This past Friday concluded an especially active and satisfying period for the New Jersey School Boards Association. The highlight, and by no means the only activity, was our school security forum at The College of New Jersey. By all measures, the program was a real success.
A good organization takes satisfaction from a job well done; a great one focuses on the next steps. So Friday’s forum marked just the beginning of NJSBA’s efforts on the issue of safe and secure schools. We are planning an information exchange on best practices, additional forums at the county school boards association level, and ways to impact state and federal policy to protect our students.
Considering the challenges ahead, a Monday holiday, even one during which I remain in contact with certain staff, is a much-appreciated luxury. But this particular holiday, the one designated to recognize the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., should be more than a day away from the office. It entails introspection, a look at our nation’s past, and consideration of how we can be a more peaceful society. Dr. King, after all, ignited a movement that changed our laws, our culture and the way we think.
To commemorate the work of Dr. King, many New Jersey communities take part in a National Day of Service, during which citizens dedicate themselves to helping their communities. Former President Bill Clinton memorialized the initiative in 1994 when he signed legislation to establish the Day of Service as an appropriate and substantive way to recognize Dr. King’s work. The clarion call for the Day of Service is a statement from a 1957 sermon of Dr. King: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Local school board members should have no difficulty responding to the question. Knowing the members of our Association, I’m certain your responses would address not only school board service, but also other ways you help your communities.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law that initially designated the third Monday in January as “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” During the ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, the President recounted Dr. King’s impact in breaking barriers and changing laws, and offered the following words, which characterize an important aspect of Dr. King’s legacy:
“…there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched.”
The year 2012 was a difficult one for New Jerseyans. Twenty-one days into the New Year, this holiday gives those of us who care deeply about our children a chance to reflect on the principles of service, opportunity and compassion…and how they should guide us in addressing the challenges ahead.
These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at [email protected]. On Wednesday, I will travel to Washington, D.C., for a week of meetings with our congressional delegation and education leaders. I will respond to your messages as soon as possible after my return.