I often return to the site of my childhood elementary school in South Baltimore. As I sit there, next to railroad tracks and an elevated expressway, I thank God for the leaders, during the 1950s and 1960s, who showed their faith in us and invested in our future. For the children of our neighborhood, our teachers and parents were our Moses, leading us through a wilderness of prejudice and teaching us how to forge better lives. Five decades later, shining in a corner of my mind, I still can see the inspiring words that once were etched upon our elementary school sign. ’We now are becoming what we are to be,’ proclaimed that sign ‘ a simple motto that became the road map for our lives. As Americans, we have a compelling interest in the struggle for our future now being waged in our nation’s public schools. That is why I always find the time to meet with our community’s young people, their teachers and their families. I welcome these conversations about the importance of our public schools and our critical role as adults in forging the future of our community. I share with other parents how my father never once missed a PTA meeting – despite the long and hard hours that he worked supporting our family. The unwavering faith and dedication that our South Baltimore community invested in my learning were the most important forces in my early life. They created a vision of hope and opportunity that, as a society, we dismiss at our peril today. We must never forget that there is no professional calling more important than the sense of vocation that motivates those who teach our children – not President Obama’s and certainly not my own. Our teachers deserve all of the support that our society can provide. We are now becoming what we are to be.

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