Thank you, Jill. Dr. Jill Biden has been a teacher for almost three decades and she's spent most of that time in community colleges. She understands, as you do, the power of these institutions to prepare students for 21st century jobs, and to prepare America for a 21st century global economy. That's what's happening right here at Hudson Valley Community College. This is a place where anyone with the desire to take their career to a new level or start a new career altogether has the opportunity to pursue that dream. This is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds - even in the face of obstacles, even in the face of very difficult personal challenges - can take a chance on a brighter future for themselves and their families.
I know that here in Troy, you want and need that chance after so many years of hard times. Communities like this one were once the heart of America's manufacturing strength. But over the last few decades, you've borne the brunt of a changing economy which has seen many manufacturing plants close in the face of global competition. So while all of America has been gripped by the current economic crisis, folks in Troy and upstate New York have been dealing with what amounts to a permanent recession for years: an economic downturn that has driven more and more young people from their hometowns.
I also know that while many have come here promising better news, that news has been hard to come by, despite the determined efforts of the leaders who are here today and many who are not. Part of the reason is that while the people of this city work hard to meet their responsibilities, some in Washington haven't always lived up to theirs. For too long, as old divisions and special interests reigned, Washington has shown neither the inclination nor the ability to tackle our toughest challenges. Meanwhile, businesses were saddled with ever-rising health care costs and the economy was weakened by an ever-growing dependence on foreign oil; our investments in cutting-edge research declined and our schools fell short; growth focused on short-term gains and fueled by debt and reckless risk led to cycles of precipitous booms and painful busts.