The spirit of America is defined by a shared concern for the poor.
Each of us has a moral imperative to do something to enhance the life prospects of those who are less fortunate.
Every one of us has to govern our own capacity to give, the habits of our hearts, and our compassion for others — to reveal our common spirit and virtue.
We must do better in our advocacy for social and economic safety nets that can facilitate upward mobility for those who have been disenfranchised for too long.
The tie that binds all of us is our willingness to help our sisters and brothers use their God-given gifts and abilities to achieve their own success and prosperity.
The life of Jesus Christ is our blueprint for how to achieve greatness in discipleship.
It teaches us that a place of honor is not something you ask for; it’s not something that the world can give you. It’s something you actually work for.
Greatness is earned – it’s not given to us or handed to us on a platter. Greatness is an honor given by God, not by man.
This honor has been prepared by God for those who are willing and committed to lifetimes of service and sacrifice. We don’t get to choose who is great in God’s kingdom, he does that.
We are responsible for making sure our priorities are straight, by operating with a servant’s mentality, as opposed to a selfish mentality.
We shouldn’t spend time seeking praise and positions from the world around us. Instead, our focus ought to be squarely on serving and giving.
We have a role model in Jesus Christ, who has taught and shown us what it takes to achieve greatness in the kingdom of God. (Mark 10: 35-45)
American classrooms are filled with professionals who serve because they care.
These stewards of our children’s academic success operate the schools, walk the hallways, and manage the classrooms with an unselfish spirit and great dignity.
They go about their business as educators without giving a single thought to compromising or sacrificing the academic interests of the students they serve.
It’s important for us to remember that there are scores of honest educators who do earnestly uphold the highest standards, principles, and ethics when it comes to serving school-aged children and youth.
Despite the bad deeds of some, we must not lose sight of the fact that a majority of K12 educators are indeed very good at what they do and are committed to making sure every child has access to a high quality education.
We must always resist the temptation to lose focus of the very good and hard work that continues to be done routinely by the school administrators, classroom instructors, teaching assistants, and the various other professionals whose work make each school day possible and meaningful for American schoolchildren everywhere.
That Christians will show the world what the authentic love of God looks like, acts like, and feels like.
That the entire Christian community will be more tolerant of people who are not like them or do not share their beliefs.
That people of faith will be less judgmental concerning others’ faults and weaknesses – so that we can share God’s gift of salvation with people everywhere.
For unity across God’s universal church, so that people who do not look alike, act alike, or speak alike, will unite around their common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That we can all be slow to speak and condemn, but quick to listen and embrace.
Matters of the heart are beyond the jurisdiction of government legislation.
Not another speech, summit, or task force on race in America is needed. The racism that continues to haunt American life is truly a matter that can only be dealt with as individuals decide to overcome personal fears and ignorance about different groups of people.
Legislative mandates have undoubtedly been successful at rooting out institutional and systemic racism in many aspects of American life, but the true acts of racial healing and reconciliation can only occur as individuals choose to cleanse their hearts of racial hatred.
Individuals must choose to demonstrate the will, courage, and commitment necessary for dismantling racist practices and overcoming racist attitudes. Racial healing and reconciliation begin and end with every single American choosing to do their part to create a nation that is racially united and tolerant.
Spend the days ahead, placing Jesus Christ at the center of your life.
Work diligently as his disciple in your home, workplace, and community.
Ask God to give you wisdom to guide your soul and your spirit, so that your heart and mind are in tune with his will.
Seek a greater understanding of the ways in which God works, so that you may emulate his works in your dealings with people wherever you go.
Live well for God – make him proud of you, as you work with purpose, sharing the message and spirit of Jesus Christ, which is love, eternal life, and hope for all.
And as you continue on your journey toward the wisdom and purpose of God for your life, you will be strengthened on the inside, will experience God’s inner peace and joy, and will be able to persevere through life’s difficulties and challenges.
America’s schoolchildren deserve classrooms and schools that are functional.
We cannot expect or even hope that young people will excel academically if we do not provide them with classrooms and schools that are both invigorating and nurturing. It simply makes no sense to apply higher academic standards while ignoring factors that hinder students’ capacity to learn.
The structural, environmental, and social problems plaguing school operations have to be addressed so that our youth can perform at the highest levels. Leaky ceilings, broken chairs and desks, missing door locks, out of order bathrooms are unacceptable in an environment where we expect high academic achievement.
Given all the distractions permeating schools, care must be taken to ensure that students feel not only safe and secure inside and outside of their classrooms, but that they also feel free enough to actively engage in curricular and extracurricular exercises. This means effectively monitoring and managing the social and peer pressures facing young people during and after school hours.
Administrators must actively partner with persons and organizations that can assist with domestic, emotional, and psychological challenges that students bring to school with them each day. It means collaborating with professionals who can serve as mentors, coaches, tutors, and even funding partners.
If we don’t get a handle on some of the negative externalities that are hurting schools, then we risk every honest effort to produce healthy and productive school settings for school-aged youth in communities everywhere.
How well teachers teach and how well students learn are the building blocks for fulfilling the vision behind the Common Core State Standards.
To ensure that every child has the opportunity for academic success as a K12 learner and beyond requires this type of framework, in order to foster creativity, competence, commitment, and flexibility among teachers and students alike.
The Common Core is a roadmap for school leaders as they tailor the standards to fit the uniqueness of their student populations and teacher corps. It can be translated into a practical guide for synthesizing student academic goals with teacher effectiveness – ultimately relating how well teachers teach to how well students learn.
Through the application of creative instructional and learning practices, the hope is that new levels of effectiveness and success will be achieved – as classroom teachers enhance their capacity to challenge students and as students broaden their base of knowledge.
The Common Core is a timely response for assessing student academic achievement and evaluating classroom instruction, as we all continue the journey toward the discovery of new approaches and solutions for effective teaching and learning in the 21st century across diverse student populations.
The poorest children are suffering the most because of failing schools.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in K12 education is that the students who live in poverty and come from the toughest neighborhoods and homes are often the victims of the worst schools. Somehow we’ve failed to provide a safe haven and learning sanctuary for talented students who desperately need a place to go where they can feel a sense of value and encouragement.
We know that there are scores of gifted young people residing in communities that are saturated by all kinds of negative forces. And schools should be the one place where they can discover and nurture their gifts and talents. The opportunity for academic success can also be one path which gives children and youth the chance to overcome their impoverished conditions and reach unimaginable heights.
To ensure that every child is given this chance to excel academically, the adults in the room must be willing to make sacrifices on behalf of our students. This means that the grownups will have to sacrifice their competing agendas and entrenched loyalties, so that students’ academic success becomes paramount. And the adult stakeholders must resist the temptation to be consumed by their own selfishness and greed. The academic interests of our young people must supersede the self interests of the adults.
Students deserve better. We owe America’s students across all income classes the chance to learn in classrooms and schools that reflect not only the highest expectations of them as learners, but also provide the tools and resources that are needed to assist them as they progress. My commitment, along with the cadre of school reformers who make up a wide spectrum of professions, industries, and sectors, is to ensure that every child at least has access to a high quality K12 education.
How can we expect our global neighbors to be civil and respectful when we do not apply this standard at home?
If Americans don’t figure out how to respect each other’s ideas, opinions, and perspectives, especially when they differ from one’s own ideology and politics, then we will always be viewed as hypocritical and schizophrenic around the world.
We promote and preach democracy, freedom of speech, openness, religious freedom, and human rights on the international stage, but far too many of us lack the will or maturity to acknowledge and appreciate the diversity of ideas and thoughts within our own national boundaries.
Our public square is being contaminated by those who possess an inability to disagree without personally attacking people’s character, beliefs, or family members. And to make matters worse, we are inundated by a media environment that has largely lost its journalistic integrity and objectivity.
We can’t even rely on news reporting anymore because of the emphasis on sensationalism. We desperately need civility in our public, political, and social discourse, especially in light of the reality that paradigms and demographics are shifting quickly.
We will not be able to manage or interpret the shifts occurring globally unless we get our own house in order first. What’s essentially required is that we start new conversations which appreciate and build upon the array of experiences and ideas that people bring with them as a result of diverse cultural, social, and ethnic ideas and experiences.
We can and must talk.