When the news broke about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, I was just a teenager living in Newport News, Virginia. You see, back in those days blacks could only ride in the back of the bus. This was how we had to live, and few dared to question it. But when Rosa Parks sat down in that whites-only seat , she inspired entire generations of organizers like me to stand for fairness. It was our time to make a stand, and many stood and died for it.
Although the days of segregation are now long gone, there is still so much to fight for. As a retired public school teacher and a grandmother of nine, I know that there is a lot at stake. This is why I still organize in my community as a neighborhood team leader—to protect the progress made in education over the past three years.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama talked about building an America built to last. If the education initiatives and reforms he has implemented in the past three years aren’t proof of his longstanding commitment, I don’t know what is. The increased funding to the federal Pell Grant program and passage of student loan reform are great examples of this. Because of the Pell Grant increase, my granddaughter and millions of other students like her can afford to attend college and pursue their dreams.
For the men and women of the armed services, the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which extends education benefits to their families, is another example of the Obama administration’s commitment to ensuring that the America we build together is built to last. These Americans have put their lives on the line, and it is the fair and right thing to do for these families.
Having attended so many underfunded schools as a child, not having the school supplies I needed, but having the greatest teachers I could have hoped for, I am proud to stand by President Obama for saving, through the Recovery Act, the greatest assets of any school: its teachers. I could not be here today without the encouragement of the many teachers in my life—like Mrs. Dennis, who taught me how to solve algebra problems. Students today still depend on teachers like Mrs. Dennis.
I remember when I was at a junior high assembly, seeing honor students being recognized for their hard work; it gave me a feel for what it was like to succeed. I want my nine grandchildren to feel this, too, but this can only happen if the world we live in is a fair one. Remember being told that we should leave this world better than we found it? I think we can all agree that that applies here. I owe that much to my grandchildren. We owe that much to our grandchildren—the future. It is as true now as it was in 1955: Stand up for what is right and fair. This is why I organize for President Obama.
Mrs. Annie Pollard is a retired teacher and organizer in Saint Stephens Church, Virginia.
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