PTA: From the Reflection Pool

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

This post was originally published on the National PTA blog Thursday, January 22, 2009


Whether you witnessed President Obama’s swearing-in on television, through the Internet, or in person on the National Mall, I think few would disagree with the idea that the enormity of this Presidential Inauguration cannot be understated – in any respect. Of course there was an unprecedented number of people flocking to Washington DC, filling a two-mile stretch from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday morning, lining a parade route that afternoon, and attending countless balls (official and not) that evening. Not to mention the millions and millions more who gathered in homes, theaters, classrooms, and coffee shops across the country to share this moment with their fellow citizens.

The event itself was huge on a scale almost unimaginable, but the sheer size of the Inauguration was not the limit of its grandness. Nor did its magnitude end with the notion that the same generation of people who lived through segregation now helped make a black man the President of the United States. In electing Barack Obama to the highest office in the land, we have also placed immense expectations on him. Not just to be worthy of this watershed moment in American politics, this realization of a dream at least 45 years in the making – but also to be the man who can lead us through “gathering clouds and raging storms.” And so it was only fair that with his inaugural address the President asked equally great things of us:

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor – who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

I was standing in the considerable shadow of the Washington Monument when these words carried all the way across the Mall to my ears. I thought of the revolutionaries who names aren’t mentioned with the founding fathers, the unnamed activists who marched with Dr. King, and the untold millions of PTA mothers and fathers and members who have done so much for children these last 112 years. I also thought about how many people have committed themselves to students’ health and education through PTA today. Two million people came to the Mall to see a President take his oath, and the nation’s capital nearly had to shut down to accommodate all of them. There are more than twice as many people in PTA right now. Can you imagine what would happen if every single PTA member stood up and said to our government: “Give us better schools”? They might not shut down the town, but our legislators would certainly have to listen. They’d have no choice.

Giving every child in this country a first-rate education is our duty, and it is not an easy task. It will be hard work and it will not happen overnight. But if we can work together, and we convince our families and neighbors and leaders that our mission as PTA members is for the common good, then there is no reason to doubt President Obama’s promise: “All this we can do. All this we will do.”


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