You want me to follow that'
[A moving presentation by Austin Davis, an 8th grade student at North Middle School]

Come on, be fair about this. How about a big hand for these great students' They are wonderful.

Secretary [of Education] Duncan, and all of the distinguished guests here, I'd like to recognize the two folks who have really been the dynamic duo that has moved [Project PASS] along, and that is Lieutenant General Ben Freakley [Commander of Army Accessions Command] and Brenda Welburn [Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education]. How about a big hand for them'

They took this idea that came out of a program that we call "Investment in America [Forum]." It's an annual program that the Army sponsors with the Conference Board and with the Leader-to-Leader [Institute]. It brings together leaders from the public sector, the private sector and the social sector to talk about issues facing America. A couple of years ago the session was on education. What we found was that the social sector, the public sector and the private sector had the same challenge-and that was workforce readiness. [We found] that business and industry were not getting the caliber of employee out of the school system that they needed for their businesses.

For the military, it was striking to realize that less than one young man and woman out of four in the 17-24 year old age group actually qualifies... to serve in the United States military. So we started putting our heads together to figure out what we could do.

A few months after that-just by chance-I was invited to Chicago by Mayor Daley to serve as the Grand Marshal for the Memorial Day Parade. He and I stood there on the reviewing stand, watching Junior ROTC unit after Junior ROTC unit pass by in the parade. I didn't know it then, but I think Secretary Duncan was probably running those units during that time [as the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago schools]. And it struck me as [Mayor Daley] talked about the impact that those programs had had on the ability of students to graduate and to go on to college. And it was striking compared to some of the other schools in the city. So we started trying to figure out how we could leverage what the military brings to the table-and that is the leadership training-with other things.

[Then came along] Brenda Welburn. She saw the value of bringing the military together, Junior ROTC particularly, with the State Boards of Education to do programs just like this [one]. It's a partnership between the Army, State and Local Boards of Education, the community, and businesses and industry.

It's all focused around providing an opportunity for every one of these magnificent young men and women here today to succeed-to get the education and to build the leadership skills that they need to go on to achieve whatever their dream may be. America is lot of things, but it is still a country of dreams, and the United States Army is very proud to be able to partner with all of you to enhance the future of our great country.

So thank you all for coming out, and I wish all of you the best of luck. Thank you.