Can You Make a Difference? Yes, You Can!

In this world of grey cynicism and pale apathy, it’s easy to think that the big things have all been done. That we’re all at the mercy of Billionaire Big Brothers who will decide our collective fate and no vale la pena luchar – It’s not worth the struggle.

It’s easy to think that if you didn’t know any better. If you didn’t know what I know.

I just got back from an NEA conference on the concerns of Women and Minorities. I hosted a panel of passionate educators that ranged the spectrum of teachers, education support professionals, and college professors.

They each spoke from the heart what ordinary educators were doing to change the world and make it a better place – a safer place – a more just place – for their students and for their communities. The audience was packed and just as passionate in their questions and comments for the panel. Oh, my, my, my I was proud of my colleagues.

They all spoke about reaching out beyond their classrooms and doing something big to save a little piece of their world. The amazing thing about each of their stories is that they are not unique. These miracles are repeated in school after school and community after community because seemingly ordinary educators decide that what they have is not good enough. It is because of people like these that we can still stand against those who would literally sell us and our communities to the highest bidder.

It is because of people like these that we have been able to organize and mobilize countless communities to call, write, march, testify, register and vote for something our students and their families need.

Look at the evidence of wins:

We’ve fought back proposals to privatize Social Security that for more and more of our senior citizens is their only regular income.

We’ve fought back proposals to voucherize Medicare, maintaining the solid benefits our students’ grandparents need for basic security.

We saved the schools serving dependents of military families from elimination, and kept gimmicks like vouchers from jeopardizing the quality of Department of Defense schools.

We stopped proposals to slash education funding – cuts that would have hurt our most vulnerable students.

And as of today, we protected the current and future health care of every American. The Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act that will finally end insurance companies’ abuse of lifetime coverage limits; dropping the coverage of people when they get sick; and refusing to cover children and others with pre-existing conditions.

Because of the law, families can keep their children covered until they are 26. Because of the law, seniors will enjoy greater prescription benefits. Because of the law, the uninsured will have a variety of choices of insurance through exchanges so that they can afford the coverage they need.

None of these wins happened by chance.

They happened because NEA organized 660,672 cyber-lobbyists. Because we generated over 400,000 emails to Congress. Because we organized over 2,100 visits to Congressional offices, and because we wrote articles and published editorials and distributed position papers and studies and research on issues that affect our students and our families and our professions.

They happened because we weren’t alone. We had friends. We had Americans for Financial Reform to oversee the financial sector. We had Americans for Tax Fairness to watchdog the tax breaks to the 1% of the richest. We had the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination and the Coalition on Human Needs and the Coalition on Teacher Quality and the Coalition to Preserve Retirement Security.

We are the 99% and there are precious few billionaires amongst us. All we have is our commitment, our passion and our vision for something big; something better. All we have is each other.

Luckily, that’s all we need.

Go. Fight. Win.

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93 Responses to “Can You Make a Difference? Yes, You Can!”

  1. Gregory Roy

    Together We Are Stronger: across this nation we need to stand up in unison to those who are trying to divide and conquer us. As one, we are mightier and we MUST make our voices heard from one coast to the other, Yes We Can!

  2. Melissa Roy Wood

    Well said, Lily! I will always remember the good times in Honduras. You rock!

  3. Tawana R. Lane

    Teachers, Administrators, Para-professionals, Custodial Staff etc. all have an important role when it comes to the needs of our childeren, our communities and our schools. It is time that our candidates (Mick Romney & others like him) take a STAND FOR Education and NOT stand against us. I wonder WHERE would the “powers that be,” be if it was not for a Teacher?

  4. Tia Mills

    I agree in standing strong for education! We must show a united front! I am a firm believer in standing up for what is equitable in public education! Let’s continue to come together to fight for our students and the profession we are commited to and love!!!

  5. Almetra Pierce

    Yes we can make a difference! I believe that anyone involved in education can make a difference if we all stand together as one for the education of our students and the fairness for our educators.

  6. melody antons

    Most ESPs that I know do this, not for the money (cause we don’t hardly make any), butfore the kids who don’t have a parent, like us, at home. A parent that has time for them and is involved in their lives. This is not to say they have bad parents; most have overworked parents just trying to make ends meet.

  7. Sherry Thompson

    Budget cuts are currently affecting the parish in which I work and although I have a secured position, there are changes that I have to adapt to. This means teaching a class with a bigger size and possibly having struggling students stay behind. This is a big concern for me!

  8. Marge Dilworth

    We can make a difference by organizing and fighting for the rights of children in the public schools.

  9. Michele Robertson

    I am a special education teacher. I believe that all children can learn. What and how they learn should be celebrated not judged. Teachers and all educators can make a difference in students and the communities lives. We must stand strong, organize and demand rights for Education.


    Great job this morning!! It was wonderful to see you and HEAR you! Thanks for everything you continue to do, you are truly inspiring.

  11. Barb Hankins

    We make a difference in and outside the classroom everyday. We will still continue to educate others and unite for a greater cause: EDUCATE AMERICA. Public education is for everone!!!!!!!!!!! Creating Life Long Learners. Education does not stop at college. Education is not just for the rich. We will not be stopped!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Organize!! Make your voice heard.

  12. Patrice Palmer

    I teach second grade in Las Vegas, NV and am appalled at the attacks on education, our unions and our pensions. These are, ultimately, attacks on our students. Teachers can make a difference! We can be their voice and advocate to defend public education in America against the campaign (including propaganda and multi-million dollar funding) to privatize education for corporate profit. Diverting taxpayer monies to fill the coffers of corporations does nothing for the common good, the education of our students, or our democracy. We are strong, we are united, and we WILL prevail!

  13. Sally Plourde

    I make a difference every day with my 25 2nd grade students. It may not be a big difference at first, but if you add up a little difference every day. I DO make a big difference.

  14. Tricia Conduah

    I’ve been teaching now for 13 years and I love what I do!! It was even difficult for me when I knew I would need to take time at home to recover from a kidney tranplant. I had my surgery on July 2, 2009, prepared my classroom in August, and stood at my door to greet my excited kindergartners on the first day of school!! I later took the rest of the month to finish with my recovery, but was back in the trenches to do what I love to do… TEACH!!!

  15. Lare Allen

    This is not someone else’s fight, this is your fight. victories don’t magically happen. We have to make time to stand up and be counted. If we’re so focused on having our head down, grinding it out on a daily basis we won’t have time for long-range planning. We may “win”, excuse me, survive in the short term, but what will our future look like? What about our children’s future? Check out the movie The End of Poverty. It will expand your mind!

  16. Terri Shuman

    I am an education support professional in Las Vegas, NV. When it comes to cuts, we are ALWAYS the FIRST to go. Despite our economic downtrend and the threat of our jobs being cut, our kids must be kept FIRST and we MUST give them ALL we have EVERY time we enter into a classroom, drive a bus, prepare a lunch, etc. I so appreciate the fact that I don’t have to stand alone to face the many hurdles that are placed in front of us each and everyday. I never get as pumped up and ready to go face the day as I do when I hear “Standing Strong”. Standing strong for our kids, standing strong for America – this is what being in education is all about. May we all rally around this one thing to ALWAYS bring our best to our kids and to those we touch on a daily basis.

  17. Jessica Troester and Mercy (Future Leaderdog for the Blind)

    Mercy and I are currently attending the NEA National RA. As a teacher of the visually impaired, I jumped at the opportunity to raise a guide dog and expose my students to this wonderful tool that will one day be available to them. I see so many teachers every day making a difference for my students, helping them to become part of hte 30% of blind people who are employed!

  18. Jacqueline Shelson

    Teachers make a difference in hundreds of their students’ lives each day. This is the reason to go into education.
    I love my job as a High School educator, and I intend to fight for public education. We must stand strong together and continue to fight the attacks against our profession!

  19. Laura Higley

    At four years old, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. The youngest of eight siblings, being loved by family was something easily taken for granted. My kindergarten teacher was the first person in my life, other than family, to care about me as a person. That first day of school, my vocation was formed. Every day, I get to teach, to listen, and to care. It’s a sacred trust that I take seriously.

  20. Vicky Schauer

    Great site! Thanks for your work. We are 9,000 strong here at RA fighting the GOOD FIGHT for ALL of our nation’s precious children!

  21. Cassie Bilyeu

    We are going up against some big hitters, but with work and fighting apathy, we can contend with anyone!


    Education for the poor sand the middle class is Not a political game.We must take care of our own.

  23. Felix Lazaro

    In this world where we live in, we have to be proactive and collaborative! The change must start from us, teachers! We are going to teach our students to advocate for themselves so that they will know the kind of world where they live in! The era of spoon-feeding is gone and everyone must participate for the welfare of all stakeholders in the school building! We must participate and we cannot afford to be just fence-sitters if we want to make this nation great again! Let us remember, all roads lead not to Rome, but, they all lead to the nation of the free and the brave, the United States of America! I congratulate Ms Lily for coming up with this new way of interacting with the NEA membership! You rock!!! Go for it!!!

  24. Tiffany Fannin

    I am proud to be an NEA member that is dedicated to student and teacher success. I love the RA because it recharges my batteries that I need to get the school year off to a good start.

  25. Diane Harris

    Keep writing and keep the dreams alive! 2012 NEA
    Wisconsin in the RA>

  26. Anna-Maria Halstead

    Not only can I make a difference; so can and should you. Join me in making a difference that will help to restore confidence and faith in NEA and its leadership.

  27. Sheila Manevitz

    Education is a RIGHT for everyone! The Key to our Future is educating our Children TODAY! The RA is filled with a room full of devoted educators 16,000!

  28. Amy Wiggins Brown

    Just when it seems like we are fighting a losing battle, we gain victories bit by bit. People refuse to give up, refuse to just accept what is trying to be forced on us. Everything affects children and their education. We have to continue to chip away at all the matters that ensure all of our children have equal access to success. Thanks for all you do.

  29. Gabby Rosenblum

    Every person, every vote, every action makes a difference. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have gotten into education in the first place. It may seem like a drop in the bucket sometimes, but every child that we touch is worth it. Just as our words and actions can impact the life of a child, they can also impact the life of a nation. Thank you for your inspiration, Lily… you help us keep going in tough times!

  30. Michelle Wright

    I am standing up for public education, not only for my own children but for the students in my schools and community!

  31. Kelly Patschull

    Even though I just had a mastectomy a month ago I am here at the RA because being from WI I know how important it is for us to fight for our rights and public education.

  32. Amy Wiggins Brown




  34. Jodi Crumrine

    I appreciate everything you do for supporting us! Keep up the fight! Thanks!

  35. Lelita Thomas

    I loved your opening of the National Anthem. Your hard work for the NEA is being shown daily! Keep up the great work!

  36. Noemi Flores-Salcedo


    After everything you have been through in your personal life and still manage to keep the fire burning fighting for educators…you inspire me as Latina, woman, and educator. I’m glad your on our team!

  37. Christopher Pancoast

    As one we can only accomplish so much, but when we come together we are stronger…a group of passionate educators who care about the children of our future and the teachers who teach them. We stand on two feet repeating our message until change happens.

  38. Tom Lander

    When I have a covered dish dinner at my front yard to raise money for Obama would you come and if so what will you bring? To m lander

  39. Jenni Lamb

    Love the blog! :)

  40. Doug Marques

    Every time I meet you and one of your sons and see how much you love them, I am reminded how much I love this association.
    See you tonight at the GLBT dinner,


  41. Doug Marques

    You inspire me everytime I see you with one of your sons. You can love them and still work as hard as you do. You remind me why I love my association.
    See you tonight at the GLBT dinner,
    Doug Marques

  42. Lonnell Davis

    Keep the fight strong for education employees!!!!!

  43. Amber

    Lily, you are such an inspiration! Keep fighting the good fight!

  44. Diatra W. Stearn

    You sang like an angel yesterday. I would have loved to hear Donna Brazile speak at the Joint Conference. All is going well. Keep doing what you can in our behalf.

  45. Lonzo Boles Jr

    Hey Lily

    I enjoyed your singing of the national anthem

  46. larryallen

    Lily, Where can I buy a CD of your rendition of the star spangle banner? I want to help support a starving folk singer. LOL… yOUR GREAT!!!

  47. Melba James

    Hey Lily,

    As you and I know, we are living in trying times. Times where education is being challeged in a way that it has never been before. Parents, educators and our communities is the truth and the light to the success and achievement for our students.

    Your song was delightful. The passion that you showed your mother was heartfelt. Keep standing for the real cause – our Children!

  48. Callie Caradine-Jones

    I am an educator from the Delta area and love teaching. I feel that each morning I get up and greet my students that I am making a change. I have high expectations for each of them and want to teach with a passion that will change there outlook on the future.

  49. Reba Miller

    Intervention Specialist 1st time at the RA….learning a lot and having a great time inWashington, DC!!!

  50. Amy Harrison

    I have been a member of NEA since 1996, when I joined the student program at Elon College in North Carolina (go Fightin’ Christians, I mean Phoenix!). I began teaching in 2000 in Burlington, NC and immediately became my school’s AR. Currently, I am a local officer and president of my district. I would not know what to do if I did not have NEA fighting for me. I am confident that our leadership and government relations specialists, at the state and national level, fight for me while I am hard at work teaching my wonderful special education students. Thank you for fighting for me!

    SN: Lily, I loved your singing of the National Anthem on Monday! I have your CD that was sold a few years ago and play it when we have building meetings and testing trainings.


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