Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wow! What a Week This Has Been!

This has been a week that I will long remember. On Monday, all during the day, I could feel the momentum building, and I was certainly hopeful that the election that was about to take place would make history. While I felt confident that the Obama campaign had done everything it could conceivably do, admittedly, the anxiety mounted as well. What if people decided, for some reason, not to vote after all?

Needless to say, I was gratified to see the long lines that showed the thousands of people who turned out in spite of rain in some parts of the country. I was also relieved to hear that incidents of trouble were limited and not widespread. That had been another fear in the back of my mind. I had felt that the elections of 2000 and 2004 were snatched away from me. I was, I admit, fearful that some trick up someone's sleeve would prevail again resulting in heartbreaking disappointment.

Needless to say, I was thrilled by the outcome of the day on Tuesday. It occurs to me to consider that those who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the NEA/VEA’s recommended candidates will now have to find some other way to fill their free time. The weekends of neighborhood canvassing, the evenings of phone banks...they are all behind us now as we celebrate what feels like a definite turning point for our nation and for Virginia.

On Tuesday evening, I was allowed to join the party faithful in McLean, Virginia where Democrats converged to wait for the outcome. Not surprisingly, Mark Warner carried the election for the Senate seat vacated by John Warner easily and early. He and Senator Jim Webb arrived for the first round of congratulations and celebration around 9:30. It was not until much later, however, before we knew what the outcome of the race for the White House would be.

When Governor Tim Kaine came out to announce to the awaiting crowd that he had just received a call from the Associated Press informing him that Virginia had turned blue for Obama, the crowd erupted into elation. For myself, the tears ran, and I hugged everyone within arm’s length. Moments later, the room erupted again when the TV monitors were turned back on and the outcome of the election nationwide was being announced: Barack Obama had been elected President of the United States!

This election has caused me to feel all sorts of emotions--some expected and some not. We at the Virginia Education Association have talked some--and will continue to talk more--about what are the best strategies for dealing with being a “battleground state” if that should ever happen again. We took a lot of push back from our members about the seemingly relentless barrage of mailings. There are certainly lessons to be learned, and we will study how we conducted ourselves during this campaign cycle and how we might do things differently in the future.

While we have pledged to learn lessons from this experience, many of us are gratified by this victory because we believe that this election had so much riding on it with regard to where we will go in our country with the future of public education. As I traveled the commonwealth of Virginia these past several months, I told folks that my single issue this year was No Child Left Behind. My prayer now will be that the Obama administration will name people to the Department of Education who are true educators and who understand the need for addressing the many negative (if unintended) consequences of NCLB.

I am bolstered, too, by the overall message of this presidential campaign. "Yes We Can" sums up the spirit that we as a nation need to embrace in the months ahead. We are certainly facing uncertain economic times. The challenges remain, but with that "can do" spirit, who doesn't want to believe that with the right leadership, we can, in fact, do anything we set our minds to?
What a fabulous message. We as educators must remember that mantra as we face the numerous challenges ahead of us.