You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage.
The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy.
Both of the above quotes are from the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. He spent his life on the twin issues of advocacy and voting. His commitment to these issues were so paramount that any new voting rights legislation will undoubtedly be named after him. Our nation applauded his life and his legacy of advocacy and voting when he passed on July 17.
Imagine the possibilities if we all possessed the same passion for these twin pillars of democracy in our everyday lives. Thankfully we can use these tools to advance education within our country and improve the lives of every student.
AASL’s vision statement describes every school librarian as a leader. Our mission statement is founded on the belief that AASL empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning. Our core values–learning, innovation, equity, diversity, inclusion, intellectual freedom, and collaboration–are all actionable objectives to be fulfilled by leaders. Our strategic plan is filled with aspirational yet achievable goals for school librarians to demonstrate leadership and to advocate for our schools and communities right now.
Every aspect of what defines who we are centers on leadership. Now is the time for us to embrace our role as leaders and to take action.
Leaders are not one-man bands. We are conductors who focus on empowering, equipping, and enabling others to perform at their best. We need to educate our learners about our nation’s past to prepare them to make informed decisions in the future. One way to build this foundation is by promoting and celebrating Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, on Thursday, September 17. As Connie Williams highlighted in a previous blog post, there are many ways to integrate this day into your school’s curriculum. If you did not recognize this day this year, next year can be the start of a new tradition. Providing this foundational information should not be an isolated endeavor, but rather an ongoing effort so that our learners develop into more informed citizens.
National US Census
Our national census is being conducted this year. In the midst of the pandemic and other national and global events, it easy to forgo our civic responsibilities. Yet leaders understand the importance of looking long term. If you have not done so already, please complete the census posthaste. Encourage others to do so as well. Make sure your community gets the funding it needs and help your schools and communities get the federal funding and other benefits they need, which are determined by census numbers.
Educators can also receive free and engaging resources for students of all ages via the US Census’s Statistics in Schools Program. The US Census website and its programs provide resources for us to ensure our learners understand the importance of completing the national census.
Rock the Vote
As if there is not enough to think about, 2020 is also an election year. Election day is Tuesday, November 3. As leaders, we must be involved, and we must vote. If you have not yet registered, there is still time. Check out your state voter election website to get state-specific information and deadlines on registering to vote and voting processes. Be sure to share this information with any students old enough to vote.
Regardless of your political views, school librarians must be involved in educating our students about the political process, for they are our future leaders. The national non-partisan organizations the League of Women Voters, VoteRiders, and the PBS Learning Media Election Central are great places to visit when teaching our students about the electoral process.
One more quote from Lewis sums up our obligation to advocacy and leadership. It communicates our moral obligation to our learners, for we must all believe in the future while we work to change the present:
When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, do something. Our children and their children will ask us: ‘What did you do? What did you say?’
We must embrace our role as leaders, for our work in the present will be judged by history. When asked by future generations if we were leaders or simply passive observers, let’s be proud of our answer. Let’s lead the charge for a better educational future by advocating today. And please, everyone make a plan to vote!