This morning, I joined the Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship breakfast to share some exciting news: the budget I’ll present this week includes a plan to guarantee two years of free college for every Rhode Island student at CCRI, URI and RIC.
Full details for the plan are available at FreeCollegeRI.com, but I wanted to share with you my remarks, as prepared, from this morning. And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 17 at 7 p.m. for my third State of the State address. We’ll stream it live on my Facebook page here.
The people of Rhode Island are up to meeting the challenges of this new economy. Let’s work together to give our young people a shot at a brighter future.
Governor’s Remarks As Prepared
Martin Luther King Scholarship Breakfast
Monday, January 17, 2017
Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, Cranston, Rhode Island
Good morning, and thank you so much.
It is appropriate that we gather this week to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and legacy as our nation’s first African American president prepares to finish his historic and august services to our nation.
But as President Obama prepares to leave office, I think we can all agree that his decency and honor will be his most lasting legacy.
And that’s why, as he leaves office and we prepare for a transition in power, I’m mindful of the anxiety so many Rhode Islanders – so many Americans feel. When we’re confronted by uncertainty, we need to remember that hate and intolerance have never been a part of what makes our state or our nation strong. And they never will be.
Dr. King and President Obama both bent the arc towards justice… And both understood that civil rights demand economic equality. In fact, Dr. King said:
We know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?
The economic justice that Dr. King so fervently pursued remains our principal struggle today.
The focus of our work here on Rhode Island has been the same from day one: to create more and better opportunities:
so that everyone can benefit from the dignity of work…
so that everyone can raise a family securely…
so that everyone can «make it in Rhode Island.»
That’s why we raised the minimum wage, and I propose that we raise it again this year…because no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. That’s why we expanded the earned income tax credit, so hard working families could keep more of what they earn. And that’s why we cut taxes on people’s social security benefits.
But there is no greater ladder to the middle class than a good education. And nothing that we are doing, and nothing we will do, is more important than helping Rhode Islanders get the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy.
Look, our economy has changed in ways that have caused real challenges. How we meet those challenges will determine our future.
When I was my kids’ age, most jobs in Rhode Island required nothing more than high school degree. But for all of our kids, that’s not the case anymore. The reality is most jobs being created now in Rhode Island will require some degree or certificate beyond a high school diploma.
Over the last two years, we’ve worked hard to make college more accessible and more affordable.
I’m going to work hard to protect the investments we’ve made. But we have more work to do. Right now, fewer than half of all working age Rhode Islanders have a degree or credential past high school. Among Black and Latino Rhode Islanders it’s less than a quarter.
There are plenty of Rhode Islanders who want to start a career without a college diploma, and that’s great. We will continue to invest in training and certificate programs for them.
But too many others who want a college degree, have been denied a shot at a bright future for one simple reason: They can’t afford it.
So today, right here, as we honor and celebrate Dr. King’s dream and his vision, I am proud to announce that we are going to stand up and make the college dream a reality for every Rhode Islander who wants it.
I’m going to fight this year to ensure that every young person in our state – from every single community – has an opportunity to compete for the good-paying, family-supporting jobs we’re creating. My plan will guarantee two years of free college for every Rhode Island student at CCRI, URI and RIC.
Full details about the plan are available at FreeCollegeRI.com.
Years ago, Dr. King taught us that there would be no equality without economic equality. It’s on us — on all of us — to continue delivering an even more perfect union. So join me. As Dr. King said, «Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.»