Skip to Content

President Barack Obama addresses joint session of Congress

NEA President Van Roekel thanks President Obama for making education a national priority

WASHINGTON - February 24, 2009 -

President Barack Obama tonight addressed a joint session of Congress to outline his ambitious vision for America in the 21st century, pledging to make education a national priority in his administration and usher a new era of national service for this and future generations, echoing sentiments he expressed during his historic inaugural address a little more than a month ago.

President Obama is off to a solid start after signing legislation to provide health care coverage to 11 million children. And just last week, he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, landmark legislation to help struggling families, public schools and states around the country cope with the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression. With the help of NEA, he successfully urged Congress to make the largest investment of federal funds in the history of public education, aiming to transform and modernize public schools for the 21st century.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we thank President Barack Obama for making public education a national priority and calling on all Americans to join him on his quest to usher in a new era of national service in the name of Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). His vision for public education is one we firmly embrace, affirming that the road to economic recovery and prosperity runs through the nation’s classrooms.

“Moving forward, we believe President Obama will make the tough decisions to tackle the pressing issues of our times—bringing economic security, restoring fiscal discipline, modernizing the nation’s education system and ushering energy independence. The president also plans to tackle health care reform, which is important not only to our economic future but also critically important to our nation’s children and their families. Students can’t learn unless they come to school healthy.

“The time to make these tough choices is now. Getting our fiscal and economic house in order in the short term is critical, and ensuring great public schools for every student in the 21st century is fundamental to the long-term economic well-being of our nation.

“We look forward to working with President Obama and Congress to enact an agenda as bold as the challenges facing Americans.”

To learn more about the National Education Association, please visit

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez
(202) 822-7823,