Four events last week reminded me of how special this country is and how our commitment to education makes us unique in the world.
Wednesday evening I attended my synagogue’s annual Holocaust Remembrance service. The guest speaker, Irene Weiss, turned 14 in Auschwitz. She and an older sister – two of six siblings – survived through a combination of luck and love. Two aunts protected her. She made her way to America after the liberation, and lived in Virginia where eventually she became a school teacher. Asked about why she went into education, she said she went into teaching English as a second language because she thought her understanding of foreign cultures could be helpful to kids whose first language was not English. A more eloquent statement of how our system embraces difference could not be imagined.
Thursday we celebrated at Gelman Library the anniversary of our William Taylor Archive, and had the great pleasure of hearing Deputy Mayor De’Shawn Wright, Professor Liliana Garces, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education Art Coleman comment on the Taylor legacy and its centrality in our quest to further the ideals of improving education for all children. Opening remarks by Vice Provost Terri Reed set the tone, and it was, again, made abundantly clear through the discussion that a uniquely great thing about American education is our joint commitment to high standards for learning and equity of access and opportunity. We have lots of work ahead, especially in an age of ravaging inequality, but we take on that challenge upon a foundation of hope and progress.