Long ago I stopped asking myself if I was a professional or a unionist. I stopped asking if I was fighting for students or my colleagues. I stopped asking if I was a union activist or a social justice activist.
It’s a false choice. I am all of the above. Educators must be all of the above. The collective power of the National Education Association impacts respect for educators and their working lives and respect for students and their learning conditions. I was proud to lead the fight against toxic testing and to see the result of our organized movement that lifted a national cloud of shame by convincing Republicans and Democrats that high-stakes testing was corrupting what it meant to teach and what it meant to learn. But I wanted more than to stop bad things. I am proud that in my tenure, we’ve opened minds and hearts to new dialogues in thousands of communities about the continued impact of institutional racism which haunts so many aspects of public education from how schools are funded to which students are more likely to be expelled to why some children get access and opportunity to benefit from the arts, sports, technology and a “whole child” support team of caring professionals they need and why some kids don’t even get recess.
I am a professional. I am a social justice activist. I am a unionist. To have served my union is to have served my students, my colleagues and my country. I ask for your support in continuing that service.
Lily Eskelsen García