Citing President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's "powerful promise of hope and their sound solutions to the country's most vexing problems" as the keys that helped them win the nation's trust and confidence, AFT president Randi Weingarten congratulated the winning candidates on their extraordinary Nov. 4 election victory.
"So much about this campaign has been historic and electrifying," Weingarten said. "The incredible voter interest Barack Obama generated, especially among young, independent and first-time voters; the sea change in voting patterns across America; and the election of America's first African-American president are all extraordinary milestones for our country. I am hopeful that this civic excitement and engagement will be sustained for the benefit of our great democracy.
"At a time when the focus on strengthening public education has been all but eclipsed by other issues, Sen. Obama has shown both deep understanding of, and real interest in, the need to ensure every child receives a world-class education. The members and leaders of the AFT welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to working together to strengthen public education. We look forward to partnering with him and with members of both parties to fulfill this promise."
The AFT's political operation in the 2008 elections was unprecedented. The union deployed nearly 600 full-time campaign coordinators and 5,000 volunteers to assist affiliates and the AFL-CIO in member-education and get-out-the-vote efforts. Since endorsing Sen. Obama at its national convention in July, the AFT made more than 4 million contacts with its membership, including phone calls, mail, leaflets and-the means of communication proven to be most effective-direct member-to-member contact at home and at the workplace.
"We were in more states, with a greater presence, than ever before. And it worked," Weingarten said. "I saw this firsthand in the 18 states I have visited since becoming AFT president in July."
States with a strong AFT and union presence made a decisive difference in the elections, not only in choosing the next president, but also in giving him a Congress to work with that will champion the concerns of working people and will support public education and other vital public services.
"Barack Obama will be a president for all Americans," Weingarten said. "For Americans from every state in the Union, for those who enjoy great wealth as well as those who suffer terrible want, for Americans of every color, creed and walk of life. This is the time for our country to come together in common purpose to create a better life for all Americans.
"President-elect Obama faces considerable challenges-a severe economic crisis, a broken healthcare system, the needs of an aging population, enormous infrastructure strains and American troops engaged in two wars. But he is well-equipped to lead our country, which is unparalleled in its ability and determination to face such challenges."
The union has launched a new Web site (www.aft.org/tools4teachers/AmericaElects) for educators to use in teaching about the history-making campaign.