Good afternoon NEOEA! I am writing this article on the very day that Joe Biden will be sworn in to become the 46th President of the United States—inauguration day.
This past election has divided this country in many ways, yet I believe most of us would love nothing more than to put the political rhetoric behind us and look forward to what could be. It is similar to the feelings of waking up on the first day of school: anticipation, expectation and, most importantly, hope. Students at the beginning of the year experience these feelings almost every year. Anticipating seeing friends they haven’t seen all summer. Expectations that run from how will they get to school, what their classes will be like, will they get the “cool” teachers, and who will they get to eat lunch with. Alive with the hope that this year will be the best one yet.
As adults in this chaotic world of public education, we experience these same feelings. Anticipation of seeing our colleagues again, wondering which students will be on our class lists, and what will our work schedules be like this year? Expectations for ourselves and our students bearing an eerily resemblance to New Year’s resolutions. Some quickly forgotten, but others giving us a feeling of hope for what can be accomplished.
I sit here on inauguration day with those same feelings of anticipation, expectation, and, most importantly, hope. There are many reasons to be hopeful. Vaccines are being rolled out across the country, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and our front line workers are already receiving the vaccine. Educators are next in line! We have a new president, Joe Biden. Kamala Harris was sworn in as the Vice President of the United States—historic! The President’s Cabinet picks were recently released; true to his word, the diversity in his cabinet mirrors our country’s diversity. Of the 26 cabinet positions that President Biden gets to fill, he chose 13 people of color, and of those 26 nominations, 12 of them are women. His pick for Assistant Secretary of Health is Rachel Levine, a transgender doctor who is currently Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health. She would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Pete Buttigieg was picked to become the Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed, he will become the first ever openly gay person to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. President Biden’s Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona, whose parents immigrated to this county from Puerto Rico, has actually attended and worked in our public school system (unlike the outgoing Sec. of Ed.). Miguel Cardona was a fourth grade public school teacher and has worked as a school principal and was most recently the Commissioner of Education for the state of Connecticut. Miguel will hopefully bring back integrity and respect to the concept of a free public education for all of our nation’s students. The diversity of each of these nominations represents what all of our students can hope to achieve.
As I finished writing this article, the inauguration ceremonies have ended with the most patriotic fireworks display I have had the pleasure to witness, and I paused to reflect on all I have seen and heard. I heard Lady Gaga, while wearing a stunning broach of a dove carrying an olive branch, sing the National Anthem with more passion than I have ever seen or heard. I was nearly moved to tears by listening to Jennifer Lopez singing a song that I remember singing in my elementary music classes. The current times have made the words, “This land is your land, this land is my land” ring with so much more potency than I have ever felt. I felt blessed to have the privilege to listen to Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recite her poem “The Hill We Climb.” The living picture this talented young lady can paint with her words was filled with emotions from sad, to real, to awe inspiring.
“We learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice.” — Amanda Gorman
As public educators we know the lessons we teach our students today will become the America we live in tomorrow. My anticipation, my expectations, and my hopes are all sky high today—for this country, for us as public educators, and for our future—our students. Thank you and stay safe!
United we are stronger,
Published in our Spring Issue 2021 of News & Views.