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Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the G.I. Bill

Mister President:

At the end of the Second World War, this country thanked a generation of returning heroes for their service by giving them the chance to attend college on the G.I. Bill. Stanley Dunham, my grandfather, was one of the young men who got that chance. More than half a century later, we face the largest homecoming since then, at a time when the costs of college have never been higher.

And Senator Webb, a former Marine himself, along with the leaders of both parties, have introduced a 21st Century G.I. Bill that would give this generation of returning heroes the same chance at an affordable college education that we gave the Greatest Generation. We have asked so much of our brave young men and women. We have sent them on tour after tour of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have risked their lives, and left their families and served this country brilliantly. It is our duty – our moral duty as Americans – to serve them as well as they have served us.

This G.I. Bill is an important way to do that, and I know there are some who have argued that this will have an impact on retention rates. I firmly believe – and I think it's been argued eloquently on this side – that in the longterm, this will strengthen our military, and improve the number of people who are interested in volunteering to serve.

I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the President more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them.

I'm proud that so many Democrats and Republicans have come together to support this. I would also note that that first G.I. Bill was not just good for the veterans and their families, but it was good for our entire country; that is helped to build our middle class; that whenever we invest in the best and the brightest, that all of us end up benefiting. All of us end up prospering. I urge my Senate colleagues to give those who have defended America the chance to achieve their dream, and I commend Senator Webb, and the many veteran service organizations who have worked so tirelessly on this issue.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I yield the balance of my time.