by Max Brantley
I received a report last night from Little Rock teacher and Classroom Teachers Association leader Cathy Koehler about the National Education Association convention. The Arkansas angle concerning two well-received presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee -- is worth sharing. Read it on the jump.
FROM CATHY KOEHLER
Imagine this line up scheduled to speak to the National Education Association Representative Assembly with over 9,000 delegates - Clinton, Edwards, Dodd, Kucinich, Richardson, Obama, Huckabee, Biden on education.
Next, imagine a speech on Monday, July 2nd where Hillary Clinton would focus most of her remarks concerning education on what she had accomplished as First Lady of Arkansas, rather than as a Senator from New York. She extolled the Arkansas accomplishments so much that delegates from across the country, at a meeting after the conclusion of business that day, wondered how engaged she had been in education issues since she has been in the Senate. It was noted repeatedly that her education record lies in Arkansas.
On Tuesday, July 3rd, six of the Little Rock Nine participated in a celebration of their contribution to public education along with leaders from Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association and Arkansas Education Association. Each of the Nine was presented with a beautiful crystal plaque recognizing their place in education history after a beautiful five minute tribute film. Imagine introducing an early 30's black male teacher from Wisconsin and literally see tears well up in his eyes as he met his life-long hero, Ernest Green. As they exited the stage and made their way to the back of the convention center, delegations of teachers from across this country stood and applauded so loudly that NEA Pres. Reg Weaver had to stop conducting business until they made it out of the center. Obama was not the rock star, they were.
As if these two events were not surreal enough, imagine that Mike Huckabee was not only warmly received by NEA, his speech was stronger and better received than Obama's, who kept mentioning how much he loved Iowa, followed by New Hampshire and South Carolina as if the rest of the country didn't matter to him at this time. Huckabee was positive, up-lifting, affirming, and humorous. He avoided issues that would cause dissent and was totally child-centered in his remarks. Much like the master, Ronald Reagan, he made people feel good. Scores of Democrats and Republicans alike stood in line to take his picture. The NEA Republican Caucus, yes there is such a creature, met with him afterward. It is too often ignored that one-third of the NEA membership is Republican. At least 2,000 people at RA were Republicans and finally they felt that someone from their party recognized that fact.
Huckabee was very smart because I, as well as every other Arkansas delegate, was asked repeatedly to share more information about him to delegates across this country. Polling shows that the number one group of professionals who vote are teachers and that they have the greatest influence on how others vote. When teachers and education support professionals from across this country return home and share his positive message, it will be well received and like the delegates to NEA RA, voters will want to know more about him.
This NEA RA made every delegate from Arkansas swell up with pride to represent the teachers and education support professionals from across our state.