April 08, 2017

Pecorale: Public education is the social justice issue of our time


The preamble to the U.S. Constitution makes it clear: The bedrock of American society is social justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare of our country’s citizens and the blessings of liberty, NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale told delegates to NYSUT’s Representative Assembly Saturday.

And now, more than ever, the nation’s current “thorny path” shows a clear call for compassion, conversation and action to safeguard the tenets of social justice, beginning with protecting every child’s right to quality public education.

“The value of public education is the social justice issue of our generation,” Pecorale said.

NYSUT’s 600,000-plus members reflect the commitment to social justice through the work they do to educate and heal through teaching and health care, by taking to the streets to support human and workers’ rights and exposing the injustices that inflict pain and hardship. Members were among the throngs who gathered in cities around the world to protest Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency. Our country’s current leadership threatens civil rights gains made over the past 60 years and further divides a nation once “hungry for peace and unity,” he said.

“We learned we must organize, protest, resist and demand,” to make a difference, Pecorale said. “And, we learned that we are all more alike than we are different.”

Attacks on public schools and universities, violence against women, threats to affordable health care, differences in pay equity for women, and the risk faced by Muslims, people of color and those in the LGBQT community are problems that need our union’s attention.

A union, he said, “seeks to merge people through shared interests.”

Video and Transcript

One needs to look no further than the preamble of our U.S. Constitution to know that the bedrock of our American society is social justice.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice,
Insure domestic tranquility…
Promote the general welfare and …
Secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”

Our union and its more than 600 thousand members — from Buffalo to Brookhaven — reflect this commitment to what is right, just and fair.

Each day, we endeavor to improve public education, healthcare and the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

In these values, we must remember: We are all more alike than we are different.

On January 20th of this year, we turned the page on President Barack Obama and ushered in the era of Donald Trump.

And, on January 21st, we took to the streets!

Hundreds of thousands of women and men and children descended on Washington DC.

We voiced our objections to a candidate and to a campaign that only served to further divide a nation hungry for peace and unity.

What did we learn that day in DC, as the world watched millions of others across the globe take to the streets in solidarity?

Well, we learned we must organize, protest, resist and demand.

And, we learned that we are all more alike than we are different.


The recent change in our nation’s leadership threatens many of our country’s civil rights gains of the past 60 years.

In the bad old days, women, people of color, LGBTQ and non-Christian citizens were left asking, “Where is our equality?

We must not let that question rule the day in modern America.

Prejudice cannot be allowed to fester and flourish.

It is un-American.

It is unconstitutional.

Our nation’s painful history has demonstrated that this thorny path is one best traveled with compassion, conversation, and action.

So how do we promote this conversation with those who seek to destroy us, if we cannot start a simple dialogue within our own community?

The “Start the Conversation” and “Why in 5” programs encourage us to have those tough conversations about race, prejudice, discrimination, civil rights and more.

These are conversations that show us we are all more alike than we are different.

Sisters and brothers, our work is, indeed, cut out for us. At times, the obstacles before us seem insurmountable. But, even in the face of extreme difficulty, we cannot give up hope.

As our nation is determined to protect itself from threats - real and grossly imagined - we must ensure that those who truly profess to favor freedom, also embrace our commitment to equality and justice.

We need a judicial system that is independent of political dogma and preserves our American system of equal justice under the law.

On this issue:
We are all more alike than we are different.

Although we have experienced recent bomb threats against synagogues across the nation, horrific attacks in our public schools and universities, and violence against women and vulnerable populations, …
none today are more at risk than Muslims,
people of color, and those in the LGBTQ community.

Brothers and Sisters, this isn’t the America we know.

And, on this issue:
We are all more alike than we are different.

Our society should believe that access to high-quality, affordable healthcare is a right for all, not just a privileged few …

And recent efforts to tear down the Affordable Care Act would have left the working poor, the disabled, the vulnerable, and the aging without options.

We all deserve affordable, accessible and quality healthcare.

On this issue:
We are all more alike than we are different.

Working women – our sisters, wives and partners – deserve the same pay for same work. Why, in 2017, is there a difference in pay equity based on gender?

We had a victory with Fight for $15 last April, where our efforts – your efforts – helped provide some economic justice to New York workers and families.

We all want to provide for the basic needs for our families, pay our bills, send our children to good public schools and colleges and have a secure retirement. On this issue:

We are all more alike than we are different.

Perhaps most important, the value of public education is the social justice issue of our generation.

It provides a genuine pathway out of poverty and leads to a longer life expectancy.

Students grow up to become good citizens who think more critically, work more collaboratively and embrace diverse environments.

Who doesn’t want this for their children?

On May 1st, we have the opportunity to engage in another National Day of Action with our friends in The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools Coalition.

As we did on January 19, we have the opportunity to stand up across the country for public education, justice and equality.

On this issue:
We are all more alike than we are different.

A union is an organized association of workers formed to protect and further their rights.

Digging deeper into this, a union seeks to merge people through shared interests.

Through its representative democratic structure, NYSUT improves the professional, economic and personal lives of our members and their families.

We strengthen the institutions in which we work.

We further the cause for social justice.

Sisters and brothers, as you head back home today remember to be that agent of change that fights for the justice we seek.

Let us all work together because, in the end:

We are all more alike than we are different.

Let’s all put aside our small differences and recognize that we are not each other’s  enemy.

The real enemy is outside of this hall. The real enemy wants to destroy us.
Let’s mend together, moving forward in a unified direction. Because …
We are all more alike than we are different.

Thank you.

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