On 2 and 3 July, the National Education Association (NEA) of the United States held a virtual representative assembly with the participation of over 7,000 delegates. The theme of the assembly was “Our Democracy; Our Responsibility; Our time”.
The election of officers and the decision on the endorsement of a candidate for President of the United States will be by mail ballot. Action on policy resolutions and amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws will be held over until an in-person Representative Assembly can be held in 2021.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and Vice President of Education International, made her final speech to the Representative Assembly as NEA President. It focused on the history of democracy in the US and threats to it in the current political climate.
To illustrate the historic problem of exclusion and denial of rights, she quoted from African- American poet and writer Langston Hughes, who said, “America never was America for too many Americans.”
However, she argued that history did not taint the meaning of America and its aspirations as defined by the founders of the nation. Eskelsen García maintained that, “All of us are called on – both those who had to demand their rights and those whose rights have never been questioned – all of us have a patriotic responsibility to demand that All of us be included in this imperfect democracy. It is our democracy. And we, individually and collectively, have the responsibility to act – to make our principles live and breathe.”
The Political Action Committee of the NEA has recommended to delegates that they endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for President. Among several other speakers, Biden spoke to the Representative Assembly and answered questions. He talked mostly about education and about educators, saying “You are the most important profession in the United States. You are the ones that give these kids wings. You give them confidence. You let them believe in themselves. You equip them.” Biden also said that “Education should be put more in the hands of educators. You should have more input on what you teach, how you teach it, when you teach it,”
Education International General Secretary David Edwards, in thanking Lily Eskelsen Garcia for her service, observed, “Lily has shown great leadership at the global level as well as at home. Her passionate commitment to educators and students and to social justice has served her members, education, and the trade union movement well. It is fitting that, in these challenging times, she is fighting so forcefully for human and democratic values and to build stronger democracies and better, fairer futures for all.”