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Letter from Randi Weingarten to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie


November 6, 2013

Office of the Governor

PO Box 001

Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Christie:

To stand in front of the voters, ask for their support and win decisively, as you did yesterday in your re-election, deserves to be acknowledged and congratulated. But to stand in front of a public school teacher, as you did a few days before the election, and bully her in such a hostile and intimidating way for simply asking a question, was wrong and unbecoming of the governor of New Jersey.

Governor, you’re better than that. I saw that in your actions after Superstorm Sandy. And, while we have many differences, I have seen you pragmatically work through these differences to reach a contract that preserved public education in Newark.

Last night in your re-election speech, you declared that leadership is much less about talking than it is about listening. And that it’s about bringing people together around a table, listening and showing respect. I couldn’t agree more.

But a picture tells a thousand words. And many wonder why you chose to publicly demean and vilify Melissa Tomlinson, a public school teacher and director of an after-school program, instead of answering her question with the same seriousness of purpose with which it was asked.

No doubt we have profound disagreements on the strategies and resources needed to help our children succeed. But there should be no disagreement about treating those who have our children’s futures in their hands with deep respect and dignity. Pointing a finger at a teacher is sending a far different message.

The campaign trail is challenging; so is the classroom. Now that the election is over, I would urge you to call Melissa and apologize, and to open up a dialogue with teachers around New Jersey. One way would be to convene a series of town halls to have a meaningful exchange. We should be partners, not enemies.

Those of us in positions of power and authority have an immense responsibility to use this power and authority to bring people together to solve the challenges we face. There is no greater challenge than providing educational and economic opportunity to all our citizens. And that challenge starts with treating teachers with respect and offering all our children—not just some—a high-quality education.


Randi Weingarten
President, American Federation of Teachers