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 gimicks 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; droping 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.