Speakers during Tuesday night’s virtual Educators for Biden convention watch party affirmed their support for a candidate who exhibits kindness, humility and empathy. And they showed their unbounded enthusiasm for a future president they know will always be in their corner.
By electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, teachers will ensure that public schools—pre-K all the way to college—receive the resources they need to prepare the next generation and strengthen our nation. “We know that public education is foundational to our democracy,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, one of the evening’s speakers. “We need somebody who actually cares about kids and cares about what we do.”
Whether it’s trying to secure broadband for students in rural McDowell County, W.Va., or scrounging for chalk, as Weingarten had to do when she taught in the 1990s, educators are used to having to figure things out on their own. But with our country facing three simultaneous crises—the pandemic, the recession and a long-overdue reckoning with racism—“it’s too hard for us to figure it out alone,” said Weingarten.
Biden and Harris will not leave educators in the lurch. Weingarten is confident that “they know how to get the job done.” The fact that Biden is married to longtime educator Dr. Jill Biden also shows that he will listen to classroom teachers.
Biden has vowed that he will nominate a teacher as secretary of education. And teachers are already playing a prominent role in the campaign, with educators Marisol Garcia and David Quolke serving as national co-chairs of Educators for Biden.
Garcia, vice president of the Arizona Education Association, and Quolke, past president of the Cleveland Teachers Union and an AFT vice president, urged educators to mobilize on behalf of Biden and Harris by making phone calls and texting friends. “I’m more excited about this election than any election in recent memory because of the opportunity to elect a president who truly believes in our profession,” Quolke said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) kicked off the event by declaring that Biden and Harris will provide educators with the support and respect that they need and deserve, both of which have been in short supply. Calling Donald’s Trump’s response to the pandemic “cruel, heartless and incompetent,” she blasted the federal government for failing our public schools. “Betsy DeVos has spent the entire pandemic finding new ways to shovel millions of dollars into private schools,” Warren said.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told participants, “You do not live in a democracy; you are our democracy.” She added that the American people would deny Trump and his administration a second term, with President Biden firing DeVos on his first day in office.
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), the National Teacher of the Year in 2016, recalled the first time she met Joe and Jill Biden. It was at a reception for state teachers of the year, and Joe Biden intently listened to all the educators. Hayes said Biden is well-known for being a good listener because he genuinely cares, “not because it’s the polite thing to do.”
Actor Jennifer Garner added some celebrity cachet to the evening. Having served on the board of Save the Children with Jill Biden and advocated with her for accessible and affordable early childhood education, Garner shared just how highly she thinks of the future first lady. “Part of why I love Jill so much is because she’s a community college professor just like my mom,” she said. Garner said that her mother, who had grown up poor in rural Oklahoma, taught remedial English in West Virginia. “Because my mom got a leg up, because she got herself educated, my sister and I could take college and adventurous lives for granted.”
Quoting Nelson Mandela, Garner said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If we want leaders in the White House who care about children, we don’t have to look any further, Garner said. “Biden and Harris are fully committed to the education system.”