Biden praises the important work of educators

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In a lively speech punctuated by chants of "four more years," Vice President Joe Biden drew a strong contrast for AFT convention delegates between the Obama administration's vision for the country and that of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Joe Biden greets delegatesVice President Joe Biden greets delegates.

The fundamental debate between their administration and Romney, Biden said in a July 29 session dedicated to politics, is about how important it is to rebuild the middle class. "We think you build and rebuild this country from the middle out. They honestly believe that the best way to make us more competitive in the world is from the top down." That translates into contrasting economic policies, with the administration supporting middle-class tax cuts, and the Republicans fighting to maintain—and even expand—tax cuts for those making more than $1 million annually.

Biden spent much of his speech praising the work of educators and the central role they play in making that vision of a revitalized middle class a reality. "When we look at you," he said, "we see educators, we see professionals and we see public servants who are under full-blown assault."

"We don't see you as the problem," he said. "We see you as the solution."

Both Biden and his wife, Jill, talked about how tough, and how little appreciated, the jobs of educators are. Jill Biden, who introduced her husband, is a career educator who has spent the last 18 years teaching in community colleges, including her current full-time position. When she was trying to figure out what her role would be after Obama and Biden were elected, "I knew I would continue to find a way to teach," she said. "Being a teacher is not what I do, it's who I am."

Joe Biden

Watch video: Joe Biden addresses AFT convention delegates.

They also brought their granddaughter Maisy along to the convention. "I wanted her to come and see several thousand members of a profession that has of necessity unionized, because otherwise you don't get a fair shot," he said. "I wanted her to see so many people dedicated to making sure she and all the kids her age get an education."

People don't fully understand how much goes into your profession, he told delegates.

"When the district runs out of money, it's you who sacrifice and forgo contractual raises," he said, citing a series of districts across the country where such sacrifices have helped save full-day kindergarten programs, physical education and art classes, early education programs, and maintained reasonable class sizes. "It's you; it's not somebody else" who does that.

"We public officials should be debating about how big a seat you have at the table, not whether you get to sit at the table, when we talk about how to improve education in America," he said.

Following his remarks, the AFT president gave Biden a blue AFT Obama/Biden T-shirt, which many in the audience were already wearing. Next, delegates overwhelmingly adopted a special order of business endorsing the Obama-Biden ticket for re-election. [Dan Gursky/photo by Michael Campbell/video by Matthew Jones and Brett Sherman]

July 29, 2012