President's Corner                                           Page 46


The Treasures Under My





If you were to peek under the blotter on my office desk, you would find an interesting array of items. The space has become the home to numerous motivational and inspirational sayings I’ve collected on my travels through the years.

Most of these treasures are old postcards with sayings that remind me of something, someone or someplace that’s important to me. I guess you could say it is my own inspirational museum — a place I visit when I need a reminder of what’s important in life.

My collection includes a picture of Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers, a WWII poster of Rosie the Riveter, a photo of the original Star-Spangled Banner and a House of Blues logo. It also includes a postcard that explains the meaning of the word aloha (kindness, unity, humility and patience) and a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about our connectedness.

I also have in my collection a postcard that haunts me each time I look at it. It might seem like an odd addition to a collection of items meant to inspire and motivate, but the card reminds me of the importance of advocacy, of standing up for something you believe in or something worth protecting.

The postcard is black with an image of barbed wire on the bottom. The text reads:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out — because I was not a Communist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.” — Pastor Martin Niemöller

The text calls attention to an array of issues: oppression, apathy, courage, human rights, democracy … and, yes, advocacy. When I look at that card, those issues collide, as I am haunted by the past and concerned about the future.

Interestingly, the card, which has been under my desk blotter for 10 years, occupies a space next to the Time magazine cover that features the magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester. The voice of advocacy and the voice of protest, side by side, remind me it is people who will ultimately protect and defend that which is important. Each of us has a voice, and with it, the opportunity to make history and to take action for or against something that’s important to us.

How will you make your voice heard? Will you be an advocate for children and public education? I hope so. I hope you will advocate for the promise of a public education system, which is the foundation of a democratic society. Advocate for all children as we strive to meet a broad spectrum of needs. Stand up when our public schools are wrongfully criticized. Stand to correct the misrepresentation of facts. And yes, perhaps even protest when human rights and human dignity are being attacked.

This past year, from Tunisia to Egypt to Madrid to Athens to London, Mexico, India, Chile, Israel, Russia, the United States and even my own state of Wisconsin, we witnessed the power of people as they joined together to advocate and to protest.

Deciding what we want and need, advocating for those needs and taking action to protect our public schools is indeed tough work. But the treasures under my blotter — the postcard and the magazine cover — remind me what is possible when we uphold democracy and listen to the voices of the citizens. To me, that is worth advocating for.

Patricia Neudecker is AASA president for 2011-12. E-mail:



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