Our plan is to inspire and teach our students… and we don’t intend to let anything stop us

Sep 9, 2017

Credit Lily Eskelsen García-President, NEA / NEA photo

  Commentary: WASHINGTON –As more than 50 million public school students head back to classrooms across the country, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García spoke about DACA, the Trump education agenda and other relevant topics to our nation’s public schools and students at the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon today.

Regular weekly luncheons for speakers began in 1932 and more heads of state and government appear at the National Press Club than any other forum in the world, outside the Oval Office.

Below are select highlights from Eskelsen García’s remarks:

“….  I represent 3 million educators – teachers and adjunct faculty and bus drivers and para-professionals and counselors and librarians – who wake up every morning knowing how important our work is.  We know it’s so important that we’re supposed to do something about making sure that our students – preschool to graduate school - have everything they need to make their lives everything they should be.”

“…We are facing a reckless and irresponsible administration that creates chaos and confusion – which is bad – but he also creates fear in children, which is unforgiveable.  For the first time in our country’s history, teachers had to comfort crying children because they were afraid of their president.”

“…this week there was a current event that this president was stripping away the protection for our Dreamers.  He cruelly says he’s sure Congress will take care of it. Donald Trump is risking 800,000 lives.  He risks nothing.  These undocumented young people were brought here as children; they graduated from school and had no criminal record – young people who did not make the adult decision to come…DACA is an unqualified success on every level.  It’s humane.  It’s just.  It’s pumping billions into our economy to have these educated, hardworking, enthusiastic young people paying taxes and buying homes and working and studying and starting businesses.”

“…If this were business as usual, we would have turned to the Department of Education for help. Business as usual would have had me think about how I might reach out to Betsy DeVos, a woman who had zero experience in public schools except to use the power of her billions to take public school dollars away from public school students to fund privatized schools.  These are not usual times.  She asked me to meet.  I asked her to take a standardized test. I made it easy.”

“…I can tell you right here and right now that the 3 million members of the National Education Association are going to stand up to this DeVos agenda that aims to take scarce and needed resources from our students. We will be launching a national campaign to fight back against voucher programs wherever they appear, and we will get to work doing what works for neighborhood public schools.”

“…Everywhere in this country, educators and parents and advocates and leaders are embracing their public schools in powerful, human, creative, loving, transformative ways.  Big ways and small ways and ways that don’t always make the headlines.”


“…But we are educators, and finding joy is our vocation.  Our plan is to inspire and include and teach our students what it means to be critical, questioning citizens of their beautiful world; to be creative problem solvers; to be compassionate human beings… And we don’t intend to let anything stop us.”



The rest of Eskelsen García’s testimony, as prepared for delivery, is available here: