President Trump's Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is calling the protests that have followed her around the country a "badge of honor."
Speaking in Denver at the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) annual meeting, DeVos mentioned the "excitement" caused by hundreds of protesters gathered outside the event but said she considers their demonstrations a "badge of honor."
"This advocacy has led to some, let's call it 'excitement' on the left," DeVos said Wednesday according to a transcript of her speech.
"You're certainly no strangers to organized protests by defenders of the status quo. But, it's the first time in recent history I've been to an event where the protesters aren't necessarily here just for me!"
"But I consider the 'excitement' a badge of honor, and so should you," DeVos told the ALEC attendees. "Our opponents, the defenders of the status quo, only protest those capable of implementing real change. You represent real change."
During her remarks, DeVos jabbed at the American Federation of Teachers for a recent tweet blasting her for saying federal education dollars should go to "individual" students.
"Just the other week, the American Federation for Teachers tweeted at me. Can you please put this up on the screen? You have to see it," DeVos said.
"They said, 'Betsy DeVos says public should invest in indiv[idual] students. NO, we should invest in a system of great public schools for all kids,' " she continued.
"I couldn't believe it when I read it, but you have to admire their candor. They have made clear that they care more about a system — one that was created in the 1800s — than about individual students. They are saying education is not an investment in individual students."
"And they are totally wrong," she added.
Outside the Colorado statehouse, hundreds of protesters demonstrated against DeVos and what they called a plan to "destroy" America's public education system.
“This needs to make a statement,” Suzanne Ethredge, a teachers union president from Pueblo, Colo., told The Denver Post.
“My biggest fear is (DeVos) is going to destroy the public education system completely,” she said.
Republicans inside the conference disagreed.
“All of the legislators in this room know this — there will be someone who will try to silence you at some point in time,” state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wis.) said. “So while they’re out there exercising their free speech, we’re in here protecting their rights to that free speech.”