Public schools are a reflection of our democratic society. A large part of the responsibility of education is to promote active and involved citizenry. Participation in our democracy has never been more important.
Sept. 11, 2001, has forever changed the way we live. However, our country has faced great challenges in the past, and we've become stronger because of them. World War I, the Depression and World War II were watershed events for my parents' generation.
When I first moved to Alaska in 1968, I was escaping the turmoil and the aftermath of the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Watts in Los Angeles was burning, and many cities were torn apart by racial unrest.
Coming into a classroom at Kenai Junior High to teach social studies was the challenge I was facing. I soon discovered the students in Alaska were very similar to those in Nebraska I had taught: Some eager to learn, some not so eager and some absolutely excited to see what each new day would bring.
Over the years, I had the very great privilege of teaching many of the best and brightest in the central peninsula communities, and I have learned much from these experiences. I have learned that being an active participant in democracy means serving on public and nonprofit boards, writing letters to the editor, speaking out on issues that impact all of our lives and working hard to show students and the larger community that one just can't talk about how great democracy is, one must practice it on a daily basis. That's why I ran for and served on the school board.
One of my great joys in life has been to watch the return of many of the graduates of Kenai Peninsula schools to raise their own families here, to begin their work as physicians, dentists, lawyers, teachers, oil field managers and workers and active, involved members of their communities.
I am a strong supporter of public schools. Public schools educate all who enter. They cannot exclude those who do not meet certain standards. I believe public education of all of our citizens is the hope of our future. We all need to understand the importance of the Bill of Rights and the meaning of democracy, as well as the basics of reading, writing and mathematics.
Our public schools have and will continue to be a beacon of hope and an opportunity to educate all about our country's great past, present and future.
Let us hope that the events of the past two years will lead to a renewal of democracy, a widening participation in our deliberations and thoughtful and thorough discourse about the options available to us. We must all be active participants in democracy: We must make our views known by voting, by serving in public office, by not only knowing the three branches of government but how to influence them for the common good of all in our country.
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