Have you noticed how often the tag word "strong" is added to names and places? Etymologists can trace it back to "going strong," a racing term from 1898, and the phrase "come on strong," traced back to 1812. I link it to the "Boston Strong" buttons, T-shirts, websites, etc., that grew out of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
"Strong" in this case refers not only to the present strength of the city, but the roots of that strength in Boston's history and, perhaps most importantly, a vision for an even stronger unity going forward. It speaks to standing up to those who tried to paint a different picture — trying to show weakness in the fundamental structure and ability to protect and provide for its constituents. Boston's response, resilience and recovery proved them wrong!
The ABC television network's national nightly news does a segment titled "America Strong." The aim of this piece is to show individual strength by highlighting how our strength is not in the ability to flex muscles or to threaten and bully, but rather in the daily achievements of everyday people who have been provided the opportunity to flourish. This strength comes from pride in who we are, a willingness to examine our values and an understanding that our future is not served well by bravado but rather by a consistent and persistent dedication to our values and our vision of the future.
In early April, NYSUT will hold our annual Representative Assembly. Delegates from hundreds of locals of every size, from every region of our great state and every constituency group, will chart a course for the future of NYSUT. They will do so through the election of officers and a Board of Directors. The delegates will debate and adopt resolutions that will guide policy going forward. Inevitably, delegates will ask the question, "Is NYSUT Strong?"
To that I am confident the answer is a resounding, Yes!
The strength of NYSUT has been clearly demonstrated. Last June, we brought members, other educators, parents, community activists and supporters to Albany to make clear where we stand on the state's obsession with testing and its flawed Common Core implementation plan. Despite the naysayers who said it couldn't be done, we brought together 20,000 activists who spoke with one voice, making clear that we will not rest until New York's policymakers stop interweaving testing, standards and evaluation in ways that corrupt all three. And we will not rest until funding for pre-K through post-graduate is adequate, fair and equitable — and until the horrific property tax cap is removed.
Our advocacy built on member engagement and mobilization continues to grow with a "no confidence" vote in the state education commissioner's policies and a strong stand in support of a parent's right to "opt out" of harmful and abusive testing. The momentum — strategically planned — continues to advance the needs of our members as we consistently escalate our tactics and demonstrate our resolve.
Yes, I'm confident that "NYSUT Strong" is a reality. But it isn't only me saying so. Just in the past few weeks, the Albany Times Union referred to NYSUT as "the state's largest and most powerful teachers union"; the Pioneer Institute spoke to the impact of "the size and breadth of NYSUT"; Education Week's blog took notice of our"notable move" on Common Core as "contrary to our parent unions"; and the Hechinger Report quoted Joe Williams of the Democrats for Education Reform defining our real strength as "… not so much the dollar amount in any given year … the fact that they go at it year after year after year …"
The real strength of NYSUT is, of course, you, our leaders and members. Statewide officers must always understand that their role is to guide your voice to achieve your goals and to provide for your well-being. The path is not always easy and certainly never straight or clearly defined. But our strength comes from consistently staying true to the larger vision and not wavering because the road is rough or laying back because the task at hand is difficult.
Yes, NYSUT Strong! This defines who we are and will define the future through your voice and with your support.
Note: Your comments on this column or any issue you wish to share directly with me are welcomed. Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow President Iannuzzi on Twitter: @RichardIannuzzi