Press Release

AFT President Randi Weingarten on Issues Surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam

For Release: 

Saturday, February 2, 2019


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—After speaking with the AFT’s local leaders in Virginia, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement about Gov. Ralph Northam:

“The photo from Gov. Northam’s medical yearbook is vile and indefensible. While it’s important the governor has renounced it and apologized for his history, it’s a haunting reminder of how deeply etched racism is in our society. Regardless of what Northam does, we must use this moment to teach. First, to denounce the racism, violence and dehumanization represented by the photo, and second, to eradicate the hate that photos like this represent.

“We, like so many others who know Northam, have difficulty reconciling the person and the politician we know from the picture on his yearbook page. While he asserted today that the photos are not of him, he asked Virginians to let him regain their trust, and hopes that his actions since college, including his career in public service, be viewed as redemptive. As educators, we teach our students that there are second chances and that we can learn from our mistakes. We teach them that redemption requires taking responsibility for our mistakes and growing from them.

“But frankly, our elected officials must be held to a higher standard of leadership—one that embraces the values of democracy, decency, freedom and justice, and acts to eradicate discrimination and prejudice in all its forms. While many may forgive Ralph Northam the person, it’s hard to see how Ralph Northam the governor maintains the credibility and confidence of the people to lead, heal and unify the commonwealth. 

“One can’t denounce the bigotry and prejudice one sees in another and remain silent when it hits close to home. The behavior and decisions associated with Northam over the last 24 hours have consequences, and the governor would do Virginia a great service by stepping aside.”


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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.