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UNITING OUR COUNTRY AND STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY

November 04, 2020 08:00 AM
By: Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega

UNITING OUR COUNTRY AND STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY

Today—less than a day removed from the election—we might have mixed emotions and feelings of dissonance, empowerment, frustration, triumph, or trauma from our experiences. Know that is normal and OK.

The months and days leading up to this presidential election have been unlike any period before. We now find ourselves divided by ideology, marred by trauma, and in a continuous struggle with issues of race. We are also confronted by a global pandemic that has denied us some of the most basic routines, functions, and activities that many took for granted before. All of these challenges have occurred while dealing with diminished trust in some of the long-standing institutions that were set up to protect, educate, and serve our communities.

If you are searching for a way to make sense of the events that led us to this moment, then allow them to serve as a reminder about how far we have come as a nation and how far we still have left to go.

Let us keep in mind, we can move forward, and our educational institutions and facilities can propel us towards progress. Our schools, colleges, and libraries are places where students are exposed to new ideas and the experiences of their peers and educators. Our classrooms are places where students can learn how to engage more fully as stakeholders in their communities, facilitate deliberative dialogues about pressing challenges facing our society, and during moments of great polarization, serve as healing spaces.

I implore you not to lose sight of what America represents. We are a country rooted in community, recognized globally for its democracy, and rich in its diversity of individuals, ideas, and perspectives. Above all, we are a young nation that will continue to grow united in its experiences, wise in its lessons, and increasingly vigorous in its quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. At the end of the day, we must come together to lift one another up during challenging times.

I continue to find solace in our systems of education – places in which a renewal of the American spirit and democratic commitments begin. Our education communities play an integral role in advancing public discourse and in fostering civic and civil engagement. Stop and take a moment to think about our world-class education system, capable of teaching our next generation what civil discourse looks like, how to respectfully disagree, and that we're stronger when united – all of this keeps me enthused about the prospects of our future.

So, what's next? Give yourself some time to breathe, reflect, and begin the healing process – then let's get to work on rebuilding trust in our country, in our institutions, and above all, in one another.

-Noe Ortega



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