We, as unionists in education, health care and public service are the key to reclaiming the American Dream for millions of Americans: the unemployed, the under-employed; the immigrant, the migrant worker; the student on the wrong side of the achievement gap, the patient seeking proper health care; and, the less fortunate seeking assistance through the multitude of services our dedicated members provide. All of us create opportunity for all who seek the American Dream.
This is a transition year with respect to NYSUT's revenues and resources. Overall, we are confident that with the economies we've made, the redirecting of resources and your financial support, we will be able — in fact, we believe, better able — to meet the challenges and the opportunities ahead.
This is a transition year in other ways as well. After all, it is an election year. Elected officials you couldn't find last year are now parked on your doorstep. If you have a Twitter account or a Facebook page, you've discovered officeholders you never knew existed — all looking to be your follower and your friend!
And, of course, it's a presidential election year. I don't have to remind you that, despite some terrific economic policies and social positions, we've had our differences with the Obama administration.
That being said, I find myself continually quoting Vice President Joe Biden: Nov. 6 will not be a referendum on policy, it will be a choice, a choice between two candidates. As things are shaping up, we won't need to convince many about the right choice. The Obama record is something we can support with pride and the Republican alternative ... well you've seen and heard Governor Romney, so he makes it easy!
And, in many ways it's been a transition in terms of strategy. You're all leaders. I think you know what I mean when I say it's a matter of balance, and the art of getting that balance right. Sometimes a situation calls for more restraint than you'd like to exhibit; others require that you demonstrate greater anger than you actually possess. But you answer the call with the strategy that you calculate is needed — needed to achieve your goal, not theirs.
It's that measure of balance you create that defines your leadership. Leadership demands a consistency in decision making and in strategy based on principles, and, yes, the predictability of that consistency may make you vulnerable, but it's that consistency that defines your credibility.
The strategy you choose has to be about values and fairness. It can't be about bravado or keeping peace. It has to be about what you believe in and where you need to take a stand. It can't be about belittling or behaving. It has to be about the balance between reason and passion exercised, not as an end in itself, but as a strategy to achieve your goals.
Kahlil Gibran, in his 1923 book, The Prophet, sums it up so well: "Rest in reason ... and move in passion." Sound advice as we take our place in fighting for the American Dream. And in the simplest, yet perhaps most powerful way, the consistent strategy in that fight is to speak truth to power; to continue to bear witness by standing strong behind the values that are central to what we believe.
Sisters and brothers, the next move is ours — the next move is yours.
As we work through this transition, as we balance reason and passion, as we focus on reclaiming the American Dream — for those it has been denied, for those it has been taken away from, for those who are awaiting their opportunity — we must be diligent.
As we seek to achieve our goals we must guard against attack. As we traverse the path before us, our travels will be as much about defending what we have as it will be about achieving our goals. And the best way to do that — we all know — is in unity, in solidarity.
Every time we stray from that we become vulnerable. Sometimes, through our frustration or in our passion, we expose ourselves even further. Sometimes we lose sight of who our real enemies are. Sometimes we dwell in our memories instead of our dreams — allowing our enemies to predict our every move.
Sisters and brothers, in these difficult times it's easy to find reasons to give up — to turn inward, to turn on each other. But, in these difficult times there are even more reasons to hope — more reasons to believe that we can be the force to reclaim the American Dream — for our members and for those we serve.
A dream we build in our communities and in the ballot box.
A dream we build through our work and through our leadership.
A dream we build with our passion and with our reason.
But most of all, it is a dream we build through our unity.
Indeed sisters and brothers, the essence of our dream is our unity — it is our solidarity.