I remember discussing with educational colleagues in the late 1990s what truly made a “great” or effective school.
The consensus was summarized in a statement on a wall plaque at the State Department of Education: “The truly effective school is one which does the most for those children most in need.”
This short statement on what educators should perceive as truly effective schools emphasized the importance of helping all children to succeed — especially those most in need.
It seems especially appropriate to consider what makes a “great” America during the week we celebrate our independence. Just as we consider what makes a “great” school we might also consider what it means when we subscribe to the phrase “Let’s make America great again.”
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There are many topics dividing us. But perhaps a common ground where we might agree would be to prioritize a legacy of hope and opportunity for our children and grandchildren. Future generations should feel secure knowing that we have them as a priority in all that we do.
Issues such as health care, our environment, immigration, appropriate gun restrictions, escalating costs in education and areas related to social justice might be approached in a different way when leadership focuses on the welfare of future generations and a society that reflects a nation declaring itself to be “under God.”
For those in political leadership, leaving a legacy of hope has real implications. Leadership becomes truly service-oriented, focused on the greater good rather than personal ambition and self-service. There are also implications for all of us no matter our role as we together focus on the welfare of our children and grandchildren.
Providing a legacy of hope is the one issue that should unite all of us in the shared desire to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. A truly “great” America will provide such a legacy for future generations.
The present generation can make that happen by uniting under this common focus of hope and opportunity. The plaque on the wall at the State Department of Education provided focus for what was truly important in Idaho’s schools at that time in our state’s history.
Perhaps a plaque on the wall of our nation’s capital might provide focus on what it means to “make America great again” during these challenging times.
As we celebrate our independence we might consider what truly makes a “great” America. Our nation has been considered “great” throughout its history for the opportunities and hope given past generations.
Let us be united in having this common focus for our children and grandchildren. It is only then that America will be truly “great again.”
Bob Fontaine is a retired educator serving as a teacher, principal and superintendent in public and Catholic schools between 1971-2006 after 35 years of service. He retired fully in 2016 after serving 10 years as the HR director for the Diocese of Boise.