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July 4th Celebration Honors LBJ’s Vision, Future of Education

By Cynthia McCabe

NEW ORLEANS — There was no denying that it was Independence Day when delegates gathered for the second day of the 89th Representative Assembly. With colorful garb, face paint and signs, they turned the convention floor into an undulating sea of red, white and blue.

Central to NEA’s July 4 celebration was a tribute to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who 45 years ago signed into law a number of bills that would comprise his Great Society legacy. NEA Executive Director John Wilson spoke about Johnson’s “powerful vision for equality and democracy” which he brought to fruition through laws that “changed the American landscape,” by bringing civil rights, health care, the arts and education to the disenfranchised.

Delegates were moved hearing NEA Executive Committee members read portions of speeches Johnson delivered while signing the legislation.

That included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which Wilson noted brought “a massive infusion of dollars to nation’s schools,” to help educate children — especially those who were economically disadvantaged.

“It was a law that we embraced, we supported, and we fought in partnership with President Johnson,” Wilson said. He issued a challenge to current politicians, saying he hopes they can be inspired by Johnson to ensure “every student has an opportunity to attend a great public school.”

To that end, the NEA is similarly committed to taking action to ensure all students receive a quality public education. As Johnson put pen to paper in 1965, the delegates of the 89th RA put pen to paper for a giant petition calling for educators' voices to be heard in the impending reform of ESEA. That position will be carried to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Some delegates even managed to combine patriotism with fundraising.

Chris Guinther of Missouri — a recent past president of the Missouri Education Association — agreed to dress in a full-length American flag gown if her fellow delegates hit a fundraising goal for the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education (NEA’s political action committee) and sure enough, the association found itself on the leader board for per-delegate fundraising after the first day of the RA.

“It’s fun and we’d do just about anything for the PAC,” Guinther said with a smile.

 


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