Happy New Year and welcome to 2017. Much can be said about 2016 – both positive and negative, but certainly 2016 could be tagged as the Year of Politics. Last year was tough for many as politics divided our society, our communities and even our families.
I am looking forward to 2017 to focus on a new start by bringing people together around issues and values, not the individuals who are running for elected office. That’s why I call on you to make 2017 the Year of the Activist.
There are numerous issues impacting each of you in your work with children. There are many values we hold deeply that bring us to this work to look out for the best interests of children. We must look ahead at 2017 for opportunities to harness our passions around an issue to influence policy for the better for ourselves and the children we serve.
The past few weeks have shown the influence that one voice can have and how that one voice can motivate others to stand together to build collective power.
Take for instance the Women’s March on Washington that will take place Jan. 21. This event originated when a grandmother in Hawaii, Teresa Shook, created a Facebook event and invited 40 of her friends to march on Washington. The event exploded as more and more people joined the event, created their own pages and invited their friends. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the march to draw attention to issues that impact women and families.
All because one woman took the initiative to stand up for something she believed in.
The power of the people became evident again Jan. 3. The night before, the U.S. House Republican Caucus voted to change the rules on ethics by weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics – a move opposed even by some Republican leaders. That vote unleashed a torrent of angry calls from constituents who were outraged that Congress would make this their first act of 2017.
But again, it took the actions of individuals to pick up the phone, make a call and demand that legislators represent their interests.
Each of us is motivated by different issues. What is yours? Are you an advocate for public education? Then make that your issue. Create actions within your school to uplift public education. Mobilize others to fight against the expansion of for-profit charters and to call for better accountability measures for all charters. Post articles on your social media that expose the dangers of privatization. Start taking action today by calling your U.S Senators Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman to ask them to oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos, a charter and voucher lobbyist with zero experience in public education, as the Secretary of Education (Call Sen. Portman at 202-224-3353 and Sen. Brown at 202- 224-2315). We ask you to call Sens. Portman and Brown because the Senate will hold a hearing on the nomination Jan. 11. Continue your activism by organizing some kind of action Jan. 19 , the national day of action jointly sponsored by AROS (Alliance to Reclaim our Schools), AFT and NEA. This action could be as simple as organizing a social media campaign in your community that day uplifting your public school and fighting back against privatization efforts.
Is your issue healthcare? Are you concerned that children in your classrooms might be impacted by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act? Then become an activist around this issue. Demand that our elected officials not repeal the ACA until they can replace it with something better. Expand your activism by pushing for making health services more accessible to children and families through a community learning center model. Join actions that are taking place around the country and push your activism through social media. Look for a Jan 15 Healthcare Day of Action in your area and spread social media posts that you see.
How concerned are you about workers’ rights? Are you disturbed that our neighboring state, Kentucky, just passed a right to work law? Do you remember the battle we had in 2011 to overturn a law that would have taken away our collective bargaining rights? Then make this your issue this year. Dedicate yourself to educating your friends, neighbors and relatives about the dangers of right to work. Watch our website, social media and emails for updates about attempts to take away collective bargaining or weaken labor in other ways and be ready to take action.
I could continue with more and more issues, but the point is, you need to decide what is important to you and take a stance. Educate others about your cause. Mobilize others to join you in taking action. Believe that you can make a difference and then work to make it happen. OFT will be tracking issues and offering opportunities for activism. But you also can start your own activism. Remember, all it takes is one person creating a Facebook event and inviting others to join it. From there, the possibilities are endless.
I recently heard Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (Washington) describe herself in a way that resonated with me. She said, “I am a glass half full person but I work like hell to make sure that I am not wrong.”
I still believe that the glass is half full as we move forward in 2017. And I am ready to work like hell to make sure that I am not wrong that we can improve our worlds by engaging in changing those things that we know could be better for all of us. I proudly call myself an activist and call on you to be one too. Make 2017 your year of activism. Will you join me?
Melissa Cropper, President
Ohio Federation of Teachers
Share with us
What issues are important to you? Share below and offer suggestions for activism.