Thank you, Jason, for that kind introduction. And thank you for your leadership as our Chief Information Officer (CIO) and more broadly as a leader in developing effective approaches—like this academy—to address information security challenges. I’d also like to thank Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent and the many agency CIOs for joining us. Thank you as well SANS Technology Institute President Alan Paller and Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget Margaret Weichert.

To each of you who are graduating today, congratulations! You were selected as the first class of this academy from more than 1,500 applicants. There are many who would love to be seated where you are today. I suspect there will be many more who will want this opportunity. You have blazed the trail and set the example. And just last week, the second cohort of this academy began.

I’ve looked forward to this day since I first learned of the idea for a Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy. As you may know, I’m a big proponent of lifelong learning. And that’s exactly what this is all about.

We live in a constantly iterating digital age. We are fortunate to have the world’s most advanced technology at our fingertips and we rely on it every hour of every day. It allows us to talk with our loved ones—face to face—almost anywhere in the world. And it gives us access to incalculable amounts of information with just a click.

While open and easy access to information at all ages is a blessing, it’s also a vulnerability. Skills, threats, careers—all of them change and evolve. And that leaves us with a choice: anticipate and adapt, or live with the consequences of doing nothing.

As one of your classmates, Kevin, said, “Technology has greatly increased the…avenues of attack available for those who choose to exploit” them. Many of these threats are new, complex, and are clear and present dangers to our freedom. America’s cyber infrastructure is constantly under attack.

So, we need men and women like you who are ever vigilant, constantly prepared, and always determined to tackle these threats head on.

President Donald Trump understands this. He has made it a priority to prepare America’s workforce for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Securing the cyber frontier and defending ourselves from attacks at home and abroad are critical elements of this effort.

At the Department of Education, we take information security very seriously. We’ve developed a cyber risk scorecard which I regularly review with Jason and his team. It’s a practice all agencies should consider embracing. Cybersecurity is not a “one time and done” exercise. We need to know where we are vulnerable on a daily basis, and what we must do to stop an attack before it happens.

Importantly, we are also rigorously modernizing all our IT systems. This effort is making us more effective and capable and it’s saving taxpayers money.

By completing the work required by this academy, you have developed important, distinctive, broadly transferable skills and you’ve positioned yourselves to continue successful and meaningful careers. Around the world, there are nearly three million unfilled jobs in cyber security. Here in the United States, there are nearly half a million opportunities. And nearly eight million total unfilled jobs, many of which also need the kinds of skills you’ve learned. Our country needs you—and many more like you!

We need people like Diane. 

Diane works at the Department of Defense and has served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Diane reports that she applied for this program to “redirect” her career for “the opportunity to have a wider impact.” That’s an attitude all of us should celebrate!

Too many young people hear a tired old refrain that there is only one way to pursue education. They are told that in order to have a successful career or a meaningful life, one must attend their assigned school, score well on standardized tests, and then attend and graduate from a 4-year college.

That might be the right path for some. But it doesn’t have to be the path for all. Every student in the United States needs the freedom to pursue their own education in ways and in places that work for them.

Lifelong learning is like traveling down a highway. Highways have many off-ramps and on-ramps. You should be able to exit easily for a time to learn a new skill, re-enter the highway at an on-ramp of your choosing, and then change lanes or exit again as you see fit.

Our graduates today have shown us how this can be done. Before you participated in this program, none of you worked in IT. You are soldiers, engineers, economists, event coordinators, and law-enforcement officials.

But you have three things in common: You recognize opportunities; you are willing to take risks; and you are committed to lifelong learning.

As a result, you all are graduating from this program with experiences and skills that prepare you for what comes next in your careers.

In fact, you may be interested to know that we will soon announce two open positions in our Office of the CIO. We’ll give preference to candidates who have graduated from this program. It’s common sense; we know how well-prepared you are!

It’s also clear that all of you share a desire to serve. We’re all federal employees. But we don’t work for government; we serve the American people. We are public servants.

It’s been said that the greatest honor you can earn is not power, prestige, or personal prosperity. The greatest honor is to earn the respect of your countrymen. To serve your family, your neighbor, your community—your country—well.

It will often be quiet service. It may not culminate in a best-selling autobiography or a towering monument. And I speak for all the introverts in the room when I say: I surely hope not!

But if we conduct ourselves with courage, conscience, and conviction, we serve our fellow countrymen honorably. A public servant has no higher calling than that. Thank you all very much, and congratulations.