Our domestic and foreign policy concerns are broad and deep.
However, the state of American public education is perhaps our most urgent dilemma.
The task for those of us who care deeply about public education is to continue to define and communicate our priorities and proposals to the American public, so that the academic needs of all students are represented.
To prepare our children and youth for lives and careers in a world that is globally connected across cultures, our school systems will have to recruit, train, and retain highly qualified teaching professionals.
To produce world class schools, the infrastructure and physical capacities of school environments must be reengineered to reflect the technological, educational, and operational demands of this century.
To address the different learning styles and paces of diverse groups of students, the solution is not wholly testing. Rather, the integration of greater creativity, flexibility, and innovation in all aspects of teaching and learning are the essential pillars.
When we focus on the provision of adequate tools and resources for all schools, classroom teachers, and students, we are better positioned for the kind of national academic excellence that can contribute to America’s exceptionalism.
Thanks to classroom teachers, there is a clear path forward.
It’s taken us a long time to truly understand that no progress toward large scale teacher success can occur unless the teaching professionals themselves lead us and teach us what we don’t know.
They’ve taught us that they care about how well they’re doing and whether their students are learning at a high level.
Just like other professionals, America’s classroom teachers value their craft and expect to be rewarded based on performance and merit.
While the rest of us have been focusing on the scores of bad and ineffective instructors, the most successful teaching professionals have been perfecting their craft.
Classroom instructors know best what makes them effective and capable of doing their jobs well.
These professionals know precisely what tools they need in their classrooms and how much support they need from administrators.
They have never objected to greater innovation and flexibility in classrooms.
They are the ones who, in many ways, have taught us how to create academic spaces that are more conducive to the variations in student learning.
And because we are finally beginning to actually hear what teaching professionals are saying to us, we can hopefully replicate the habits, gifts, and practices of great teachers.
Living life is learning about life through lenses that are not our own.
Our daily routines give us plenty of opportunities to learn how to live, work, and play with persons whose backgrounds and views about life are often different from our own.
We can be thankful that our neighborhoods, communities, and other venues provide us with ways to enlarge our perspectives about people with whom we may have had little or no contact.
Every day of our lives, one conversation at a time, each of us can gain greater insight and understanding about someone else’s views and philosophies concerning the issues of life.
Every one of our personal encounters is a chance for us to reexamine our perceptions and become more open and balanced in our thinking.
And despite what we may have learned or witnessed for a large part of our lives, we can take advantage of the opportunities we have to become more enlightened and accepting of our individual and group differences.
We are largely a nation filled with people of goodwill.
And we are capable of dealing with racial matters with integrity and sincerity. All across America, there is the recognition that racial equity and racial justice are not only right, but are the essential pillars for our national prosperity for years to come.
Although our conversations sometimes get poisoned and distorted by extraneous interests and agendas, people are serious about their desire for racial progress.
Ultimately, we are going to have to be willing to confront our racial fears and insecurities by taking certain risks that just might hurt our feelings or cause some discomfort.
Our challenge is whether we have the courage and will to take a stand for the sake of healing the soul of our nation.
We are all products of our families, communities, and culture.
Spiritually, socially, and culturally, we are a composite of the beliefs and values which we learn from the people who influence us and the surroundings to which we are exposed.
We also share in ideals which reveal our American likeness and kinship. Our commitment to justice, fairness, and opportunity reveal the spirit and soul of our nation.
Because we are inextricably linked to one another across so many lines of distinctions, we have a latent mandate to partner and collaborate so that America’s promise becomes reality for every single citizen.
We are gradually becoming a more mature populace that is more defined by the kind of goodwill and integrity necessary to reconcile and unify our country.
Will Americans discover a path of likeness?
“My moral understanding culminates with a commitment to a kind of community that builds on acknowledging one another’s total personhood, looking upon persons as equal to ourselves and not as our pawns or instruments of our designs.
Each person is endowed with rights that are inherent and with worth that is conferred by God, our Creator. The immediate conditions of their lives do not diminish their worth or render them any less significant as persons.”
Samuel D. Proctor, My Moral Odyssey, (1989)
Our most precious treasure in America is our diversity.
Unfortunately, though, we are still not at a place where we fully understand our racial and ethnic endowment.
We have yet to truly appreciate how our diversity is our advantage.
For generations, we’ve been tricked into believing that somehow our differences and unique qualities are a curse, when in essence, they are God’s gift to our nation.
For generations, America’s dilemma has been figuring out what to do with this gift of diversity.
Perhaps we are not mature enough as a country to really comprehend the strength and greatness we have because we are distinctive individually and collectively as Americans.
Our nation and world have shifted economically and culturally.
The circumstances and conditions around us are very different from anything most of us are accustomed to.
Even further, the changes and uncertainty are challenging people’s commitment to what they stand for.
The stresses and pressures on daily lives are causing many to lose sight of what’s essential in life.
We’re losing our focus partly because we’re being seduced by images and distortions.
We’re allowing ourselves to fall for anything and everything.
In place of being distracted or influenced by other people’s choices, we must intentionally decide to stay our course – stay on the paths which are likely to produce stability and prosperity.
Instead of yielding to temptations and choosing easy and convenient paths in life, our task is to stay true to our unique assignments and callings in life.
And we must remind ourselves that we have the strength and resolve necessary to overcome peaks and valleys as well as risks and uncertainties, mainly because we’ve done it before.
America is still on a journey, one that has been marked by periods of darkness and hatred.
Even though our beloved country has a past that is absolutely shameful as it pertains to racial matters, we can be thankful that our present reflects a makeover and an ongoing transformation of the heart and soul of our nation. We’re not there yet, but we have certainly emerged from our darkest days and our racist past.
This is our national opportunity to confront the hard and entrenched elements of what deeply divides us. It’s time for us to stop blaming other people and labeling them racist because things don’t turn out the way we had hoped.
We are all fallible human beings. We can choose to work side by side, hand in hand, to correct our flawed attitudes, practices, and systems. Despite our racial distinctions and differences, we share a common bond that is uniquely American and we must rally around what unites us.
America’s dilemma is a spiritual one, not a social or economic quandary. We are wrestling with the realities of fear, insecurity, despair, and hopelessness which people are feeling every day. We will never agree about everything because we are a conglomerate of all kinds of personalities and philosophies.
As a nation, it’s time for us to grow up, be mature, and start communicating with each other as adults are supposed to, so that we can move closer to racial healing, reconciliation, and unity. We must all exercise faith, patience, and commitment – personally and corporately – if we ever expect to get to our national destination.