Remarks by President Biden on the Build Back Better Agenda and the Importance of

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Capitol Child Development Center
Hartford, Connecticut

1:43 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  As my colleagues have heard me say in a different venue, my mother would always say, “You’re doing God’s work.”  And you really are.

You know, I know that a lot of people are in desperate need of a facility like this in childcare.  I — I didn’t fully appreciate it as a young member of the county council when I was 27 years old.  But when I got elected to the United States Senate when I was 29 — I wasn’t old enough to be sworn in yet — in the mea- — between the time I got elected and the time I actually ultimately went to the Congress, I turned the eligible age of 30. 

But also, in the meantime, I — there was an automobile accident that — my wife was Christmas shopping — and my daughter was killed, my wife was killed, and my two young boys, Beau and Hunter, were very badly injured and hospitalized for a long time.

And so, I didn’t — I thought, “Well, I’ll get some help.”  And I was making a decent salary as a U.S. senator — $42,000 a year.  That was a decent salary.  And I could not afford the childcare. 

Everybody wonders why I commuted every day, 265 miles a day, to be back and forth with my children.  I could afford the train; it was cheaper to be able to take every day so I could kiss my boys.  It wasn’t “Ozzie and Harriet,” but we’d have breakfast in the morning and, when they got a little older, get them off to school.  And I’d get on the train and come home in time to — if I got home in time to have dinner — it was seldom I’d get home in time to have my dinner, and they’d save their dessert, and I got to see them and kiss them goodnight, and get in bed with them.

And so I — it made me realize how difficult it is for the vast majority of people who — who need help.  I was lucky; I had a mother who was nearby, a sister who’s my best friend who quit her job temporarily and moved in with her husband to help me raise my kids.  But most people don’t have that option.

So, I’ve — I’ve been conscious of the concern and the lack of access and the lack of financial ability to have childcare for a long time.

And I want to thank the team here at the Capitol Development Center for welcoming us today.

And I want to thank the excellent Connecticut leaders you have here.  Ned, you’re — you’re one of the best governors in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  No, you really are.  You really are, because you stand up for what you believe in and you don’t back down.

And Mr. Mayor — Luke — is an Afghan war veteran.  We were talking about all the work he’s done with the former governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, now, who’s placing Afghan refugees coming out of Afghanistan.  And we’re continuing to get people out. 

Thank you for what you do.  I really mean it.

And Richard Blumenthal, who — who was, back in those days, the attorney general when my son Beau was still alive and he was attorney general.  And not a joke, but he looked to Richard for help, and he gave it.  And thanks for the way you took him under your wing.  I really mean it, Richard.  You were — it made a difference.  You know what he thought of you.

And Chris Murphy, who has been not only a real soldier, but he has stood up and stuck up for me.  And, Chris, you know, it — it matters.  It matters when things are tight and you stand up and make the case, and I do appreciate it.

And John and I — John Larson and I go back a long way.  (Laughs.) 

And, Joe, you can’t deny me.  There’s no way out.  (Laughter.)

And Rosa DeLauro, who is — I don’t have time; I don’t want to keep you — but the first time I came up this way, I was — my son was going to Yale Law School, and her mother was a committeeman.  Was it committeeman?

REPRESENTATIVE DELAURO:  Alderwoman.

THE PRESIDENT:  Alderwoman.  And I was up on a ladder helping him paint the place he had just rented, and I — this knock on the door, and this lovely woman comes and says, “Where’s Biden?  Where’s Joe Biden?”  And I was up on a ladder and I had paint all over me, and I was a sitting U.S. senator, and I said, “I’m here.”  She said, “No.  Where is Biden?”  (Laughter.)  “Where is Biden?”

And she brought the chief of police over to let him know that everything was going to be taken care of, and I’m going to — but your mother was something else.  But that old expression, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Rosie, you’ve been an incredible leader in all things having to do with the health and wellbeing of children and women.  And we would not have had the legislation we’re now trying to continue were it not for you.

And, Jim, you’re — (applause) — you’re the real deal.  As well as, you know, Jahana.  My — the comment I got from Jahana I get from everybody: “Where’s Jill?”  (Laughter.)  “Where’s Jill?”  I am Jill Biden’s husband.  She is now in — I think she’s either in New Jersey or Virginia — I’m not sure — after teaching 15 credits this week at the community college.  And she is out there making the case.

I’m here today to talk about what’s fundamentally at stake right now, in my view, for the families not only of Connecticut — because you’re ahead of the curve in some of what you’ve done on your own — but for our country.

For a long time, America set the pace across the globe.  For most of the 21st century, we literally led the world by a significant margin in the investments we invested in our own people — in our people.  Not only our roads, our highways, our bridges, but on our people and on our families.

And we didn’t just build the Interstate Highway System and invest to win the space race.  We also were among the first to provide access to free education beginning back at the turn of the 20th century.

It was a distinction and a direct — a decision to invest in our children and our families, and it’s a major reason why we were able to lead the world in the 21st century.  One of the few nations in the world that had universal education for everyone, beginning in fir- — what was then first grade.

But somehow along the way, we sort of stopped investing in our people.

Our infrastructure has fallen from the best in the world.  According to the World Economic Forum, our infrastructure ranks 13th in the world — roads, bridges, highways, a whole range of things.

But just as important is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development now ranks America 35 out of 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education and care.  Said another way: The world is catching up and beginning to pass us.

Jill has my community college — Dr. Biden has an expression she’s used for real: Any country that out-educates us will outcompete us.  Any country that out-educates us will outcompete us.

We cannot be competitive in the 21st century in this global economy if we fail to invest.  That’s why I proposed two critical pieces of legislation being debated in Washington right now.  They’re both bills — they’re not about left versus right; they’re not about, you know, moderate versus progressive, or anything else that pits one American against another.

These bills, in my view, are literally about competitiveness versus complacency, about opportunity versus decay, and about leading the world or continuing to let the world move by us.

Folks — a lot of folks know what’s at stake in the infrastructure bill.  It’s about rebuilding the arteries of our economy, putting people to work in good-paying jobs.  The estimate from Wall Street — it’d created up to 16 million new jobs over time — good-paying jobs, union jobs.  Not — not five bucks an hour or $7.50, but $40, $50 an hour.  You know, a prevailing wage you can raise a family on, you can live with some dignity and pride.

Bringing our roads and bridges up to speed.  Replacing lead water pipes.  There’s over 40,000 schools across America where you got to be worried when you go to the water fountain whether there’s lead in the water and the children are being poisoned.  You can turn on the faucet so that every — every — every place in America you ensure the water is clean and able to be…

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