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Lily Eskelsen García: Dr. King’s words and legacy continue to inspire education activists

WASHINGTON - January 18, 2016 -

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia today issued the following statement to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we recognize the tremendous progress our nation has made since thousands of people heard his young, booming voice echo across the National Mall in Washington and in millions of homes around the country calling on us to ‘open the doors of opportunity for all of God’s children.’

“It is right and necessary to lift up Dr. King’s splendid words as they remind us of the fact that hope and opportunity still shine brightly in some quarters today. But as we look at current events around the country – at Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, at the victims of Mother Emanuel AME Church – sadly we know the ‘Dream’ has not been fulfilled and the quest for social and economic justice continues.

“Dr. King’s words continue to inspire and challenge us today. We are moved by his too-short life of purpose and relentless activism. Dr. King didn’t live to see his 40th birthday. Yet, in fewer than 13 years, hand-in-hand with many others whose names we’ll never know and whose names won’t appear on a monument, he changed America and the world.

“We can think of no better way to honor this great man’s life than to continue in our journey as social justice activists. Each of us should strive to follow in the steps of the 17-year old Native American student in California who encouraged other Native Americans to stay in school; or the educators in Minneapolis who led the community to pull the plug on a reading program filled with race, gender, and cultural stereotypes; or the aspiring educators in Missouri who organized for racial justice on campus.

“The National Education Association – made up of dedicated educators, the men and women who know the names of the students in each classroom, school, and community across this country – today continues to demand equity in education. This summer we reaffirmed our commitment to eradicate institutional racism. We call on partners to join us in removing policies that perpetuate institutional racism in education by ending the school-to prison pipeline and demanding equality in education so we can open the doors of opportunity for all children regardless of ZIP code. We call to expand educator-led professional development in areas of cultural competence, diversity and social justice.

“Whether our activism happens in the classroom or in the neighborhood, in the state capitol or at the U.S. Congress, we will speak up for justice and opportunity. As we reflect on Dr. King’s leadership – his movement toward ending racism, intolerance, and injustice – we are inspired to keep the light of hope and opportunity in America.

“The arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice. Together, we will inspire our students to pursue their hopes and dreams. We will lead the march to empower educators and close opportunity gaps for all children. We will lead the movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline once and for all. We will keep the ‘Dream’ alive.”

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The National Education Association ( is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  202-822-7823,