Pelosi Remarks at Press Availability With U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Athletes
WASHINGTON, April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Bart Stupak held a press availability this morning with medal-winning U.S. Olympic athletes Apolo Anton Ohno, Shani Davis, and Allison Baver and Paralympic athlete Allison Jones to discuss the B.J. Stupak Scholarship, a federally-funded scholarship program designed to provide financial assistance to Olympic athletes. Below is a transcript of the press availability:
Speaker Pelosi. Not only is it an honor to have our Olympic athletes and our Paralympic athletes here, but it is also a complete pleasure and joy to be able to say in person what all Americans have thought as they watched the discipline, the excellence, the accomplishments of our star athletes — of all of our athletes. How many times did we hear the first, the best, record-breaking, first American, most decorated? They are all team players as well. And that they are here with us today to talk about education speaks to the values that they bring to all of this and that excellence, that discipline, that patriotism, that support of our country is so important to all of us.
I am pleased to be joined by my colleague, Congressman Bart Stupak, who is here in his own right as a distinguished Member of Congress, but also as the father of B.J. Stupak, for whom the scholarship program is named. Apolo Ohno needs no introduction to the world. Shani Davis, we are so proud of him as well. Allison Baver, thank you for joining us. That’s gold, silver and bronze and more. And actually and more. This gold and silver belong to Shani. Allison Jones, thank you so much for being with us, Paralympics Athlete, alpine skier. Imagine that.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Larry Probst, the Chairman of the Board of the United States Olympic Committee, thank you all for being with us. Thank you all for demonstrating to the world the best that we can be.
And now I am pleased to yield to my distinguished colleague in the Congress, Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan.
Congressman Stupak. Well, thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you for your support over the years for the Olympic Scholarship Program. This year, unfortunately, we did not make the President’s budget request. We are hoping that the appropriators will not only fund the program a million dollars as they have the last 10 years, but even increase it. We could see a 3 to 4 or 5 million dollar need out there for these Olympic athletes.
You know, we all cheer the Olympic athletes on every four years, but we should be cheering them on every day in the classroom. And because of the rigors of their training, they are not the traditional student. They can’t take 12 credit hours and compete in Europe or Asia for our country. They are proud to represent our country. We should be proud to support them in the classroom because they are champions not only in their sport, but also in the classroom. So I hope and I go with the hope of, with the help of David Obey, our chairman of the Appropriations Committee can fund this program and at least a million, and hopefully we can increase it.
More importantly, I think, it is really critical that these athletes tell us what the scholarships mean to them and how it allows them to carry out in their life and plan for their future as they are training to represent our great country.
Thanks, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. I reiterate that the scholarship is named for B.J. Stupak, and that is a source of special pride to us in the Congress. Somehow or other, I am certain we will be able to fund the scholarship. And with that, I am pleased to recognize someone who needs no introduction whatsoever to the American people but we are honored to have him here — Apolo Ohno.
Apolo Ohno. Well, as you were talking about before, the scholarship program and the opportunities there in front of the Olympic athletes are sometimes rare. Everyone sees the Winter Games and the Summer Games every four years. But the athletes are obviously working every single day, and it takes a great deal of dedication, time, and effort behind the curtain that a lot of the public never gets to see. On top of that, Olympic athletes, traditionally they do not get paid even a fraction of what professional athletes get paid. So a lot of that sacrifice and dedication is because of the love of the sport, because they want to be Olympians, they want to go and represent the United States the best that they can.
On the other side, we want to be able to pursue our careers outside of the sport as well. For some athletes, 10 years in a sport means 10 years away from school. And unfortunately, when the games are over, the real life transition has to start. And if a lot of athletes have never actually decided to go to school because they had too much time involved with the sport, or they thought that they didn’t have enough money so they had to put in, for their own sport they don’t have that money set aside for school.
And I know a lot of the athletes had taken advantage of being able to go to school while training at the same time. So not only are we trying to be Olympians on the field we play, we are also trying to be Olympians in the real world, outside of our sports. And transitioning and using those skills that we have as Olympic athletes into the real world is something that is very, very important. And you hear of certain budget cuts and increases. But you know for us, we feel like we are America’s best as Olympians, and we deserve a right to be able to have all opportunities set forth in front of us.
I think everyone here all agrees that the scholarship is something that has been fantastic. And I think it can actually help reach a lot of other athlete’s lives. So we are definitely in big support.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Apolo Ohno. And now another athlete, Olympian, who has made us very proud, gold and silver, Shani Davis welcome to the Capitol.
Shani Davis. Thank you for having me. I am just honored and thrilled to be able to talk on behalf of the Stupak Scholarship Program. I actually had a full rights of usage to the program because I actually lived in Marquette, Michigan. I graduated high school there. And one of the things that was one of the top priorities for myself was training to be an Olympian and hopefully become an Olympic medalist someday was my education. And I was able to have a hands-on experience of receiving a scholarship program, Olympic Scholarship Program award, and I used it to not only develop my education, but it was built around my busy athletic schedule. I was always traveling around the world, but they found, they just kind of pushed me. They wanted me to pursue my education, and I don’t think that I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t had the right people in my corner that were passionate for me to learn, as well as to pursue my desires and dreams as a speed skater. I am just happy that I am able to be here and speak so highly on behalf of it, and I hope that it continues to exist because right now I am extremely busy with trying to pursue another four years in my skating book.
Throughout those four years, I think it is very important for me to continue my education and I hope that the program exists and it grows in strength so that when the time is there for me — not only for me but for all the other athletes that are inspired to want to pursue their Olympic dreams or just be an athlete and a student as well. I hope it’s there for them in the long run as well. I hope it lasts forever.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Shani. You are a great testament to the success and the necessity of B.J. Stupak’s scholarship program. Thank you for your generosity of your remarks, and of course, for making us all so proud. I want to hear from our women — our two athletes. Allison Baver? We’re so proud of you.
Allison Baver. Hi, I am Allison Baver. I skate short track and the scholarship has helped me personally tremendously. When I started skating in 2002, the scholarship was just starting. I was a junior at Penn State. Since then, I ended up winning a bronze medal, but also was able to pursue my Masters degree. I got my MBA, specializing in marketing at the New York Institute of Technology.
And sport is so powerful, and I am launching a foundation off the ice. And that is my way of using what this educational scholarship has done for me. But to show how sport and the Olympics both win, and this scholarship can benefit our country is another thing. Crime, obesity, drugs: sport has such an influence on our children. And us being role models, which we are in this position as an Olympic athlete, we are very proud. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to earn the scholarship. And hopefully, that will continue for years to come. And this can be the standard. And we can keep building on that, offering kids an opportunity to be successful in life and sport.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Allison, and congratulations.
Allison Baver. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Allison?
Allison Jones. I am Allison Jones, and I am a five time Paralympic athlete. I do Summer and Winter, so the ability to be able to go to school and get an education while competing full time was an amazing thing knowing that once I am done competing and finally decide to retire, I can walk straight into a career and not have to worry about going back to school and having to restart from scratch. And be able to step forward and get a job and be able to not lose that focus and drive and have to worry about, it is like starting a whole new sport all over again. You have to start all over from scratch. Because I got the degree and my education, I am able to keep going forward and adding on to more, to all my medals and all that, I can add on the degrees and the accomplishments inside the career.
So it is such an amazing and empowering thing to be able to say: “I have got my degree.” And I am going to continue to get more. I am planning on getting a Masters using the Stupak. My teammates have used the Stupak. My roommate used the Stupak. It is amazing to see all of the opportunities that are available. It is amazing to see how much that scholarship is a unity force that everybody is striving to be a part of, to get their degree while they are training full time. Living at the Olympic training center, that is all you are there to do is train and be the best, and be able to represent the U.S. And I also say, once you are done and you moved out of the training facility, you can go into the career, into the workforce and not worry about being on top and then going to the bottom. It is an amazing and empowering thing to say you can do that.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Allison, for your powerful remarks. Thank you, Apolo. Thank you, Shani. Thank you, Allison. Thank you, Bart.
That these athletes, who are obviously very young but they have been so successful already, would use their celebrity to help other athletes, to share their personal stories of how they benefited from the B.J. Stupak Scholarship. But for some, it is about what it would mean for other athletes as well. It is, shall we say, very persuasive, and these voices have been very well heard on Capitol Hill. Again, your excellence, your discipline, your being the best, makes you eloquent spokespersons for this need to invest in education for all athletes. We are thrilled and delighted you are here. We are honored to be with you.
I know one thing about the Olympics as I watched, I think every single minute. And that is about time. And timing is very important. Is that right, Shani? [Laughter.] And they have another engagement.
I want them to be on time for that, so I thank you all for coming so we could recognize their excellence and their generosity to those who would benefit from the B.J. Stupak Scholarship. Thank you, Mr. Stupak.
Congressman Stupak. Thank you, Madam Speaker, for your support of this program and thanks for giving us the time today.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House