none of us ever probably would have gone to a college or university. So, thank you, again, as I take my leave.

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