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Education is key to fulfilling Dr. King’s dream, says NEA president

Van Roekel urges constructive dialogue and solutions to transform education for all students

WASHINGTON - January 17, 2011 -

This marks the 25th year that the nation will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday.  The holiday was first observed in 1986, and in 1994, Congress designated the day as a national day of service.  President Barack Obama has called on Americans to observe Dr. King’s birthday by working together to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dedicated his life to working for a more just and equal society. We’ve made progress on many fronts since he inspired us with his vision, but there is still much to be done to make his dream a reality. We know that education is a great equalizer. I can think of no better way to honor this great man’s life and ideals than by coming together—and working together—to improve the quality of education for all children in America.

“Recently, I read an article that a young Martin Luther King wrote as a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta. The article, entitled ‘The Purpose of Education,’ was published in the college’s newspaper in 1948.  ‘Education,’ he wrote, ‘must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.’

“Intelligence is not enough, he told us. ‘Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.’

“Educators today continue to be inspired and challenged by Dr. King’s words and life. We teach students tolerance and understanding along with 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving. Our goal is to help all students reach their full potential. 

“As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we renew our commitment to creating great public schools for all students. Quality public education must remain a priority for America. There is no better way to honor Dr. King than to work together to ensure that every student in America, regardless of race or background, has access to the great equalizer—a quality education.” 

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee 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

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