President Donald Trump’s remarks at the National Teacher of the Year event Wednesday took an unusual turn, morphing into a discussion about who has cried in the Oval Office and including a casual mention of First Lady Melania Trump’s birthday.
Trump recognized 55 teachers from across the country at the event, which was held at the White House on Wednesday. Among them was Sydney Chaffee, a ninth-grade teacher at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, who was named the 2017 National Teacher of the Year after winning the award at the state level.
The president offered Chaffee some brief words of congratulations for her “tremendous achievement,” before changing the subject to his wife, Melania.
“I know Melania has been working with you now for quite a while. She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers,” Trump said. “But she’s worked very hard and we’re having some special times here. This is Melania’s birthday and you were very nice to sing happy birthday, even though we’re celebrating you.”
Then, when one teacher began to cry, Trump launched into a recount of his experiences with others who shed tears in the Oval Office.
“I mean, I once had here like the biggest, from the biggest companies. And they walk into the Oval Office and they start crying,” Trump said. “I said, I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders that you cried. But I have seen people cry that you’d never believe.”
Read Trump’s full speech, as transcribed by White House staff, below.
THE PRESIDENT: Busy day, hasn’t it been? Busy, busy day. These are great people. We’re with great people right now.
So I want to thank you. It’s my pleasure to welcome so many extraordinary teachers to the White House. This is called the people’s house. I also want to congratulate the Council of Chief State School Officers on their 65th year recognizing America’s outstanding teachers. These are the greatest there are — nobody better. So I want to congratulate you all. It’s amazing.
Each of you has dedicated yourself to inspiring young minds and to putting our children on a path to happiness and success
— lots of success. There are 55 Teachers of the Year who are here with us from every state — every state in the union, is that right? Every single state.
So let’s see, who’s from Alabama? Great state.
PARTICIPANT: We would love for you to come and visit us. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: He’s coming to Maryland. It’s right next door.
THE PRESIDENT: Who’s from Indiana? Oh, wow, that’s fantastic. We have our Vice President. We have Karen Pence. So thank you very much.
Today, we honor one teacher in particular. She is the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee. (Applause.) Sydney is a ninth grade humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts — nice place, by the way. Sydney is the first teacher from Massachusetts ever to win the award, and the first from a public charter school. That is really something special.
Sydney, I would like to congratulate you on this tremendous achievement. There is nothing more important than being a teacher, and certainly for being a great teacher. You’re all great, great teachers, and congratulations to all. (Applause.)
When you go home, I hope you all say that your trip to the White House was something very special. I know Melania has been working with you now for quite a while. She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers. But she’s worked very hard and we’re having some special times here. This is Melania’s birthday and you were very nice to sing happy birthday, even though we’re celebrating you.
So thank you all very much and God bless you all. And you go back and keep teaching those students because, like I said — oh, look, and you’re crying —
PARTICIPANT: Sorry, I’m always crying! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I know, the Oval Office can do that. I have had some of the biggest executives in the world and they’ve been here many times. I said, have you ever been to the Oval Office, and they said no. I mean, I once had here like the biggest, from the biggest companies. And they walk into the Oval Office and they start crying. I said, I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders that you cried. (Laughter.) But I have seen people cry that you’d never believe. It’s a very special place, and it’s a special building. So thank you all very much. Thank you.